Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No Beach Vacation for Me

By Juliet

I’ve never been to Hawaii. I know, I know. It’s glorious. Gorgeous. Incredible. I’ve tried to go, several times. But each time I add up the airfare, and the cost of hotels, and ponder the tourist beach culture…and then wind up going to Mexico or Europe.

The thing is, I'm not really a Beach Vacation kind of gal.

Normally I skip the beach altogether. When I do go to beach towns, I prefer Mexico, where I can speak in a foreign language, drink really great tequila, eat great Mexican food, hang out with friendly Mayan folks and tromp around ancient ruins. The only Mexican town I’ve been in that I didn’t like was Cancun, which is a modern city built entirely to cash in on the beach culture: it’s full of big tourist hotels, tourists, frat boys and girls, and sugary frozen drinks. Um...not my idea of fun.
Above, the ruins in Tulum, a Mayan city built on some incredible real estate

None of which is to say I don’t like the ocean, or the beach for that matter. I love the ocean. I grew up in the Bay Area, and whenever I’ve been called upon to live out of easy reach of the sea I feel a bit jittery. Just knowing it’s there is soothing to me. I think there’s a sneaky little part of my brain that figures if the sh*t really goes down, I can always lash some inflatables together and set off in a raft. If nothing else, it would be a poetic way to die, better than, ya know, waiting on shore for the zombie apocalypse *nods to Sophie*

But as for sitting on the sand, fighting off the tan you really want but aren’t allowed to have (skin cancer, dontcha know) with oily, expensive sunscreen? Not so much.

I like doing something when I’m on a coast. I’ve already written about my summer working a corn-dog stand at Santa Cruz’s Beach Boardwalk – now, put a roller coaster (or an entire amusement park) on the beach, and I’m sold.

I also adore the rugged northern California coast, the land of my birth. I love climbing rocks and checking out tide pools and peering, breathless, over cliffs so steep it feels as though you’re about to fall.

Once I was on the beach in Scotland when snow flurries starting swirling about us. It snowed on the beach. As a native Californian, it had never occurred to me that it could snow on a beach. Once I thought about it, it was a “duh” moment – after all, there are coasts and beaches all over the world, including in places like Alaska, where it sure as heck snows on the beach. I went in the late summer, and it was still cold.

at left, Tuluk gave me a ride on a beach along the Bering Straight. No mai-tais, but great memories.

I want to go to Jamaica one day, but I wouldn’t go to one of the resorts. One of my best friends is from Jamaica, and I’d love to visit the island nation with her, to meet her family, learn about the history, the culture, soak in the music…they speak English there, but with the kind of musical cadence that is a joy to my ears.

At right, a beach in Jamaica, calling my name

So chances are that come vacation time, I won’t be sitting on a beach drinking mai tais. I might well be in the local museum, though, or hiking along the cliffs. Tasting the local fish specialty, or at the very least, building a freaking awesome sand castle.

Oh, screw the beach. It's time to go back to Mexico and climb a pyramid.


Mysti said...

You'd be the perfect travel companion for a swirl through Mexico!

South of La Paz an hour or two by car across sand-dunish roads, (or on the opposite side of Baja from Los Cabos, across the arid desert and sand-dunish roads), there's a beautiful stretch of coast, where the desert comes right up to the water. Mostly locals and a few expats in a string down to the tip.

You can't go too far into the bathtub-warm water without stinging jellyfish, and you can't go too far down before the ginormous squid size you up for a meal, tarantulas and scorpions and ants that will probably grow opposable thumbs in a few more generations.

The local constabulary wait on the main dirt track, machine guns casually strung on their backs, to collect donations for the local school.

Once we walked for hours along the beach which gave no sign of ending, though we think we got close to where it turns east-west at the tip. On the way back we met three vultures who seemed to at least 4 feet tall. They were conversing with each other over a huge dead reptile of some kind. We walked very far around them, because I was pretty sure we looked yummier to them...

It's an area that's said to be full of people who bear an uncanny resemblance to Bing Crosby, who apparently visited there quite a bit back in the day.

I love that part of Baja, La Ribera and thereabouts. No cool ruins, but I'm a sucker for arid tropics :)

Mysti said...

oops, didn't mean to go on so long. I haven't been able to post from work for days and days, so some pent up comment energy, I guess. Loved everyone else's posts on this topic too!

Juliet Blackwell said...

Ha! I love it when you go on and's always lovely! Nice to hear from you ;-)

Rachael Herron said...

I want to go to tulun!! And Mysti, I spent time on that beach, too, and LOVE it.

L.G.C. Smith said...

Great post, Julie, and I love your addendum, Mysti. I'm intrigued. Scared ('cuz I'm a wimp), but intrigued.

Like you, Julie, I'd never go on a beach vacation even though I go to beaches when I travel. It's an important distinction. :)

Gigi Pandian said...

I'm with you, Juliet. (Oh, and all the commenters!) I've never understood the desire to lounge around on the beach to relax. But perhaps that's because when I go on vacation it's not to escape stressful life, but rather to go to the destination.

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