There is a compelling connection between travel and the Five Elements: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal. This ancient Five Element theory is an essential foundation for Chinese philosophy, medicine, martial arts, and Feng Shui. Each Element has its own characteristics and each has an affiliation with different aspects of nature: direction, season, climate, color, and shape. They are also believed to govern our physical, emotional and spiritual existence. In Chinese medicine, they are associated with our organs, sensory organs, body parts and emotions. And, each Element corresponds to specific personality characteristics.
All of us have a constitutional affinity to one or more of these Elements. The following is a general description of the personality traits associated with each Element. Take note of which Element(s) you resonate to and its influence on how you might approach a beach vacation.
If your primary Element is Water, you tend to be introspective, solitary and imaginative. You are more a thinker than a doer. You are dependable, infinitely resourceful, and single-minded in pursuit of your goals. Difficult or demanding situations do not cause you to hesitate or retreat because you have a firm, unshakable sense of self. You follow the path before you with strength, purpose and determination. Your strength lies in your ability to remain flexible and adaptable. The Water personality takes long walks on the beach.
Action compels the Wood personality. You are bold, decisive and perform well under pressure. You are more a doer than a thinker. You are driven by the need to stay in motion and reach new heights. You constantly seek out new challenges. You love adventure and like to strike out on your own. Wood energy is very health-focused, ambitious, and fiercely independent. You are entrepreneurial and your potential is unlimited. Running on the beach is your preference.
Excitement, enthusiasm and generosity drive the Fire personality. Fire is the force that generates passion, compassion and creativity. If you are energized by Fire, you are filled with a blazing love of life. You value interaction and thrive on drama and excitement. You are fun loving and your natural joy and exuberance excites everyone around you. The Fire personality plays volleyball on the beach.
People with dominant Earth energy are the peacemakers of the world. You are nurturing, sympathetic and accommodating. You tend to be practical and down to earth and enjoy both anticipating and meeting the needs of others. You value tradition, loyalty, security and predictability. Your strength comes from your ability to nurture and promote connectedness with others. Earth people build sandcastles.
Those with Metal as their predominant energy tend to be well organized, analytical, and disciplined. You hold yourself and others to the highest standards, always striving for excellence. People associate you with elegance and refinement. You love to create beauty and value ritual and ceremony. Metal personalities tend to be visionaries, seeing potential in everyone and everything around them. You travel in luxury.
If you found traits in all of them that you recognize in yourself, it is because, in our complexity as humans, all Five Elements exist in each of us.
A wonderful example of how this works is taken from the book, Between Heaven and Earth by Harriet Beinfield, L. Ac. and Efrem Korngold, L. Ac., O. M. D.: “When we need to take action, it is our Wood that kicks in to gear. When it is time to celebrate in the achievement of our goals, our Fire aspect takes charge. When we are able to let go of old habits and values to prepare for a new stage of our life, it is Metal that provides the power that enables us to release. When our efforts demand we stop, rest, take stock of what we have done and rededicate ourselves to a fresh purpose, our Water aspect gives us the renewed vitality and will to carry on. When the challenges threaten to overturn our efforts or deflect us from our path, the grounding energy of our Earth aspect returns us to an even keel.”
As we take time to better know ourselves, we begin to more easily recognize the one Element that predominates and guides our choices and behaviors. While time and resources influence our travel choices, notice what environments consistently speak to you. A person whose predominate Element is Water might prefer to spend their vacation time deepening their spiritual practice or taking a personal retreat from the world. A Wood person prefers a vacation that allows for a variety of outdoor activities or the opportunity to explore unknown territory. The Fire personality is drawn to locations that provide interaction, fun and excitement. A golfing vacation or one that offers cooking classes tends to be preferred by the Earth personality. The Metal personality is most comfortable upscale hotels, resorts or cruise lines with well-organized activities.
There are always exceptions, of course, depending on what has been going on in your life. If you are a Fire person who has been “burning the candle” at both ends, you might need to find a more solitary destination for your vacation in order to get your Fire energy under better control and bring it back in balance. It can be instructive to give thought to what type of vacation you find yourself gravitating to. Will that environment nourish your Element energy, calm it down if it feels on overload, or replenish if it’s feeling drained. In Feng Shui, as in the Five Elements, it’s always about supporting and nurturing to maintain a healthy balance. Similarly, we travel to recharge, refresh, revitalize and reconnect with ourselves.
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”
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“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag