LEISURE LETTER 61: ISLAND FEVER: FIVE WAYS TO KEEP YOUR COOL
Ah, the sweet serenity of island life. That salty breeze and lulling song and splash of waves. Perpetual vistas of sand and sea. Oh – the pineapples! Oh – the coconuts! Take what will of these bountiful waters. Pluck what will from this virile volcanic dirt. And while you’re at it, write a blank check to the sun, for enough light to last you a lifetime. Here on the island, one’s intrinsic value is marked in ever darkening shades of skin, in one’s elusive relation to mana, the nectar of the Gods. It’s the best!
Well . . .
Not always. Not for some. Some folks just don’t got what it takes for this business. Paradise, leisure, relaxation . . . even the best things, taken too far, approach a limit through which only The Elect may pass. All the rest will have a hard time stomaching the fact that the prettiest islands have no night clubs, zero natural wine bars, and no oatmilk to be found . . . anywhere. Not to mention the near total absence of cafe’s, restaurants, bars, and a well-stocked grocery. There’s the isolation, of course. Water on all sides. And the so-called monotony of living on a smallish land mass, the diameter of which often comes to measure less than or equal to thirty miles. Call it island fever, call it cabin fever, call it what you will, but it's a real thing, and it can strike like a machete in the hands of a coconut-headed madman. But there’s really nothing to fear, my friends, for I’ve done a bit of roaming in the tropics, and I have in the hollows of my suntorched brain a list of five simple ways to combat even the most desperate island blues, while keeping you sane enough to happily rummage the sands of eternal leisure. So go ahead and pour yourself a Mai Tai, light some incense . . . maybe a little palo santo . . . Let’s begin.
*Do yourself a favor and find a new hobby.
The chances are you needed one anyway. Boredom’s a killer, even on the mainland. You've seen all there is to see, you've done all there is to do, and now you're stuck in a rut, staring at the same palm trees, with the coconut crabs crawling all over your sunburnt skin. To break the cycle, look for new ways to get your kicks. Why not take up finger painting? You can also buy one of those film cameras, snap some shots of pretty moments, post them on instagram. Write, direct, and star in your own Kabuki show. Skydive . . . hang glide . . . parasail . . . windsurf . . . kitesurf . . . meditate! Occupy or disoccupy the mind according to the slightest whim. The key is to challenge yourself, to learn something new, and to stay engaged. At the very least go for a swim at least once a day, just to keep things fresh. And if you’re lucky enough to meet a ruddy-cheeked fellow who happens to own a 40-80’ Hatteras yacht, I’d advise you to strike up an acquaintance. Soon you might find yourself on the open sea hunting tuna fish, dorado, hamachi, marlin, hammerhead shark, what have you. . . . Definitely capitalize on all of that water.
*Do a bit of exploring.
It’s a matter of capital importance simply to get outside, in the sun or in the rain, on your feet walking, on hands and knees crawling, skipping . . . Just get out there. Get in the car and go for a drive! A motorcycle is even better to rip around on, wind in your face, vroom vroom. Make a point to explore this fabulous island domain in all its abundant growth and fertile majesty. A hike to the mountaintop, or volcano, should afford you expansive views in every direction, as if you are suspended there in space, bodiless, way up on the astral plane. Once the sun flees the scene, you can ascend the mountain at night with your favorite telescope, only to gaze upon the stars like an aspiring Galileo. The air is nice and clear out here on the island. Who knows? You might spot a UFO, or an asteroid, or a Russian cosmonaut . . . All of which are in vogue at the moment. The more you see, the more you’ll come to appreciate everything the island has to offer, and the more you'll feel connected to your surroundings, which is a fine thing. Very fine.
It goes without saying that the forging of healthy social relations is one crucial element of a life well lived, whether you’re visiting the Mentawais or the island of Manhattan. Isolation gone too far is no bueno, and it just might be the leading cause of island fever. That said, never be afraid to strike up a conversation with a stranger. I was once waylaid in Kona, on the Big Island, enjoying a drink at the Shark Cage, and sitting next to me was this big, burly, curly headed fellow in black riding boots and a leather vest. He looked like he could roll me up into a basketball and toss me across the channel to Maui. So we got to talking . . . It turns out he was the head of a motorcycle gang on this side of the island. A real tough group. At some point he smiled and told me that the haoles are always causing trouble on the island. Always acting big and tough. Those haoles disappear, he said. Where do they go? I asked. He laughed wickedly, spilling his beer on the table and slapping his thigh. They end up in the lava tube, he whispered, and once again began to laugh like a maniac. This gave me the chills. Then he slapped me on the back. But you’re OK bra, he said, you’re welcome any time . . . we could use somebody like you in the club. I’ve been a member ever since.
Physical activity is the best way to relieve stress and anxiety, in my humble opinion. And this becomes even more apparent when confined to the space of an island. Even a jog a day can set you straight. One is quick to perspire in the tropics. In the past I’ve used full size ripe coconuts in place of kettlebells. They’ll get you shredded. You'll feel better, look better, and sleep better, and you'll also have an excuse to drink more Mai Tais.
*Read, watch, listen, create
To feed your mind and soul, make sure you're reading, watching, and listening to things that inspire and challenge you. Write about it. Paint it on canvas. Explore new genres of literature, film, and music. The key is to keep your mind active, to expose yourself to new ideas and perspectives, and to keep learning.
So there you have it! All that’s left is to book the flight, pack the bag, and go. Bearing in mind these five easy techniques, it just may come to pass that you’ll visit an island on which you’d like to stay . . . Forever.
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