If there are two other people on the pristine white beach with us in Koh Phangan, Thailand, we consider it crowded.
I lay on my back on my thin blue sarong, absorbing the rays of a midday sun so brilliant I still need my shades on, even with my eyes closed. I run my fingers through the fine grains of soft sand. My tanned skin shimmers in the heat, but the cool, salty breeze from over the teal sea refreshes me. The pure vitamin D melts into my soul, making me, if possible, even happier.
My husband lays next to me on his stomach, propped up on his elbows, quietly reading.
I look up, and see the young man walking barefoot down the shore, trailed by his eight adorable puppies. The tiny black dogs prance and play in the sand. They come by every afternoon around this time.
I’m hot, so I sit in the shallow, crystal clear water. The surface ripples slightly as gentle waves roll in. A school of small, grey minnows flits by.
Our sun worship is interrupted only by thrice daily visits to the modest open air restaurant on Choloklum Bay, where my husband and I sample mouth-watering Thai delights. Chicken stir-fried with crisp vegetables and cashew nuts, shrimp swimming in a green coconut curry, flaky spring rolls dipped in sweet chili sauce: Thai cuisine is simple, fresh, and delicious.
Around 6:00 the tangerine sun dips into the sea beyond the horizon, while the sky fades from pink to yellow. The tide is out, revealing a wide stretch of damp coastline. We play frisbee every night around sunset, leaving temporary footprints in the saturated sand.
When the sun sets we retire to our tiny room and shower. A day’s worth of sand, salt, and sunscreen rinse down the drain. We slather aloe gel on our toasty skin and stand in front of the small fan to cool off. Back to the restaurant again, to order two Chang beers. We play simple card games on the glossy wooden tabletop and watch whatever DVD they are showing on the restaurant television. Soon it is time for bed; we need to rest up so we can do it all again tomorrow.
My husband and I realize and appreciate how lucky we are, to be able to backpack around Asia for five months. We left our comfortable lives at home– jobs, car, house, friends, family– in exchange for the exhilaration of travel. Wandering is exciting, but for me, it is also soothing. Strange places feel like home to me, and I am the best version of myself when I am away, in my element.
We live on Choloklum Bay for ten days. We have all the time in the world here, and we choose to do absolutely nothing with it. Ten days of independence– liberty from stress, freedom from the Real World. These ten days we spend savoring the simplicity of island life, reveling in the sweet, unrestrained joy of inertia.
About the Author: Jen Hensler lives in Virginia and works as a middle school teacher. She spends her summers traveling and camping with her husband. She is finishing a memoir about love, travel, and finding a balance between the two.