Exercising your choices can broaden your horizons!

A Wave reader in South Bethany writes:

Dear Dr. Hurd,

I loved your column [January 25, 2006] describing resort dwellers as ‘outlaws.’I agree with everything you said, and I do consider myself self-sufficient and capable of ‘being alone without being lonely.’ But I have to admit I do sometimes miss my favorite big-city restaurants, mega-malls, specialty stores and cultural activities. I don’t feel ‘lonely’ as such, but I occasionally find myself yearning for the upbeat way of life that simply doesn’t happen here—especially in the winter. What do you think I should do to satisfy my craving for excitement? And don’t suggest I move away. I really do love it here


Dear Wave reader,

You are not alone. I speak to people very often who say the same thing. The change of seasons here at the beach can be a little unsettling. It is perfectly natural to want occasional contact with something different. You say that the positive aspects of living here outweigh your desires for a little, shall we say, ‘urban interaction,’ but you have to remember we are not totally isolated. Within just a few hours of our little beach resort lie some of the biggest and busiest cities in the world. You’re only a couple of hours from major international airports or train stations that can take you anywhere you desire. Shifting your mindset slightly to think of the Bethany Beach area as ‘centrally located,’ rather than out-of-the-way, can open up a world of opportunity.

Personally, I love metropolitan areas such as New York City, Chicago and the like. But they will always take second place to my beloved walks on the beach, and the coastal panorama from the top of the Indian River Inlet Bridge.And when I do feel the need for the awesome sight of Chicago’s skyscrapers, a Manhattan deli ‘fix,’ or the neon-charged excitement of Las Vegas, I think of my home here in Delaware as a ‘base of operations’—just a drive or flight away from whatever I could possibly want. And afterwards? I get to leave all of it behind, and come back home to my own quiet resort.

I recognize that we can’t have it both ways. If you prefer a thriving city or a sprawling suburb, you’re not going to find it here. We all have to make choices and realize the limitations of those choices. But at the same time, we usually have more choices than we realize.

You mention that you like the notion of being an ‘outlaw.’ Part of being an outlaw, in the positive sense, is to think ‘outside of the box.’ Instead of feeling that you have to make the choice between an overly calm existence, or life in a big city filled with its own set of problems, you can go with the home base idea. When you’re here, and it’s winter, try not to let yourself feel stuck. Visualize yourself going somewhere that’s especially interesting for you. And then visualize yourself returning to your home base, a place you obviously love and don’t want to give up. Follow up the visualization by making some actual plans. You can enjoy the best of both worlds: First, in your mind, and then in reality.

Sometimes we make decisions in life that we end up resenting. We end up resenting them not because we think they’re the wrong decision, but because we recognize some of the ‘down sides’ of the decision. This is where many people get stuck. They wish they didn’t have to contend with the down side of their decision, and they don’t know how to cope with it, other than to ‘suck it up.’ They forget what motivated them to make the decision in the first place. They end up feeling they made the wrong decision instead of recognizing that the decision simply needs some fine-tuning.

Many people find it helpful to ‘break up’ the winter by treating themselves to a few southerly days or weeks in January or February. ‘Breaking up’ the summer (if you can get away) by going north, especially to a less traveled place, also makes for a great distraction. In general, I have found that people who regularly do these things tend to be happier with their life here. It’s not that you have to do one certain thing, or go in a particular direction; it’s simply that you have to remember that you always have choices, and that you can act on them. Not acting on your choices, as simple or extravagant as they may be, could result in your feeling down, depressed or trapped.

Life isn’t about where you live; so much as it is about just living. If you love it here, but also want to experience other things, take my advice: Do it all!