I don’t relax well. As a dyed in the wool, certifiable Type-A personality the idea of sitting somewhere, doing nothing simultaneously bores me and frightens me a bit. It’s just not in my nature, it’s not who I am and yet, paradoxically, I seem to crave it. It’s as if my subconscious is crying out, begging me to slow down and recharge once in a while. That’s why I fawn over images of stunning beaches and pools around the world and, ultimately, how I found myself at arguably one of the most beautiful resorts in the world on Bora Bora in French Polynesia. It was there where, yes, I finally did stop moving for a couple of days but, more importantly, I also learned a lot about the power of doing nothing. The inherent benefits of slowing down and relaxing once in a while, that’s ultimately the effect Bora Bora had on me.
Bora Bora – all of the South Pacific – probably has the same effect on the millions who have visited, those who have sought out their own corner of paradise to try to disconnect but also better themselves at the same time. That’s how I found myself cruising around the islands of French Polynesia onboard a Windstar cruise. Starting in Papeete and hopping around to several different islands over the course of a week, it was a crash course into French Polynesia, but a fun and luxurious one. While every island visited had something about which to admire, Bora Bora was different. Bora Bora was special and I know I’m not the first person to feel that way. That’s probably also why my Windstar cruises ship overnighted there, allowing guests two days to explore the most famous island in the South Pacific and to experience their own moments of travel satori, of enlightenment, in their own unique ways. One of the many aspects I loved about the Windstar experience were the immersive and engaging excursions offered, from diving and scuba to photography tours and a unique package offered only on Bora Bora that piqued my interest immediately. Spending the night in one of the famous overwater bungalows at the luxury resort Le Meridien Bora Bora.
Location, Location, Location
I suppose one can relax and decompress just about anywhere. A sofa probably provides the same level of comfort, more actually, than a beach chair and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper. I believe though that in order to truly reach a state of decompression, at least for me, location means everything. I can’t mellow out on a sofa all day because my brain would explode from thinking about everything I wasn’t getting done. Being so close to my computer or even the vacuum without availing myself of either would surely kill me. I’m an extreme though and I understand that. I’m the classic definition of a Type-A East Coaster and while I’m good with that, it has come with its own problems over the years. I’ve actually written an entire post about it, so I won’t repeat myself here, but in order to truly relax and get away from it all, location for me is key. Remote is important otherwise I’d be on my gadgets all day, but so is the physical appearance of a destination. Beaches, palm trees and azure water, these all instantly lower my heart rate and put me into a happy frame of mind, a place where I actually want to relax and recharge and Le Meridien Bora Bora was the ideal spot.
Enjoying the best location on the islet, everything about the resort from the beaches to the bungalows epitomized perfection at its best. They set the stage for me perfectly, but ultimately it was my choice. It was up to me to use that time to be a busy, super active traveler or to do very little at all. I opted for the later.
Slowing Down to Speed Up
Sitting there in a beach chair looking across the impossibly blue waters to the impossibly beautiful mountain and surrounded by impossibly beautiful scenery, I almost immediately grabbed my phone to see how Instagram was doing. Then I stopped. I realized then and there how wrong it was to be on a gadget when I was in one of the most beautiful places on the planet where it seemed nothing could ever go wrong. So I put the phone away and sat there. I don’t know if I was waiting for the guardian angel of deep thoughts to appear, I didn’t know what to expect really. I never stop, I never relax and frankly, the sensation was one I’d forgotten about. Time at that moment slowed down and stayed muted for the rest of my day or so at the resort. I can’t tell you exactly what I did. I know a lot of water was involved, as was napping and I’m pretty sure I ate something. It’s all a beautiful blur, a beach-induced dream state but there is one thing I can remember. I can remember how amazingly content and happy I was. Even at the time I was almost skipping from the feeling of being totally and completely at ease. I didn’t have a worry in the world, instead I was happy. Well and truly happy, something that is all too rare for me. Looking back at it all I understand now that I learned an important lesson, that in order to succeed in life, in order to keep moving forward, sometimes we have to slow down to speed up.
I tend to go to extremes with everything I do. Many times that’s helped me in life, but it also holds me back. One of the best lessons I’ve ever learned is do everything in moderation; unfortunately it’s a principle I very rarely practice. I think that’s because in addition to lessons of moderation, I was also taught lessons of hard work and diligence. I firmly practice the mantra of “If I’m awake then I’m working,” and, in true American fashion, take great pride in that personality trait. Now as I approach the tender age of 41 though, I’m beginning to understand finally that it’s not something of which to be proud. That working until one drops dead is not what life should be about. Life is about balance, a fact our ancestors have understood for millennia, but which we have forgotten in the modern era. We all need to slow down, to take care of ourselves, to be selfish all in the effort to become better people. By helping ourselves, we also help those around us. We are better people and so in turn we lift up with us those we consider most dear. In 2017 though to accomplish this takes Herculean effort, an iron will to turn ourselves off and reboot.
I was on that little islet which Le Meridien calls home for just about 24 hours, but as I boarded the tender that would take me back to my Windstar ship I felt as if I’d been gone a week. I’d somehow enjoyed a vacation within a vacation, becoming even more relaxed and at ease than I had been before. Don’t get me wrong, the Windstar experience was one of the best cruising experiences I’ve ever had and I certainly had more than enough time to unwind, but that just demonstrates the extremes to which Bora Bora takes those concepts. The night spent there was one of the best I’ve ever enjoyed and I believe it’s in large part due to my own effort to enjoy the moment for what it was. To realized that I was in one of the most beautiful places on the planet and to not waste a second of it by trying to stay busy. Sure, there’s a lot to see and do in and around Bora Bora, but first and foremost should be down time. To slow down, to appreciate life for what it is and to reengage with areas of your brain you thought long since atrophied. There’s a certain power to that, a restorative effect that makes this, in my opinion, an experience every passenger who sails with Windstar around Tahiti should avail themselves. It’s just too special and too rare to pass by and in our lives, something that extraordinary should never be ignored.