Costa Adeje: Where Western Culture Goes to Die

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An erudite woman once told me that the key to success is low expectations. Generally speaking, I have found this to hold true. It is often the case, that places I would never voluntarily travel to surprise me in wonderful ways. The UAE is a prime example. I didn’t expect anything from this tiny country on a short layover but managed to have a pretty good time hiking Jebal Jais and photographing Arabian oryx near the Empty Quarter. But what happens when your expectations just aren’t low enough?

I thought I knew what I was getting into when I was invited to spend a week in Costa Adeje, a resort area on the south side of Tenerife, part of the Canary Islands. I’ve been to beach towns, and, generally, I don’t like them. From Goa to Denpasar, these are locations that I tolerate more than seek out. But Costa Adeje is its own unique hell.

Despite the daily mantra of travel websites shouting from their bullhorns for us to get off the beaten path, despite an industry peddling “cultural experiences” to the point they have become a cliché, it seems most of us just want to sit on our fat asses and bake in the sun.

I get the impulse. Some people enjoy relaxing, and wasting away in a nine-to-five, soul-crushing job probably doesn’t leave a lot of energy for anything else. The problem isn’t so much the sentiment, as the absolute cultural void that is created.

Costa Adeje may be under Spanish control, but it might as well be the UK. Within just one three hour period the airport of Tenerife South (one of two major airports on the island) received four planes each from London and Manchester; two planes each from Edinburgh and Leicestershire; and one plane each from Leeds, Glasgow, and Birmingham.

If these cities are representative of the UK as a whole, then I can only conclude that the British Isles are experiencing a severe cultural crisis. The ignorance on display here was astounding. Case in point, the fine English gentleman at the Chinese restaurant who thought the mandarin phrase for “good evening,” Wǎnshàng hǎo, was just downright hilarious and couldn’t help but repeat “what the hell” to every person he assumed to be Asian. Just listening to your neighbors’ dinner conversations can really put the Brexit vote into perspective.

And speaking of dinner, it would seem that traditional English cooking has also made its way to Costa Adeje. Did every British chef born before 1970 immigrate to the Canaries? Good luck finding tapas or even a decent glass of sangria. What’s the point of serving respectable fair when you can just deep fry a piece of ham?

There is a scene in the Pixar movie “Wall-E” where the intrepid robot manages to make it to a spaceship with the remnants of planet earth. These humans’ every need is catered to by robots. Consequently, they have grown obese, shuttling around on hover chairs from one pleasure to the next.

I realize that some people have serious disabilities, but the sheer number of scooters with plump Brits scurrying back and forth along the beachfront was truly alarming. After all, the distance from one end to the other wasn’t even a kilometer. Is this truly too far to walk?

What’s disturbing about all of this is that Costa Adeje may just represent the future of the world. Never before has the planet been so wealthy, and while this is a positive advancement, I have never had its flabby consequences thrust so forcefully in my face. In the developed world, we have nearly vanquished the tyranny of necessity only to find ourselves becoming slaves to pleasure. Why make an effort to think when you can simply take another hit of Netflix and stick your face into a bag of Doritos? Digital entertainment and processed foods are the new opium of the masses.

If you are heading to Tenerife, you can escape the brave new world of Costa Adeje. The island does have more to offer than one Euro beer (admittedly, not such a bad thing) and substandard beaches. But how long will it be before the culture of Costa Adeje reaches our own shores? It’s something to consider when our robot overlords are handing out our daily soma rations.

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