On Solo Travel and French Kissing

Sure, solo travel has its risks. Getting mugged, beat up, getting lost, feeling lonely, doing something stupid you wouldn’t have done if someone was there to talk you out of it are all possibilities.   But think of the benefits. On the benefits list I would include again getting lost and doing something stupid you wouldn’t have done if someone was there to talk you out of it, because define “stupid”. One may define a situation of swerving the car off to the side of the road to jump out to chase a moose into the woods for a photo as stupid. In my defense, I grew up in So Cal where wildlife safety was not a topic beyond rattle snakes. Moose etiquette was not in the curriculum so it was not until showing off pics of a moose blurred between trees that the sharp inhales and wide eyes clued me in that moose trampling is a thing.  How about a photo shoot of a grizzly about twenty feet away napping soundly? Truly, I don’t know what woke him up in the second half of the photos but they look gre

California’s Cold, Sunny Season

The beach is warm with direct sun, even hot at times, with the waves lapping the sand. The smell of sunblock is blocking out all other scents except the overwhelming smell of roiling sea water being pulled up from the depths. Those depths hide incredible creatures, big and small, and coral reefs the size of rolling hills, constantly building, growing, breaking off and dying. The smell of the sea is made by all of those living and dying things.

The sunscreen feels oily and clingy in a way that I am familiar with from decades of use. There is a comfort and familiarity in it plus a sense of security from the dangers of the discomfort of a painful sunburn later. 

The sand feels warm as I dig in my toes, pull them straight up and watch the sand slide off, just to rebury them in the soft dryness, over and over and over again. The sand is comforting like a blanket, like many of the beach sensations. This place is comforting with the constancy of the waves that never end and the moon that makes sure of it. 

Much of this is true of the beach this day and will always be true, but not all. Because today is cold. Today has a biting cold that comes from the ocean that even the direct sun can’t succeed against. I miss the warmth when it’s not here. 

The wind can blow thin layers of the sand but can’t blow deep into the sand that is covering my feet to protect me from the wind. The wind cannot pierce through the sand like it pierces through my clothes. This cold is a cold that chills me in a way that even snow cannot do. Below zero temperatures can’t make me feel like this cold feels. It’s different types of layers to protect me, different types of air, a different setting that makes this cold different. 

The sun is too bright, the sky is too blue for this cold to feel like it fits. My sunglasses and hat and sunblock tell that part of the story. Yet, this is the California beach in the early spring. Those with more dramatic climates like to tell me that California has no seasons. This is a season. This is the cold, sunny season at the beach. This season comes just after the cold, cloudy season. The cold feels less painful and piercing with the clouds. The clouds seem to hold in some of the warmth left over from the prior hot season. The clouds set an expectation that cold is ok and fits the setting. But cold doesn’t fit with blue sky and sunshine. 

Soon it will be so hot that the direct sun will be less welcome. I won’t be relying on it to keep the frigid wind from driving me away from this place with the hope of warmth from its directness. I will be hiding under an umbrella from the sun because the sunglasses and the hat and the sunblock will not be enough. Any part of me not protected from the sun by the shade of the umbrella will be covered with a towel or buried in the sand. I’ll be wishing for a breath of breeze to fan me. The frigid California coast water will be needed to cool off from the direct heat. But today I need the sun.

Despite the bitter cold this place is worth it. I’m not the only one who feels this way. There are surfers in wetsuits paddling out, kids with no sense of temperature digging the sand in t-shirts and a group of 30 or so guitarists who gather near the dock every Saturday to play standing in a circle in the grass. As I walk by they are strumming and singing “California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.” Appropriate.

There is one musician outside the group. He’s sitting on the grass alone, not standing in the circle with the other thirty with their iPads propped in front of them. He strums along with the others as he just plays by ear and from memory. One of the leaders of the group turns to him between songs and says, “still not willing to join the circle?” “Nope” is the unhurried reply. I like this outsider. 

I can’t help but linger at this point of my stroll from one beach to another on the trail that follows the coastline. This dock is home to about a hundred small sailboats and is the halfway point between the two beaches that hug the lagoon. Those masts are the backdrop to the scene and the music playing. As more songs play on, the cold starts to feel good and the air fresh and damp with cool coastal humidity. I stay in small patches of sun interspersed in the shade of a large tree.

The cold, sunny season is welcomed. The cold can be overlooked because of the comfort of this place and its people. What started as a solitary, pensive appreciation of the beach and its waters and sands has shifted into an appreciation of the beach people and their music and solidarity and solitude. 

It’s hard for me to pull myself away from this place. This place is comforting with the constancy of the waves that never end and the moon that makes sure of it…and the people who, like me, come here for those waves and that moon, and always will.


  1. Gratitude for transporting me to the seaside. Where the sand, winds, waters, smells and culture have pulsed through my veins for over 55 years. Thank you for having the courage to share your remarkable experiences.


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