Driving 10 minutes from my house to Long Beach, New York, is a staple of a Long Island summer in my definition.
Visiting the beach and reading a book while feeling the sun beaming on my skin is something I look forward to now, but that wasn’t always the case.
The first time I went to the beach was when I was 6 months old.
My great-grandparents began a family tradition of spending every summer weekend in Long Beach, even though they lived in Brooklyn, New York. It was an hour-long drive each way, but they were willing to make the trip.
This tradition continued when my grandparents decided to move to Long Beach, consequently bringing a love for the beach upon my dad.
My parents carried on the tradition, spending every summer weekend at the same beach. It was no different after I was born. They began taking me before I could walk.
I wasn’t always grateful for the beach, especially as a kid. Sitting in the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday wasn’t very appealing to me. There were only so many times I could go in the ocean without complaining of boredom.
Although I was unappreciative, our tradition persisted each summer, continuing even after my brother was born five years after me. It became more of a hassle for my dad, who had to pull my baby brother in a wagon across the hot sand, but it was worth it to him to have us all there.
I rarely put up a fight about our weekend plans because I understood my dad wanted us to share in this long-held tradition.
There was no doubt the beach would always be a part of my life, and as I got older, I began to appreciate certain aspects of my summers, especially my proximity to the beach.
I learned how to drive the summer before my freshman year of college, and I tried to spend as much time as possible with my home friends. The beach became the place we relished in each other’s company before we parted ways for the school year. We talked, laughed and soaked up the sun as our final days before school approached.
That summer, I also found myself taking moments to appreciate my hometown and spend time alone, a lot of which I did at the beach while looking out into the ocean.
Sometimes I took a good book with me, which would help ease my mind when I had difficulty relaxing. Other times, I found solace in just closing my eyes and listening to the sounds around me.
Coming to Lehigh, I realize not many people have the same access to the beach that I do. Although it is geographically obvious, it was something I never thought about.
Some families have to plan an overnight stay to enjoy the beach. For me, it’s simply a four-mile drive.
Although I have always had access to a local beach, I’ve started to yearn to explore beaches globally as I’ve gotten older.
During my freshman year spring break, I visited Costa Rica with four of my college friends. Our first excursion was a tour of Manuel Antonio National Park. Despite sweltering 90-degree heat, which had me profusely sweating and dehydrated, walking through the park is an experience I frequently find myself wanting to return to.
The path we walked amazed us. Through our six-mile walk in the forest, we spotted sloths, helmet-headed lizards, monkeys, a toucan and the species of bird that inspired the “Angry Birds” character, among other animals.
Just when I thought our experience could not get any better, we were led to a picturesque scene: white sand, Caribbean water and an array of trees lining the horizon.
This was unlike anything I had seen before.
Our laughter and joy resonated around us as we roamed the beach. In awe, we were grateful to be experiencing this view together.
Whether it’s in New York, Costa Rica or my next destination, alone or with friends, it is incredible to know the beach will leave me with feelings of appreciation for the moment.
I’m thankful for all the memories Long Beach has brought me. I’m excited to be spending another summer there and equally excited for all the beaches I have yet to explore.
The beach, whether near or far, is more than just sand and ocean, it’s family tradition, fond memories and my happy place.