It's all out there, right now

A good beach has white sand, they tell you. Preferably as finely grained as possible. Like a powder that's sprinkled on the edges of the land. The frosting on the cake, if you will.

Mitchel Lensink
Feb 29, 2024
7 min read
a hand holding the railing of a boat with a tropical island in the background

Dear friends,

Please bear with me for a bit.

It's February 29th, 2024, around 3:30 in the afternoon. The outside temperature is 9 degrees Celsius and it's raining. It's been raining the entire day. Not like a heavy downpour or anything but more like a constant drizzle. Just enough to start your mind wandering about sunnier times. Times that aren't even that long ago but already seem so far removed. A distant memory caused by the sheer contrast between the current situation and the one from two weeks ago.

Two weeks ago. That's when we flew from Phuket to Bangkok. Hot, steamy, sticky Bangkok. A different Bangkok from the one we visited a few weeks before. It might've just been the different location we picked for our second stay in the city. More central, more crowded, noisier. It could also be the slight shift in seasons that made the heat more pressing, keeping the smog from the traffic from escaping. Burning our throats after a couple of hours outside. Still, it could all just be our perception, having just spent three weeks on the relatively calm and breezy islands in the south.

A relative calm. I choose these words with care. Leaning on past experiences and well-meant advice from friends with more recent experiences (ours are 13 years old, on average), we picked our destinations carefully. Some were new for me, others for Charlotte, most for both of us. While mapping out our route I wondered, 'What is our goal on this trip? Are we looking for adventure, or do we want to unplug? Perhaps a combination?' It's always a combination. Charlotte's a little better at it than I am but we both don't like sitting still for too long. Why fly 9000 KM just to sit on a beach and play with sand?

The sand. That's how you judge the quality of a beach. A good beach has white sand, they tell you. Preferably as finely grained as possible. Like a powder that's sprinkled on the edges of the land. The frosting on the cake, if you will. The whiter the sand, the more it pops. You want that contrast with the water. Emerald green or light blue, that's what that water should look like. Bonus points if you can see straight to the bottom as well. A beautiful combination of elements that's warm to the touch, soft between the toes, and easy on the eyes. If you hop on a plane, to drive in a bus, to sit in a boat, to walk in the heat, to sit on such a beach, that's when you have earned it. You can do nothing, finally, just for a bit.

That nothingness, that's the ideal that you strive for. Especially in the people department, right? A beach, the perfect beach, all to yourself. An untouched gem, only shared with some locals, an assortment of hermit crabs, a hundred-something species of birds, plants, insects (you can't escape them, not even in paradise) and your loved ones. That's the dream. But let's be real, that's everybody's dream. And everybody reads the same travel blogs, watches the same TikToks and Instagram Reels, sees the same pictures from friends and family that push the crowds to the same places.

Pictures that you make as well. In fact, they are still the very reason you are here anyway. Perhaps that's the only thing that sets you apart from a lot of the others. 'The others', I say, as if I am not part of the herd as well. I keep no illusions. I am just another foreigner looking for some sunshine, a cheap beer, a tasty bite, a simpler life. But I am more than that. I am an adventurer that moves with compassion and empathy through an exciting world of possibilities and experiences. That camera, yes, that's always there. It captures my experiences, forces me to be present and pushes me to appreciate whatever happens, both good and bad. Even ugly things make for great photographs. The camera forces me to not look away. I have to keep my eyes open, both physically and mentally. It's all happening, right now, it's all out there.

So out there is where I want to be. On the powdery sand of Koh Lipe's crowded beaches, observing the locals working hard to satisfy the tourist's demands so that they can make a living. On the one-way street that is Koh Muk, where tuk-tuks cost 100 baht no matter how far you ride. On a rented motorbike that'll probably be able to go 100 km/h if you dare to push it that far on the windy roads of Koh Lanta. In the total desolation of Chumphon's Hat Thung Wua Laen Beach, where the only persons able to serve you a beer at 11PM are also the ones happy to drive you four hours to Khao Sok National Park. On a chair at a road-side cafe on Koh Yao-Noi, where the kind lady that works there constantly has to go through dialysis because her kidneys no longer work serves you cold beers and nachos with Pico de Gallo that's way too spicy for the average farang but suits us just fine while you chat with her about the events on the street in front of you. And yes, in the gut-wrenching, soul-draining but at the same time incredibly invigorating vibrant melting pot that is Bangkok as well. It's February 29th, 2024, around 4:30 in the afternoon, and that's where I want to be.

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