Is it true love? Infatuation? Obsession? It is resorting to the one place, the one thing, that calms and soothes. Is that an abuse of its peaceful nature?
It is a long-distance love, I know that for sure - a love only reflected about once a year, once every couple of years. But each time, each visit, the love is all the more intense. To the point of immense sadness to be leaving it, to be miles and miles from it with only memories to fill the void. A longing so intense, making me rethink why I live where I live and how can I change that just to be closer. And souvenirs to cradle and decorate, to remind the senses about this most tranquil place.
It is a love that surely cannot compete. But why? Why does it bring about immense happiness to finally have my toes wiggling through the warm sand? To close my eyes and feel the breeze just with a hint of sea salt tickling my face? To feel the comforting embrace of the water as the waves rock and sway? To lay under the cool shade with eyelids succumbing to the lulling crash of the waves?
Well, to start, it’s a far cry from the concrete jungle I find myself surviving in every single day. Hot asphalt deflecting the heat from the pulsing sun I only observe from my sealed window. Sitting in a space that feels suffocating, air flow regulated but not for the people who spend consistent hours sitting and fermenting on worn down cushions and “ergonomic” plastic. Staring at the same organized chaos of pointless conversations and pixelated manila folders. A routine “I need this. I need that. Do this. Do that. Where is this? Why is that?” Questions that a lack of experience cannot answer, tasks that cause a groan, a curse; but a paycheck that keeps that worn-down cushion warm every single day.
And when there is a free moment, a moment of stillness after fingers type endless answers to meaningless questions, thoughts bubble on “if I could be anywhere but here”. Why is that answer always the same? When has this love become almost addicting? Thoughts on if my life was made any different, if I had chosen a different path somewhere - would it have led me to be with this one true love?
Is it true love?
Love is a deep and intense feeling of affection, to like or enjoy something very much. And while the definition varies, it remains largely the same. This affection, this enjoyment, this happiness. Because the beach has never just been about its warm sands and cooling waters.
It’s been about family, friends, escaping, peace, enjoyment, memories, food, music. All senses and needs satisfied with funny stories, unforgettable conversations, compelling books, deliciously guilty foods, peaceful silence, restoring naps, and an embrace of nature you can’t begin to imagine receiving in the everyday. Especially when your every day is surrounded by concrete, asphalt, plastic, and the digital world. A view of speeding cars and semi-trucks on a narrow road, sagging powerlines, and yes - trees - but only being graced with their lush greenery a few months of the year. With one ear receiving a thrumming of low-fi rhythms and the other whatever political gossip or family drama my coworkers decide to spew from their orifices. It’s how unnecessarily loud the everyday can be, the senseless stress it brings about, the anxiety, the burnout, the exhaustion.
Of course, that’s what vacations are for. But why is it the beach that immediately comes to mind as the ideal place? Some would prefer a nice secluded cabin in the woods, others would select sightseeing in distant cities. We all have different tastes, different ideas of what we find to be peaceful or where we would go in a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. But as I’ve gotten older, one location stands out among the rest as the superior, the ideal place to reset myself. And yet, when I leave said place, it’s like leaving a lover that I only have the pleasure of seeing not often enough. As the years go on, each visit gets further and further apart with only memories to fill those gaps.
Well, if I miss the beach so much, if I want to go more often, why don’t I just go?
Like all trips, money is a large deciding factor. And like many of us, money has my life very much in a chokehold where such decisions to travel without care are suffocated on the spot. Travel, gas, hotels, food; it all depends on money, expenses, savings, etc. For someone as young as myself growing up in the world we live in, money like that is unheard of to spend on indulgent trips and vacations.
This is why whenever I am able to see the vast expanse of the deep blue with my own eyes, bury my toes in the sand, and let the water tug playfully at my ankles, the appreciation and love are only amplified.
But, it also far extends the soothing nature the crashing waves bring about. The white noise of the lapping shore and mesmerizing blue only scratching the surface. It’s a deep fascination and curiosity about life beneath the waves, a yearning to understand and learn and appreciate. This other world where only a small percentage of it has been discovered and documented. Life of all sizes and species. Life with alien characteristics and appearances. Some life we’ve been taught to fear but are actually a lot more complex and intriguing in their behaviors. Life and species that are smarter than we take them to be. Life we can learn from. Life that we need to protect and preserve - because the life that’s in our oceans is the only life we have like that on our planet. And I hope to see such life in person as well, in its natural habitat to observe and appreciate.
Because when I love the ocean, I love every part of it and what resides in it.
When did this love start? It’s a bit hazy, to be honest. I cannot remember specific occurrences or trips, it’s all been a sort of accumulation over the years since I was very young.
I remember traveling the 3-4 hours it takes to a near beach, a popular beach where many venture to for their annual vacations. A rather busy beach with an equally buzzing boardwalk, but as a kid, it was lively and fun with memories of specific stores and attractions on the boardwalk burned into my subconscious. The music, the nightlife, the fireworks, and the constant smell of the famous fries and sticky wooden planks from hundreds of dripping ice cream cones. The place could be loud, could be crowded, and certainly was a hot spot for spring break and senior week. But the memories of my dad swinging me into the low oncoming waves, both of us giggling and with smiles hurting our faces; memories of the lumpy sandcastles, drying our bathing suites on the railing of our hotel room’s balcony, and falling asleep to the waves far out-measured the bustle.
At least, that was until we all got older with my parents rather preferring something quieter, more secluded, and reserved. Leading me to our most recent trip to the Outer Banks and Kill Devil Hills. It was the longest beach trip we’ve had since 2019 as a family, deciding on that quieter location, and all of us left to return home with the same thought - we should have stayed an extra day.
For my family, it was the vacation, the peace and silence from work, and the droning every day. For me, it was visiting a long-time lover, that first step into the soft, warm sand and lap of the waves at my toes an embrace that melted all worries and relieved all tension. It was the nightly walks with a flashlight in hand, tiptoeing around the small ghost crabs skittering all around. It was looking out to the ocean in the darkness with only the moon to illuminate the frothy white sea foam crashing and racing up to kiss my toes. Seeing an extensive sea of blackness, but knowing that there is still so much life beneath those waves. It was seeing the sunrises from the balcony of our hotel room, and watching a pod of dolphins enjoy a morning swim. And it was finally being able to open a book, one that I’ve been wanting the time to read for months, and take the time with each chapter until the rhythmic push and pull of the waves were enough to soothe me into a quick but satisfying nap.
But, most of all, my favorite part of the whole trip was just watching how the beach and ocean influenced those who visited it. In the morning, there were older couples walking along the shore, some early birds already setting up their umbrellas to bask in the rising light of the sun. By late morning, there were families and children racing to and from their towels and the water with high-pitched giggles being carried with the breeze.
Then, by the evening - my favorite part of the day - just watching the laissez-faire attitudes and rather random activities brought on the realization that we humans are not meant to spend as much time as we do working, and being stuck in offices or in front of screens. Families throwing footballs or frisbees or playing a makeshift game of volleyball. Owners with their dogs playing fetch on the beach, of course, with the dogs getting rather distracted by other humans and receiving all the pets they could wish for. Individuals just sitting along the sand, meditating, soaking in the environment. Younger couples going for walks, hand in hand with flip-flops and sandals intertwined between free fingers. Families eating dinner with towels sprawled out and laughter emanating between each bite and hush of the sea. Then, at night, the beach would be speckled with beams of lights from flashlights and phone lights; looking for these ghost crabs and trying to find the biggest one we could and if they had caught their own late-night snacks.
It was - serene. And leaving it was heartbreaking in a way I’ve never quite experienced before. The week after I longed to return, a sadness that was incredibly overwhelming. Thinking back on the colorful beach houses cleverly named and the coastal environment, it quickly became a place I wanted to return to and stay for weeks on end. A place to live - at one point. To be engulfed in such a relaxed state, to have that state be consistent and routine, is tantalizing in its own way - regardless of the ocean’s own pull it has on me. A place I would love to spend a good chunk of my life. Would there be a risk? Of course, each and every location has its own risks. The beach certainly has the looming threat of hurricanes and flooding of the sea to take houses, properties, and businesses. But humans are a stubborn bunch, aren’t we?
That last day, before we had left, I went on a nearly 3-mile walk along the shore in the comforting embrace of the night. My calves were screaming at me at some point, tired of walking in the shifting and unstable sand. But, I kept pushing on, allowing the inky black waters to collide and rush towards my feet, only to slow as it ascended and nip at my ankles. There were some points where my mind would be elsewhere, roaming a little too close to the waters - being pulled almost playfully - and finding myself knee-deep once the waves would race up the shoreline. I’d only laugh, even if the fabric of my shorts would still get soaked. It will dry, I kept telling myself. Such insignificant worries, especially when it was just the sea and I walking hand in hand with the moon trailing above shining its light for me to see the shallow reach of the water and, of course, the dozen of crabs to weave between.
And it was then, I felt at home.
About the Creator
Young, living - thriving? Writing every emotion, idea, or dream that intrigues me enough to put into a long string of words for others to absorb - in the hopes that someone relates, understands, and appreciates.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Original narrative & well developed characters
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions