Beach or Mountains?

There’s a book, by Mickey Gill, called Coke or Pepsi. On the cover it boasts, “Amazingly awesome questions 2 ask your friends!” Inside, it does ask light, thought-provoking, personality-based questions that simply ask your preference between two things. For instance, “Sunrise or Sunset?” “Sweet or Salty?” “Spender or Saver?” You get the idea. One of those questions, “Beach or Mountains?” got me thinking on a recent Florida beach vacation.

I always thought of myself, and do think of myself, as a Mountain Girl. C’mon, I once even had a password as MTNGRL long before I had to add 27 characters and crazy symbols. So, by virtue of that password, I AM a Mountain Girl, right? That’s what I thought, and suddenly I felt guilty as I was relaxing under palm trees, sipping a frozen libation. Shouldn’t I be hiking in Glacier National Park? Shouldn’t I be standing atop Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park enjoying the view? I felt like I was cheating on my mountains. If they knew I was here, and enjoying my time, would they be disappointed in me? I was sweating now, and not just from the golden sun that blazed above me.

The fact is, these two vacations are different, and they offer me different things. Personally, I think I enjoy both but for dramatically different reasons.

I noticed when I am on a beach vacation, I am relaxed in a way different than when I’m on a mountain vacation. At the beach, I’m more physically relaxed; in the mountains, I am soulfully relaxed – if that’s a thing. While at the beach, there is little physical exertion. There’s the flipping of your body once in awhile, a trip to the bathroom, or a walk to the tiki hut. Even “a dip” in the pool or ocean hints to very little exertion! My body just enjoys doing nothing. Contrast that with the mountain vacation. Hiking, hiking, and more hiking. Steep inclines, deep canyons, trail difficulty ratings – all indicate “work.” Yet, though I’m physically working, what the mountains do for me soulfully is hard to explain. I just feel whole, right, connected, at home, at peace.

There’s another difference I noticed, too. When I’m at some tropical beach locale, I’m definitely more of a prospective thinker. Whereas in the mountains, I am much more reflective. There’s something about the beach lifestyle that makes you think, “Someday I want to have all this, live like this.” I think, “I’m going to get a house here, live here in retirement, just live this laid-back lifestyle. Maybe I’ll get a convertible. I’ll go for walks every morning, lay out in the afternoon, shower, and hit the local Happy Hours. Yeah, that’s the life I want.” Definitely more prospective. The mountains, however, have a way of making me more reflective. I stand practically in the clouds, looking at the vastness beneath me, and I just reflect. I think of who I am, how I got here, what my purpose is, and wonder if I’m fulfilling it. It’s not the future I think of at all, but rather the past. I become nostalgic about everything. I ponder past relationships and become wistful again about those I’ve lost. Yes, mountains definitely make me more reflective.

Aside from the way I relax and the way I think, there’s also the way I feel that seems different. For me, I noticed a feeling of “Big Self vs. Little Self” in these two places. The beach seems to make me feel like a Big Self. In my head, I must equate the beach life to a rich life. A lavish lifestyle that everyone would love to live. Therefore, I feel like my Big Self when I’m there. That seems to be quite opposite of how I feel in the mountains. There, I feel like a Little Self. I feel small and inconsequential (but in good ways). I can put my life in perspective, and rather than want things, I feel grateful for so many things. I feel like a minimalist compared to my epicurean beach-self.

Somehow each of these vacations seem important to me. I think it’s good to feel both ways, actually. I guess it’s just another way of being balanced. So, next time, I won’t feel so guilty when sipping libations oceanside, but I bet I’ll still be missing my mountains. I may need to look into reviving, but editing, my old password. Perhaps something like MTNBCHGIRLITSCOMPLICATEDIKNOW!$%@&!.