High School - Japan, High School Abroad

Seashells Are Like People You Meet While Traveling

by Stephany Barnes, Greenheart Travel High School Abroad Participant in Japan

Stephany at the beach in Japan

Walking onto the beach, the water looked odd and misshapen. Upon a closer inspection, I realized that the tide was nearly 100 feet out. Perfect for collecting shells. I slipped out of my shoes and pushed my feet into the sand. It was glorious. Hana-chan stayed on a bench away from the water, but the rest of us waded out into the water, which hardly came up past my knees no matter how far out I went. I basked in the sunny, salty beauty of life, and Mt. Sakurajima watched me throw my arms in the air and spin around.

It seems Mt. Sakurajima is in attendance for nearly all of my adventures in Kagoshima, Japan. The girls and I sat down in the water so that it came up to our chests and sifted through the sand for pretty things. For a long time we rolled around with the waves and sunk into the sand. I pulled up handfuls of spiral shells, which I planned on making into a necklace to send home to Mom, but when I showed my host mother she pointed out the tiny creatures inhabiting those shells. Crestfallen, I released my accidental captives back into the sea and gave up. I observed the scenery and wondered whether this was really as lively as any beach in Japan got. During this time, the push and pull of the ocean had relocated me to a new, slightly more shallow location, where out of absent-minded curiosity I pulled up another handful of shells.

Photo by Stephany Barnes

Hope was again mine. Half-shells and blue shells and pink shells, buried between rock and sand. I inched my way around examining each handful for shells I could use. I was not looking for the most beautiful, perfect shells, though. The shells with flaws, the misshapen ones with odd colours-as I sat there with my toes curled around the soft, dark sand with the smell, feel, and taste of salty ocean mixed into my hair and nose and mouth-I chose the shells that had the feeling of a simple, happy, peaceful day that one doesn’t experience often throughout their life. My life has changed so much, so fast…to be at peace is a feeling I want to hold close to my heart for the turbulent times when the ground I’m standing on is crumbling.

My pretty little shells, each a different shape and size, each with such a different story, a different past, a different meaning, are much like people that I will meet and come to know. I want to remember them all, and I want to share them with the ones I already know and love. One by one I will arrange them on a string and lay them out in my room, to take back home and give to my mom, who will show them to her coworkers, who will tell their friends, and soon people in places I’ve never seen or been to will know about my seashells. Read more about Stephany’s day at the beach…


About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.


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