I have a problem with paradise - I don't really like it. If you were to plonk me on a beautiful tropical island, sun lounge under my back, pool at my feet, palm trees above me, cocktail with umbrella in my hand ... I'd be bored within an hour.
There's a popular notion that this is what paradise looks like. That if you were to die and go to whatever heaven is, you'd find palm trees and a horizon pool.
People spend a lot of money trying to recreate this on Earth, jetting off to places like Tahiti, Vanuatu and Thailand, booking secluded beach shacks and whiling away weeks doing nothing but slowly getting browner. Each to their own, of course - but that bores me to tears.
Here's my first problem with paradise: sunburn. Having been blessed with an almost translucent English complexion, I start to feel the tingling burn within a few minutes of standing in the sun. Sunscreen helps, but unless I follow a strict schedule of reapplication, I'll end up peeling great hunks of myself off for the next week or so. The sun and I are no friends.
My major problem, though, is my short attention span. I just can't stand doing the same thing over and over again. That's why that first hour in front of the pool would be bliss, the second kind of interesting, the third OK (as long as I had a fresh cocktail) and by lunch I'd be ready to do something else. A whole two-week holiday doing that? Not my idea of a good time.
There just doesn't seem to be anything to do in paradise. Paradise doesn't have an art gallery, or any nice restaurants, or a dingy bar that stays open late. It doesn't have any theatres, or beautiful buildings or historical monuments; just a bunch of palm trees and some sand.
I found paradise once and I left within 24 hours. I was travelling through Thailand with my brother, and after a few nights in a Bangkok hellhole, we'd decided it was time for the good stuff.
Travelling down to Koh Pha-Ngan, an island in the Gulf of Thailand famous for its full moon parties, we decided to avoid the touristy madness of Hat Rin and instead head to a group of bungalows on a secluded beach on the island's east.
It was perfect. We had a beach almost to ourselves, hammocks swaying out the front of our bungalows, Chang beers on ice at the little beachside bar and nothing to distract us. Nothing.
It became apparent within about two hours that sharing paradise with your brother is not nearly as much fun as sharing a lesser version of it with thousands of promiscuous backpackers. So we packed up the next morning and headed to Hat Rin.
Five days there, however, and I was going mad again. It was like Groundhog Day. Get up, bump head on ridiculously low toilet door, eat, lie in shady area near beach, eat again, begin drinking, talk to other backpackers, drink more, go back to bungalow, bump head on ridiculously low toilet door, go to sleep. I couldn't wait to leave.
Paradise, of course, is a subjective notion. Everyone has their own version and it doesn't have to include the traditional notion of a day spa and a Swedish massage. I, apparently, just need constant stimulation and some shade.
I've found a few places I would truly call paradise. I could stay forever in a little town called Mougins, near the French Riviera. Set on a hilltop, it's full of cobblestone alleyways leading to Michelin-starred restaurants, small patisseries and local art galleries - all sans the fake-tan glam of nearby Cannes and Nice.
San Sebastian, just around the corner in Spain, is also the ultimate destination for all of the same reasons, plus about 100 tiny bars that serve the best food in the world on wooden skewers.
Hanoi is paradise to me - a honking, screeching, bustling, smelly paradise. Some might disagree but I'd like to think you can get noodle soup, fresh coffee and $2 Ray-Ban rip-offs in paradise.
I'd even rate the Serengeti as pretty close to my version of heaven.
The landscapes are incredible, and there's a real buzz of adventure as you cruise around in an open-top jeep surveying the plains. And after all, nothing gives paradise that extra edge like the ever-present threat of being mauled by a large animal.
Just as long as there's plenty of shade.