Face It, Paradise Sucks

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Last year, I spent a week on Boracay Island, Philippines. The flour-soft sand underfoot, Jack Johnson vibe at the bars, and crystal water rhythmically crashing was as close to “paradise” as I’ve gotten in quite some time. I hated it. The monotony of, well, nothing, propelled me into a sandcastle making contest with the bartender’s kid just so I could break the routine of, again, nothing.

It was paradise in a true sense of the word: palm trees, sand, sun, water, tequila. I was looking for entertainment within eight hours, and if it weren’t for the excess of blended mango margaritas, it would’ve happened in half that time. As the week progressed, I scheduled a few scuba diving sessions and caught the famed SE Asia travelers stomach bug to pass the time.  I told myself (and fiancée), that I may just not be cut out for “paradise.”

When I read The Sydney Morning Herald‘s article, “Paradise? It bores me to Tears,” I was instantly taken back to Boracay. In fact, the author may have just used my journal as research now that I think of it:

I just can’t stand doing the same thing over and over again. That’s why that first hour in front of the pool would be bliss, the second kind of interesting, the third OK (as long as I had a fresh cocktail) and by lunch I’d be ready to do something else. A whole two-week holiday doing that? Not my idea of a good time.

But what is paradise, really?

Paradise, of course, is a subjective notion. Everyone has their own version and it doesn’t have to include the traditional notion of a day spa and a Swedish massage. I, apparently, just need constant stimulation and some shade.

I won’t lie, I have awesome memories of Boracay and I’m glad I went — my ass-clenched sprint down the beach as a result of my stomach ailment will be emblazoned in my memory forever.

I think the keyword, in my case, is stimulation. Thinking back, I don’t have incredible memories of sitting in a lounger for an endless amount of time. Although relaxing, I can do that in my backyard, I don’t need to head to exotic lands for that. I need the unique “stimulation” that traveling provides.

Don’t we all?

My paradise? Give me the narrow hutongs of Beijing, the “honking, screeching, bustling, smelly paradise” of Hanoi, even the cobbled lanes and fairytale countryside of Denmark. Those places offer a mystery, and experience, an opportunity for . . . anything. That’s the paradise I’d take any day of the week.

* Photo courtesy of TheExpeditioner Flickr Group and  Theodore Scott.

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