If the last few weeks has taught us anything, it’s that life doesn’t often work out the way we plan. My adventure in the Maldives began as an unexpected break from reality, and two weeks ago it ended just as unpredictably. On Saturday morning, I said a teary and slightly premature goodbye to my island home at Soneva Fushi. I was waved off from the jetty by many of the friends and colleagues with whom I have spent the last months, and as the speedboat accelerated away from the island for the last time, I had to gulp back the emotion that I was feeling.
The entirety of my time at Soneva had been leading to the point of departure. I was always going to have to sell my last book, pack up the bookshop, jump in the ocean for the final time. Due to the global pandemic, this departure came a few weeks too soon. I’ve been back in the UK for two weeks now, and have barely begun to process the excitements and joys of the past five months. They have been a whirlwind of adventure where I have developed new passions, discovered new skills and built new friendships. I’ve moved 6000 miles across the planet, left my friends and family behind me and found a whole new community on a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I’ve tested my boundaries and re-discovered my sense of self.
Looking back on my blogs is one of the best ways for me to be reminded of how I filled my days. Most of my time was spent between bookshop, beach and jungle. As I finally settled down to a simpler and less chaotic life, I reconnected with my body and mind after a period of neglect, and discovered the power of yoga and meditation. I frequently ran every inch of the island and descended nearly thirty metres into the ocean’s depths. I star-gazed on white sands and free-dived into turquoise waves. I shared my island home with fruit bats and sting rays, and some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. Thanks to my time as the Barefoot Bookseller, I’ve had the privilege of sharing my love of literature with people from all around the globe, and hopefully I have inspired them into a love of reading as well. Thanks to this role, I’ve had an opportunity few people in the world have been lucky enough to be granted and I have made the most of every single second of my island adventure.
One of the many wonderful things about adventures is that they always come with learning; it’s why, I think, we love adventure stories so much. My Maldivian adventure was no different. I have learned that moving at three thousand miles an hour isn’t the same as doing your very best, and that prioritising your health and happiness usually makes the time and energy you give much more valuable. Living so remotely, without access to online shopping, boujee trends and some of the creature comforts I usually take for granted has led me to reassess what I value and taught me that community really is the most important thing. Seeing the damage wrought on some of the most beautiful and rich natural habitats in the world has also emphasised the urgent need for environmental action. Funnily enough, these lessons have prepared me well for life in lockdown.
What’s next? The future for many of us is, at the moment, unknown. What I do know is that my time as the Barefoot Bookseller has given me a new lease of energy and enthusiasm for whatever tomorrow holds. As for Soneva Fushi, the best way to say farewell can only come in the words of William Shakespeare: ‘if we do meet again, why, we shall smile; if not, this parting was well made.’