Islands in the Stream // The Maldives

It's lovely and everything smells nice. It's warm, not hot and I didn’t really burn. When I arrived I was picked up at the airport, it was all smiles and kind exchanges, it was all good vibrations and happy people. This was my first time here, everything was pleasant, every day was fulfilled and each person more than civil. The trees, the fish, the reef, the boat, the sun and the moon, nothing seemed outrageous, nothing seemed extreme. Chasing the rumours of perfect size waves in a place that I could relax, a place I wouldn’t get ill or hurt, that I wouldn’t have to deal with crowds or aggression in the ocean. I was searching for a paradise, an ideal, something I hadn’t come across before.

Everywhere is wonderful, every place has its special versions of paradise and I was sure that the Maldives would be the same as them, that everything couldn’t be perfect. There must be something, there must be killer mosquitos, sandflies, sea lice, sharks. It must get busy, everywhere gets busy now, there would be a reason why I wouldn’t want to stay forever. I used to wonder why I loved to travel so much, why it had become the drive within me, that I was fixated on moving and after years of living in the now in different parts of the world I discovered that often I would within my desire, within my passion and within the thing that drove me, I would be asking the question “why don’t I want to live here?” That really I wasn’t searching for the place to live but searching for many places not to live. And it's strange how the universe provides answers when you are not asking questions but one day suddenly I had found a peace and in those moments of stillness I knew I wanted to live in Ireland. Not the islands in the South Pacific or the Indian ocean islands in the stream but Ireland. And once this moment had passed and life became clear I felt I could travel again. I felt I could see without tinted glasses and enjoy or see them for what they really are. So I find myself on a boat in the Middle of the Indian ocean, in paradise, and with my clear glasses on I look closely at country, a destination and a completely different culture, and what I see rings true the world over. If you smile and are kind and have honest intentions, life will smile back at you. That the laws of karma are instant, those that choose to be happy, that choose to smile are happy and they smile. That madness comes from bad decisions and that decisions are ours to make, that often they are difficult but once made there is a weightlessness in their afterbirth.

Stuck out in the middle of the Indian Ocean hanging from Sri Lanka like a pearl necklace they are magnificent, and each corner, each island and atoll seem as foreign to me as the next. Thirty two degree water, I surfed in. The sunsets, beaches, the turtles floating, whales and dolphins everyday, they were as I hoped, but more perfect than I imagined. The waves quieter and the ocean cleaner, everything surpassed my relatively ignorant expectations. I hadn’t thought about the Maldives as a Country rather than as a destination. This was the most significant lesson I learned and I am not sure why or how I had come to know none of what I learnt. This year they reintroduced the death penalty, and with the Islamic law a child as young as 7 can be tried, the Maldives is 100% Islamic. That the men can have four wives and women one husband. That lashings and floggings still occur, sex outside of marriage is illegal, that they have a brown sugar (cheap dirty heroin) problem and it is one of Asia's richest countries, that it's population is about the size of a large British town and that it used to be Buddhist. This was shocking and I couldn’t believe it, I mean the death penalty? It made me put my guard up and almost become preconceived about the people I met. But slowly and as I am no different to the other 8 billion when I was smiled at I smiled back, that compassion and empathy is everywhere, that the views of the country were not always the views of its people. With my time on land and with the people that lived there I noticed a suppression with their body language and thoughts, as I would see life and passion in their eyes but their bodies remained calm, that their words we bright and soft and calmly spoken but with conviction. Eyes cannot lie, eyes cannot hide for they are the entrance to the soul and regardless of what the government was doing with its extreme decisions the people there are good, they are kind and they are open. On one island in the south, a place called Hitadoo, in Lamuu Atoll shortly after Islam was introduced they were told to destroy the old Buddhist temples. The island is small and exceptionally beautiful, its few hundred inhabitants have everything we need, good fresh water, clean air and lots of food growing naturally. These are island people, so after they were ordered to destroy the temples; they couldn’t and so instead buried them. The Maldives are not a high country so a hill, be that a small one is visible. Hundreds of years later this hill is now a mound but for me it symbolised the people and the country.

During my months there the thoughts I had about travel became clearer still. I had my home now and even though I wasn’t there, it was my home. I could rest easy and although I wasn’t searching for any answers and at a time when it was very simple within that clarity there was a future but there is a present.

Photo credit: Matt Smith

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