And in every movie, it’s always the same. Girl is exposed to devastating tragedy, so she escapes hoping for a fresh start. She arrives at her destination, always beautiful. As is her hair, unruly yet ridiculously buoyant, streaked in warm reds and glistening browns.
Then one morning, something breaks down in her new residence, she runs to the street flustered and awkward and proceeds to call after the first man who crosses her path. He wears a pristine linen shirt. They chat and somehow fall in love. Ugh.
I have just finished my umpteenth Travel & Love movie. I switch off my TV. For a minute I am bitter, then I think, well ok. I open my laptop and begin searching for an escape, a temporary one that is, as I can only take two weeks off from my life. I type wellness retreats, no wait, luxury wellness retreats… with monks.
In order to become one with the universe it seemed that I had to give up my worldly possessions, and at 14,000 dollars for 14 days, it seemed I would indeed have to. Still, pictures of pretty huts and beaches left me feeling curious. Maybe I could do this.
The flight is miserable, 12 hours to the middle of nowhere while surrounded by people who, although did share the same history of disappointments as me, were of absolutely no interest to me. I did not want to catch whatever it is that they had. Sorry.
The next day I wake up early, wearing a patterned Ulla Johnson dress and dainty blue Bottega slippers, I am confident that I look the part, minus the hair, which has decided to go on its own journey of spirituality. I drink cucumber water infused with lemon. I walk in harmony with the oddly commercial spa music playing in the background. A bus comes to collect us, my heart sinks, I do not do buses well.
We make it to the ashram, it looks like a clinic with pale green walls and the faintest smell of, was that Dettol? Our monk is younger than I had imagined, his accent is quite Western, his name is John. Perhaps he was a different person before he came here. I decided to give him a chance.
“Put your phones away,” he says. We sit on the floor and close our eyes. “To truly be, we must truly be,” he begins. Oh please. If I had my phone I would’ve shown him a similar quote online. I open my eyes and look around, most of the participants are breathing deeply, were they serious?
On the drive back, everyone shares their feelings of oneness, I refrain from participating. I was slightly worried that I didn’t feel it. Later that night I crawl into bed and stare up at the ceiling. They don’t tell you about the insects.
I take a picture and post it with a caption reading, “Namaste.”
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