This year in springtime, I enjoyed a two-week writer’s sojourn in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, a quaint, seaside village located on Florida’s southeast coast. The sea shored up her bounty of gifts for me. In turn, I gift you my stories. Visit the story map to navigate this travel memoir.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
My time enjoying great company at the Breakaway Inn and Guest House was short-lived. But as a writer, I also welcome solitude. The Tides Inn afforded me just that in an updated 1950s boutique hotel appointed with chic, retro décor.
Writers are peculiar: we need to be with people in order to write but we also need to be alone in order to write. And four days into my journey, I got that precious gift: a whole day to myself.
The Tides Inn, like Southern Seas, offers guests completely unobstructed views of sea and sky. My God. What to do with all that space?
When we live in congested cities full of buildings and cars, clutter and confusion becomes normal. Our senses adjust to the stress of constantly having to deal with jarring sounds, and the fact that there is something or someone around you always interrupting the flow of your energy, your personal space.
But at places like The Tides Inn, there’s an opportunity to make “silence” and “space” the new normal. For some, it’s bewildering. Most people who live in noisy cities for too long can’t handle silence: it’s “deafening” and unnerving because the nothingness of it can be scary. Wide-open spaces are equally daunting for city dwellers. Silence and space force us to look in the mirror and see who we truly are without all the distractions of the urban hustle.
Faced with the prospect of open skies, the Atlantic ocean and the sound of surf and wind, there is nothing left to do but relax and be fully present in the moment. During my 14-day stay in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, I never once turned on a television.
And so after a dip in the cool ocean and some lazy floating in the climate pool -- I just couldn’t seem to get enough of the water that day -- I took a soothing hot shower with the hotel’s line of heavenly scented bath products, slipped on the soft bathrobe the hotel provided and rested quietly with my thoughts while looking out at the sea.
Zen by the Sea
The wind had picked up in the afternoon and I mused about the physics of sailing, of mastering the wind and waves to steer a course. I remembered a time when a friend of mine was preparing to compete in a regatta and went as far as sawing his toothbrush in half to lighten the sailboat’s load.
Prior to this press trip, I had taken my material possessions out of storage to take stock of my “things,” which really meant reevaluating the inventory of my life. I couldn’t believe how much I actually owned or rather, how much of it owned me.
“This is why we go on vacation,” I thought. “So that we feel free and light, unburdened by our things. Yet some of us overpack, thinking we are going to need more than we actually do. We do the same in our own closets and in our needlessly stressful, cluttered lives.”
While looking out my room’s window at the ocean and the sky, with nary a high-rise condo, a boom box or a crowd in sight – not even a palm tree! – I wondered if I could possibly live out of my modest suitcase for a long time. “Could I saw that toothbrush in half to sail through life, light and free? Could I lighten the load?” I asked myself.
The answer was yes.
“What are the things we hold on to? What are the things that truly matter?” I asked.
Well, of course, the answer is love. And then it came to me: can you hold a grain of sand or a drop of water in your hand? No. Can you hold love infinitely in your heart? Yes. And in order to do that, you must release everything in your life that you truly don’t need. Things bog us down. Love sets us free.
Miami’s South Beach is about accumulation. It has too much baggage. It sucks everything into its vortex and hoards. No one saws their toothbrush in half in this toxic beach, polluted by garbage and intangibles such as greed. South Beach has more than it can handle. It’s a big closet full of “things” that no one really wears and yet folks complain “I’ve got nothing to wear.” South Beach is about proving a point. It’s an island full of expectations for the already jaded; it caters to a culture of ennui and an energy of desperation. The weight of it: hi-rise condos are like ballast and the island is literally sinking. It’s impossible to relax in South Beach. There is absolutely nothing Zen about that heavily urbanized beach, which insults Mother Nature. Trashy vacationers dump their trash on her. You are how you behave. There’s no respect or dignity. Not even silence.
Yet about one hour away, there’s an enclave of Zen known as Lauderdale-by-the-Sea where an exhausted Miami writer can go sit with her thoughts, have no expectations and be rewarded with the gift of peace, silence and simple joys, like the orchid on a table and one simple carry-on suitcase she could live out of for weeks with just exactly what she needs.
Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is the kind of beach my heart desires now and I’m taking this lesson with me for the rest of my life. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is a state of mind. A gift from the sea.
Can I hold a grain of sand or a drop of water in my hand? No. Because I don’t need to. I have all that I need. I am all that I need. And that is enough.
Choose Your Beach
The next time you choose a Florida beach destination for your vacation, think about that sawed-off toothbrush: a toxic place that is bogged down by things, like South Beach? Or a place that is light and free? Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and many other tranquil destinations in the Sunshine State rate high on Zen.
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Disclosure: this travel experience was supported by The Lodging Association of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. All opinions my own.