We’re bobbing along on the bright turquoise waters surrounding Koh Phi Phi, on a double story party boat. The rest of my tour group is standing waist deep in water a few hundred yards away, looking at monkeys. I am not looking at monkeys because my foot is a) the size of a coconut, and b) purple. Fortunately, an explanation of that isn’t relevant to this story.
With everyone else off having a nature moment, ‘we’ is myself, our Contiki Tour Manager, who we’ll call Adam, and the German tour operator who runs the island cruises. We’ll call him Franz, because I’ve forgotten his name. It’s a glorious day. I can’t hear anything except the breeze, a few birds, and the gentle lap of the sea against the side of the boat. We’re in paradise, and I am fully confident that this afternoon could not possibly get better.
Then Adam does what Adam does best.
“So Franz,” he says, “You’re from Germany originally?”
Franz smiles, and nods.
“So what’s your story?” Adam asks. “What brought you to Koh Phi Phi?”
Franz looks thoughtful, and as serious as a long-haired island dweller wearing swimming trunks and no shoes in his place of work possibly can.
“Vel” he says, with complete sincerity, “Von day I voke up, and I realized zat I vas very unhappy. Und zen I looked at everyvon else around me und I sought: zese people are also very unhappy. Und zen I sought to myself: vel. Zis is a bit shit.”
By now, Adam and I are hooked. Franz goes on, staring out contentedly at the horizon.
“So zen I vent on Google und I googled ‘vere are zee happy people?’ Und Google told me Thailand, island of smiles! So I bought a ticket und I come here for a holiday. Und zee people actually vere so happy, und I also vas happy! Und zen, ven my holiday vas over und I vas standing in zee airport, I began feeling sad. Zen I sought to myself: Franz, you fucking idiot. You came all zis vay to find zee happy people, und now you go all zee way back to zee sad people?”
He tears his eyes away from the shoreline and beams at Adam and I, like a sun-tanned, board-short-wearing Buddha.
“So I sought, I vant to stay vere zee happy people are! So now I live here, in Koh Phi Phi.”
After a pause, he adds (completely unnecessarily, because it is so wildly obvious), “vere I also am vone of zee happy people.”
Franz looks happily from me to Adam. I don’t think either of us quite know what to say in the face of this incredibly pure, simple philosophy. But of the three of us, I’d say there’s definitely one that’s got life figured out right.
And his name might not be Franz – but it’s definitely something German.