The North Shore on the South Coast
When I landed in Phuket, Thailand in mid-September, I felt a ridiculous urge to beg the pilot to turn around and fly me back to Bangkok or Singapore – anywhere but this island paradise that was currently being hammered by a monsoon.
I patted myself on the back, sarcastically congratulating myself for looking up rainy season in Thailand before leaving on vacation.
Despite the rain, and the miserable mood it had put me in, I found myself staring at the ocean from my hotel balcony, watching as the waves crashed on the shore and the rain clouds blew away, leaving the evening beach dark yet somewhat inviting.
Karon Beach was quiet compared to how it would be in a few months’ time. There were a few Australian couples, and the mandatory backpacker or two hanging around. Other than that though, there weren’t many people in the small town. The beach umbrellas were packed away, and the recliners were folded up, tied down to be spared from the winds blowing off the Indian Ocean. I had a quick dinner in a deserted Italian restaurant, and then meandered down to the beach.
The wind was strong, but warm. The sand was strange compared to other beaches I’d been to; it squeaked as I walked down the shore, and felt fine under my feet. It was the deafening roar of the ocean that got to me though. Despite how chaotic it sounded, there was something about that constant thunder that was soothing. I hadn’t heard that sound in a long time. Ten years, to be precise.
I grew up in a small town in Northern Ontario, Marathon. When I was in grade 10, my family moved to Southern Ontario. I went from Brockville to Ottawa for university, and then began to teach in Asia a week after graduating. I currently call South Korea home, but I now have “homes” scattered around the globe. Seoul. Tokyo. Ottawa. Brockville. Small towns in Wales. And of course, Marathon. They’re all home to me, for different reasons. But only one of them calls out to me when I think of nature and untamed wilderness.
In the last few weeks living in Marathon, I spent a lot of time walking up and down the rocky shores of Lake Superior, soaking it all in. Even now, I close my eyes and I can remember every beach, the shape of the shore, the colour of the rocks. But mostly, I remember the sound of the lake. The steady rumble being the only sound I’d hear for miles around was soothing, and often would put me to sleep, still able to hear it from my house no more than a kilometre away.
While I might have been miserable arriving in Thailand to find the weather so bad, in the end I was happy. Happier than I’d been in a long while. I sat on the beach, letting the waves wash over my feet, noticing that it was much warmer than Superior had ever been. I let myself get carried away with my thoughts. I thought about my friends that I’d left behind when I moved, the ones I kept in touch with and the people I had long forgotten. I never returned to my hometown. There had never been the time or money. Plus, I was always afraid that things might have changed so much that it would ruin any memories I decided to keep of my childhood. I wondered how many stayed in Marathon, or the area, and how many moved on. I thought of my life in South Korea, and how different it was to the future I had planned for myself when I was a child. It wasn’t until the sun had sunk well past the horizon that I finally made my way back to the hotel, booking myself into a few tours around the island, despite the weather.
As I crawled into bed, I could hear the ocean still roaring in the distance. I smiled as I fell asleep to nature’s best sound machine, feeling like I was 15 again. It might not have been the sun-filled vacation I had wanted. Instead, it was the vacation I needed.