This past weekend I took the trip of a lifetime to the Fiji Islands!!!!! This is by far the most exotic and exciting place I have ever been. It allowed me to disconnect and really be grateful for the life I’ve been living. Fiji is full of wonderful people, a unique culture, and breathtaking sights. I absolutely enjoyed every single second I spent there and wish I had so many more. I still feel like I’m on cloud 9…
I apologize, this blog post is very overdue as I travelled to Fiji March 15th. Also, I tested my video-editing skills, so look out for my video documenting everything I did in Fiji at the end of this post!
My journey to Fiji began on a Thursday night as Alex, Ashley, and I took the 2 hour bus and train ride to the Brisbane International Airport for our flight departing at 11:40pm. This would be our first trip we have done together since being here! The flight from Brisbane to Nadi was only 3 1/2 hours but because it was in middle of the night, our sleep schedules were bound to be messed up. To waste some time after going through security, Alex and I kicked off this vacation with a celebratory glass of wine! Our flight via Fiji Airways was very smooth-sailing. We were given a pillow, blanket and meal while the movie Space Jam featuring Michael Jordan played on the TV screens. I knew it was off to a good start when I was asked if I wanted a drink and they gave me Fiji water and a complimentary glass of wine!
Once arriving in Nadi at about 5:15am, we took a taxi to our resort. We stayed on a man-made island called Denarau Island located just 20 minutes from the main town of Nadi. We drove through the local neighborhoods and had a little glimpse at how Fijians really live and it was quite eye-opening. As we pulled up to our resort, the Westin Denarau Resort and Spa, all I could help thinking was ‘Wow, this is Fiji…I’m really here.’
We spent our first few hours in Fiji sleeping since we got little sleep on the flight, but once we were ready, we explored our resort. We checked out the pool, the restaurants and met some of the Fiji hotel staff who were super friendly. We walked around the island since we had access to a few of the other hotels’ pools and restaurants, too. We watched the breathtaking sunset and walked to Port Denarau for dinner. We watched a fire show and ate at Cardo’s Seafood and Steakhouse right on the water. My food was great and the live music was even better.
After my first day interacting with Fijians, there are a few things I noticed they do differently. The word ‘Bula’ is used an extreme amount of times. Bula is the national greeting that means: hello, how are you, it’s a sunny day, take your time, have a good day, hope you and your extended family are well, play nicely. But sometimes it also can mean: goodbye, buy me a drink, I’m bored, I’m hungry or I’ve run out of conversation…so basically anything and everything can be said with the word ‘bula’. But after spending only a few short days there, Bula just seemed to come naturally. Fiji time is also a very real thing. It’s used to explain everything from unexpected delays to slow restaurant service. Your tour didn’t start on time? Ah, Fiji time. Everyone is extremely laid back and there seems to be not a worry in the world.
We woke up early Saturday morning to take a visit to a local Fijian village. This experience was extremely eye-opening and really made me appreciate the amazing life I have been living. After driving up the mountain (stopping along the way to admire the views), we visited Nausori Village. This village is located inland up in the mountains secluded from any towns. There are about 150 members living in this village and they are very proud that they have a primary school and a nurse in their village. Because of this, they consider themselves lucky. The village also has no electricity and it costs the members $40FJD each way to get to town if need be. This cost is a lot for them and only on special occasions do they get the opportunity to leave. It really put into perspective for me how much I have access to that I take for granted.
Tradition is very important in Fiji and even though we were just guests for a short time, we were required to cover our shoulders and knees before entering the village out of respect. We also had to take off our shoes as we entered any member’s house. We were welcomed into the village with a traditional Kava ceremony. This ceremony meant that we were now a part of the village and would be welcomed back any time. It began with us sitting in a circle on the floor of the warrior’s house. In each village there is a chief, a speaking chief, and a warrior whose responsibilities are passed down generation to generation. The formal ceremony began as the villager ground up the Kava and strained it through a cloth into a large wooden bowl placed in the middle of the room. The men drank first and then the females. Before receiving the Kava you must:
- Clap once
- Yell Bula!
- Drink the Kava
- Clap three times
I didn’t really know what Kava was, but it is extremely disrespectful to deny the drink so I drank it anyways. I though it was basically brown water because that’s what it looked like, but after doing research I found out it is a very mild narcotic and is known to make people feel relaxed. So, I guess that may explain why Fijians are known to be some of the most laid-back people on the planet.
After the ceremony we were given some history of the village, a tour and then helped prepare a lunch for the farewell ceremony. The food we ate was all grown and prepared in the village. The members spread these foods out over the course of a week because it is all they have access to, but we were given it all in one meal. They played music and danced for us as we ate the food in front of them. The children danced and seemed so happy to see our new faces. The whole time I couldn’t help but feel so privileged.
To be totally honest, I did find it difficult differentiating between culture shock and comfort zone in the beginning of the trip. This really helped me put my life into perspective and showed me how fortunate I am. I know it’s so cliche to witness poverty first hand for the first time and to all of a sudden be so grateful and fortunate, but I really do feel like I have learned an extremely important lesson. My problems seemed less dire than I often make them out to be. We worry about what picture to post on Instagram or what people with think if we don’t keep up with the latest fashion trends, but in reality, none of that superficial stuff matters. It has really given me a sense of self and has helped me put a finger on what I really value.
After visiting the village, we made our way back to the resort. I had this guilty feeling going back to our 5-star resort with air-conditioning and room service while I knew there were so many people who will never experience anything similar. I wanted to make the most of my time in Fiji, though, so I made sure to reflect on how I was feeling, but not let it hold me back from my experience. It was my mom’s birthday back at home and while everyone was out to dinner celebrating I was lucky enough to talk to them. It was difficult for me to be anything but sad that I couldn’t be there with them. Later I watched the sunset on the beach and attempted to FaceTime my family, but totally forgot it was 2 o’clock in the morning, so I knew Yarko would be up. He answered and we watched the sunset together while I vented to him my feelings about the day I just experienced. I shared with him the fire show that was happening at our hotel and then we listened to the live music together. He always brings me a sense of comfort and reassures me of any worries I may be having. He, along with my family, are truly the things in life I am most grateful for.
For our last day in Fiji, we decided to take a sailboat to an island. We took a Captain Cook Cruise to Tivua Island. On this island we were able to snorkel, paddle board, take a glass-bottom boat ride, and kayak. The island was lush with palm trees and the water warm with colorful coral and fish. My friends and I kayaked off the island for a little and then I also decided to paddle board. It was really fun and definitely a balancing act, but I got plenty of compliments from others saying I looked like a pro. I think my favorite part of the day was the snorkeling. I saw so many unique fish and beautiful coral that I couldn’t believe I was swimming around. After our time on the island came to an end, we boarded the sailboat and made our way back to the port.
Fiji was a weekend full of sun and fun, literally. I was amazed by all I saw. This weekend exposed me to so many new feelings and emotions that I believe I could’ve only experienced there. This definitely gave me a new outlook on things and inspired me to live my life with that outlook. I am now trying to diminish the importance placed on things like Instagram posts, but place even more importance on the relationships I have with those around me.
If I learned anything in Fiji, it is that no matter how much or how little you have, it’s the people you share your most special moments with that will make you truly happy.