Last week, a few of us decided to do a little bit of island hopping around the Balearic Islands. First stop: Ibiza; second stop: Formentera; third stop: Espalmador.
Only about a 30 min flight from Palma (Mallorca), Ibiza Town is no doubt the nightlife capital of the Balearic Islands. It’s a city with island vibes and a heartbeat like Vegas. It’s where world-renouned DJs play at epic open-roofed venues, where everyone pauses every now and then to look in awe overhead at the low-flying planes that jet right over the main stage, where you dance and can feel the damp ocean air, where nights end in sunrises and a walk to the beach.
After a night at Pacha and opening parties at Ushuaïa and Space (the latter two being my favorite), I can’t help but admit that Ibiza lived up to its name.
But while Ibiza was everything it promised and more, one of the surprising highlights of the trip was a quick 30 minute ferry ride to the smaller and lesser known island of Formentera. In stark contrast to its neon-colored neighbor, Formentera is a small, quaint island that runs on island time and leisure. It doesn't have an airport so you can only reach it by boat, and a quick 25 minute drive will get you from one side of the island to the other. The main beach, Ses Iletes, in some parts is a mere 50m wide so that when the wind hits one shore, you simply go to the other side and lay down your towel.
While Formentera may not have the nightlife of Ibiza, it makes up for it in its brilliantly turquoise waters. We spent most of our time beaching at Ses Illetes, and when the water looks like this, how could you blame us.
But the true gem of the trip for me was our adventure to find the salty mud baths hidden on the adjacent island over, Espalmador. Just a mere 150m off the coast of Formentera, Espalmador is a tiny, unspoiled island with pink sand and water so clear it looks like you’re swimming in a pool.
We were told that you could make the journey across from Formentera to Espalmador by wading through the shallow straight between the two islands. So in the spirit of #yolo, we stripped down to our suits, hoisted our backpacks above our heads, and began to wade through the water to Espalmador. It was relatively easy and quick, despite a jellyfish or two spotted, and the water only reaching to about chest high.
Once we got to the shore of Espalmador, we headed towards the north end of Platja de s’Alga (s’Alga beach). After a short walk, a sign directed us to walk inland, away from the water, where we soon found an open salt and mud plain. If I didn’t know any better, I would have taken it to be a big marsh of some sort.
We set down our backpacks, stepped into the gooey mess, and in less time than I thought, the childish urge to play in mud arose, and we quickly found ourselves rubbing this stinking sulphorous muddy mess all over our bodies. It was great.
We were told that in order to maximize the therapeutic benefits, we were supposed to leave the mud on until it dried, about an hour or so, and then rinse it off in the sea for silky smooth skin. So we headed back out to the beach, only about a five minute walk, and lay on the sand to let the mud dry in the sunshine.
After a while, as the mud slowly dried and caked off of our skin, we took turns rinsing off in the ocean, a trail of brown water left in our paths. And it was only then, after I had swum out a ways in the water and stripped down to rinse off my suit that it occurred to me that it’s moments like these that get you thinking how good life is. That get you to think, This is the way it should be. Playing in the mud all afternoon, swimming in the sea, birthday suit in the sunshine...
Now, a little disclosure for my American friends: for those of you who have never lived in Europe, it's not uncommon for people to be in their birthday suit at the beach without so much as a second thought by passerbys. So in the spirit of #yolo, #whenineurope, #zerof**ksgiven, I figured this was as good a time as any for me.
So there I floated, the world quieting to a dull hum as I put my head under the water. A murmur. Inaudible, a warbled joining of sounds morphed into a single bubbled, water-logged buzz. And only then does your mind, your body, begin to relax. To melt. You watch the birds in the sky. Your mind floats above the earth and everything becomes slower, natural.
And maybe it’s because I’m an ocean person, but I think there’s a special kind of calmness we can find at the ocean. An unwinding we can only find at the sea. It’s where worries and preoccupations seem to soften and melt away. Where all of those outer shells, layers of hardened judgements and presuppositions begin to dissolve, and you become lighter, freer. And suddenly all your worries seem kind of silly. You feel a subconscious cocked eyebrow at your daily huffing and puffing, daring you to make a complaint in the midst of this bliss. And you can't. You float there and wait, wait for some negative thought to cross your mind and when it does, you laugh at how insignificant it all is in the big picture. And you realize that this is quite possibly one of the most raw forms of happiness, the kind you feel in your gut and spreads through you like sunshine.
The trip ended atop the cliffs near Cap de Barbaria (lighthouse at the southern tip of the island) on Formentera where we watched the sunset, beer in hand, the sun sinking below the ocean. It’s always in these afternoon golden hours that you start to calm, you accept rather than push. You start to think about all the things that you were too busy to wonder about during the day, and to appreciate the moment you’re in, that somehow here you are, sitting on the cliffs of a Mediterrranean island you didn't even know existed a year earlier. And you realize just how precious and fragile life is and that you get to live it. You get to live in this vibrant, beautifully chaotic world, adding your own beautiful chaos to it.
And so after a week of exploring neighbor islands, after checking Ibiza off the bucket list, wading through the sea all in the name of salty mud baths, swims in crystal clear blue water, and catching the sunset on the cliffs of Formentera, I am only struck by appreciation. Of being able to live this beautiful intricate life, of wondering and exploring and discovering, of savoring happiness in its most raw form. So go out and do cool shit. Smile, adventure, and enjoy the golden moments.
P.s. Stay tuned for Island Hopping Part II blog on my trip to Menorca next week!