When I was younger, the idea of beach vacations was positively thrilling. Oh, to spend a week or so enjoying the sun, surf and sand – what a romantic notion! It didn’t matter to me that I already lived in a place that had sunshine aplenty, or that I was unlikely to ever try surfing, having never taken to water like… well, a fish to water, or that sand, in most cases, was actually more troublesome than enjoyable. All that was trumped by the notion of relaxing on a beachside, listening to the sound of the waves, sipping coconut water and reading a book. Having spent most of my teenage years in a landlocked, beach-less little part of India, I longed for holidays of the kind I saw in magazines and read about in books.
Where I live now, the beach is just a 10-minute walk away, and I can sit by the water, reading a book and enjoying the sea breeze any time I want. I know they say that you tend to not do things if they get too convenient, but that hasn’t yet applied to the beach – I still go there quite often, sometimes for long walks, sometimes to cycle all the way to the airport and back, and at other times, to enjoy picnics with the family. The downside of having a nice, clean beach at convenient access is that the novelty of a beach vacation has worn off. I actively avoid beach vacations these days – not being a very watersports-y kind of person, it feels like a waste of vacation time to lounge around doing nothing on a beach.
That said, one particular beach vacation sticks out in my memory like an un-sore, perfectly-formed thumb. It was a trip in 2008 with four close university friends to Tioman, a lovely, quiet (it was quiet then, I’m not so sure it is anymore) little island off the east coast of Malaysia. We stayed at a chalet that opened right onto the beach, with the ocean literally about 20 steps away. It was a memorable trip partly because of the company and partly because it was the first time I’d seen such clear, pristine waters. I tried snorkelling for the first time that trip, and once I’d gotten over my fear of being fish-smothered and realised they preferred avoiding me as much as I did them, I spent a wonderful, amazingly peaceful hour marvelling at the beauty of the underwater world. That evening, exhausted and waiting for dinner, my friends and I watched the sunset from lounge chairs on the beach, and if you’d asked me right then, I would’ve said life was pretty much perfect. (I wouldn’t have been able to give such a confident answer the next morning, suffering as I was from the side effects of some very ill-advised drinking the previous night, but that doesn’t matter now.)
This isn’t a picture of the beach itself, but it’s the one that encapsulates that trip for me, and preserves that feeling of wonder I once used to associate with beach vacations. I hope it won’t be the only one, but honestly, it’ll be fine if it is.