Don't dare to be different
In a few weeks' time I'm going to Bali. Canggu and Ubud. I'm going to do yoga and meditation. I'm going to drink Bintangs. I'm going to eat acai bowls. I'm going to take photos of frangipanis floating in hotel pools and post them to Instagram and hashtag bliss. I'm going to say hello, goodbye and thank you in Bahasa because they are the only words I know. Basically, I'm going to be a massive cliché.
We're often warned against clichés, particularly those of the travel variety. Those who prefer an off-the-beaten-track experience roll their eyes at the line to see the Mona Lisa or the price of tickets to the Moulin Rouge. They scoff at people who take bus tours and wear bum bags. But the fact is that in life, in home or abroad, clichés are pretty hard to avoid.
You can be a cliché as person - the actress slash waitress, the long blonde haired surfer or the Australian in Bali. You can speak in clichés, not judging books by their cover and telling people it's better safe than sorry. You can be a business cliché simply by using the phrase 'moving forward'. You can even be a cliché grabbing a coffee down the street if you're dressed in activewear and have a swinging blonde ponytail or a tiny dog. What about the 30-something white female columnist? Hello!
Being a fiction writer, clichés are something I was told to avoid as soon as I started learning about the craft. Chosen ones and love triangles are done to death (a cliché in itself) and if you pitch a novel about a vampire then agents are likely to blacklist you.
Really, if you want to live in any kind of conventional way it's almost impossible for your entire life to not sound like a bit of a cliché. How about the girl who finishes school, goes off on a gap year around Europe, gets married, buys a home, has a dog and 2.5 kids? It's a total cliché. It's also just life.
And actually, even being alternative is now becoming cliché. The 'Van Life' phenomenon of people deciding to live a nomadic lifestyle on the road has become so cliché it's openly mocked.
But here's the thing about clichés: they're called that because they're true. Because they're popular. Because we like them. People enjoy doing yoga in Bali. Actresses often need second jobs to make a living. You really shouldn't judge a book by its cover. And who doesn't secretly want to read about a love triangle between an orphaned chosen one and two hot vampires? Admit it.
Of course, some clichés can be damaging. Those about femininity and masculinity, about mental health, race and religion for starters. But in a world where things feel seemingly less certain by the day, sometimes it’s nice to embrace the warmth of a familiar, harmless bit of trite in our lives. Sometimes I think we should stop feeling embarrassed and just embrace the cliché.
Okay, you might not learn anything new about the culture of the country you're visiting. You might be able to guess how a book will end. You might be mocked by people who pride themselves on getting off-the-beaten-track. But you can indulge in a post yoga Bintang by the pool in Bali and really, what's so bad about that?