*This is a guest post written by the multi-talented Kneale Brown*
Travelling as a Brit is a queer thing. That season-less feeling of summer merely because the sun has got his hat on. Even the most strawberry blonde of us are overdosing on Vitamin D.
Reaching into 20 months of solid travel with the large bulk of it being Australasia-based – home of beach life – I’m slowly observing something about myself and other ‘poms’. What I’m referring to is the Romanticism of the beach: that lure of sun, sea and sand; the post-Victorian draw of a summer holiday which clean-cut-Cliff sang of back in the heady days of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s the pinnacle of leisure to us; ingrained in our psyche. Stuck to us like wet trunks fresh out of the surf and I can’t deny that during my first months of travel I, like my countrymen, gobbled up the dream like a dog with hot chips.
Summer holidays conjure up images of ice cream, donkeys, sticks of rock, Punch & Judy and golden sands to most Brits. But somewhere along the line I started to become what I’m coining as ‘beach arrogant’. Objectively speaking, I’m referring to the feeling of turning up to yet another beautiful beach town, just like the last beautiful beach town you stayed at the night before, and refilling the roll-ups in your jeans with a slightly different type of sand. And so it begins: beach, bar, hostel, hangover, repeat. It’s now a tiring, cyclical drawl of a life to me. One beach is simply the same as the last. Lots of really, really, really, really, really, really small rocks sandwiched between salty water and hardy grass verges, usually far too close to an overly busy road, crying children and multitudes of protein drinking ‘lads’ hopelessly throwing novelty sized rugby balls at each other in the hope that their caveman behaviour will attract a sunburnt, bikini-clad mate.
Hypocritically, my current home is a van located in a small beach town in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Although I could have stopped anywhere for the summer I inadvertently found myself drawn to the beach. Because, despite the lingering stickiness of sun cream, sand in your intimate recesses and salt residue on your clothes, I’m as British as my passport and when you are such these things ‘just happen’.
When geographically relocated to the shoreline the dower British attitude is replaced with a hungry need for excessive partying, hardcore relaxation and socialisation. We discover a thrill at the veritable buffet of options for company in and out of the bedroom. The beach is nature’s psychologist. “Lie down, relax!” it seems to say, “stop taking things so seriously!” It’s the ability of those days spent on the beach to cleanse us of all the prudish, stiff upper lip, ‘lie back and think of England’ ideals that produce a stressed out, unhappy nation which makes it such a draw…..Wait, wasn’t I supposed to be writing an epitaph lamenting the death of beach life?
You see although when I hit the beach my first thought is to avoid it wholly, take two steps back into the bar with my book and some air conditioning, I can also see the benefit to others. To some extent the fun-employed among us – those travelling for years rather than months, ‘lifepackers’ if you will – shed that summer identity through abuse of beach life. As I see the tour buses roll into town day after day on their perpetual conveyor belt of all-inclusive travel, I wonder whether those at the beginning of lengthy trips will come to the same conclusion I have: life’s a beach, but you don’t have to be doused in factor 30 and overdosing on salty air to enjoy it.