I'm currently working on a much longer sustainability-focused post all about the massive efforts here in the Maldives to reduce waste and preserve the reefs. That will be up later on this week, but in the meantime, I wanted to put up a short little post about a few things that have been on my (& Porter's) minds this week.
The first ten days or so of leaving on a big trip are important ones because that's the timeframe in which you'll realize what you shouldn't have brought and what you should have, which worries were unfounded and which ones were valid, how long you can get away with eating like you're on vacation and how soon you'll forget what day of the week it is or current events, and, most of all, how overly ambitious the sketch you wrote out detailing what to accomplish every single day was.
So, here it goes, I'm sharing some wisdom. I'm hoping for those planning trips to this part of the world or others, the sort of things I'm about to share will come in handy, both in the planning phase and in the anxiety-increase phase that always seems to hit me about 72 hours before we leave the country...
#1) Dubai and The Maldives are incredibly, incredibly safe.
Before we left, I'm going to be completely honest here, I was slightly anxious about heading to my first Middle Eastern countries. Most likely, this is because in America we're saturated with negative, fear-inducing images and stories of the Middle East, and, particularly, about "their" treatment of women (as if such a uniform statement could apply to a region that houses literally millions of unique individuals!). I had also heard a lot about the Maldivian law requiring every citizen to practice Islam, and, while that falls under my own definition of religious oppression, (I believe that every person should have the right to choose their religion) I think some people falsely believe, because of that law, that the Maldives are dangerous or unaccepting of non-Muslims. I'd heard and read stirrings of that kind of thinking and I kind of held it beneath the surface of my thoughts in a kind of "hmm, I guess i'll find out if that's true" way before we got here.
I wish I personally knew someone who'd already been to this part of the world and could have told me that any anxiety about cultural differences and being accepted were absolutely ridiculous. In our experience, the people of Dubai and the Maldives are some of the friendliest, happy-go-lucky, jovial, respectful people around, and I think that does speak in small part to the reality that many are reserved and have culturally inherent moral standards. I honestly felt far more respected by the opposite sex walking around Dubai than I often do in Miami, and the conservative dress code (no shoulders showing, no knees showing for both men and women) strangely made it feel even safer. I'm not sure why this is....but to put it bluntly, if you have anxiety about venturing to either of these places, throw it out the window, and for goodness sakes, don't let it keep you from coming here ! I'm of the belief that, in most parts of the world, if you respect local cultural customs, they'll respect yours.
#2) We love "sock bag".
On a much more superfluous note, sock bags are a great idea when traveling. Port and I decided this time around to put all of our socks (mine and his) into one shoe bag; we are kind of super excited about how great of an addition "sock bag" has been to our packing team (which also includes "face stuff bag" "sunscreen baggie" and "contacts box"). Socks always seem to tumble off to the most hard-to-reach corners of our luggage, and if we're staying somewhere for less than three nights we rarely unpack these days, so being able to pull out sock bag before we had to the gym or go for a hike has genuinely probably saved ten minutes of both our lives so far. Yay sock bag!
#3) Don't knock something until you try it....in another country.
I'm not a huge fan of crab. Even though we're from New England and I love lobster, I just can't seem to ever enjoy it. it's too fish and just not my kind of texture and, to be honest, I'm losing my appetite describing it right now as I type this. But I've learned something this week: just because you absolutely do not enjoy a certain kind of food at home does not mean you won't fall in love with it in a distant land. Every country has vastly unique cooking techniques and spices and, for that matter, species, of things you're used to eating on your home turf. ESPECIALLY when you're in Asia! There's significantly less Asian influence on "American style" food than European. Be open minded and willing to try things you're absolutely sure you won't like. Port and I both have already realized four of five things aren't crazy about back in Boston, but love here.
#4) Islands in The Maldives can be completely different.
I think, when it comes to the Caribbean, most Americans understand that each island has a different vibe, culture, energy, speed, whatever you want to call it. This is probably because the islands are: A) pretty spread out and B) actually different nationalities and usually influenced by different sub-cultures. With the Maldives, though, I think Americans, especially, tend to assume that the islands are one in the same: small, luxury hotel islands with a set of bungalows on stilts and water that you can see fish through as easily as if they were in an up-lit tank. That last part is absolutely true, but we've realized this week that that first bit couldn't be further from the truth. The Maldives actually boasts some of the cleanest off-shore surf breaks in the world, so people come in from all over for surf holidays here. Then, there's the diving crowd: because the reefs here are so full of life, the visibility so insanely high, mass amounts of divers come through constantly, wanting to spend their days under the waves rather than chilling a few feet above them in a bungalow. There are the honeymooners Americans would expect, of course, but this is also a family destination, and, because of its location, it doesn't really have a huge off-season (people fly in from Europe, China, Japan, Korea, Australia, you name it).
This schpeal doesn't have a conclusive remark I'm leading to, I just have found the many different reasons people make their way to the Maldives were completely at odds with the "strictly honeymoon destination" assumption I came into this country with, and I think it's valuable info for anyone planning to come. You absolutely want to make sure you pick an island with the right vibe and crowd that suits your preference!
*Thank you to Kuramathi for sponsoring this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions remain our own.