Contrasts: Desert Vs Beach, It's Not Just the Landscape That's Different
We spent this weekend at one of the most wonderful campgrounds we have ever stayed at; Crystal Cove State Beach. It is on the border between the cities of Newport Beach and Laguna Beach in Orange County, Southern California. Many people had recommended this campground to us, but we never got around to booking it (reservations are almost always necessary for most weekends) despite living in SoCal for the last 4 years. We managed to snag a last minute spot thanks to some Airstreamers who were staying at Santee Lakes over the New Year holiday. They told us someone had backed out of an informal stay the group had reserved over Martin Luther King weekend. We jumped at the chance of spending a few days at this ocean view park.
After spending 12 days out in the desert at Borrego Springs, with lots of wonderful new friends and kindred spirits, it was a stark contrast to come here to Crystal Cove. The difference was not just in the landscape, but also the lifestyle here in one of the most expensive real estate areas in the US. From a landscape point of view, the desert beauty we loved in Borrego Springs was replaced with dramatic ocean vistas, breathtaking views and expansive sandy beaches. Crystal Cove is a really gorgeous spot. The historic district of state-protected beach cottages is wonderful. It is one of California's newest state parks and thank goodness that the park system preserved this magical place. So much of the coast has been littered with five star resorts and multi-million dollar homes, it is often hard for us mere mortals to enjoy it.
But the other contrast we saw here was the people. We had just left the desert, feeling the warm glow of new friendships after spending time with inspirational people who found joy not in things but in experiences. The contrast here could not have been more stark. Here this beautiful coast is swamped by gargantuan mansions and everywhere you look on the road there is a Maserati, Tesla or Porsche. But the interesting thing is that we didn't see the same joy in anyone's faces here that we relished the week before in the desert.
We walk a lot and always say hello or smile at people we pass on our strolls. Here as we walked along the beach we were met with steely eyes and people who seemed pretty wrapped up in their own worlds. They seemed so focused on their evening exercise and looking the part in their designer workout gear. During a bike ride along the bluff trail on Sunday morning Iain and I both commented on just how different some of the people here seem to be. I am not just talking about appearance, although we did see lots of older women in work out gear with heavy make-up so painfully thin that we were tempted to call the Red Cross to bring some food. But it wasn't just how they looked, there is a vibe here that feels very competitive and less happy than we have recently become used to.
I know I am making sweeping generalizations and honestly I have no right to say what makes one person happy over another. Maybe I am just reflecting on my own transformation from a previously more material existence. But really the contrast between the people we were with in the desert and the people here who are so focused on material things couldn't have been more obvious. Crystal Cove is a glorious spot but after briefly visiting the consumerist world we used to inhabit, we will be glad to retreat back into the desert to rejoin out happy tribe of those who may have less stuff, but experience so much more.