“I know that I travel in large part in search of hardship — both my own, which I want to feel, and others’, which I need to see. Travel in that sense guides us toward a better balance of wisdom and compassion — of seeing the world clearly, and yet feeling it truly.” – Pico Iyer
I have a love-hate relationship with luxury.
I couldn’t help smiling when I stepped into our villa at Alila Soori. From the calming smell of lemongrass, the crisp clean cloud-like duvets, the twin-sized bath-tub, the marbled blue lap pool that fringed the living room, the sprawling day beds right down to the mahogany boxes that had little compartments for each of the toiletries, the sense of perfection that permeated the environment assured its occupants that they were royalty. We even had a personal butler who was on call 24/7, ready at all times to deliver bicycles, swimming floats or ferry us from our room to the restaurant with a buggy.
Yet despite how much I enjoyed soaking in that bubble of comfort, I couldn’t help feeling a pervasive sense of unease at the artificiality of this perfect world that was created by the rich for the wealthy. Because the moment you step outside of the villa’s perimeters, the stark contrast of the living conditions of the surrounding villages is all the more glaring. Dirt roads, broken shutters, faded walls, drains that threaten to overflow – nothing of that crisp cleanliness that exists just a wall away. But there is so, so much beauty and life in the lushness of those perfectly filed padi fields, the expressions of the stone temple guardians and the laughter of the kids as they chase after the school-bus.
And as I gazed over the edge of that infinity pool, I couldn’t help but wonder if, once upon a time, the padi fields had extended to where I was to seamlessly merge with the black sand beaches. Or if, like my dad says, it must be torturous for those who work at the villa to straddle the juxtapositions of these two worlds. I don’t know how that must feel, but I do know that it is only too easy to be consumed by the lust for luxury once you’ve gotten a taste of it. It was evident by the dissatisfaction we felt at our next villa, which by normal standards would have been wow, but paled in comparison to Alila.
At the end of the day, I guess the question goes back to why you travel. Luxury is justified if the intention is relaxation. But, if like Pico Iyer says, we travel to lose and find ourselves again, then perhaps there is a necessity to break out of that bubble and get a little dirty, a little alive.