The water slid under the surface and parted around the sides of the boat as we bound over relentless cresting waves. The trees crowding the shoreline quickly rose up towards us as we got closer. I was apprehensive of the unknown, but the view felt weirdly familiar and welcoming because I’d spent hours on Instagram “researching” everything about Soneva Fushi beforehand. With the engine disengaging, we began to slow down, and we arrived at the jetty. I was finally at my destination.
The sun poked out from behind a singular cloud as if to greet me as I stepped off the bobbing boat and onto land. My new home is an island surrounded by an ocean that twinkled exquisite and delicate shades of azure and sapphire, the pathways are made of sand and the wildlife is all around. It was lunchtime and almost thirty degrees, and I was having to hop between my bare feet as my eyes adjusted to the glow of sand so illuminated it was practically white.
This scene, this island, and that this was actually real was hard to fathom. It seemed so implausible that I was the new Barefoot Bookseller, so much in fact, that I wondered if I had been reading a book, fell and banged my head and somehow was now dreaming about being the protagonist in a rom-com novel. That’s because just twenty-four hours earlier; I was wearing multiple layers of clothes, trying to keep dry as rain poured down and bounced off a dark and emptying north London high street.
‘And you may find yourself in another part of the world… And you may ask yourself, “How did I get here”?’, I have been asking the very same question that Talking Heads posed in their song Once in a Lifetime since those initial moments over a month ago.
Confession time: even though I grew up on the coast of north Wales, I’m a city girl at heart having lived in London for nine years now. I love what living in a concrete jungle offers me. I can get a huge cup of coffee whilst on the way to work, there are endless lunch options when I don’t carve out time to prepare one myself, I can go to the gym at 5am if the mood takes me (though being honest, it rarely does but I do like saying that it might), going to a show or a gig at the weekend on a whim, or being able to window shop aimlessly.
Consequently, it has surprised me how much I have adapted to life without those things and to which I thought my happiness was tied. Things here are stunning and luxurious yet also, somehow, simple and grounding. It’s already shown me that maybe I should stop rushing so much and look around at what I have and that it’s good to take time to rethink and recalibrate. Simple things bring me comfort and contentment: more time to read and write (obviously a huge plus for me), long meandering conversations about something and nothing, and thinking about my body more thoughtfully, all of which have made me appreciate nature more.
For example, within a day of arriving, I snorkelled for the first time. Cautiously, I dipped my head below the water line and saw a new world. The ocean here was filled with beautiful corals, an abundance of colourful fish and I was completely mesmerized by what may lie beyond the drop-off point. I instantly wanted to explore more of the natural world around me and experience all Soneva Fushi had to offer. And that plan has certainly begun in earnest.
I’ve been stargazing underneath a canopy of stars feeling like I was seeing the night sky properly for the first time. On my birthday, I got up at sunrise and spotted a pod of dolphins swimming not too far from the beach and leaping in and out of the water. I’ve devoured a nine-course experiential meal; one that is a fusion of film and food wherein you are served dishes of what’s been shown on screen. I’ve captured countless kaleidoscope sunsets, including from an isolated sandbank (sorry, not sorry to my Instagram followers for the relentless sky pictures). I’ve ziplined through the jungle at speed whilst a large fruit bat flew alongside me nearly taking me out. I've said goodbye to the tube and buses as travelling only seems to happen by seaplane or speedboat. Some Sunday afternoons have been indulgently spent at the spa being pampered. And the biggest achievement of all; I’ve mastered reversing around corners in the Book Tuk Tuk without fear of it toppling over or hitting a palm tree.
And the list goes on, but two experiences stand out as highlights for me that I wanted to share.
The first was over the festive period. After cocktails on the sandbank, a few friends and I returned to the island at night to find the usually slick and glossy shoreline aglow with bioluminescence. The fact I was here to witness such a rare and beautiful phenomenon was like experiencing actual magic, and I have no doubt is a memory I know I’ll always cherish.
And secondly, it’s been returning to my love of bookselling. Unpacking the new shop stock and merchandising made me feel like a child on Christmas morning. Running creative writing workshops and reading sessions with children of all ages has been so much fun and a real opportunity to connect with the most enthusiastic and honest of readers that there are. Working with Malsa has been so much fun too; I’m enjoying having a new friend and fellow book lover to bring ideas to life with. But above everything, I’ve relished the lively and engaging conversations I’ve had in person and online; reigniting the passion I have for putting books in people’s hands; literally and metaphorically.
To be able to say that this is my life currently is a huge privilege and I can’t wait to see what the coming months have in store here, and to be sharing it all with you.
Until next time, happy reading!