Falling In Love With Island Life
THIS GUEST POST is brought to you by Manu & Kasia, a Swiss-Polish couple wandering about in Europe and South-East Asia running a blog called The Clueless Abroad. They are into diving, slow & responsible travel and island life. So they are pretty cool :P
Here's a confession: we probably suck at travelling. Our first attempt to see the world ended with us staying in the Canaries for 8 months. Our plans of wandering through Thailand have to wait for a better time, all because our stay on Ko Lanta stretched from a couple of days to almost two months... and we still haven't had enough of it. It seems like the island life is much more attractive to us than staying in our own countries, or even travelling itself - but why is that?
Living on Gran Canaria, we thought that maybe the lazy lifestyle and chilled out atmosphere were simply a part of the Spanish spirit and the mañana culture, but it turns out that nearly every island that we've stayed on in the last two years was much more laid-back than the rest of the country - whether it was in the middle of the overcrowded Halong Bay or next to nowhere in southern Laos. There have to be exceptions to this, but so far we've been lucky to end up in places where time seems to slow down and all the paradise cliches come to life.
CALM AND CHARMING
Even if you're the grumpiest traveller out there, you'd probably fall for the persuasive appeal of colourful sunsets, fresh breeze and soft sand under your feet. And it's not just the calm - it's also the attitude of people around you, especially noticeable on the small islands, where the local restaurant owners greet you with your favourite fresh coconut whenever you go out to eat something. There is this unique, special charm in the islets, similar to the atmosphere of little towns and villages.
Still... how long can you just go to the beach and back?
That's where the landscape comes into play - even the tiniest island we've been to had forests and huge waterfalls, easily accessible by bike. On Gran Canaria, you can wander off to the cliffs, sandy or rocky beaches, beautiful and challenging mountains, canyons and sand dunes... all of which are within an hour or two of driving, regardless of where you're staying. The Big Island in Hawaii is one of the most surreal places on Earth and has most of the world's climate zones, so you really can't complain about the lack of variety there. If that's not enough for you - go underwater! It's very probable that you can dive, or at least snorkel somewhere around the island, so if hiking's not your thing - put your fins on and jump into the water!
THE SIMPLE LIFE
And what's the most appealing is that even with this richness of outdoor opportunities, the island life is still much simpler, mostly because you just don't have the access to some of the things that are so easily available on land. While the big islands with developed infrastructures can cater for more needs, the smaller isles might have just one, understocked village store and no Internet. And it's fine, because after a couple of days you find out that you actually don't need all these supermarkets, clothes shops, gyms and fancy restaurants to be happy. It's a perfect place to just switch off, go offline and re-evaluate your lifestyle and daily habits.
Sounds too good to be true? There are also big disadvantages and nuisances to being stuck on an island... for example, being literally stuck on an island - something we barely avoided when a typhoon hit near the Cat Ba island in Vietnam and the transport to the main land was almost cancelled. In some places, there's a threat of a natural disaster, and in some others you'd have to get on a boat to get to the nearest medical facility in case of an emergency. As for the smaller, daily problems, we've got three words: giant flying cockroaches, constant visitors in your flat on Gran Canaria.
But should that stop you? A disaster can happen anywhere in the world and apparently some people keep cockroaches as pets... you can get used to a lot of things, and for us, nothing beats the proximity of the sea and great diving or hiking sites right at our doorstep.
If you think you'd also fall in love with the island life, think about squeezing one of these 4 places into your next itinerary:
- Gran Canaria: An island with great hiking opportunities, bigger and more developed than others on this list, but definitely worth visiting and immersing yourself in the laid-back Spanish culture. Perfect for party goers, but also lovers of nature and mountains.
- Ko Lanta, Thailand: Has everything you need, but not too much - so there's an Internet connection, but no big shopping malls. There are parts of the island that are almost empty (including some amazing beaches) and it's a perfect place for divers, especially if you're dreaming of seeing a whale shark or a manta ray.
- Don Khone, Laos: A teeny-tiny island in the south of Laos where you can rent a bike and drive around the fields or see the famous waterfalls. There's almost nothing going on - and that's why it makes for a great getaway spot.
- Cat Ba, Vietnam: While overcrowded during the Vietnamese holidays, it's almost empty outside the season. You can find there some great local guides who'd be happy to take you for a kayaking trip to the bat caves and hidden lagoons or hiking the mountains in the National Park. And it's one of the best climbing spots in Vietnam!
Hi! We're Manu & Kasia, a Swiss-Polish couple wandering about in Europe and South-East Asia. We get lost a lot and we write about our adventures and misfortunes on The Clueless Abroad. Drop by if you're also into diving, slow & responsible travel and island life!