I had first read about travel culture in Alex Garland’s The Beach, while still an impressionable, and free-spirited, albeit slightly psychotic teenager.
They made a movie based on this book.
In case you were born in the nineties and need a refresher about this cinematic diamond in the rough, The Beach is about Leo DiCaprio traveling around Thailand, cajoling thin women, and tripping out with small asian pot farmers on a secret island. All while narrating his own which— to a fifteen year old mind—sounded like deep thought-provoking insights.
Some of the more memorable and swaying arguments Leo (Richard) provides on how to be a good traveler, no, an interesting person, include:
”Never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It's probably worth it.”
I blame this crap for the desperate condition of my love life and for basically every other bizarre or uncomfortable experience I’ve had after the age of fifteen. Honestly, I doubt my repressed christian upbringing has anything to do with it. It’s Leo and the open mind bit that permanently ingrain themselves on a person.
Anyways, later in life, I go to Thailand and end up on a beach. It is pretty nice.
There is a tattoo shop on this tiny island where I had been ambling about (no friends in sight), drinking rum like a pirate. After stepping through a screen door, I nearly trip over a magnificent beauty of a man laying down on a yoga mat getting inked. He is with a friend who is fortuitously sitting on the couch hanging out for moral support. I sit next to this friend and we begin to talk. I note an accent. I also note perfectly tan and lean muscled skin (unclothed), attached to a face where two green eyes playfully flirt with mine. The boy laying on the ground begins chatting with me easily, and I learn that both of these male sirens are Swedish.
The most obvious conclusion to draw, is that the screen door I had just walked through was actually a vortex.
A vortex to Paradise, Sweden.
Sweden ends up being much more humid and tropical than I imagined. The men, also topple the usual stand-offish stereotype about those cold-ass, lutefisk eating, humorless, beer drinking Swedes who actually live in Sweden. Instead they champion the only stereotype that I actually care about; heartbreaking-ly chiseled everything. They are so friendly and talkative. I mean really, these guys are Swedish?
Later on, the two demigods invite me to a dance party on the beach. I accept. (That's for you Leo)
The party is a little too psycho disco for me, so I wearily ask if we can go someplace else. The boys oblige. We end up on a beach that looks exactly like the photo above except the stars are out and the night is blue-black. The surf is mellow, so we wade out into what seems like 4′ of never-ending pristine, clear, 82 degree water. The moon is waxing.
Then, the inevitable happens. Having stripped down to our birthday suites back on the beach, the boys and I begin kissing. The boy from the couch, his name is Victor, cradles my body in his arms. He tastes like cinnabuns and canna butter, very Swedish I think to myself. The other guy, I can't remember his name, takes me from Victor's arms, and has a gruff, ashy taste about him. Having a sweet tooth, I choose Victor early on and we spend the most time in the water together.
He tells me later that when he was holding me, he felt like Spiegel from Lord of the Rings. He said I was like his precious and in that moment I was the most important thing in the world. He also tells me that earlier in the day they had eaten mushrooms and the effects were just wearing off. Go figure.
After smoking a doob naked in the sand, with my newfound Swedish Rasta boy toys (they both have progressed dreadlocks), Victor and I head back to the hut. He is traveling with one of those mini computers that has tons of hippie stoner music, including my dearest love, Neil Young.
Heart of gold is playing in the background with the light of the computer screen illuminating the bed where we lay. You know what happens next, so I will spare the details. His friend anxiously and annoyingly waits outside because he feels like he is missing out on the action, which he is. I told him that my menage a trios days are long behind me, but he can watch if he wants.
I exercise the right to use my male objectifying righteous babe powers whenever necessary. (Scandinavians are in to gender equality anyways; not that objectification has anything to do with it, that's my own thing.)
These are Swedes after all, and dreadlocks are not the only things that are progressed about these guys. The second, no-name guy, lies beside us and gently reaches to slide his hand along my hip. This is all that happens. We all fall asleep;Victor and I under the mosquito net, and nameless guy exposed.
In the morning, they pack to leave for Bangkok. I tell Victor that if I die tomorrow I would be a happy woman. We go to eat breakfast.
While wandering the isles of the mini-mart scouting for sustenance, No-name guy says,” You know, we like you. You're a very open girl. Victor, he might like you a little bit more than I do, but you are a very open girl.” Doing what comes instinctively to me, I giggle and bat my eyelashes.
Victor comes out and starts unpacking what seems like a million little European breakfast type things from a bag that looks much too small to carry them all.
I comment, ” So many good things in such a small package.” He looks at me, touches my knee on the bench where we sit and says, in a perfect sexy Swedish accent,
” Kind of like you, so many good things in such a small package.”
-Janelle, 27, Author and Storyteller