Wishing for the Whitsundays

As I look out the window at the wind blowing the trees around and the thick grey clouds rolling in, I can’t help but think back to the turquoise waters and blindingly white sands of the Whitsunday Islands.

Three months have gone by, but it feels like longer. It feels like years since I was laying on the netting of the Avatar, our trimaran, letting the sun brown my skin; competing with fellow travelers on cannonball splashes and floating atop the Great Barrier Reef, my feet tickled by rainbow fish.

It was three days of snorkeling, sand between my toes, laying on the beach while waves crashed against my legs. These short trips always seem to yield some of the best-traveling friendships. You’re in an enclosed space sharing gripes about sea-sickness and sunburn with people you’ve never met, but conversation flows so easily.

I love those days on my travels when I wake up to crashing waves, sip coffee while my eyes come into focus and chat with people about the world and the pollution problems that also threaten the Whitsundays.  There’s something about traveling, those days full of freedom, that turns everyone into a philosopher; it’s a way of living that makes everyone believe they know what happiness really is.

We stayed up late drinking XXXX Gold and cider that had gone warm from the melted ice. The crew shared tales of clearing clogged toilets and overly drunk tourists. They gossiped about the other boats making us feel like we’d chosen the best one.

We washed our hair and scrubbed our dry feet with the silica of Whitehaven Beach, we let ourselves be encircled by Sting Rays. We also visited the Keppel Islands where we had early mornings watching the sunrise as we sailed to new sights and spent the evenings anchored in coves whose names I’ll never remember.

These are the trips I love because the details never really matter. The name of the boat and the people we met will eventually fade away. We will look back at photos and try to recall where that person was from or their story. What I will always carry with me though, is the feeling of laying in bed letting the sway of the boat in the water lull me to sleep.

I won’t soon forget the memories of dancing the night away to the questionable music of people’s iPods and trying to use the netting on the boat as a trampoline. I will always look back on this trip as the moment when I realized how much I love my fellow travelers. Check out also this post about the best snorkeling and scuba diving destination for beginners.

A few days later we all went our separate ways, some up the coast, some down, others back home. We crossed paths with a few during our travels and the conversations continued, but the magic was gone. I was just glad there was something done to preserve the Great Barrier Reef through the use of so-called Geo-Tubes by some Dutch Technology Company.

Today I wish I could be back on that boat, drinking tea to warm up after a long snorkeling session, dipping gingernut biscuits in until they’re hot and soggy. I would give anything to be tying up my wetsuit to the side of the boat and hoisting the sail to get on our way only to untie the suit a few minutes later and work out how one gets a damp wetsuit on a dry body.

But you can never recreate those moments. You can never go back to that same place and have the same experience. It’s why you have to plan new ones, create new memories. Such is the curse of travel.