Having seen the pictures of the white sand beaches and the aqua waters, I fully expected my time in the Maldives to have a real vacation feel. However, in the end it was to be much more like a typical work day.
To start the Maldives is a different place. An Islamic republic with an economy based on tourism and despite being comprised of 26 atolls - there is a real sense of a nation outgrowing its land mass to here. On arrival you have 3 options: take the hotel-provided ferry to your luxury resort, catch a water taxi across to the city of Male, or drive around the runway to the growing town of Hulhumale. I did the latter.
Hulhumale is a town quickly being built on reclaimed land that has a collection or new and newly being built residential apartments and moderately priced guest houses. Given the tree lined streets and beautiful backdrop of the beach and clear water, I figured this would be the perfect place for a morning 4-miler. The added benefit was that I would be running in the world’s flattest country, so no extra energy needed to overcome hills. Despite all of this and after a pleasant run I was left with a single impression…how could the Maldives have so much trash. Garbage seemed to be everywhere - lining the roads, floating in waterr, scattered around the trash bins and even piling up in the cemetery. It wasd hopeful to see an awareness campaign was underway. As with Parkinson’s, the key to improving a situation is first to raise awareness regarding the problem.
I had a late night flight out of Male the day after arrival, so I set up an ambitious "to do" list for the day. This probably contributed largely to the workday feeling I experience. But adding to the feeling was the bustle of little Hulhumale, where no one seemed to be on vacation. Everyone was working or commuting to work.
In the afternoon I decided to take the water taxi over to the island where the main city, Male, is located. Given that I had seen a number of city tours advertised online, I expected to see a number of touristy places in Male. As it was, I rarely saw a tourist. However, walking the streets for a couple hours did bring me face-to-face with daily life in Male. It was a rewarding experience, just not expected.
At sunset I took the ferry back to the guesthouse. Again, despite the beautiful sunset, the lasting image was of locals commuting home after another work day.
My visit to Maldives was not disappointing. Not everyday is marked by two Sri Lankan holidays, World Parkinson's Day or a visit to a Wonder of the World. We just need to find ways to maintain momentum toward our goals through the common days as well.