Friday, December 25, 2009

Desperately Seeking Paradise

Irene took me for an overnight trip to the north shore of Oahu, where we stayed a night at The Turtle Bay Resort, a nicely done, somewhat understated--if large--and surprisingly affordable (in an off week) golf, condo, hotel, beach, horseback riding, family resort.  Large but simple rooms.  World class surfing (I never had the opportunity to learn, alas).  Wiry athletic types with surf boards on their shoulders mixing with un-athletic looking mainlanders warily seeking out the comfortable couches in the lobby and eyeing the breakfast buffet more carefully than the wave reports.

I was lucky enough to grow up with lots of outdoors-things to do.  I rode horseback, skied, raced bicycles, motorcycled, canoed, swam in mountain streams, etcetera.  It was a ridiculously idyllic childhood in some ways (sort of hell-on-earth like, in others.)  One thing I got from it:  an ability to merge physically with my surroundings, urban or rural, whenever I need or want to.  My body moves awkwardly in some ways--e.g., I can't dance for beans--but it accepts sensations, welcomes novel stresses and exertion, and enjoys speed (I can do a hulluva a tiger roll!)  When I'm in a vacation destination and see the pain in the eyes of people who WANT to do all or some of that, but can't, because they most likely lived sedentary suburban American childhoods (either affluent or not), I'm saddened.  So often, I see vacationers stranded in paradise desperate for the experience sold to them by the NYT Travel Section, and utterly befuddled as to how to find something resembling it in even in the most attenuated way.  Waikiki is one big attenuation, and people still look miserable.  The hotel luau can be a mildly tragic moment in the spiritual life of expectant vacationers.


neal said...

Astute observations, David. You are fortunate to have a foundation in rigorous physical activity. It's a shame that it's not the norm. Sadly, it's something that is even less likely among youth today. I didn't enjoy the bounty of physical activities that you describe, but I spent plenty of time outside and playing sports like football and basketball. It does make a difference in one's ability to "merge physically with one's surroundings" as you say, as well as to resume participating physically more readily after extended sedentary periods.
We really need to change our paradigm regarding recreation. Laying in the sun and overeating isn't really all that restorative. Yet the chasm between sitting in the cubicle and surfing the North Shore is insurmountable. We lack the in-between activities. Everything seems to be either extreme or passive.
Club Med has kind of a bad rap, but we went a couple of times back in the 80s. We learned to windsurf. Sailed little skiffs. Played softball. Snorkeled. Ran silly relay races on the beach. Non-stop activities the entire week. I'm sure there are still resorts that offer moderate activities. It's too bad it's not more common both at vacation spots and in business parks. I think there's hope that we'll see some changes. We better or health care costs will continue to soar out of reach. But that's another conversation.

David Millstone said...

I had begun to write about a evening I spent at a family-oriented Club Med in the Bahamas, and then deleted it as self-serving. But, what I can say is that the families I met there were having a lot of fun and were active. Adults and children alike. If I had had more time, I might have hung around a couple of days myself. As it was, I was sailing my own boat through the Bahamian archipelago with my soon-to-be fiance, and had a rather complicated double-solo adventure to keep going. On the one hand, a couple of family men and their wives revealed notable envy of what my girlfriend and I were doing out there, on the ocean. But, on the other hand, they were physically engaged with their children, eating well, laughing, and taking the time to trade notes with wanders such as us. Certainly, there are more ways to live joyful physical lives than we've come to believe by watching the Olympics, professional sports, and James Bond movies.