What’s in a Getaway? I travel 36 hours to the Mentawai Islands to find out.
Your weekend getaway. The perfect island getaway.
Blah blah blah getaway.
In the vacation world, the word getaway is synonymous with a successful retreat from everyday life. But this word is everywhere. Every travel brochure, every Instagram caption and every cruise advertisement. Are that many people really “getting away” from it all? And what does it even mean to “get away”? Get away from what? Your obligations? That’s any holiday. To get away from each other? That’s something entirely different.
What does it actually mean to get away?
Well, I’ve decided to find out.
For starters, this idea of getting far, far away entered my head as I sat on the top deck of the Mentawai Fast Ferry, clinging to a railing as the boat raced over waves in a less-than-graceful manner. Two hours into this unpleasant boat ride, I was beginning to wonder what I was doing there. Why had I flown halfway across the world to Indonesia, hopped another two flights to Padang, and signed up for four hours on a vomit-inducing boat, all to get to the Mentawai Islands? Up until four months ago I’d have said MentaWHAT?! (Give me the dad joke, I beg of you.)
But why this place far, far away? There are islands VERY close to my home in Portugal. There are islands easily accessible by bridges. There are islands you can reach with a simple, calm canoe trip.
“Why am I here?”
I thought, as the skies opened up to pour down buckets of rain on the top deck of the ferry, sending me to cuddle with a few locals on the covered deck below.
These thoughts didn’t come with disdain for the situation. In actuality, I was downright excited to get to the Mentawais, a secluded cluster of islands known for world-class surfing and complete relaxation. But apart from those two traits, I will happily admit I didn’t know much about these islands, except that they seem to be a coveted getaway. So when the opportunity to see them landed in my lap, I jumped at the chance to have my ideal, Indonesian getaway.
As the ferry approached the first stop, my eyes settled on lush green forests dotted with small, thatched-roof huts. Untouched beaches lined the coasts of several small islands, and a cluster of people calmly waited for the boat’s arrival at the makeshift port (aka a strip of cement).
A few locals lighter, and a few surfers heavier, the ferry pulled away from the port an hour later and headed straight for Tua Pejat, our disembarkation point, but not the destination. As we hauled our ragged, seasick bodies off the ferry, a tall, warm body approached my boyfriend, Kris and I, and kindly asked, “Are you here for the Awera resort?” This guy, Abdul, plays an excellent game of spot-the-tourist, though I will say my red hair and incredibly pasty skin boosted his odds considerably. Abdul graciously took my backpack as we collected the rest of our bags and headed towards another boat. Gingerly, I stepped into the wooden boat branded with a very friendly name: Awera Resort. This was a boat I didn’t mind boarding. This boat was the final piece of my travel puzzle, 36 hours in the making. And seven minutes later (Abdul explained, “It’s a short ride. Only seven minutes.” He used to be a teacher, can you tell?), we rounded the corner of Awera island and laid eyes upon my getaway.
A perfect, lengthy stretch of bright white sand, cushioned the foundations of a few deep wooden buildings with thatched roofs. White linens blew in the wind, cascading out of villa windows, dancing towards the sea. A deep blue pool captured my attention, sitting atop the beach and my new favorite letters:
As we hopped down from the boat into the shallow, crystal clear water, we were ushered onto the shore, handed a fresh (chilled) coconut, and introduced to the people and grounds of this particular resort. I’ll take this moment to say that when I hear the word “resort” I think of all-inclusive mega-hotels with swim up bars. This particular resort is eight villas. Eight. And while I’m sure Arif, one of the friendly servers, would definitely shuttle a beer to the pool for me, there is indeed no swim-up bar, and no alcohol besides beer, thanks to the corrupt local police force. In essence, Awera challenges my pre-conceived ideas about resorts. And I think this is completely intentional.
Because a getaway is no ordinary thing to check off your to-do list. It can’t be accomplished with an app, and an Uber can’t take you there. It requires planning, money (but not necessarily tons), and time. And therein lies the key.
In my opinion, a getaway shouldn’t be crammed into a five-day break from work, or a measly 48-hour window. I know life happens, and some people can’t finagle as much free time, but a place like Awera doesn’t exist in 48-hour windows. It doesn’t revolve around detailed schedules. And except for the morning surf sessions, it certainly cannot be rushed. There’s a partnership with the land here that feels almost sacred. Like if I can just sit still in the midst of the lush, green forest path, I’ll be rewarded with something spectacular or, better yet, a few moments of utter quiet.
And it’s only now that I see every piece of my journey here, all 36 hours of it, led to the blissful feeling of stillness, as I walked down to the empty, white-sand beach to stick my toes in the water at sunset.
They say the journey is the destination. And in the case of a getaway, I can confirm that the journey is worth the destination.