Once, in Railay, Thailand, I was standing at a small booking office just off the beach, getting instructions from a Thai lady about the boat trip that I had organised for a group of friends. She was explaining where it would take us and where we would find the boat – a task more difficult than you might expect as the shore was full of them.
“Boatman wearing blue,” she said. And then she said it again. And several times more, punctuating every other detail we discussed. “Boatman wearing blue.”
Amused, we traipsed off along the beach looking for the blue boatman, but couldn’t see any likely candidates. We looked and looked and just as I was starting to think I’d missed something, a figure came running towards us from a distant corner of the beach. He called my name – this was definitely the guy. He was just wearing black.
Thanks to the sing-song insistence of the booking office lady, “Boatman wearing blue” became the mantra of that holiday. And, in a way, it’s a pretty good allegory for travel – and life.
You can be told again and again that this is how it will be, but when you get there, it’s often quite different. But, even if you don’t find your guide, he’ll more than likely come running towards you along the beach, and you’ll have a lovely day island hopping, even though you keep having to remind yourself to breathe through your snorkel cos you’re pretty zonked on motion sickness tablets that you now regret taking.