It’s truly remarkable to consider that even a year on, a place can have such a profound effect on me. This entry, by the way, is in part my own egotistical attempt at faux travel writing, and in part me gushing about a locale I never thought I would adore as much as I really did. I’m glad that I did, though. It’s so easy to think of Spain and immediately, then, think of a thousand British twenty-somethings flooding to the country on planes, having booked their package holidays in advance of a week or more of booze, sex, heavy drug usage, clubbing, and anything else associated with it. It’s also easy enough to look at the media-inspired examples we’re given here in the UK, Benidorm being the most prevalent example. Sure, I may be getting confused with Ibiza. Either way, there’s no denying the stigma involved.
With this in mind, what I wasn’t counting on was experiencing something truly breathtaking. At eighteen, I’ve not really had many of these moments in my life, the only other one I can think of being on safari in Kenya … my first true experience travelling, and quite a long haul for my age (fourteen at the time). Another thing I wasn’t counting on was, quite simply, being inspired. I’m not sure whether experiencing Benalmadena itself was quite what got me started on the tangent, or whether it’s this in conjunction with looking back upon photographs and connecting a memory with a feeling; either way, it’s somewhere I doubt I will ever be able to leave well enough alone.
There is a problem, however. That initial, breathtaking view will never be matched by simply looking at photographs, and I have the distinct feeling that I will never be able to write something so efficiently outside of the country as inside of it. Describing the stifling heat and the humming cicada beetles is one thing, but experiencing it and channeling it into writing is quite another. I can recall driving higher and higher up into the mountains, but that is it, it is still a recollection. So, since returning, I can’t even begin to count the hours I’ve whiled away cooking up an elaborate dream of sitting out on the balcony, the glare of the sun on my laptop screen obscured by an umbrella or some other form of shade, simply writing. Blissfully cut off from the rest of the world, penning everything and anything that comes to mind during two to three secluded weeks, maybe taking it half a day at a time before travelling further outside of my comfort zone; time was spent inside the apartment and beside the pool in equal measure, although there was something inherently more comforting about sitting inside, looking out over the balcony and the accompanying view than I’ve ever felt in my own house.
I think this feeling, too, created a pivotal moment in my life – the realization that I can’t stay where I am. I’m not going to lie, I’ve dreamed of doing such a thing for years, but standing outside the Buddhist temple, an incongruent, low hum of Eastern music filling the air and looking out across the sea, white stucco houses with terracotta roofs and winding dust roads … this made it seem as though such a fantasy could, one day, become a reality. I’m still convinced that it can. While I’m sure that I am wrong, I remain convinced that it is not only people with high disposable income, or immensely successful writers that can indulge themselves with travel. I have no desire to lay about in the sun all day and drink until I collapse all night. I’m open to adventure, not excess or even, dare I say it, hedonism.
This is not to say that commercialism and exaggerated nightlife has no place in my plans for the future; here, the prospect of walking along the sea front on a Saturday night is positively terrifying. Call it a deeply romantic image of the place I covet, but the only sense I got from being a part of Benalmadena’s port was one that could be likened to community, or else a real sense of something special happening. No doubt this would wear off within a matter of weeks, but this is something I don’t care for – ultimately, I felt safer in a foreign country than I do here, at ‘home’.
Now, this is all starting to sound like senseless gushing. I’m aware of the realities; that, while on my first outing I was part of a fairly large group, some of whom had already visited multiple times, on my own I am not likely to stand a chance. A thirst for adventure and travel can only carry me so far, I know. Certain sensibilities must be in place. This doesn’t at all curb the lingering adoration I have for what I experienced, of course.
I don’t feel a desire to observe a country’s social shortcomings when I know I’m safe, of course. I was very safe; I’m not going to go so far as to say that I’m ignorant of the fact that bad thing happen, as they do anywhere you look in the world, but my point remains that I simply never came into contact with it. Yet, in a perverse way, this is what so much of my writing revolves around … I’m a fan of horror at heart. Suspense novels, crime and thriller … transgressive literature. So to break out of that box and consider that there is more to write about than the dark recesses of the human mind, or a murder in cold blood, is not only a relief, but a revelation to me in itself. A breath of fresh air, if you will.
Above all, however, visiting Benalmadena taught me a little something about love. Not the teenage ideals, that love must be with a person. I often wonder why, in fact, I fail to bother with dating, with actually trying to find someone who means something to me in a romantic sense; the truth is, I feel I’m able to love a place, and indeed, the practice of writing just as much as I should be able to love a person. I’d do anything to get back there … I’d do anything to record the raw thoughts and feelings of being there.