As I sit above the Nam Khan river in Laos (land locked and loving it) I have been inspired to write about one specific duality of life – that been the choice of living by the ocean or alternatively at a higher elevation inland.
Some of us, perhaps most reading this, have chosen to live by the ocean for the best part of our lives. We are ocean enthusiasts and our lives’ stories are interwoven with salt and sand. We live by her so as to be able to surf the morning sunrise, nab that ‘in-between’ session that only comes from close proximity to the waves, and look over the ocean from our balcony at sunset and enjoy a drink as the sun turns the ocean to a deep dark orange. But above all else we know that the salt water calms and eases our minds from the stresses of life on land ~ and the closer we are the calmer we feel.
But what of those ocean enthusiasts who live inland, whether by choice or circumstance – do they too shape their lives around the ocean? How do they justify the drive to the beach? Do they prefer their horses and cows to our herons and crabs? Have they sold their soul from the saline pleasures to servitude in pastures? These were the questions I asked, and the answers I found when I again became an Inlander.
There is not a day that goes by when I don’t miss waking to the salt air, brewing a cup of coffee, and walking a sandy track to do a morning reconnaissance mission. Whether it was to check the surf on the Goldy or just appreciate the ocean in Mackay, I made a point of living by the sea. Living within walking distance to the beach brings with it a lifestyle, one that I love, and one that embellishes a privilege that can often divide sea dwellers from their inland counterparts.
I should know, as I spent my youth growing up 20 minutes drive inland from Noosa Heads. For a grom that often meant hitching a lift into town, sweating it out for the best part of 45 minutes aboard a Sun Bus, and then a 5-15 minute walk until finally feeling the sand squeeze between the toes. By the time I’d caught my first wave my mates were taking a shower, knowing they’d caught the best of the morning session as the puff of onshore wind kicked up. And you didn’t need to be an ASP judge to know that my mates who could leave their house barefoot and in board shorts were edging closer to looking like the surfing giants of Occy and Egan. Stranded inland without wheels meant less time in the water, but plenty more time enjoying the amazing lifestyle that only inland living can offer.
But if you have salt water in the veins it’s there for life. If you need confirmation on this then just ask your non-surfing friends or partner; as they tilt their head in the cab and rolls their eyes as you cram your surfboard in through the back window… And that is where I find that the Inlanders perhaps have an upper edge – a certain dedication and tenacity – a life-style unknown, nor skills developed, by those who eternally live by the ocean.
What I speak of is not visible, tangible, nor some kind of badge to be worn ~ rather it is an undercurrent of exploration; an understanding that life is the journey; a deep(er) appreciation for the ocean and nature; and just a downright doggedness to seek and find that which is not readily available on their doorstep. It’s not to say that seaside inhabitants don’t have these characteristics – my hypothesis is only this: the life of an Inlander encourages, develops and deepens a persona aligned to the above traits – and that these attributes in turn can be highly valuable, not only for the continuous quest to explore the coastline, but for the exploration of life in its entirety.
Signing off from the remote mountains of Laos – 19°51’43” N 102°13’44” E, 330m above sea level…