Why We Dream Of Leaving Everything Behind And Moving To The Beach

Admit it: You’re kinda jealous of Andi Eigenmann.
PHOTO: ISTOCK IMAGES

Andi Eigenmann has done it. She has gone ahead and done what many of us dream of doing but never have the guts to do: She has bowed out of the big city and moved to the beach.

A report quotes the actress as saying that she has given up the luxuries she once enjoyed yet now feels had contributed to making her life toxic—cars, designer clothes and bags, makeup, and even househelp—to live a much simpler life in Baler.

“As much as my life is not as extravagant, nothing close to my life before, I could not be any happier,” Andi says of her move.

Frankly, I’m a little jealous.

Two years ago, I went on a trip to Siargao and came home wanting to move to the island for good. My life there was so far removed from my life in the city that sometimes on that trip, I would catch myself feeling like a different person: someone calmer, quieter, more patient, more open, more able to slow down and savor each moment without constantly worrying that I was doing too little or doing too much or that I should’ve done this instead of doing that or what even was the point of all this stress?

“As much as my life is not as extravagant, nothing close to my life before, I could not be any happier,” Andi says of her move.

I know I’m not alone. In my articles for Cosmopolitan, I have featured millennial women who have abandoned their big city lives to start anew in a beach town or some similarly idyllic setting. I spoke with clinical psychologist Suzy Roxas to find out what causes these young women to stray far from their comfort zones and build roots for themselves, by themselves, far away from the metro’s madness.

Age does matter.

“If you look at the profiles of the women who have moved, they’re in their early twenties or going to their thirties—that is the time when people become themselves more,” Roxas says. “This is a second growth spurt from when you were a kid; you have a first growth spurt when you’re younger, and then a second personality growth spurt when you’re in your middle twenties to thirties.”

Continue reading below ↓

In contrast with childhood, when we mostly accepted what our parents and elders said, our twenties is the time when we grow into our true selves. “When that happens, you question or reconsider what is now important to you and who you are versus what was said to you before,” Roxas continues.

At such a phase, it is not surprising that some people go “tabula rasa” like these woman have, choosing to start from scratch in a place they have felt a connection with. “It could be beaches, it could be mountains, but it has to be a place where they have found solitude, safety, security, and calmness,” Roxas says. “They may have been able to connect with those locations when they were younger or when they were on a vacation, and that’s why they have chosen those locations as a place of residence.”

“When that happens, you question or reconsider what is now important to you and who you are versus what was said to you before,” Roxas continues.

Stress less, live more.

Roxas also cites stress, demands, and expectations—made even worse by how today’s technology has kept us “on” all the time—as drivers in people’s decision to leave everything behind and start over somewhere, and this is echoed by many of the women I featured.

Camille Pilar, a writer and surfer who runs the coffee shop Clean Beach in La Union, says of her decision to leave Metro Manila: “It was getting close to impossible to enjoy life in Manila. You get robbed of your time when you spend it powerless in traffic. Retail therapy becomes an easy escape, and soon, you spend more than you earn. It becomes too easy to live a life you can’t afford, thus a life you can’t love, when you are landlocked in the city. In Manila, I felt that I wasn’t in control of my life. Moving to the province has since liberated me from that feeling of being trapped.”

Continue reading below ↓

Now picture this scene described by visual artist and musician Catalina Africa-Espinosa, who is originally from Quezon City but is now based in Baler, and try not to hate your cramped studio and your office cube: “Life in Baler is so different. We live outside the main town. Our neighbors are far, our house is surrounded by a little stream! The beach is a five-minute walk through the mangroves. It is so beautiful. Every day when I see the mountains, or the greenness of everything, or the ocean, or just leaves blowing in the wind, I am overcome with feelings of love and gratitude. There is space and silence and room to really feel and think and appreciate the magic and mystery of being alive. I feel that being in such a peaceful environment really changes you: It changes your priorities, the way you interact with people, the way you look at life.

Then again, it’s hard to feel unhappy when you’ve got so much beauty right in your backyard: the beach.

The beach is calling you. 

Marine biologist and conservationist Wallace J. Nichols has coined a term for water’s indescribable allure for us: “blue mind.”

Anyone can dream of sipping from a coconut while looking out at the sea 24/7; not everyone can actually go ahead and do it, precisely because there’s so much more to the move than just sipping from a coconut while looking out at the sea 24/7.

In an excerpt from his book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do published on Salon.com, Nichols defines “blue mind” as “a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment. It is inspired by water and elements associated with water, from the color blue to the words we use to describe the sensations associated with immersion.”

In his book, Nichols cites a 2010 study by researchers at Plymouth University in the United Kingdom where 40 adults were made to rate over 100 pictures of different natural and urban environments, with these results: “Respondents gave higher ratings for positive mood, preference, and perceived restorativeness to any picture containing water, whether it was in a natural landscape or an urban setting, as opposed to those photos without water.”

Continue reading below ↓

But a permanent state of “blue mind” is easier dreamt than done. Anyone can dream of sipping from a coconut while looking out at the sea 24/7; not everyone can actually go ahead and do it, precisely because there’s so much more to the move than just sipping from a coconut while looking out at the sea 24/7. Be honest now: Would you really give up all your comforts and conveniences—not to mention your proximity to family and friends—in favor of a place with unpaved roads, a lack of government services, and, heaven forbid, wonky Internet?

Be the change you wish to see.

We can rant about our current lives and dream of leaving everything behind for the beach the way these women bravely have, but maybe the first thing we need to change before we change our zip codes is—cheese alert—ourselves.

“If you move to the beach yet you remain the same, you’re not going to solve the problem,” Roxas says. “But if you are willing to do the work of finding out who you are, what’s important to you, where you are going, and go back to your real self, then it is possible.”

Roxas suggests the following ways to be happy and in tune with the real you, wherever you find yourself: being self-aware and mindful of your interactions with people and determining whether or not you are happy in these interactions; finding the right environment for you, which can be as doable as changing where you work; remembering to take breaks when bombarded by stress in order to recharge; and achieving satisfaction by developing your relationships, finding purpose, and finding meaning.

In other words, where you belong might simply mean where you feel most like yourself—whether the real you emerges at a picturesque hut a short walk from the beach or shines through at the new department you’ve just transferred to at work.

Continue reading below ↓

Camille Banzon, a writer and owner of backpacker guesthouse The Hangout in Siargao, says that her move from Mandaluyong to Siargao has taught her that “home is relative.” She recounts writing this in her journal months after her move: “Sometimes I will miss home and sometimes I will be happy that I am gone. Sometimes I’ll feel the urge to look back. Whatever I do, I should know that my home is not a house. It is when I wake up in the morning and feel the bliss that goes with seeing coconut trees, feel the strong greeting of sunshine and the invite of the ocean.”

As for me? Sometimes, the fantasy of living in Siargao still creeps in, but only very rarely, and when it does, only with fondness and no longer with the disappointment for my current surroundings that always used to accompany it in the past. I have done the work I needed to become the real me—cut toxic people out of my life; took care of my physical, mental, and emotional health; and stopped giving a shit about things that don’t deserve shit-giving—and I didn’t have to move to make it happen.

I’m still a little jealous of Andi Eigenmann—come on, who wouldn’t be jealous of anyone who lives near the beach?!—but mostly, I’m glad for the both of us, for having found whatever it was we needed to find.

Follow Cheekie on Twitter and Facebook.

Sorry, no results were found for