4 Lessons I Learned Growing Up on the Beach

Check out these life lessons gleaned from growing up on a beach in the Caribbean.

By: Karen Walrond

I was born on the small Caribbean island of Trinidad, and my early childhood years were spent in a tiny fishing village called Mayaro. My father worked at a nearby oil production facility, and we lived in a quaint gray house at the end of a coconut tree-lined dirt road. The house was old and somewhat run-down — it even had bats that lived in the roof — but it was located right on the beach. In fact, our backyard was nothing but sand. The elementary school that I went to was also located on the beach — about a quarter of a mile away — and every day my schoolmates and I would walk along that beach to get to our school.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it was a pretty idyllic life.

We lived there until I was about 11 years old, when my family moved to a suburb of Houston, Texas. But even though I was very young, I learned some lessons that I’ve carried with me throughout my life. Here are four that I always hold close.

1. Change is inevitable. It’s also cyclical.
Living on a beach is so different from having a beach vacation. Spending extended time at the shore, you begin to realize that even if the weather is the same on consecutive days, no two days are identical. Tides come in and out at different times, bringing with them different treasures from the sea. Dunes appear and disappear. Driftwood shows up on the beach, and then suddenly one day, it’s gone again.

At the same time, things return: Familiar sea life shows up around the same time every year, and the moods of the ocean become familiar. I’ve always held that life moves just like the patterns of the sea, and the ocean is a great reminder that it’s possible to remain strong and powerful through them all.

2. There is beauty in each stage of life.
There are times when I look in the mirror and I worry that I’m getting older or gaining weight (it’s so easy for us to take cheap shots at ourselves and bring ourselves down, isn’t it?). And at those moments, I remember that the ocean has moods: It can be dark and stormy one day, then blue and placid and sparkling the next. But no matter what, the ocean is beautiful. And like the ocean, there is beauty to be found in me, as well.

3. While independence is great, community can be even better.
Sometimes, early in the morning on that beach in Mayaro, we’d go help the fishermen pull their seines (their nets) out of the water so that they could sell the catch right there on the sand. And it wasn’t just us — villagers from all over would come join and help.

It was like an impromptu block party every morning as we would strain against the tide to pull the heavy nets, and I’d watch the grown-ups joking with each other and bidding each other a great morning as they purchased the evening’s dinner. It’s a memory I return to whenever I’m confronted by ugly news in the media or human tragedy. I remember that, for the most part, we look out for each other and help, even when it hasn’t been asked for.

4. We are each more resourceful than we know.
I was reminded of this recently while watching my daughter play on the beach just like I used to do at her age. It was hours and hours of amusement with really nothing more than the ocean, sand and driftwood, as we built fantastic castles with moats and concocted elaborate stories of pirates and mermaids and shipwrecks. It was a lovely reminder that the accumulation of things isn’t necessary to create a happy life — for with imagination, our capacity for resourcefulness is limitless.

When she isn't sharing tips on StyleUnited on how to add more awesome to your life, you can find Karen on Chookooloonks.com. She's on a mission to prove to you that your life is filled with different, unique moments of beauty, starting with her book, The Beauty of Different. Her work can be seen on Babble.com, TEDxHouston and USAToday.


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