I’m going to let you in on a secret.
There’s an island where you should never, ever go.
It doesn’t have paved roads. There’s faulty electricity. Nothing is open when you want it to be, because stores seem to take lunch breaks for at least two days. You rarely meet another person on the streets, and rarely hear voices from the houses.
It’s so quiet during the day.
And the silence seeps into everything.
On the first night, you will leave your room just as the sun is setting. The wind will push you up to the cliffs where trees are tied with blue silk prayer scarves and tattered kerchiefs. In the dying light, the mainland hills turn an otherworldly blue that stops you in your tracks. The boats below won’t seem to notice how long you stay up there, still and transfixed.
During the day, there’s not much to do except read, write, walk, and rest. Maybe you’ll play chess with a friend, or sit in the banya for a half hour, or take your time with a long meal, or simply go outside and stare at whatever stretches before you.
At night, the stars will come out, the windows of the dark wooden houses will glow with orange light, and the moon will rise thick, massive and bright over the eastern hills.
You’ll find yourself going for walks, long ambling strolls, just because your feet pick up and go. You’ll loop around the same streets and you’ll hike up hills to get views over the water. Half-stray dogs will follow you and roll at your feet as you sit on dusty rocks and stare out to the distance.
And you will hear nothing but the wind and the birds.
Even with your friends, though you may stay up until the late hours playing card games, considering ‘Would you rather…?’ riddles, and telling ghost stories, the quiet will get you during the day. You will drink excessive cups of tea while sitting outside on the porch, watching the pets and resident artists nap in the sun.
Your heart will breathe and your body will rest.
The island will stop you and slow you like amber. You’ll lose track of time, of the day you arrived and the day you’re supposed to leave.
And you will feel so at ease, so rested by the calm and arrested by the beauty, so perplexed by this place that barely gets a mention in your guidebook, that other travellers pass over because it’s too far out of the way, that you’ll be tempted to preserve it by keeping it a secret forever.
Because the quiet, and the water, and the cliffs, and the wind, will have turned it into one of your favourite places in the world.
But, of course, some secrets are too good to really keep.
So instead, you will reach a compromise. You will tell your friends about the silence and the scenery and the peace and the calm, but put a massive asterisk at the end.
You will tell them about this place – one of the most awe-inspiring, one of the most surprising – but that it’s an island that they will never, ever want to visit.
Because, if they do, they may never, ever want to leave.