‘There isn’t a word yet, for old friends who’ve just met…’ so goes the lyrics to one of my favourite songs I’m Going To Go Back There Someday, written by Paul Williams and made famous in the children’s TV show, ‘The Muppets’ in 1979. It’s a beautiful and poignant song but, in January 2016, the words took on a new and very special meaning. I was travelling to a place called Sun Park, a resort situated in Playa Blanca on the south coast of the island of Lanzarote, at the behest of an old and very dear friend. “This won’t be an ordinary holiday experience” he said, “it will be a life experience!”.
I was travelling alone and really didn’t know what to expect. I had never visited Lanzarote and knew very little about the island, let alone the resort of Playa Blanca. On the journey I was filled with mixed emotions. I was excited, but also a little apprehensive. After all, I knew nobody there. Would I fit in? Would I make friends? Or, would I end up spending most of the time on my own? How could a short winter break be the life-affirming experience my friend had suggested?
All of my concerns vanished the moment I walked through the main doors that Friday morning. The atmosphere was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Everyone was so friendly. The complete opposite of what you would find in most cities and towns across the UK. Literally, within minutes, I was sitting on the main terrace drinking coffee and chatting with some of the guests and members.
After I settled into my apartment, I took a stroll around the complex and was amazed to find that, almost without exception, everyone I passed said hello and engaged in conversation. One lady and her husband, who were both sitting on their terrace enjoying the last of the afternoon sun, invited me to join them for a cup of tea or glass of red wine. I happily accepted and within minutes, several other people passing by joined us. As the sun set, I sat chatting and laughing with people I didn’t know but who felt like old friends. Before I knew it, over an hour and a half had passed.
As I left, I became aware that I felt happy. There is something energising about spending time relaxing with new friends. Sharing thoughts and experiences. Even though these people had been complete strangers just a few hours earlier, in the short time, I felt a connection with them. And this connection with them and others I met on the resort, grew over the following days. Every day, there are all kinds of activities going on throughout the day and into the evening, many of which are organised by members and guests at no charge. Looking at the activities on the Community Noticeboard made me as giddy as a teenager at summer camp! The choices were endless; from sporting activities including Petanque, Tennis, Cycling, Pilates and Yoga to more intellectual pursuits such as Bridge, Book Club and all kinds of workshops and talks. There were organised trips, hiking, nights out, barbecues, quizzes, movie nights, dance classes and, of course, gardening, painting and creative arts. It’s amazing how much you can fit into one day!
To my delight, Sun Park is ideally situated just a short walk from the sandy beaches, the old town and the new, modern marina. It is safe and secure for all visitors and all the apartments have their own balconies or terraces that look out on beautiful gardens and clear, blue swimming pools.
However, what makes Sun park so magical, so uplifting, is it’s unique atmosphere. There is a community ethos that exudes friendship, trust and generosity of spirit. Imagine a place where you’re treated as a friend by total strangers!
Without doubt, it is the community of people living and holidaying at Sun Park that make the resort so special. An ethos has evolved in which people from all walks of life somehow come together and form new lifelong friendships. It is the ethos – the spirit of the community – that fills every day with activity and purpose and welcomes everyone to join in, participate and contribute to the welfare of the resort and each other.
My friend was right; going to Sun Park was more than a holiday experience; for me it was a transformational life experience that I will always treasure. I had intended to stay for a long weekend, but ended up staying for the best part of three weeks. I discovered that this is not unusual; many people I met had enjoyed their time so much that they extended their stay for three months or more.
Truly, I have never experienced anything like this before. Despite arriving alone, I was made to feel at home and among friends from the very first morning. Within days I had made friends that continue to this day. I took part in walks, talks, games, and a multitude of both physical and spiritual activities. I was welcomed into the arms of a community with an extraordinary ethos. I saw members and guests taking care of the gardens, running honesty bars, offering their time and skills to organise activities, collectively turning a normal holiday resort into a safe, welcoming, inclusive and purposeful home-from-home for anyone over 50 who wants to make a life change or simply to immerse and surround themselves with new challenges and experiences and form new, lasting friendships.
Today, when I think of Sun Park, I think of the final chorus of Paul William’s song:
Part heaven, part space, or have I found my place?
You can just visit, but I plan to stay
I’m going to go back there someday
And, I have gone back… five times since my first visit nearly two years ago. It has become like a second home, a place where I know I’ll always be welcomed by wonderful old friends, some of whom – as the song suggests – I’ve yet to meet.
Adam Jackson is bestselling author of The Ten Secrets series published in over thirty languages. His visit to Sun Park inspired his latest book The Ethos to be published 11th December 2017.
To find out more, visit: www.the-ethos.com or connect with Adam at https://www.facebook.com/adamjohnjackson/