An unassuming fishing village was all it was, tucked away neatly on the French Riviera 100km east of Marseille.
But rumours of this modest coastal town on the Mediterranean had spread, and shortly after its liberation from WWII – of which it was the first of its coastal neighbours to accomplish – Saint-Tropez had gained an illustrious name for itself: the ‘it’ destination… especially for a particular class of rich European sailors.
These rumours had reached my ears, too, so when I arrived to Saint-Tropez on a sunny June afternoon, I wasn’t surprised to find the Rolex-branded sailboat race ensuing on the bay. Artists displayed their colourful interpretations of the very harbour at its boardwalk while tourists dressed in all white and stripes, collars and black-out shades to complete their sail day look, filled all the empty spaces. Sailboats of many sizes, shapes, and degrees sat neatly in the waters of the St. Tropez harbour.
But – perhaps to my untrained eye – St. Tropez appeared to be what it was previously considered as: an unassuming fishing village. Had it not been for the particularly well-dressed and well-to-do inhabitants, I would never have guessed I was in the illustrious, renowned Saint-Tropez I’d heard of for so long.
It was, in retrospect, the unassuming, modest nature of the place that lent to its true beauty, not its obviously upper-class prestige I’d fantasized over based on the rumours I’d heard. The narrow winding streets and the faded colors of the architecture, which was charmingly dazzled up with green growing vines sprouting purple flowers, made it an interesting place, indeed, but also confused me to no ends – is this really the Saint-Tropez I’d heard of for so long?
I was, indeed, in the Saint-Tropez, France. Once the realization of the reality of the place settled in, I breathed in the air of the place and challenged myself to ignore the previous notions I’d heard. After all, if there was one thing I’d realized during my six months abroad when it comes to taking travel advice? People aren’t always right.
As humans, we give advice based on our own experience of a particular thing, person, or place, not always realizing that our experience is unique, perhaps not repeatable, and therefore our advice may not be particularly accurate. It’s an important lesson we all must learn at some point or another. We can take advice, but we’ll never really know until we do it for ourselves. That’s life, isn’t it?
C’est la vie.
It’s still the unexpected surprises – both in travel and in life – that come as the most satisfying, and it’s still the long-anticipated, hyped-up letdowns that disappoint the most. What I’ve discovered, therefore, which is applicable both in travel and in life, is to have low expectations, unless of course no expectations is an option.
Opting to be perpetually impressed over perpetually disheartened and disappointed is simple: lower your expectations.
After all, your perception is your reality. And even though my initial perception of Saint-Tropez was a disappointed one, due to the fact that it didn’t rise up to my pre-conceived notions which were based on ideas far from fact, I see now that Saint-Tropez is actually very beautiful in all of its unassuming ways.
For the sailors out their betting their dreams and wishes on Saint-Tropez, I won’t dare begin to lead you astray from the lofty and vibrant images that surely fill your minds. Besides, I’m no sailor… And maybe Saint-Tropez is indeed the place to accomplish some sailing dreams out on its bay.
But, if you end up initially disappointed like me, you can always say the words that make us feel better in these disappointing situations, with just enough sailor flare to match the occasion.
S’ai lor vie.