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Word Travels - Behind the Scenes in the Maldives by Robin Esrock
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Behind the Scenes in the Maldives
by Robin Esrock / Published October 31 2008
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More so than most other episodes, you really do get to peek inside my head here, and hopefully you’ll understand how a dream assignment and a dream job can kind of backfire if you let it.   After all, what’s the point of being in the world’s most romantic destination, where everything is designed “for two”, and being alone?    Well, not quite alone, I was sharing my exquisite villa at the Soneva Gili with Michael my director, and let me assure you, two grown hetero men were not the intended occupants of such an ocean palace.  

Here is a glimpse into the kind of destination you only read about in celebrity magazines.   The manager of the hotel, a wonderful fellow South African named Kurt Berman, made us feel right at home, and his terrific staff realized that like them, we were also workers in paradise.   In fact, we ended up sneaking away to the staff quarters – a sort of mini-village – to join them for drinks at the more affordable bar.   Our hotel back in Male, with its cranky ceiling fan and dusty, yellow cracked windows, was more along my budget.  

For a couple days, it was Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, but the loneliness was definitely not fake. I had a girlfriend at the time, and I was genuinely reflecting on whether I’d trade this experience to be with her, and what the cost is emotionally of always being away.  Well, most travel writers will tell you it’s nigh on impossible to hold down a relationship, unless you can incorporate your partner as a companion.   My own relationship didn’t last much longer after the episode was filmed, so it’s painful for me to watch as I literally tried to salvage it on camera.    Well, you wanted the truth behind the byline, and you got it.

In contrast to Julia’s experience, I found Male to be the most boring and repressive capital city I’ve ever been to.  There isn’t even a cinema!   No nightlife at all, no fun.  It’s overcrowded, overpriced, and not worth more than a day on a visitors agenda.  Julia has a different opinion. We’re two different travel writers, and that’s why whatever you read, you should always be aware that it’s just one writer’s experience, and that experience is subjective, personal, and could completely differ to your own.    

We touch on the traveller/tourist difference, and it’s important for me to stress that however you choose to travel, make sure it’s the right way for you.  Nothing irks me more than travel gurus who’ll dismiss your experience because you failed to travel in their particular footsteps.   If you want the comfort and ease of a package tour, go for it!  If you want to rough it, camp on the side of highways and travel without any money, go for it!  There is no right or wrong way, and the only person you should be trying to impress is yourself.

The Soneva Gili really is the ultimate honeymoon destination, for people who can burn thousands of dollars per night on such an experience.  Personally, I don’t think I could enjoy myself knowing that I could use that money to travel for months in a developing country, but like I mention above, we do whatever floats our own particular boats.


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