Friday, June 29, 2012

The Beach

Here's another post where I will rant about how perfect my life is. Despite various life vicissitudes, such as seeing loved ones getting old or sick, facing impeding death of close relatives, confronting one's own health issues, struggling to find love, purpose and mindfulness, despite all that - I look at the life I've lived so far and think of it as pretty fucking amazing. Wow, what an eclectic collection of adventures and experiences it has been!

July 3rd 2011 - Travis's birthday camping trip, Groveland, California

I get that feeling mostly when I look for a certain photo in my library and peruse through the myriad of events, all contained in folders bearing labels such as: Salton Sea, Anza Borrego, Reno Rally, Cali Rally, Tahoe skiing, Groveland camping, Willits river, Big Sur, Skydiving, Hawaii, Yosemite river rafting, Romania, Peru, Inca Trail, Bolivia, SXSW, Patagonia, Annelise video, Buenos Aires, Yosemite, Bolinas, Santa Cruz, etc. All that just in 2011. And all those albums contain photos of my beautiful friends - goofy faces, huge smiles, sun-kissed skin, athletic bodies, energy, vitality, spunk.

July 2011 - Groveland, California

This visual retrospective makes me realize that we are, in fact, living the dream. We are in the NOW, living the moment, getting high on life. As I write this, I have just completed the 6 month trip around the world, have returned to California for about 3 weeks, have gone camping and swimming in rivers/lakes two weekends already, and am about to embark on the 3rd weekend of outdoors goodness. I am unemployed, running low on savings, a bit stressed out about finding jobs and switching to a more meaningful professional path - and yet, despite all that - I am as happy and high on life as one can be.

Maya Beach - where the movie The Beach was filmed.

This blog post has been long in the making. I started drafting it around March 2012 and now it's the end of June. Initially, it was supposed to more about finding that secret, pristine paradise. The place that is all yours, unspoiled by all the bullshit that comes with tourism and civilization. It was about escapism and innocence, about the suffocation of modern society and tourism. In March 2012 I was in Thailand or somewhere around Southeast Asia. I was disappointed by how overrun and touristy some of those pristine corners of paradise had become.

Where the movie The Beach was filmed.

Like many other people traveling in that area, I picked up the book "The Beach" and read it while being there. It was a perfect marriage of literary discovery and personal sensory observations. I always thought the movie was weak, and was told that the book is so much better. Indeed, the book turned out to be really good. I read the entire thing in two days and was left craving for more. I then made the mistake of watching the movie again. It made me furious at the injustice this shitty movie has done to such a great book. While reading the book, I ended up writing down my favorite quotes, so here they are below...

Climber heading to Tonsai beach.

"I had ambiguous feelings about the differences between tourists and travelers - the problem being that the more I traveled, the smaller the differences became. But the one difference I could still latch on was that the tourists went on holidays, while travelers did something else. They traveled." 

Beach shack on Tonsai
A Thai sunset.
"Escape through travel works. Almost from the moment I boarded my flight, life in England became meaningless. Seat-belt signs lit up, problems switched off. Broken armrests took precedence over broken hearts. By the time the plane was airborne I'd forgotten England even existed." 

A starlit dinner on a tiny remote island in Thailand.
"Another saying: when in Rome do as the Romans. In the traveler's 10 commandments, that's commandment number one. You don't march into Hindu temples and start saying: Why are you worshiping a cow? You look around, take on board, adjust, accept." 

Getting ready to catch a late night boat taxi in Thailand.
Maya Bay -where The Beach was filmed.
"We come here to relax by a beautiful beach, but it isn't a beach resort because we're trying to get away from beach resorts." 

June 2011 - Eel river, California
Similar to the quote above, we go to relax every summer by a tiny beach on the Eel river in Mendocino, California. It's a small place that belongs just to us. You don't have to pay camping fees to anyone, you can stay up as late as you want and be as loud as you want. You may wonder what the big deal is. In California, if you're in an organized campsite, you have to pay per campsite, per number of parked vehicles, you have a 10pm curfew for being loud and if you don't comply, the park rangers can arrest you and take you to jail.

An outhouse with a great view - Groveland, California
Sunrise on Travis, David and Bret's land in Groveland, California
July 2011 - Groveland, California
"Collecting memories or experiences was my primary goal when I first started traveling. I went about it the same way as a stamp-collector goes about collecting stamps, carrying around with me a mental list of all the things I had yet to see or do. Most of the list was pretty banal: Taj Mahal, Borobudur, Angkor Wat. Less banal, or maybe more so, was that I wanted to witness extreme poverty. I saw it as a necessary experience for anyone who wanted to appear worldly and interesting." 

The morning after - Willits, California
"I could sense shit all around me; Thais smiling like sharks, and careless hedonism, too diligently pursued to ring true. Most of all, I could pick up the scent of decay. The serious travelers had already moved on to the next island in the chain, the intermediate travelers were wondering where all the life had gone, and the tourist hordes were ready to descend on their freshly beaten track."

We built a fireplace - Groveland, California
I call this the "Indian ambush point of view" - Groveland, California