For as long as I could remember, I wanted to live by the sea.
There’s a certain sense of wonder surrounding that great body of water, and I for one, was continuously enthralled.
In my childhood home, we lived about a 10 minutes walk to the beach. But it wasn’t like the beaches you see in the movies, or the ones you choose to vacation at.
It was littered with mangroves and oyster rocks, and a local was seeing a crocodile there every other week.
It wasn’t a safe place, exactly. You were warned against the water, for fear of the crocs and sharks and jellyfish who would frequent the bay.
Dipping your toes in felt like a rebellious act, and if your lure ever got stuck in a snag, there was no money in the world that would entice you to even attempt to rescue it.
It still had that smell though – that strong, salty scent. Only at this beach, it was mixed with red dirt and rotting bait and damp leaves.
I never looked at it as a haven. It was never my beach.
Looking back, I can’t actually remember more than a handful of times where I visited it voluntarily.
To get to the real beaches, you had to drive two hours north.
But the roads were run by the seasons, and would only open once the rain had left for a while.
That beach is where we would camp every Easter for a week. We would load up the cars, pack a few puzzle books and board games, and disappear into the sand for seven days.
The journey to that beach is only achievable for 4WDs. The sand dunes are too temperamental and soft for a regular car to brave.
Once arriving and unpacking, the days blurred in between reading books, fishing, driving the quads and finding safety in the shade.
The sea was a constant backdrop, glistening in the autumn light, taunting us of what we couldn’t properly enjoy.
We may have been two hours north, but we hadn’t escaped the crocodiles yet. A swim was a risky affair, and one you had to have a spotter for. Sitting in the shallows was a daring as we would get – and with good reason.
Come nightfall, you could spot the beady eyes just metres from where we stood earlier in the day. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. We thought we were invincible, until our torches told us otherwise.
At 14, I saw my first beach in another country. It was pebbled, and cold, and the water stung our fingertips. It wasn’t mud brown or infested like the one back home, but my god, was it cold.
This sea linked directly to the Antarctic, where the ice and the polar bears live. There was no mangroves there either; it seemed cleaner somehow. Like humans hadn’t reached it yet, even though we were there.
I felt a sense of ease wash over me at that beach. Like it was exactly where I was meant to be, and a place I would one day call home.
At 17, I saw the coast of California. I went to the pier everyone takes pictures of and ran along the beach that is filled with a colourful crowd. It was alive; people were everywhere, the aromas of west coast cuisines met you at every corner and the sea was speckled with surfers gliding along the waves.
It was vibrant, the air pulsating with energy. So many people had gathered, had travelled from across the globe to sink their toes into this glorious beach. I imagined spending a summer on the shore, learning to surf and writing a novel, meeting new faces and retreating to a nearby shack once the sun had finished her dance.
At 21, I went to another beach. This time I was alone, and had travelled to Bali. The water was not unlike home; mucky and warm yet also incredibly reviving. I swam only once, then stupidly got a tattoo right in the middle of my trip.
Still, I wandered down there for as many days as I could. It wasn’t exactly peaceful, but I was healing. I would journal as the sun went down and make lists of my goals and dreams, and how I was going to overcome what had previously been holding me back.
At 23, things finally fell into place.
We wanted to move and had committed to finding a house at the beaches. After a very stressful month, we found one. The one. A cute little duplex with a yard and plenty of space, with the beach literally at the end of our street.
In the afternoons, I make a travel mug of tea and pop on an episode from one of my favourite podcasts and wander down the road. I make an effort to smile and say hello to everyone I pass, but really, it doesn’t require that much effort at all.
How can you be anything but smiling when you’re on your way to the beach?
I now have a spot, sitting on top of a ledge overlooking the ocean and sweeping cove around me. I can see from the city to Palm Cove, but at my beach, it is forever quiet and uncluttered.
I like to spend an hour there, at least. Just sitting, sipping tea and listening to the waves crashing against the shore. No matter how loud my podcasts are, I can always hear the roar of the ocean in the background. It’s as if she knows.
Being at the beach is like free therapy. It is soothing, inspiring and cheering all at once. I leave feeling content and brewing with ideas. My body is sandy, my hair windswept, and my soul at peace.