Imagine the Mediterranean Sea kissing the coastline of a dry, hot desert region. When I moved to Alicante in January of 2014, I bragged to my friends back home about the mild temperatures and teased them about the snow that was pelting the East coast. By March, I started dipping my toes into the sea, happily ahead of my normal beach schedule by several months. I soaked up my new climate and wrote home about the palm trees and sunny skies.
A short bus ride away in Elche, the locals boasted a park with one of the highest densities of palm trees in the world. Down the street, I could climb through the best tree in Alicante or stroll along the palm-lined Esplanada. After three and a half months of living in my adopted city’s dreamy climate, I was ready to permanently trade in my winter wardrobe for a new collection of bikinis.
Despite my happy situation in Alicante, I did want to take advantage of my first opportunity to explore Europe. In April, a friend and I decided to meet up in Poland, and he proposed an overnight trip to the popular ski town Zakopane. I was happy to go hiking in the gorgeous Tatra mountains for a change of scenery.
As we reached the threshold of the forest, I suddenly experienced the strangest feeling. Something about the cool, damp air, the twigs and leaves snapping underfoot, the green coverage overhead and the enveloping sensation of walking in the woods just seemed so right. I was back in my element, in a forest like the one in which I spent many a childhood adventure.
At first I resisted the feeling. I loved Spain! I raved about my Mediterranean view. I loved wandering the dock and the rocky shores, and spent countless hours gazing out into the vast openness of the sea. I needed more than one hand to count how many times I had climbed Alicante’s dusty castle. And yet… walking in the woods tugged at my heartstrings. There’s something precious, I suppose, about places that remind us of where we came from.
And so I pondered this feeling during the hike, and for many months afterward, confused about missing the climate that I had been so eager to trade for the beach. And now that I’m living back on the East coast again, I can’t deny that I miss living by the sea.
So I’m trying to remember how much I missed the forests when I wasn’t near them, and be more present in whatever climate I’m living in. The beauty is in the fact that I don’t have to declare my undying loyalty to either. In fact, the contrast only makes me appreciate each one more for what it is. Beaches and forests don’t have to compete for a place in my heart – they can coexist, if I let them.