I have always lived by the beach. I grew up on the coast of the Baltic Sea and it has been such a natural part of my life that I have rarely appreciated the convenience and privilege of living only twenty minutes away from the coast.
The beach I’ve known throughout my childhood is one of white sand dunes, greenish waves and reeds playing in the wind. It is one full of people packed like sardines in a can on a hot July’s day, eating homemade sandwiches and refreshing with an ice-cream sold by a lady patrolling the beach with her cooler. Yet a beach that is empty at any other time of the year. It’s a place where you can watch enchanting red sunsets kissing the surface of the water while listening to the salty waves quietly crashing on the shore. There you can stare at the starry sky at night and make sandy snowmen and snow angels in the winter. But most of all, it’s a place where you can find a peaceful getaway from the rush of the city. Yes, we do have loud beach parties and music festivals there but you can always find a stretch of sand that offers you calmness and refuge for the soul in any season at any time of the day.
I always considered the beach with the lush pine forest behind it to be the best escape into nature. That was until I met the mountains.
My home country is as flat as the latest Samsung TV screen, so it’s not surprising that I have only recently discovered the magic of the mountains. It was the summer of 2014 when I hiked up the Austrian Alps at 5am to watch a breathtaking sunrise from above the clouds. It was then that I first realised that the mountains were my ultimate refuge. The incomprehensible grandeur of the rocks, the view, the silence and the fresh air up there; the uphill struggle and the reward after reaching the top. Everything about the mountains felt so powerful and humbling. Measuring my little self against them put everything into perspective and at the same time my lungs filled with the feeling of being alive like never before.
That was when I fell in love with the mountains and I’ve been coming back and back to them ever since. As I write these words, I am sitting 3km above sea level surrounded by incredible mountain forests. And ever since I’ve discovered this feeling that only the mountains can give, I can’t look at beaches the same way anymore.
Of course, every beach is different and there are many of them around the world, but the beaches I’ve come to know recently have only served to strengthen the pull to the mountains.
As my friend Paulina accurately put it, the beach is for being outward facing, while the mountains are for looking inside. I couldn’t agree with her more. The beaches I’ve visited recently, although beautiful, have a lingering sense of carelessness and shallowness. I’ve seen beaches with crazy parties and never-ending intoxication, I’ve seen ones where the only thing to do seems to be to excessively indulge in food, shopping or other material or bodily pleasures. And on the other side of the scale I’ve seen some proclaiming spirituality with the full range of yoga lessons, meditation sessions and alternative medicine. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for spirituality but somehow it all seems so shallow and just for show in these places. So although I do like the sound of the waves and the heat of the coast, the beach lifestyle is just not quite for me.
But hey, that’s just my humble preference. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll find a beach that changes my mind. But until then I’d much rather choose the mountains any day.