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Chronic Travel Bug: How Do I Beach?

Over Memorial Day Weekend/my Dad’s birthday weekend, my family took a trip down to the sleepy island of Port Aransas just off the Texas coast. The first time I went there, I was about ten years old, and the trip convinced me that I wanted to live there someday. I loved the small beachy town atmosphere. I also loved swimming. One of my childhood swim instructors called me a fish once, and that sums it up pretty well. I loved the water and being under water swimming with my feet together like a mermaid.

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Then everything changed when the fire nation attacked. Just kidding, I don’t even watch Avatar, I just like to meme.

But as I got older, I did loose a lot of my zest for swimming and the beach. The beach is hammered into our brains as the natural connotation to “vacation” and “relaxing,” but the older I get, the more I feel out of place there. Heck, even when we lived at an apartment with a pool I had to force myself to ever get in. I don’t like getting wet and cold, and I HATE how long it takes to get warm and dry again. I’ve always had really thick hair and it takes hours and hours to air dry even when I have it short. I get kinda grouchy even just washing my hair. I’d never say I hate water, but I sure hate being wet.

A few years ago, my family went to Destin, FL, and that was the first time I realized that I don’t really know how to “do” the beach anymore. My sister is the polar opposite. You can read a little story about her enthusiasm in the infamous Jellyfish Story.

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She runs into the water with her hair flowing behind her in the wind and a wave comes and scoops her up and she swims out to the horizon with a team of dolphins singing like the freaking little mermaid herself.

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And she looks so happy and beautiful, so I get out there and I’m like

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But, like most things, there are a lot of positive things about the beach, and different people enjoy it in different ways.

I did enjoy swimming and boogie-boarding with my sister out in the surf, but I couldn’t do that all day and call it “relaxing.” It’s really hard work to swim out against waves and swim in against undertow. I needed to relax. I had just come through an extremely stressful few weeks and was counting on this vacation to reset and unwind. Swimming was not going to achieve that. So I thought long and hard about what I would do (and subsequently post about) all day each day.

Before I even left, I concluded that the answer to everything was reading. People read on the beach, right? How relaxing! The sound of the waves and an entire day with a good book.

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So many stock photos can’t be wrong! So I set out with a plan that of course failed almost instantly. See, there’s one big problem with the beach. I hate to say this, because it might make George Lucas feel like a good writer, but… I hate sand.

No matter how many precautions you take, no matter how many tents and umbrellas you surround yourself with, no matter if you have chairs or towels – YOU WILL HAVE SAND ALL OVER EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE. Hands, eyes, and literally every page of whatever book you think you’re going to read. I wouldn’t try a kindle, either. The sand will get inside and kill it, I’m sure of it.

So reading on the beach was a no go. What I wish I would have done is gone to a used book store and picked up some sad little beat up copy of something that I wouldn’t mind getting utterly destroyed on this trip. Next time I’ll try that out. If you try it, please report back! Inquiring minds want to know!

So anyway, enough about what I didn’t do/sucked at. On to my guide!

HOW TO BEACH WHEN YOU ARE NOT A BEACH PERSON:

(also if you have a chronic illness, which probably explains at least in part why you are not a beach person.)

TIP #1: Go to the docks.

I’m really rather fond of docks. You don’t get wet and there’s no sand, yet you have access to the ocean. Plus I’ve got a bit of nostalgia for docks as we had a boat when I was growing up. The docks were like this adventure version of the beach – at least it felt that way because you could fall off and mom was always telling me not to touch this or that and how dangerous everything was.

But I digress. As an adult, docks are nice for a lot of reasons. There usually aren’t many people there (they’re all on the sandy beaches – suckers!) and it can be a very tranquil place. Yet it’s also good for people watching. Any people that are there usually aren’t tourists, and they can be seen doing interesting things like taking care of boats and hauling fresh caught fish around.

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Full disclosure – didn’t take any pictures on the dock this year, so you get to enjoy a picture of my goofball friends on a high school trip.

From the docks on Port Aransas, you can see a lot of wonderful things. There’s a picturesque lighthouse out on a cliff, and you can even see dolphins! I never saw one dolphin on the beach, but standing on the docks for an hour or so we saw more than we could count! This leads me to my next tip…

TIP #2: Ride on a boat!

Now I know boats aren’t for everyone. I’ve never been one to get sea sick, but my sister and mother do have problems with that, so I do have some advice. Don’t let motion sickness stop you from enjoying a boat ride! Take a Dramamine tablet, and be sure to take it an hour or so before you get on the boat. That way it’s already started working, and you should hopefully get over the initial drowsiness hump it can cause.

We did a sunset dolphin cruise and it was amazing! We saw dolphins everywhere, and we even saw a few mother dolphins swimming along with their babies. Dolphins are playful and will come right up to a boat – much closer than they will a dock. We also spotted a sea turtle! That takes an eagle-eye, though. I blew it off as a clump of seaweed until it literally went under the boat right in front of me.

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But dolphins aside, I really just like riding boats. Once the tour was over and night had fallen, we sped back to shore and that was my favorite part. Hubby and I stood on the bow of the boat “king of the world’ing it” as the first mate of the ship called it and just flew over the water. There was just enough spray for it to be pleasant without soaking us. And it’s not a bad little adrenaline kick either.

Of course, if you’re worried about seasickness or you just don’t like that kind of thing, there are usually benches where you can sit down and from there it’s really no more intense than your average car ride.

TIP #3: Get Creative – Make Art!

Of course, building a sandcastle is good fun even if you don’t like getting all sandy. My husband loves to build a good sand castle so we built a few. I prefer to wander up and down the beach collecting little treasures for him to use as embellishment.

My mom gets all the credit for this next tip. She had this idea to start a watercolor journal where everyone in the family could do little paintings on vacations and holidays to commemorate the events. Now yes, this was tricky, because as I already explained, the beach destroys books. She was careful to pack it in a bag within a bag and only have it out when we were painting. Now of course traditional watercolors would be a nightmare with all the wind and sand, so she brought watercolor pencils. If you’ve never used them before, they’re really neat. You just sketch out your picture and color in a lot or a little where you want the water colors. It can be messy and scribbley, that’s good. Then once you’re ready, you take a wet brush and get all the lines wet. This frees you to blur them as much or as little as you like depending on if you’re trying to color an area in or create a fine line.

Here’s mine. It’s the best.

IMG_2836And the story behind my painting leads me right into my next tip:

TIP #4: Explore!

Probably what I love to do most at the beach and what I spend the most time doing is walking around. There was a pier on the horizon, and my hubby and I decided to walk out to it. On the way we saw all kinds of amazing things that ended up forming my fondest memories from this trip. Once we actually reached the pier, we enjoyed standing in the shade and looking out at the perspective of the endless supports going farther and farther out into the ocean.

But really, it was the journey there that was the best part of all. People say that so often about so many things and rarely do I disagree. Traveling is the real adventure no matter what the destination is. We saw a dead hammerhead shark that it looked like someone caught and left on the beach. That sounds gross I guess but it was also kind of fascinating. He was really small but I really wouldn’t have wanted to meet him when he was alive, and I was glad to get a good look at him.

We also saw a very strange sand construction. It was a large deep pit with a sand pedestal in the middle, and on the pedestal were water guns and “spears” and other weapons made of beach junk. One would have to jump into the pit to access the weapons though. It reminded me a lot of…

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Why is Chandler there? BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS BETTER WITH CHANDLER. If there was a Chandler on the sand pedestal, I might have taken my chances investigating it further.

And of course, there’s always good people watching on the beach. Especially in the “adorable babies that half-love half-fear the moving water” department.

We also found this huge jetty, and that was my personal favorite adventure from the trip. Jetties are a lot like docks in that there’s no sand and you can get out into the ocean without getting wet, but they’re EVEN BETTER because you can climb. Sort of. Don’t worry, it’s not hard climbing. It’s more like when you were a kid at the zoo and there was a rock and you really wanted to stand on it and be KING OF IT kind of climbing.

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Don’t let that sidewalk looking thing fool you – it gets really slippery, and is actually usually easier to just walk on the rocks. Plus the sidewalk ends about halfway out.

Here’s what the rocks look like:

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ISN’T THAT COOL? I sort of reverted back to my pre-teen phase of wanting to be a wolf or some kind of animal. I felt so wild walking over those little chasms. They’re small enough to not threaten your safety but big enough to make you wanna howl. I kept thinking of this scene from Balto II:

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And don’t you EVEN knock Balto II if you haven’t seen it, THAT MOVIE IS AWESOME.

TIP #5: Beachcomb!

Probably one of the few places where you can have a lot of fun and see a lot of coolness if you keep your eyes on the ground. Introverts rejoice! My sister’s boyfriend caught a couple of shrimp for us to check out, and I even caught a hermit crab! Ok so I just thought it was another shell, but I was brave and didn’t drop it when it turned out to be inhabited. It was actually the shattered tip of a large conch shell, and I really admired this little guy for “upcycling” it. He must be on pinterest.

I’m a picky beachcomber because as I grew up, I found that having a large bag of shells was less enchanting at home than it was when I was amassing them. I try to only keep stuff that’s really something special. This time all I brought home was a gray twig of coral. I collected a lot more, though. Like I mentioned before, I like to gather up shells for my husband to use in his sandcastle building. You could also give your collection to sandcastle-building kids if you find some. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with “throwing them back” after you admire them.

If you do end up with a large bag of beach treasures, there are plenty of pinterest crafts you can use them for too.

TIP #6: Fly a kite!

It can’t fail. On the beach, anyone can fly a kite, and that’s kind of thrilling.

In short, the biggest tip I can give anyone is find what speaks to you.

It’s easy to ruin a vacation trying to do what everyone else does. You might feel alienated when you don’t get what’s so great about something that’s pretty much universally loved – like the beach. If you’ve tried doing something like everyone else, try it a different way. If you have a chronic illness, you probably already know that you enjoy many of the same things as your friends, but you may enjoy it in a different way. Maybe your best gal pal really loves Crossfit, but your chronic pain makes Crossfit-style exercise a nightmare. That doesn’t mean you hate exercise! You probably enjoy a gentle jog or yoga just as much as she enjoys Crossfit, and you can both be active and healthy.

I think a lot of people think they hate exercise when really they simply haven’t found a style they like. Exercise covers a broad spectrum of activities, but most people picture going to the gym or running. If you don’t like going to the gym or running, it’s easy to think you don’t like exercise. I think it’s the same way with the beach. Everyone pictures swimming or tanning, and if you don’t really like those things you might inwardly think you don’t like the beach (but you’d never admit it because everyone loves the beach. EVERYONE. SUBMIT TO THE BEACH.) but I think if you get there and let it speak to you, you’ll find something to love, and you’ll find the vacation you’re looking for.

I’m going to end with me and my sister again. She is a beach-loving extrovert, and I am a non-typical beach enjoying introvert. She runs around in the ocean all day happy as a clam. I can enjoy the same day with her by staying in the shallower waters treasure-hunting. I find the jetties as romantic as she finds the sea and could spend the whole day there. She enjoys walking on the jetty too, especially to stop and make friends with fisherman and check out the catch of the day.

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See that line on the horizon? That’s shore.

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Julia enjoying a brief lesson on the Spanish Mackerel. They have big teeth apparently. I was content to snap a photo and then look out at the waves and enjoy quietude.

We’re very different, but we enjoyed the same trip through different eyes.

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Except when she won’t get out of MY bed.

So it is with illness. Don’t ever think that you dislike something just because you experience it differently than someone else. Someone with chronic pain may enjoy exercise differently than someone without it. Someone with hearing loss may enjoy movies in a different way than people without it. Someone with allergies may be a different kind of fashionista than someone without them.

But just because you don’t enjoy something in a mainstream way doesn’t mean you don’t like it.

What kind of things do you love in a different way? Tell me about it in the comments!

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About rachelmeeks

My name is Rachel Meeks. I have endometriosis, an incurable pain condition, IBS, a digestive illness, and PCOS, which causes irregular periods and infertility. After keeping my illnesses a secret, I started to get upset about how my fellow sick people were being mistreated because of ignorance. I knew that I'd need to stand up, make some noise, wear my heart on my sleeve, and admit that I am not well to make a difference.

7 responses to “Chronic Travel Bug: How Do I Beach?

  1. I love watching the waves & the feel of warm sand oozing between my toes, but I don’t like the beach simply because it’s too hot. Give me a forest with a briskly running stream any day.

  2. marshall ⋅

    I just saved hundreds on my next beach vacation! Yay!

  3. In answer to your question, I think I “love” animals in different ways than many do. A lot of people think I don’t like animals. NOT TRUE. True I’m not a big fan of them licking me and jumping on me. But I love their presence. Their being there. Their quirkiness. I enjoy providing for them–taking them for walks, feeding/watering them, making them feel secure, playing games particular to them (strings with cats, fetch with dogs). But, no, I don’t want them in my car. Or on my couch. Or licking me. Kind of like you and the beach–sand, wet, etc! But I do like the beach, although I had to work hard to get myself to loosen up about the sand, wet, sweat, etc. I guess I probably will one day do the same when we get a dog or cat! LOL!

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