One of the things I missed most while living in Paris was being near the water. (Because, no, the dirty Seine and its annual tax-dollars fest Paris Plage don't count). It's not even that I particularly enjoy aquatic activities (my parents never owned a boat like other families we knew and I detest swimming because watching Jaws at an impressionable age left me with an irrational fear of sharks), but growing up in Seattle and driving past Puget Sound every day on the way to school and gymnastics practice made the water a constant presence. When I went away to university, it was reassuring to know that the bay was, traffic willing, only a short drive away. Paris, by comparison, felt oddly suffocating, and as though something intangible were always missing. I don't like feeling land locked, I guess.
When I've told people about my trip, both before I left and now that I'm on the road, I usually get one of two reactions. Either, "Wow that's so ambitious!" (11 countries in three months, yolo). Or, "You're doing this all alone? I could never do that." (Yes, I am). There are positives and negatives on both counts. It's liberating on the one hand, planning my itinerary based solely on what I want to do, but also tiring because I don't want to leave a city feeling like I missed out on something. And - there's no way around it - eating alone sucks.
Yesterday a group of us ventured out from our hostel to the beach, and as I lounged in my blue-and-white striped deck chair I was reminded of the last time, almost a year ago, that I had gazed out at the Mediterranean on a summer's day, the soft breeze dissipating the heat radiating from a cloudless sky, and enjoying the company of new friends. That was easily one of the more perfect days I've ever experienced. This time was a bit different. I was still in good company, but we had all participated in a pub crawl the night before and I, especially, was nursing a particularly nasty hangover. (Tequila and I don't mix well).
So I lay in the shade of a thatched umbrella intermittently sleeping, drinking water and, behind my dark glasses, being surreptitiously entertained by the other groups around us - a gaggle of English school kids on holiday and a European couple that purchased some questionable temporary tattoos from an itinerant vendor (pawprints that appeared to climb up the girl's torso from the general direction of her crotch; a hand giving the finger on the guy's abs).
But the longer we stayed others came and went, and it was then that I realized what I liked about the water was the nothingness of it. Hours passed with me watching the waves creep up on the sand like clockwork and everything else just fell away. No plans, no sense of urgency. Just me and the sea.