Collecting Sea Glass: Regret and Travel

Written by Hank Martin in N. America, UK

When you walk a long stretch of beach on a windy day your footprints disappear as fast as you make them. The sand is wet and rough, like a dog's tongue, and now and again you may spot a piece of sea glass. Sea glass is a small piece of highly polished glass. Formed over decades this glass is shaped by friction from currents sand tumbling waves.

Smooth and cool to the touch, these shards look like gemstones with their deep blue, green and red colors. Because they are often very small you will miss some of these wonders while walking. But, if you walk long enough you will find enough to fill both hands.

Some collect these pieces and out them in a clear jar to look upon. Others just give them away. Still others throw them back for others to find. There is no right or wrong way to keep a experience.

In life, when you arrive somewhere  your departure time is already approaching. There is no way to slow down time, to pause a moment and scour the same stretch of beach for eternity. You must move.

Holding on to time is like holding ocean water in your hands, it trickles through gaps, between knuckles and down your arms then vanishes into the ground below. You cannot hold on to it no matter how hard you try. Time is a sieve. You are always missing something, either the past or the present. From this lacking comes regret and fear.

Regret is a powerful tool that tourist companies use to make you spend money. By pointing out your mortality (once in a lifetime trip), the experience (life-changing) or the feeling (find peace and happiness) those supported by tourism suck precious money out of your pockets and in to their coffers.

By creating a sense of urgency and a fear of missing out (FOMO) companies control you. But, is this sense of regret justified or simple nostalgia? Like all emotions of travel, the answer is complex- both.

There is a point in your life where you will stop having second chances at a thing. If you do not take advantage of an opportunity right here and right now you may never have the chance to do so again. Your fear of this becomes a powerful sales strategy for companies.

But that doesn't mean you should shell out your retirement savings today to do a bunch of things. For example, I have no desire to play polo and if that chance ever comes along I will not regret saying no in the least.

But there are other things that would make me pause. If I missed out on these grand adventures I would have a moment of longing for the thing... But only for a moment.

And that is the key, life moves too fast to wallow in regret, and with the sheer size of the world and the limitless adventures, experiences, and magical moments you could easily let regret consume you. You cannot pick up every piece of sea glass on the beach. At some point you need to be satisfied with the glass you do collect.

Your wallowing would prevent you from enjoying the now, the right here, which is all we really have guaranteed after all. And what would be the point of wallowing?

If you instead chose to make more memories, create more adventures, walk more beaches and find more sea glass regret would never matter. At some point you have to accept that you will never be able to accomplish everything, you will never be able to see every city in the world, experience every local food, or see every monument to some person that meant something somewhere.

Instead of being depressing this should be liberating. You can let go, forget your regrets, those opportunities you screwed up or missed, and trust that although you cannot do everything during one lifetime you can cram enough in to one lifetime to remain satisfied and complete.

Is not that more important then checking items off your stupid bucket list or fretting about the "what if's?" The imagination of a traveler can be a release, a cathartic experience, but it can pigeon-hole you. Do not put yourself in a box. Do not do something out of a fear of regret, but out of a desire for happiness.

Just keep walking that damp, sandy beach, collecting sea glass as you go.

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