South Beach vs. The Secluded Beach

I don’t subscribe to the belief that an empty beach is paradise. Given the choice between fine sand, crystal water and seclusion, I would rather be on the beach with crying children, drunk Scandinavians, and a 19 year old Puerto Rican kid listening to shitty gangster rap. Sharing a special experience with a good friend is a unique joy, and hanging out with strangers is more exciting than going it alone. Here’s why I feel that way.

Nyang Nyang Beach in Bali

Nyang Nyang beach is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been

During my six months in South East Asia I visited exactly two “brochure quality beaches” that might as well have been my own personal property. The first was in Cambodia. Me and Joanna had rented a dirt bike with the goal of exploring a national park up in the mountains. Thirty minutes deep our plans changed when we saw the beach on our left. White sand a football field deep. Close to the water palm trees were being messaged by the wind. Except for three Cambodian women, we had hundreds of meters of space to ourselves. We stayed 20 minutes.

Later I visited Bali, which is famous for its beaches. I found a guide on the best “hidden” beaches, then I rented a dirt bike and drove to Nyang Nyang beach. It was the most beautiful place that I’ve ever been. Apart from a few surfers, the place was mine. When I walked away and turned a bend, the surfers disappeared and I had half a mile of beach to myself. $1,000,000,000 couldn’t have bought a more picturesque situation. I stayed for 90 minutes.

The Tourist Beach

On the other hand you have populated beaches. While I prefer this now, I didn’t always believe that having people around is more enjoyable. Prior to visiting South East Asia I was firmly of the mindset that a beach’s quality is directly related to its seclusion. The few people, the better. But after getting what I wanted, I got came to understand that having a beach to yourself is actually rather lonely. Sand is inanimate, the palm trees don’t give a shit about you, and even though the ocean has an expressive quality, you’re not going to have a conversation with it. However, when you’re at a beach with other people, you always have a chance to meet someone exciting. I recently talked for an hour with a Russian singer I met on South Beach. We had more in common than two strangers ever ought to. I never would have met her on a deserted beach.

The chance encounters are what get me excited. On a beach with other people there’s always a possibility for something to happen. You meet new people, you see something embarrassing happen, there’s a new language to try and decipher. Humans are engaging, they’re fun to be around. A deserted beach is exciting at first, but after the shock and awe stage there’s no potential. It’s crushed up rock, some shade, and a repetitive ocean. That can be extremely beautiful, but it’s not the basis for the best stories that you’ll ever tell.

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