You know how you can love someone but also hate parts of him/her/them? My relationship with the beach is the same. My sister and I just scheduled a trip to Carolina Beach for just us girls. She likes going in the summer and I hate the beach in the summer in NC which seems counterintuitive right? Well here is my story.
For 10 years I loved going to the beach on the peninsula of South Korea. I was born in Pohang so my backyard was practically the ocean. I spent countless hours playing in the sand and surf with my many cousins. The Pacific ocean was a deep blue sea and during the 70s it was very clean. There were many months when the weather was mixed and perfect. I took holiday with my mom to Busan when we visited her cousin. Haeundae Beach was huge and gorgeous! We visited beaches at Incheon, Gyeongju, Daebu and many tiny beaches without proper names. My mother could dive, my uncle fished daily and I was a happy beach loving kid. Then we moved to the US.
When we lived in Louisiana, we never visited the beaches. We were stuck on an Army Base and we were adjusting to life so there was very little fun time. When we lived in Kentucky we were landlocked. I hear they had lakes but again, military life and living in poverty meant no vacations. After an honorable discharge, we moved to the mountains of North Carolina. Believe it or not, the first time I saw the Atlantic Ocean was when I was in college.
When my friends found out I had never been to a beach in North Carolina they lost their minds. Even though our spring break fell sometimes in March when it was still winter or in April when it still felt like winter, they crammed me into a car and we drove the too many miles to the coast. I had heard my home state had beaches but poor people rarely vacation so I never got to experience it first hand.
My friends chose to take me to Myrtle Beach which is in South Carolina. It was the beach they vacationed in so I guess they were familiar with it. We drove over 6 hours and arrived in what looked like a desert. The town was empty, dirty and full of buildings. I could not even see the beach until we parked, got out and walked to the actual ocean. So many building were blocking the view. What is this place, I thought to myself. The air smelled of dead fish and it was still bitter cold.
The water looked grey and dirty. The sand was coarse and painful. It was really hard to wash off as it was full of shell particles. After a couple of hours I was cold and hungry and nothing was open. We dined on granola bars and whatever the girls had haphazardly thrown into the car. I later found out this is what “off season” looks like at Myrtle Beach (at least it was so in the very late 80s). I didn’t want to be ungrateful so I never said it out loud but I was not impressed. THIS is an American beach? Yuk.
I would go back to Myrtle Beach many many times later and I found things to like depending on the company but I never liked the water. I would wade in it up to my ankles but I could not immerse myself in that mirky water where I could not see my feet nor any fish. It seemed many people visited Myrtle mostly to sun, shop and go to bars.
When I began dating my husband we visited Florida since that was where he was from. Those beaches were better. The sand was white and fine like sugar in some parts. Florida has the Atlantic ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. While the water was still not crystal it was definitely cleaner as less buildings dotted the beaches. It was a lot warmer so that helped. I found myself going in up to my waist and it was far more pleasant. When we honeymooned in Clearwater, Florida I enjoyed the long stretch of soft white sand and the calm waters opened up new experiences like para sailing, boating and more. Again, I did not swim a lot but it was quite enjoyable.
Finally, I branched out when I became a mother and we tried out many different beaches with the family. We still visited NC beaches. I particularly liked Wrightsville beach because it was more like a beach and less like a resort area. Water was still murky and the sand was rough but it was more enjoyable. We discovered it was more fun to do things AT the beach than to actually play in the water which was kind of sad. I found myself enjoying the beach more during the off season. Since I rarely went into the water, it worked out for us.
Then, we went to the Bahamas on a cruise for our anniversary. HELLO! Even the tiniest beach next to the ports were AMAZING compared to the NC beaches. The water was a vibrant blue with powdery white sand and I could see all the way to the bottom! I saw fish swimming around! My husband nearly had a heart attack when I ran to the water and dove in and actually SWAM. He had never seen me do that. When I returned to our chairs, he asked me what just happened.
I explained that finally found a part of the Atlantic Ocean I liked. LOL I could have spend all day there but alas it was a stop on a cruise so we could only do a couple of hours. I never forgot the feeling. I did return once again on a cruise but the bad weather ruined out beach outing and I was so sad. So, I am planning a destination vacation to the Bahamas, Cancun or the like so I can find beaches I can enjoy.
So I love the beach and I hate it. But I am learning that all beaches are not created equal and everyone has preferences. Lucky for me that the US has many many beaches to choose from.