Hamilton Island: A Slice of Stepford
I hate to sound ungrateful. Complaining about a visual feast like the Whitsundays in Australia is criminal, I know. Make no mistake, I love the unreal turquoise water, the architecture of the Great Barrier Reef, and those vanilla swirls that make up Whitsunday Inlet, but John Mayer is playing and people are actually enjoying it.
It’s been a while since I landed in a place where the tap water was safe to drink. There is no social unrest because, well, there aren’t really any locals here on Hamilton Island, a multi-resort island that makes me feel like Truman Burbank (“In case I don’t see you later, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!“). Trash-free manicured lanes are the arteries for electric golf cart-riding frat boys, retirees, and middle class families to reach their next meal, yacht cruise, or swimming pool. Heaven forbid we should have to walk anywhere!
It’s all a bit too safe, suburban, and Stepford for me.
I spent the latter half of my angsty youth in suburbia and I couldn’t get out fast enough.
Ever since moving to Guam in 2009, I’ve been interested in indigenous cultures and their history. With a population of 1,200, I saw mostly white people on Hamilton Island and no remnants of any culture. Two paragraphs on a tourist brochure about the history of the Whitsundays was all that connected me to any pre-contact past. It’s a familiar story: European settlers take over; indigenous people are dominated; tourism reigns.
It’s 86 degrees but feels like 100 with the humidity. I just happen to be here in February, the hottest month of the year in Tropical North Queensland. To make matters worse, I stubbornly refuse to zip around in an electric buggy all day like the rest of the tourists, so I decide to walk. You see, this place is too tame, too suburban for an adventurer like me.
I am restless. So, I do what any grown adult would do… I pretend I’m on safari.
Leaving my golf cart at my hotel, I set off on foot for breakfast. I believe in earning my calories. That’s all well and good when it’s only 80 degrees. By mid-afternoon, I’m wondering if I am going to get heatstroke as I lug my gear up a 45-degree hill. (This desire to push myself physically is a recurring theme in my travels. Remember when I hiked a volcano in the Philippines in a dress?)
That being said, the natural sites are well worth the discomfort of being so comfortable. I just wouldn’t recommend that vagabonds and budget travelers lodge here for more than 48 hours (Nicole Warne, I am not!).
How important is experiencing local culture when you travel?
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