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longing for the sea

INA WO(A)NDERS: An ode to the sea

For the past six years, our author Ina has been living on or by the sea for most of the year. In this column, she explores why the sea, despite its potentially dangerous, unknown depths, inspires such an unbroken fascination in us.


The fascinating sea

When I was two years old, I nearly drowned in the family trout pond. A brightly colored, optically quite catastrophic, but life-saving technically very practical polyester jacket kept my little child's body on the water surface long enough for my hero mom to discover me, fish out and revive me. Apparently I then strictly refused to go anywhere in open water for years.

Even today it happens again and again that I suddenly panic when I can't see the bottom while swimming. A pronounced fear of deep water is also known as thalassophobia and is one of the primal fears of mankind. And if there was a medicine for it: I would take it. Because at least since I discovered sailing for myself, I love the sea, which at the same time scares me like a second home. But what is so fascinating about the sea?

The sea as a place of longing for all senses

When I recently sailed more than 400 nautical miles from Portugal to Madeira, I had ample opportunity to reflect on my ambivalent relationship with the sea. During the three days on the high seas, I consciously avoided reading, watching films and listening to podcasts and focused all my senses on the blue water that was surging, foaming, hissing and gurgling around me. Even if my heart occasionally dropped in my pants when a glance at the chart plotter told me that no less than four kilometers of dark water lay beneath me, my love and fascination for the sea once again prevailed.


Sunset by the sea

Every day, every hour it looked a little different. It shimmered in different shades of blue and reflected the occasional flashing sun and the sky, which was sometimes covered in clouds, sometimes bright blue, sometimes red with sunset and sometimes star-studded. The sea air was on my tongue and cleared my airways of the remnants of a stubborn summer cold. Their salt soon settled on my skin, hair and clothing as tiny sparkling crystals. The roar of the waves, sometimes nasty, sometimes gently pounding against the hull of the boat, became the soundtrack of a sensual journey that washed me away from mainland Europe and onto new shores. Upon arrival, looking back out over the open water, I felt a moving mix of relief, awe and gratitude.


Sea is more than just a lot of water

Science, too, keeps asking why the sea – primal fear or not – exerts such a great attraction on most people. Globally, two out of three vacationers year after year opt for a beach vacation rather than a city break or a trip to the mountains.


Fascinating play of colors by the sea

And some studies show that people who live by the sea are happier and healthier overall. It's not just because of the salty air and healing waters, both known to soothe respiratory and skin conditions. The sea is also good for our psyche. The view of the seemingly endless expanse of water is only occasionally interrupted by a passing ship and has not been built or shaped by human hands. The color spectrum of the sea in its different shades of blue lets us calm down, relieves tension and ensures satisfaction. In this harmonious state we are more creative and efficient - ideal conditions for creative activities such as writing, painting and making music or for water sports such as surfing, paddling, swimming and snorkeling. Finally, the constant sound of the waves - probably because it resembles our breathing rhythm - has a meditative, calming effect.


The sea as climate protector, oxygen producer and weather maker

However, our seas also provide completely different services that go beyond wellness effects and leisure time fun. They provide us with food, energy and raw materials and, as huge carbon sinks, store around a third of our CO2 emissions. They therefore play an important role in climate protection. Seaweed and microorganisms also produce around 70 percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere. And finally, the sea, with its currents and evaporation capacity, is the world's number one air conditioner and weather maker.


longing sea

So we are allowed to remind ourselves from time to time that without the sea, not only would our summer tan be a little less pronounced, but there would be no life on our planet. So thank you for your many additional services, dear sea - even though you sometimes scare me a lot.


What do you appreciate most about the sea?

I am always happy to receive feedback, suggestions or questions – either as a comment or directly by e-mail [email protected].


You can read more about Ina here:

Less is sea: sustainable living on a sailing boat


Further reading tips:

Protect the sea: By choosing your sunscreen or get involved Beach clean-ups.

Our recommendations for your next beach holiday: Five places by the sea


© Photos: Ina Hiester

Ina is a digital nomad and travels through Europe by land and sea. The journalist is always on the lookout for special places for Good Travel, philosophizes about travel in her column, takes photographs, makes music and writes articles on all kinds of environmental and sustainability topics.


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