Book Review: “The Last Resort”

Terri Schlichenmeyer leaves her review of “The Last Resort: Chronicle of Paradise, Profit, and Peril at the Beach” by Sarah Stodola.

Your suitcases are ready.

Yes, you are heading for five days of sun, sea and sand. Morning swims in the ocean, flip-flops and small grains of beach in the sheets every evening. But you don’t care, you will be on VACATION. However, you might want to check first: read Sarah Stodola’s “The Last Resort” to be sure your place will be there.

About thirteen years ago, nursing the wounds of a brutal breakup, Sarah Stodola headed for what turned out to be the balm her soul needed: a semi-isolated beach on a peninsula in Thailand. She swam in warm waters near white sand that was often nearly empty. She drank island beers with new friends. She came home refreshed and looking with new eyes at why we love going on beach vacations.

It wasn’t always like that.

A few hundred years ago – Greeks and Romans notwithstanding – most Europeans feared the ocean, perhaps viewing it as a powerful force rather than a relaxing foam. Marine explorers changed this and in the second half of the 1500s wealthy Europeans flocked to ‘spa towns’ as a retreat. 18th century physicians recommended bathing in the sea to their patients, and huts and resorts on an ocean beach became the perfect place.

It still does, says Stodola. You can be pampered and prepared on any of the beaches to play on: Monte Carlo, a getaway that began because of the shrewd wife of a broke prince; Hawaii, whose shores require constant work; Fiji, which exists in part thanks to a former US Air Force base; Nicaragua, which is struggling to attract visitors; Tulum, whose stations are not connected to the electricity network or the sewers. These places promise guests the sun, fun and sand they want, but they also have one other thing in common: Like so many other resorts around the world, Stodola says, they could “disappear in a few decades.” .

So you’re thinking of investing a lot of money in hotels, now that traveling is possible again? You might want to read “The Last Resort” first and think about this idea.

It’s a fact that author Sarah Stodola’s descriptions of the many beaches she visited while researching this book make you want to drop everything you’re doing and head for the airport. …but pay close attention to what else she says about sand and sun. Stodola takes readers past palm trees and marble floors, onto a back verandah to see what’s wrong with the environment around the resorts we love to visit, why near-constant maintenance is needed today and why things haven’t gotten better. It’s like bending over to sniff a lush island flower, only to find it’s artificial.

With an appeal to globetrotters, wheelchair travelers and environmentalists, “The Last Resort” is also full of warnings for business people with spare cash. If you need to know more about your next investment or getaway hotspot, this book has it in the bag.

“The Last Resort: A Chronicle of Paradise, Profit and Peril at the Beach” by Sarah Stodola

circa 2022, Ecco $27.99 352 pages

About Brad S. Fulton

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