Saying that my teenage years were troubled may perhaps be the understatement of the decade.
I was missing classes, running with different cliques not necessarily good for me, giving in to vices just to fit in. I tried to join the drama club, because my life was full of well, drama. I dated people way older than me, so I could get that feeling of being loved and being secured.
And throughout those moments, I was in a constant search for a place where I belong and for people who would accept me for who I am. I wanted to get out and live in a parallel universe, so to speak.
It was bad enough that I needed some kind of intervention from well-meaning friends, who saw the potential in me.
And then, during my darkest hour, I found a new path that would inspire me to improve the way I was living, and go through life in a happy, positive way.
A Travel Inspiration
It was year 2000 and “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio was showing in cinemas. I had to skip a class just to see it.
Everyone I knew, thrashed the movie, criticizing the bad acting, the environmental hazard it posed to Maya beach, in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, when the movie production set bulldozed the beach’s sand and planted several coconuts to make it more paradise looking.
Of course, I was also against tampering the natural beauty of the island but I saw past that and appreciated the message the movie was trying to convey. Lots of people dismiss it as a cheap escapist movie, but hey, it’s true.
We are all searching for ourselves and for a better life, and we have the means to make it come true.
The end credit showed a jump shot of the islanders with a caption “Parallel Universe”. And yes, they almost had it.
The movie, based on a book by Alex Garland, hit me like a tsunami. It became my most favorite movie of all time, not because it is the best, but because I can relate to it perfectly.
Years would pass, but it would remain to be one of the few movies that actually influenced me to hit the road and travel. It became my lifelong goal to go to places I’ve never been and meet the people that make those places unique and interesting.
I was able to travel to various countries, but my dream of stepping onto the shores of “the beach’ never wavered. It was like, every new place that I visit and conquer, was just a preparation for the feelings that would have overwhelmed me, once I finally get there.
Reaching “The Beach”
It took me 13 years, but I when I finally reached “The Beach”, I was just speechless. The feelings and memories I felt when I first saw the movie on a lonely night more than a decade ago, and during all those long years hit me like an avalanche, I had no choice but to cry.
If you ask me how I felt exactly at that moment, I won’t be able to give you an accurate description. It was surreal.
I just sat there on the shore, admiring the magnificent limestone formations that envelope the beach, oblivious to the noise of the common tourists that like me, were fascinated by Maya beach and by the movie.
It’s different now from the one I saw in the movie. There are no palm trees now, and there’s a convenience store at a hidden cove, 100 meters away from the shore. There are tsunami warnings, reminding everyone that this beach, also suffered devastation during the 2004 Asian tsunami.
But in many ways, it still is “the beach” that I dreamed of. I traveled hundreds of miles just to reach the island of Koh Phi Phi.and from there, I hired a longboat to get to the actual Maya beach
The search for a Parallel Universe
I looked around me and wondered, are all these people also searching for a place to call their own? Perhaps not, but with the multitude of backpackers I can see, I am sure that yes, some are also doing some soul-searching and wondering how to proceed with their respective lives from here.
I was almost the same age as Richard, the main character in the movie, when I first dream of reaching the shores of Maya beach. And back then, both of us are troubled by the expectations of our family, colleagues, and lovers.
13 years ago, I was tempted once again to check out, jump ship and just hit the road, leaving all problems behind me.
But at 30, life has taught me valuable lessons.
You don’t run away from your problems, no matter how big they maybe. You must face them with courage and determination, and be prepared to accept the consequences of the things you do or do not do.
A better life or a parallel universe is always tempting but you don’t always have to go far for you to reach it.
That life, that place you’ve always wanted to belong to, may be right there in front of you all along. You just have to open your eyes to see it.