“How’s the beach down there?”

My friends and I turned as we heard the question. It came from a guy we had just walked past on the Florida beachfront. He sauntered up to us, checking himself out in the process to make sure he looked presentable.

I laughed to myself. Who does he think he is? Judging by the fake Ray Ban sunglasses, the somewhat athletic build, and the serious “swagger” in his step—he had to be some frat boy on his Spring Break vacation. I knew I was stereotyping him, but I couldn’t help it. This guy could not be serious.

After a short and sufficiently awkward conversation, he let us go and we continued on our way back to my grandparent’s house just down the coast.

Picture courtesy of Pelican Bay Expert Files

As the week wore on it became clear that the beach in Florida is the stomping ground of men with a little too much testosterone for their own good. That means it is also an interesting navigating field for the women who have to deal with them. Since we walked the beach every day, my friends and I came across quite a few of those men. These beachfront encounters got me thinking: Is this how it always goes? What started the beach encounter and what has kept it going?

It seems these beach scenes have occurred in movies, books, and real life for some time now. So what’s the deal? Why do men and women feel more able to approach each other under the pretext of beach sand and salt water? And what’s the underlying reason for it? Are we really looking for love? Or does the iconic beach encounter stem from lust?

The answer seems to come from a few concepts.

Picture courtesy of Word Press

1. We get what we want

Us “20-something” folk have been identified for a while as the self-centered generation. If we want something, we think we should be able to have it. So this attitude seems to go with coming across people we like on the beach. According to Jean Twenge, a graduate student of the University of Chicago, we simply think it’s all about us. We are self-absorbed, narcissistic, and entitled. This outlook seeps into our vacationing concept. When we see someone on the beach that we’re interested in, we go after it, expecting to get what we are after. This idea of expecting and desiring comes across in our expectations for Spring Break, though those concepts are not always necessarily realistic as 34th Street Magazine notes.

Picture courtesy of Luxury Resort Photography

2. Physical desire

The beach encounter also results simply from physical attraction and lust. In fact, there’s talk about a Vacation Lust Syndrome that isn’t as good as it might seem. But this is only the beginning of the idea of the beach encounter spurring from desire. It is also statistically grounded that 40% of women under 30 have had a one-night stand during vacation. Jill Di Donato from the Huffington Post even encourages one-night stands, giving eight reasons to have them.

Picture courtesy of Destination Weddings

3. The possibility of love

The most obscure of these concepts is that of finding real and lasting love on spring break. However, there is sufficient evidence to prove that though this is not very likely, it is indeed possible. Some of these stories of finding love have been shared and Orlando Sentinel and Huffington Post websites. These are stories of real people who encountered real love by coming face to face with the person they would later marry after that first meeting on the beach. Finding true love on spring break is possible. It may not be probable, but it has happened. These stories prove that.

Though the guy who approached my friends and I certainly wasn’t looking for some true love and a wedding on the side, it’s important to see spring break as a navigation of both hazards and possibilities.

Love may not be what we all find, but it certainly cannot be counted out. It always has a way of finding us in the moments we least expect it—possibly even in an encounter on the beach.

Cover photo courtesy of Brooklyn May