For the past few weeks I have been traveling up the east coast of Australia by road. I’ve seen a large chunk of the country’s vast coastline between Melbourne and Townsville (Queensland), thousands of kilometers of gorgeous beach meeting magical undulating blue waves. Each sighting, each beach town large and small, should be a renewed sharp inhalation of breath at the majesty of nature. And yet, I found myself frequently thinking rather dismissively, “Wow…yeah, another beautiful beach.”
I feel that this situation is inevitable when one gets, as the cliché goes, too much of a good thing. One chocolate is a delicious treat; a large box of them is a brutal stomach ache.
It is also largely an issue of perspective. Tourists may pour off of a bus and “ooh” and “aah” over a famous temple, but for the local tour guide who wakes up next to that temple every day, its wondrous charms may have largely become background scenery.
From my current experience with Australia’s gorgeous Pacific coastline, I think the lessons are twofold. First, it is important to always keep that idea of perspective in mind. The slide into lack of appreciation for the coastline prompted me to recall my Uzbek taxi driver of last year. I was instantly filled with regret at dismissing such wondrous sites that many people in the world will never have the opportunity to see, and subsequently filled with gratitude for everything that has led me to be able to enjoy such luxurious wonders.
Second, I feel that this experience is yet more evidence for my view that it is generally better to spend more time in fewer places, rather than the reverse. Experiencing the great Pacific from just two or three Australian coastal towns would make each of those towns more special in memory. Going from one to another, the traveler often realizes that there are many more similarities than differences between such towns. Pick a place or two, go, and enjoy; don’t let the guidebook goad you into trying to see it all.
However, to end on a note of paradox, there is something to be said for a long, languid coastal drive, where the beautiful blue sea does become a regular part of the landscape. If you are going to have a regular background landscape, why not make it such a work of art?