On 11 November 2023, I was on holiday in Barcelona with my friend Yolanda. We had a great time at Barcelona Beach from 2pm to 4pm, and I made an observation for about an hour. It was a very warm sunny day, the temperature is more than 20 degrees, with no clouds in the sky, and the air smelled of salty sea water mixed with sunshine. The tide, like the breath of a man, rose and fell, rhythmically lapping the beach. One can hear the shrill cries of the seagulls and the fluttering of their wings. There were about 100 people present, comprising all age groups: children, young people, middle-aged and elderly, wearing T-shirts, shorts, skirts and dresses. Young people were the majority, followed by children. Most of them were tourists, speaking totally different languages of different countries. Others were locals, including vendors hawking drinks and beach mats.
Different groups of people each occupied a small area. So many young people sunbathing on mats, with their couples or friends. Some of them were using Tiktok to record their day, some were chatting, and some were helping their companions apply sunscreen. If they forget to bring a mat, they had to rent it from the vendors at a really high price. Beside me was a family, a mother with two children and two dogs. The mother leaned back leisurely on her bag, enjoying the view of the sea and occasionally shouting at her children to keep them from running into the waves. Her son and daughter were initially competing in digging in the sand, and when they got tired of playing this, they ran out into the tide and splashed each other, shouting happily to show their mum what they were doing. The mother took out her mobile phone from time to time to take pictures of her lovely children. Meanwhile, their big dogs certainly did not stay still, but ran freely along the shoreline, chasing seagulls and pigeons. When the owner called out their names, these two dogs even pretended not to hear them and continued to play and ran further away until they got tired of playing. Many tourists observed these two dogs and videotaped them, including me, of course.
As time passed, the beach became more and more crowded with tourists and locals. Drinks vendors brought in cocktails every five minutes, selling them to everyone who passed by. They sang unique songs for sale and tried to get everyone’s attention. There were even IT engineers who brought their computers to work, sipping cocktails while their fingers flew up and down, tapping out code. Elderly local couples also came for a walk along the beach, holding their hands tightly. They sometimes suddenly argued out loud, but most of the time they looked at each other with loving eyes and leaned on each other. When they got tired, they just sat on the stone fence on the beach to have a rest. Within just one hour, from the children to the old couples, I saw a snapshot of an ordinary person’s whole life — Life is very long, however, it can be highly summarised and glimpsed in the same space and time.
I try to analysis the reasons of their behaviours. For parents, the beach is a free outdoor spot and one of the best places to take their kids out on weekends to play and be close to nature. The beach is full of sunshine, which is good for the health of the kids. With endless sand, children can play freely for an entire afternoon and parents can relax themselves without spending extra energy to take care of them. The children are free to shout, run around and create their own sand buildings from their imagination, with bare feet and minimal clothing. After a week of daily education or work, it will be so nice to take such a breath and relax. Not only can family members enhance their relationship, but for couples and friends, the beach is also a great place to go on a date. Nature often makes people feel romantic. The link between man and nature is marvelous. Enjoying the sunrise and sunset with the one they love, feeling the sea breeze blowing, the stress in life will be swept away easily. The only thing left is freedom, love and the happiness of being born as a human being. For businessmen, weekends are the great time to make money, especially in places with lots of tourists. They are willing to sacrifice their time enjoying the nature to maximize their profits, for example, making drinks for thirsty people, renting out swimming gear, umbrellas, sunglasses and beach mats, selling souvenirs, and so on. I seem to have become an outsider in this observation. As a student who studies anthropology, I observed others and analysed their motives. But as a tourist, I took a lot of photos and made unforgettable memories at the beach. In fact, I also became part of the observations in the lives of other people.