My trip to Maldives started with the idea of a solomoon (solo travel + honeymoon = solomoon!) and ended in the beginning of a heartbreak. The latter was totally unplanned; I don't go that far for a good story.
"You think you have time." Buddha
The Maldives have long been a dream destination for me but not to gaze adoringly into the eyes of a significant other while sitting under a billowy tent on a deserted beach. Don't get me wrong - I love deserted beaches but to be there with a significant other always seemed, well, insignificant to me. Or at least not absolutely essential. I have always had a love affair with the ocean and it never screamed menage a trois. I don't need to share a sunset to appreciate it and I prefer not to share my dessert at all.
Alas, as it goes with ideas like that, the looks I got when I revealed my travel plans were even more incredulous than usual. My parents suspected a secret wedding, the guy I was still seeing seemed annoyed that I didn't ask him to come along, and everybody else was just really worried if I wouldn't be lonely.
To me, loneliness and being alone are not the same thing. I have been lonely even in company and being alone can be a quite wonderful sensation.
Ever since I was a young girl my OkCupid ad could have read Annika likes long walks on the beach. What a cliché right? Well, is it still a cliché if I like to do those long walks by myself?
I have always liked my own company and I was pretty sure I would like it in the Maldives so I didn't see any reason not to combine the two.
The world didn't seem to agree and so it was almost out of stubbornness that I wanted this solomoon badly and that I was going to enjoy it come what may. If no one else was going to be excited for me, I would have to muster double the excitement.
Mind you, I got a little hesitant after a somewhat scary night on a truly deserted island in the first Maldivian resort I stayed in. I did do naked cartwheels in the rain but I also didn't sleep afterward because I was scared. I kept on thinking about Lost (and not in a good Sawyer way) and came to the conclusion that company wasn't so overrated after all.
But once I arrived in Hadahaa it turned out that it just had to be the perfect one out of the 1200 Maldivian islands that I needed for my solomoon. The one for me. I don't say perfect lightly because honestly, most resorts in the Maldives are somewhat spectacular. It goes for island resorts as it goes for pizza - even a crappy one is a good one.
I had been a fan of the Park Hyatt Hadahaa for a long time and gazed longingly at images of its beauty. I couldn't believe my luck when they invited me to stay for a few nights. Sometimes dreams do come true and you don't need to be on honeymoon for it.
There is luxury and then there is luxury. I learned a long time ago (first world problems I know, I know) that not all 5-star hotels are created equal and the Park Hyatt is truly a class of its own and it starts with getting there.
You need to really want it to get it – think a fancy Chamber of Secrets – as the resort is all the way in the south of the Maldives, in the Gaafu Alifu Atoll. No crummy seaplane will get you there (just kidding, seaplanes are awesome but you still cannot take one to Hadahaa!) but a proper national flight from Male and a speedboat ride or a day and a half on a regular boat. The latter option is actually not endorsed by the hotel.
The island literally runs on island time meaning that you are one hour ahead of Koodoo where the next airport is. While somehow utterly charmed by that feature, I was also slightly annoyed - after all, I was losing one hour of my solomoon.
Upon arrival, I meet Marie, the guest service officer, and immediately call her my Marie wishing we could braid each other's hair. My best friend's name is also Marie so the notion isn't as strange as it may seem.
Marie is there to fulfill all of my dreams and take all of my calls – even in the middle of the night as she assures me. She does it with such a smile and genuine friendliness that I feel I am on holiday with my best friend and am tempted to take her up on the offer. Want to have cocktails at my pool villa? Seriously though, who needs a husband when you can have Marie, a private pool, and biodegradable Nespresso pods?
I am relieved that there is very little honeymooning happening. No pasty English men having their back massaged with sunscreen, no Lady & the Tramp scenarios over dinner, and no embarrassing photo shoots happening in the ocean either. A couple is playing backgammon at the bar but since there is no canoodling whatsoever I don't even know if they are married, friends with benefits or siblings who don't fight.
Since every villa comes with its own plunge pool I wonder if this is where the romance happens? But during extensive hours spent on my daybed next to my pool, the only disturbance I can hear is kids screaming from the villa next door.
While I am delighted at this lack of obvious romance I am secretly a bit disappointed too. Where are the cheesy honeymooners to make fun of? Whom will I cast smug looks and how am I going to spend my time now?
There is only one lone couple sitting on the beach. The hotel has put up white gauzy fabric around a canopy, set up lanterns in the sand all around, and of course, the table is clad in white linens. I wonder if they get proper glasses or have to sip their champagne out of plastic beach coolers.
The fabric is billowing in the wind, attempting to create a romantic setting, but it is just a tad bit too strong to be called a gentle breeze. Her hair is flapping in the wind too and all I can think of is the infamous Dreiwettertaft commercial from the 80s Her hair is definitely no match for the wind but luckily he doesn't seem to mind.
And that is what I am supposed to want to, right? This is the ultimate romantic gesture: a beach dinner in the Maldives, surrounded by candles, billowing fabric, and a husband who doesn't mind when your hair gets messy. Or is it?
I have always been a bit different when it comes to romance. I wouldn't go as far as calling myself unromantic but cliches like this don't make me swoon. Maybe I am too pragmatic for that, I am quite happy that I can have my dinner at the restaurant without having fabric or sand blow in my face.
Unfortunately, I take it a step further. Instead of being all mushy and gushy, I use the hotel's excellent wifi to argue with the man who adores me and my seafaring ways, feeling that it might be the beginning of the end. I smile grimly about the irony of this happening in the Maldives. But then again, maybe no location can live up to being the ultimate happily ever after? And maybe I am quite alright with my wish to not sit around and wait for the perfect person, the perfect occasion in order to explore the perfect location?
I can't help but think again that as the girl who travels my ultimate love story is not meant to be with a man but with the world. And with that, the Maldives are so much more than a backdrop for romance to me. Because with or without company the sunsets can't get any more stunning and neither can the stars. To me, that is something worth appreciating with or without fabric blowing in my face.
Tips for a solomoon in the Maldives
or any other honeymoon paradise...
1. You think you have time.
But you may not. That is my one and only argument I will ever need for any trip. Don't miss out on a dream destination because you are waiting for someone to go with. To be quite honest - who knows when and if this person will come along? Go on your own, explore, and never regret! Once you meet Prince Charming you can always go again together.
2. Finding Mr. Right.
While all resorts target honeymooners some do so in less obtrusive ways like the Park Hyatt. Here you have enough space so you won't run into couples non-stop, can spend your days at your private pool and are safe from oh so couple-y activities.
3. Just do it.
I spent a lot of time underwater - the perfect place to switch romance for adrenalin. Mind you, there is also yoga, a spa, and glass bottom canoes for you the non-mermaids.
4. What do I want?
No need to become snarky like me and make fun of happy honeymooners but I also loved the opportunity to reflect on myself during my solomoon. What do I really want to do? Beach or bungalow? Early bird catching the worm or early bird dinner? Nothing makes me feel so free and so appreciative than traveling on my own and not having to compromise.
5. The art of doing nothing.
Something I am still working on but remote places like Hadahaa are perfect to disconnect. Turn the wifi off, accept that you have lost an hour, sit still and breathe. Yeah, okay that does not sound like me at all (no wifi?!) but maybe it means that I need to come back to perfect the art of doing nothing!
Have you ever done a solomoon? Why or why not?
Thank you to the Park Hyatt for my incredible trip even though you stole an hour!*
*The lemon pie made more than up for it as did the fact that you offer not only still but also sparkling filtered water in my room.