They say the grass is always greener on the other side, but I think when it comes to Ibiza’s sister isle, Formentera, it’s a case of the water is always bluer (yes, that’s a word – I checked). I’m telling you this from experience, as I sit here gazing out over the crystal clear Mediterranean Sea, looking towards Ibiza. The water in Formentera is indeed a different shade of blue than it is at home – that’s not to say it’s better by any means, but if there’s one thing in this life I know for sure, it’s that an island-hop across from one beloved Balearic to another is exactly what you need to make everything a-ok.
When you’re living and working in Ibiza, sometimes it can feel like there’s never a good time to get away in the summer. Formentera is just a 30-minute ferry ride away (and lucky residents receive 75% off the price too, making it even more appealing), and yet so many of us put it off, waiting for the right time, waiting for the right weather, waiting until we’re not busy, waiting until our visiting friends are here, waiting for some kind of occasion. For example, I waited until I needed to visit the island for work – for research purposes, obvs – and the minute I arrived on the island, I realised (as always!) I had waited far too long. I could have been here so many times up until now and now the season is almost over (disclaimer: that’s what locals think, not tourists so stay calm!).
It’s funny, how in our heads we think that going to Formentera is such a big deal, when in reality, it’s less of a journey than many daily commuters take just to get to work. And there’s just something about that little trip across the sea that can completely change your mindset – a weight just drops off your shoulders the second the boat leaves the dock. It’s almost like a phenomenon… the closer and closer we (and when I say we, I mean we the collective of Ibiza dwellers) get to Espalmador, and then the port of La Savina, the less and less we feel tense, worried, stressed, tired, negative. It’s like the air is different over there. Just like the grass is greener and the water bluer, the air is, well, airier. But, as I told you already, we are here to work so it’s not like I am able to switch my phone off and leave my laptop in the hotel safe (oh I do dream of those days), but I still feel a little like I’m on holiday from my normal life.
As we roam around the island – again, all in the name of research – and get to know more of its places and people (ohhhh Formentera people, how I love you), we become these kind of relaxed versions of our Ibiza selves. On the beaches, our photographer suddenly strips to almost nothing and swans around doing her job – and doing her job very well, mind you – in an itsy bitsy teeny weenie bikini. We stop the car on the salt flats just to breathe in and enjoy the moment (something I’m sure must drive Formentera locals insane – sorry!) in between shoots. We drink beer when we’re thirsty (disclaimer number two: that wasn’t me, I was driving safely). We collect shells on the beach. We try on every single straw hat in every single little supermarket and buy tie-dyed dresses from the market and quirky Formentera fridge magnets.
I catch a look at us in our (very typical of most tourists in Formentera) little hired Fiat Panda – sun-kissed faces, sunburnt shoulders (and backs of knees – ouch), bags full of tat in the back and Bob Marley on the radio and I think, who ARE these girls? They are definitely not the same two people who got on the ferry and satin silence as they used their mobile phones as laptop hotspots so they could keep up with emails on-the-go. And it hasn’t even been 48 hours yet.
People talk about Ibiza possessing an energy, and I can’t help but think Formentera does too. For us, it’s the yin to Ibiza’s yang – it’s a calming, blissful, soothing kind of energy. Like a year-long meditation in the course of a 30-minute boat ride. I can’t help but wonder – do the Formentera locals judge us for being this way? Do they look at us with disdain? Do they know how much we love their beautiful island, what a high esteem we hold it in, how we envy them their lives in paradise? Are they feeling the way we do in Ibiza, as their island is overrun by hire cars and mopeds, just counting down the months to winter? Do they share our joy in their island life, or does the grass seem greener to them in Ibiza (hmm, or perhaps Menorca)?
That’s when it hit me. This life, that I’m living right now in Formentera – the writer dashing all over a beautiful Mediterranean island, writing about all the best restaurants and beaches, learning the island folklore, meeting cool people and (gasp!) having FUN while she does it – this is the life that most people imagine I’m living in Ibiza. And I think to myself: why is it only like this for me in Formentera? Why can’t I have this life in Ibiza too (disclaimer number three: not saying my life is bad in Ibiza, it’s just not quite as laidback)? Essentially the work is the same. The hours are the same. The climate is the same. Why is it that I can’t try on silly straw hats, buy clothes from roadside supermarkets and blast reggae from my car in Ibiza?
It’s a tale of two islands… they’re just not the same. The people are not the same. Life is not the same. And maybe, that’s what makes these trips to Formentera so precious to me. If I was to move to the island (and believe me, I’ve thought about it A LOT), would it all start to lose the magic? Would the grass start to look greener in Ibiza? Or would I start to look further afield for green grass, blue water and airy air? As we sit here in the port right now, waiting to board the ferry back home to Ibiza, I’m reminded of my all-time favourite movie, and that moment when Dorothy has a moment of clarity when she’s back in Kansas after her trip to Oz. “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” I love you Formentera, but there’s no place like home…