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INA WO(A)NDERS: About collecting shells

Small, large, round, flat, colorful, white: our author Ina loves collecting shells. In her column she questions why this is the case - and why it's sometimes better to leave the little treasures behind.

Just like other people get the flu every now and then, I occasionally get the shell collecting bug. It's usually fueled when a particularly pretty specimen happens to wash up at my feet on the beach. Then suddenly a feverish treasure hunt begins, from which I usually return much later than planned with jingling bags and an aching back. This year this happened to me on the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda.


What couldn't you do with these shells - works of art of nature – make…

There's no question: some shells are simply beautiful. Sometimes ridged, sometimes completely smooth, some twist like a snail shell, others look like a comb. They have sensual names such as Venus, heart or rose mussels. And although they are so pretty to look at, their residents have long since moved out. The waves have washed them onto the beach - and now I come into play. Because what couldn't I do with these works of art of nature! Glue soap dishes, jewelry, mosaics, picture frames, vases and mirrors, make a wind chime... While I'm frantically searching the beach, the best ideas always come to me.

But later, when I do a reality check, I always realize with embarrassment: neither a rocking sailboat nor a small Fiat Ducato are particularly decorative-friendly living objects. They're way too small, you always have way too much stuff, and where is that nylon cord that I wanted to use to start my jewelry career? Treasure hunt after treasure hunt, I come to the same conclusion: I don't need shells. Not even the nice one with the soft pink marble pattern. And especially not the huge one that might one day kill someone when the sea is rough.

shells on the beach

Empty shells can be more than just decoration

A pair of Video recently encouraged me not to leave mussels lying around more often just for reasons of space. Because it is by no means the case that they do not fulfill any useful function beyond decorative purposes. Hermit crabs, for example, use them to protect themselves from the sun and predators. And because the crabs grow so quickly, they are constantly looking for somewhere to live. However, because they can't always find a suitable shell and can increasingly find garbage, more and more hermit crabs are moving into plastic cups and caps. A good reason to avoid collecting shells.

marine debris

And then there is the psychological effect. It's amazing how collecting shells turns a relaxing walk on the beach into a frenzied treasure hunt. Instead of letting our eyes glide dreamily over the water, burying our toes in the sand, breathing deeply in the salty air and recharging our batteries, we suddenly want to take a piece of this wonderful nature home with us. The desire to have something is completely human, but in no way contributes to recovery.

Fun, creativity and meditation with seashell art on the beach

If you get caught up in the collecting bug despite a lack of space or a lack of crafting ambitions, you can take a look at the four-person collection British Slares family take. As they walk the north coast of Devon, they collect shells, colorful stones and other treasures, which they then arrange on the beach to create beautiful, artistic mosaics. It's fun, creative and has something meditative at the same time. And it doesn't just delight her followers on Instagram (@beach4art), but also unsuspecting walkers who accidentally stumble across the works of art.


Do you like collecting shells – and if so, what do you do with your treasures? I am always happy to receive feedback, suggestions or questions - please send me a comment or send me an email directly [email protected].

© 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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