San Isidro Island (name changed for privacy), off Palawan, was owned by Pierre, a French ex-backpacker-turned-resort-owner. He bought the deserted small island with his last savings. Pierre turned the exotic island into a successful haven for French backpackers. Pierre and I sat on the beach facing the reddening horizon. Mugs clinked. My first swig of iced beer was an arctic rush.
eastwind journals, June 22, 2022 (archives tr98)
By Bernie V. Lopez, firstname.lastname@example.org
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BERNIE – This place is awesome.
PIERRE – That’s what I said 15 years ago. The island was deserted with only two makeshift huts. I put up a tent. The boat man came every two days to bring me water and food. No electricity. No sound except the waves. It hit me, wham, like a baseball bat. I was so drunk with happiness and peace, that I had tears in my eyes.
BERNIE – Wow.
PIERRE – I slept at eight p.m. and woke up at six a.m. for the sunrise meditation. It was mind boggling. But now it seems to slowly lose its luster.
BERNIE – That’s because paradise is not a place. It’s in your heart.
PIERRE – (A woman appeared.) My wife Nora. This is Bernie.
NORA – Hi Bernie. Pierre, you have to do the barbecue when the fire is ready.
PIERRE – No problem.
NORA – We have eleven guests for dinner. Two Danish, eight French, and this solo Filipino. I have to fix dinner. See you later.
PIERRE – We make a good couple. She runs the place. I handle marketing. I’m laid back, she’s a workaholic. She does all the accounting, and bribes the local government for the license. Without her, I’m dead.
BERNIE – I can see you’re not so happy anymore.
PIERRE – What makes you say that?
BERNIE – I’m guessing. We are both ex-backpackers. Wanderlust is no longer in our veins. You’re stuck in this island. It’s no longer paradise. It’s business.
Pierre signaled to a waitress. In a minute, a bottle of Jack Daniels appeared with an ice bucket and two glasses.
PIERRE – You hit it right on the nail. Thank you for being frank. Now, I can pour my heart out to a fellow adventurer. There’s no one around to talk to here.
We moved to the barbecue area. He started to grill the chicken as we talked. As he unraveled his story, I began to discern how his happiness was slowly fading. Nora was an alpha female. She ran the shop. He followed all her orders. The Jack Daniels was now half empty.
BERNIE – I did Europe and North Africa for three years.
PIERRE – I covered Afghanistan and Tibet for five.
BERNIE – We got no more wings now.
PIERRE – The moment I bought the island and married Nora, it was the beginning of the end. I had to marry. Under Philippine law, foreigners can’t own islands.
BERNIE – You clipped your wings instantly. You equated the island to happiness, so you bought it. You bought not happiness but slavery. It became a business venture. You stashed your backpack away, and with it your happiness.
PIERRE – Stop rubbing it in.
BERNIE – Sorry. Revive your backpack. Give Nora the island. She won’t miss you. Take wings.
PIERRE – You’re right. She won’t miss me. I married her to buy the island. She married me to get out of poverty.
BERNIE – Grow wings once more. You will go crazy here. You’ll end up hating each other.
PIERRE – I need time to get the guts to do it. Thanks, Bernie.
NORA – (Loud voice from afar) Ready yet, Pierre.
PIERRE – (Loud reply) In a moment. (He breaks down and sobs softly.)
BERNIE – Let’s pray for you, Pierre. (We said a silent prayer in the dying light.)
You can buy an exotic island but you cannot buy happiness. Happiness is not a property. It is something within you, deeper, more mind-boggling than a roller-coaster ride. Sometimes what you search for in an exotic island you discover later in the gutter. Happiness is not a place but a situation. Happiness has a way of lingering, then suddenly fading. The thing is to not look for it, to not have expectations. Happiness comes and goes like an intruding butterfly.
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AUTHOR’S BOOK – Wings and Wanderlust – Discovering Your Inner Self. At age 26, the author hitchhiked 25,000 kilometers in Europe and North Africa for three straight years. In this book of his wild adventures, he learned deep insights that changed him totally, which he wants to share with readers. It also a guidebook on how to plan your own adventure.
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Author’s Credentials. Blogger – ex-Columnist (Inquirer) – Healing Ministry – ex-Professor (Ateneo University) – Documentary Producer-Director (freelance, ex-ABS-CBN, ex-TVS Tokyo) – ex-Broadcaster (Radio Veritas) – Facebook “Bernie V. Lopez Eastwind” / Pages “Eastwind Journeys and Journals” and “Mary Queen of Peace”.