When you go to college in the South, a day by any large body of water is like being in your native habitat.
You might as well have grown flippers.
It didn’t matter how long you had to drive. You didn’t have to come to terms with sacrificing hours of your life to the confines of a vehicle. It was part of the excitement. Driving was still new and cool.
Now, you fight over who has to drive. You complain you never know what the speed limit is (because adhering to the rules of the road started to matter when you started to pay your own car insurance.)
Reaching the beach is still the best part. There’s that need to immediately roll down your windows and feel sandy beach air caress your cheeks.
In college, you would scour the beach for a spot next to the hottest and hugest group of people you could find. Now, if there are children or people drinking natty light within a 5k radius there is no way in hell you are stopping there.
The most important things to pack for the beach when you were in college were beer, a towel and more beer. Now, you make sure you have two types of sunscreen, a hat, water (because dehydration isn’t cool anymore) and more clothes because wearing a bikini all day was only fun when your metabolism worked like a furnace and walking up the stairs was all the exercise your body needed.
The beach itself is still heaven. Relaxing waves, rays of sun giving your body that glow everyone else is paying $60 a month for and the chance to make some memories instead of staying home and browsing Pinterest all weekend.
Another thing that changes about beach days after college–the day after.
You wake up for work. Feeling a bit warm from all the sun but still in your relaxed state. You get ready, smile as you brush your teeth because you remember you posted that one beach photo to Facebook with no caption so everyone knows you were at the beach and should be jealous but you don’t feel like you were rubbing it in.
And then you get to your car and realize you brought half the beach back home with you.
There is sand everywhere. If you weren’t holding it firmly in your hands you would swear the steering wheel was made out of seaweed. Your car smells like homeless mermaids have been living in it with their pet fish for three weeks.
In college, this was a badge of honor. Sand in your car was a testament to your adventurous nature and spontaneity. Now it’s a testament to how poor you are because you blew all your money getting to the beach and can’t pay to have your car cleaned until Wednesday.
In the end, the beach is still one of the best experiences you can have. There’s something about throwing yourself into the vast ocean, watching fish swim past you and pelicans soar above you while the sun makes the water fall into lustrous, auburn waves that you just can’t get anywhere else.