March 22, 2009

Digital Postcard: Cook Islands

Friend and travel writer extraordinaire Kristin Luna is in the mangificent Cook Islands, soaking up a bit of paradise. I am touched she spent her limited internet time to shoot me this for the blog:

The great part about being a travel writer is that you get to see places that typically only appear in people's dreams, the stuff you believe only to truly exist in CGI creations and C.S. Lewis anthologies. And you get flown first class to far-flung locales, paid to stay in the poshest of hotels where Kiehl's and Bulgari bath products are as ubiquitous as Starbuck's and McDonald's in first-world countries. The bad part about being a travel writer? Sharing these experiences with thousands--if you're lucky, millions--of others. (And yes, I do understand that's kind of part of the job description.) It's not just that you're unable to do them justice; Hell, I've long since stopped trying to put my adventures into words. I'm only a mediocre writer with mediocre photography skills--it's beyond my realm of capabilities to even begin describing the supernatural aura surrounding Aitutaki, my most recent obsession in the northern Cook Islands (South Pacific for those of you who need a broader geographic scope).

No, I've come to terms with the fact that mere adjectives can't relay the color of the water, blown-out pictures don't capture the snow-white quality of the sand. That's all fine and good, but what's truly at the root of my uneasiness? Sharing hidden gems like this with the rest of the free world. Because once the word is out, nothing can keep the untainted beauty, well, untainted. Throngs of tourists will descend upon the Cook Islands like the army of sugar ants currently attacking the spider carcass dangling from my wall. They will take more than photographs, leave more than footprints. It will no longer be my fantasy writer's retreat, the place where I can (someday) go to finish--er, start--my Great American Novel (or if we're being more honest, chick lit, as seems to be my destiny). At that point, it might as well be Grand Cayman or Paradise Island, only a bit further away and the result of a much pricier plane ticket. So the eternal question remains: What's a travel writer to do? Share a secret like her contract demands, or hold it close to her heart so it's all her own?

(That's not a rhetorical question; I'd really like to know what you think.)

xo from Paradise,

Dear Kristin,

What do I think? Well, not to get all philosophical, but its the same question that faced dear Antigone back in ancient Greece: the choice between right and right. I relate to all you say--I wrote a 500 page book about Iceland but it's the places I didn't mention that hold a special place in my heart. In fact, one woman I met insisted I don't include her village--she didn't want anyone showing up for a random visit. On the other hand, if you don't write about a place, someone else will follow behind you. It's the human way. By writing about a place, at least you can put it into the context you want to for others. What if Cortez had focused his narrative on the wonderful cuisine and sturdy textiles of the Aztecs as opposed to their gold and human sacrifice? You know?

Anyway, you've made me want to go there. Thanks for the note!

xo from the airport on my way to Paradise,


jen laceda said...

Hi, I've been following Kristin for some time now. Looks like I'll be following you, too! Love the blog!

Anait said...

I'm a selfish traveler, I like to keep my finds to myself. But in the real world of travel writing, those finds are what make for a good piece, so I'm sometimes forced to give them up. Sharing is caring, I guess.

p.s. I also found your blog through Kristin...keep writing, I love reading it :)

bathmate said...

I liked it.