Flashback Friday – Fiji Edition

My last international stop back in March was Fiji. I was there for about a month and I truly enjoyed the experience. Fiji is a destination for anyone looking for a tropical getaway.

Fiji is made up for over 300 islands, but only about a third of those islands are inhibited. Pre-COVID, there were daily flights from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Making this somewhat remote destination pretty accessible. Traveling from Australia or New Zealand is a no brainer, typically very affordable, and therefore an ideal holiday stop. It’s further from the States, a direct flight from Los Angeles takes about 10-11 hours, but I still think it’s worth it.

Fiji Time Is Real

This is the ultimate relaxation destination. Everything runs on a no rush/it’s all good mentality. This may be difficult for Type A personalities, but wow it’s an awesome state of mind.

Fijian people are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They are very happy living in their piece of paradise. They are truly happy to help you and will welcome you in with open arms and treat you like family. One of my favorite things they say is, “friends don’t say sorry or thank you.” By this they mean that when you do something for a friend you don’t expect or need to be thanked. Similarly, when something happens between fiends there’s no need to apologize because you’re already forgiven. I thought this was a really beautiful way to approach friendships.

Fijian life is very simple and that’s probably why they are so happy. Less is more and how can you be upset when you’re surrounded by beautiful water, gorgeous sunsets, an abundance of fish, and greenery?

What to Do

Most flights into Fiji will touchdown in Nadi. Nadi is on the mainland, but you should venture out not long after arriving because there’s so much more to see. There are a lot of nice, luxury resorts in Nadi and many people stay at these simply for the comfort. However, by doing so you would be doing yourself a disservice and only seeing a tiny portion of what Fiji has to offer.

One of the most popular ways to spend your Fiji Time is island hoping the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands. I personally think this is a must especially if you are just coming to Fiji for a week. There are daily ferries between the islands and this is the best way to see as much as you can in a relatively laid-back way. I would spend at least two nights (or up to a week on each island) depending on how fast paced you want your vacation to go. Most of these islands include mandatory meal packages with your stay. Some of my favorite islands were Nacula Island, Nanuya Balavu Island, and Wayalailai Island.

View of Maravu Taveuni Lodge’s Pool

Island hoping the Yasawas and Mamanucas is the most popular way of seeing as much as you can in Fiji. Everything is pretty much down to a science and there’s so many package options that take the trip’s planning out of the equation if you want something easy. I personally booked everything directly and I think I got slightly better deals and more flexibility. They accommodate tourists and backpackers very well on these islands as there’s a constant stream of people coming in and out, nether less you’ll be greeted with a big Bula every time you step off the boat. If you are limited to only a week or so and want something more laid back this is the way to go.

If you want go down the road less traveled visiting Taveuni, also known as the Garden Island, is a must! It takes a bit more effort to get here, with your only options being a 16-hour ferry or a domestic flight from Nadi or Suva. Spending your whole vacation in Taveuni still won’t feel like enough time and you’ll want to get back here again. The water is perfect for snorkeling, diving, fishing. There’s lots of day trip options from hiking, waterfalls, or traveling to neighboring islands.

Scuba Diving

If you are interested in diving and the ocean, Fiji is the place for you. I got my scuba PADI certification here and became obsessed. The waters are so warm you can essentially dive all year without a wetsuit. The famous Rainbow Reef is located off of Taveuni and it’s absolutely breathtaking. If you were ever interested in trying scuba diving Fiji is the perfect place. Many resorts/dive shops do introductory dives without needing certification.

Fiji should be on everyone’s Bucket Lists. It’s a gorgeous destination and you’ll feel invigorated after experiencing Fiji Time for yourself.

How to Travel During Quarantine

One of the worst parts of the COVID-19, quarantine, and everything else that’s going on in the world is the feeling of helplessness and unknowing. When will life be back to normal? Sadly, nobody can really give us a solid answer. Although, some countries are opening travel up in July is it really safe yet? It is truly difficult to say and we just have to see how it goes. There aren’t many things we can control in life, but we can control our reactions to situations. That being said I didn’t handle coming back stateside too well. If things had gone as planned I would be leaving Thailand right now, spending a month in Europe with two of my best friends, seeing Taylor Swift perform, and then heading to the Olympics in Japan. Clearly not the case as I’m writing this blog post in my childhood bedroom.

There are a couple of ways you can get your travel fill during quarantine:

Pictures

Take this time to relive your past travel memories by going through photos you’ve taken. Maybe clean out duplicates, take extra time to edit, etc. I know I can take 10+ pictures of the same thing and I always intend on going back through them, but while traveling that usually doesn’t happen. This was my biggest task as I went through my iPhone’s camera roll as well as my laptop’s. It’s time consuming and tedious, but my storage thanked me for it and now it’s more enjoyable looking through pictures I actually like.

I’ve already established I take a lot of pictures and most of them will forever stay digital, however, I wanted to take my all time favorite travel pics from the last 10 years and compile them in an album. This was a huge task and I’m still working on it, but every picture I’ve printed brings me so much joy. It’s okay not to rush projects just to get them done. Enjoy the process because you have the time during quarantine. The album I’m using I bought in Italy back in 2012(!) and it’s just been sitting my bookcase waiting to be loved.

Social Media

Unfortunately, this hasn’t been a time of unplugging for me. Get your travel fix from travel Instagram accounts, hashtags, and travel related Facebook groups. Be warned these can be a major time suck so give yourself some time limits.

Travel blogs are also a major source of information and a way to transport yourself in someone’s shoes. It’s always interesting reading other people’s experiences and their first hand advice. I’ve recently started re-reading my previous blog posts too. It’s been a fun way to relive my last few months pre-Corona and also sneak in some edits.

Create Bucket Lists

My bucket list is an endless list of countries in my head, but I’ve never actually written one out. I’ve taken this time to start researching future destinations. My “go with the flow” travel style won’t change because that’s just what I enjoy most, but actually doing the research and making lists is giving me something to look forward to. One of my friends gifted me Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel book a couple of years ago and each day I go through a handful of destinations whilst drinking Trader Joe’s Moroccan Green Tea. Ahhh the simple things.

Books

A good book transports you into a story and reading a book set in a different country ideally should do that too. There’s some great Global Reading Challenges posted by Tale Away from 2018 to today of books from around the globe.

Explore Local

It’s a small step, but will get you out of the house and maybe appreciate your town/city/state more. Once travel restrictions are lifted further, travel domestically to a new area of your country before hoping on that international flight. I’m sure you will find some hidden gems that will make you appreciate your home country more.

Miscellaneous

I made a smoothie bowl with dragon fruit (pitaya)!

Do little things that remind you of traveling. Are there some songs that just transport you to a destination? Put them on and your mood will instantly lift. Wishing you were in Thailand (I’m suppose to be there right now, have I mentioned that) go get yourself some local Thai food – and not just Pad Thai. It won’t be quite the same, but it’s a step in the right direction. Lots of supermarkets also have global food sections so you can get some international snacks. If you wish you were in a tropical destination buy some fruit you normally wouldn’t – pineapple, mango, dragonfruit, passion fruit, papaya, etc. Shopping isn’t always the answer, but I ordered two puzzles from Australia that I know will bring me so much happiness when they arrive.

The main thing right now is to stay healthy and hope that everything else will fall into place. I’m anxiously awaiting being able to travel again so I’m framing it as long-term trip planning.

Why I Stopped Traveling?

As if I really had a choice.

It has been a stressful, exhausting few months to say the least. Rewind to the blissful ignorance the world was in in January. *Insert sarcasm* The good old days right?

COVID-19 was being discussed often on the news in Australia back in January, but it seemed like a far off problem and I hate to say it, but it was framed as a China problem on the media outlets their. The country closed off their borders to China and every country in the pacific was screening travelers if they had been to China in the last 14 days. Seems like it could have been enough? In hindsight definitely not. Two main issues besides the now well known facts that many carrier of COVID-19 were asymptomatic: 1. “screening everyone” isn’t actually screening everyone, and 2. people lie. People will lie on those immigration forms (if they are even collected) or travel with a different passport. If someone who was in an infected area wanted to get out there was about two months of a gap where they could do so almost seamlessly. Unfortunately, a lot of that happened and that’s how a lot of people were infected.

Australia pretty much thought they solved the problem in early February when they closed their borders to China. The result was that many people went on with their lives like normal (and perhaps even beyond what they normally would be doing because travel prices had dropped) for 2-3 more month when precautions should have already been made. This led to people being blissfully unaware until all of the sudden Australia decided to immediately shut down their borders to non-citizens on a Friday and to all citizens that following Tuesday.

This caused a panic and price escalation, which was also seen all over the world. People couldn’t get home or didn’t know how to. Within Australia the economy was facing many of the same issues as the the rest of the world – toilet paper shortages, food/pasta shortages, lack of job security, etc. As great of a country Australia is it wasn’t immune to the pitfalls of the global pandemic.

So where did that leave me?

Well I was living it up on an island in Fiji without any service or wifi the Thursday Australia announced they would be closing their borders the following evening at 9pm. When I woke up to the news on Friday morning, it was virtually impossible to make it back by that evening deadline. Well shoot….now what?

The choice became stay in Fiji or go home to the United States. It was a tough one and I really was leaning towards staying in Fiji, and of course the mindset was, “I could stay in this tropical paradise for another month….maybe two, but what if it was longer?” I couldn’t work in Fiji as I was there as tourist, and technically my visa was only valid for another two months. Then the practical reality of the what ifs hit, i.e. what if I did get sick and needed a doctor, the health care options would be an issue.

I made the practical, realistic, adult (blah blah blah) choice of going home for the time being (again hoping and thinking that time would be two months max) and getting back to Australia ASAP. Truth be told I was excited to go home for a bit and spend time with my family, sleep in one place for an extended amount of time, be in the same time zone as a majority of my friends, etc.

How bad could quarantining be?

Quick Update

Taken on a walk around my neighborhood

Hello! 2020 has been wild to say the least right? Not the good kind of wild either. When COVID-19 was at its peak of hysteria I was in Fiji and decided to hit pause on traveling to head back home to the United States. Of course I thought that it would all “blow over.” Well 12 weeks later and there’s still no end in sight unfortunately.

I haven’t been too productive and I should have don’t more with my free time, but I just honestly did not feel like it. I somehow let this travel blog become a book review blog, and that’s just not cool. So I’m writing to say I’m officially back. Stay tuned on more reviews/descriptions of my travels pre-Corona, and I’ll probably also go back further in time and talk about the other destinations I’ve traveled to in the past.

Book Review 18: Worth Fighting For

The book exchange at the Novotel in Suva provided me with Worth Fighting For by Mary-Anne O’Connor. This book takes place during World War II, but rather than touching upon Europe it focuses on the war in the pacific (Pearl Harbor, Australia, etc.). I really liked O’Connor’s writing. The story was well told and the characters developed in a way that you really felt they were real. 

To me it was fascinating reading a story from this wartime period from this perspective/location. I had no idea the extent of the war in Australia because we’re only taught extensively about the war’s impact in Europe. In the Author’s Acknowledgements at the end O’Connor tells us that although the story and characters are fictional many things in the plot really did happen or were drawn from historical facts. This made me like the story even more.  

I recommend this novel if especially if you like historical fiction books – the story was lovely. 

Goodreads’ Synopsis

From Darwin to Pearl Harbour, Sydney to Papua New Guinea, a compelling story of courage, honour and a great love set against the epic backdrop of the Second World War

Eighteen-year-old Junie Wallace is a smart girl and, with her two brothers away at war and her third brother just killed in action, she knows there is only one way to save the family farm for her grieving parents. Unfortunately, that solution involves marrying the unscrupulous Ernest, and breaking the heart of the young drover she loves, Michael. 

But the war is looming ever closer, and when Pearl Harbour brings the threat of Japanese aggression to Australian shores, the fates of many becomes inextricably interwoven.

From the explosive battles of the Pacific campaign to the desperate fighting in the Papuan New Guinea rainforest; the dancehall gaiety of Sydney’s Trocadero to the terror of the Darwin bombings, this epic family saga brings home the importance of mateship and of fighting for what you believe in, even when impossible odds seem stacked against you, even when all seems lost…

Worth Fighting For is a resounding testament to the enduring force of love: a reminder of what can be achieved if you draw on your reserves of courage and listen to the truth in your heart.”

Book Review 17: Toys

The bookshelf at Beachouse had moths fly out…literally. When you moved a book you also moved the moths and the book selection was equally sparse. My only option was Toys by James Patterson and Neil McMahon. I never thought I would find myself reading a James Patterson novel, but here I was. Even more surprising though I really enjoyed it. It was an easy, swift read with an interesting story. The novel fast-forwards to the future in 2046. There’s flying cars, clones, and lots of other toys. There’s action in a James Bond type of hero. The book was a page turner in a slightly predictable yet addictive way. 

I would categorize this as a good, but not a must read to run out to pick up. I enjoyed the read , but wouldn’t have bought at a bookstore. If you stumble upon it give it a go. Since I enjoyed this one I would definitely read another James Patterson book if i come across it.

Goodreads’ Review

“Hays Baker and his wife Lizbeth possess super-human strength, extraordinary intelligence, stunning looks, a sex life to die for, and two beautiful children. Of course, they do–they’re Elites, endowed at birth with the very best that the world can offer. The only problem in their perfect world: humans and their toys!

The one with the most toys–dies

The top operative for the Agency of Change, Hays has just won the fiercest battle of his career. He has been praised by the President, and is a national hero. But before he can savor his triumph, he receives an unbelievable shock that overturns everything he thought was true. Suddenly Hays is on the other side of the gun, forced to leave his perfect family and fight for his life.

Now a hunted fugitive, Hays is thrown into a life he never dreamed possible–fighting to save humans everywhere from extinction. He enlists all of his training to uncover the truth that will save millions of lives–maybe even his own.”

Book Review 16: The Brighton Mermaid

I picked The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson up at the Radisson in Fiji along with Big Little Lies, but don’t worry I left two in their place. I was drawn to this book for a couple of reasons. Firstly, mermaid is in the title so that grabbed my attention immediately. Second, one of the main events occurred my birth year, 1993. Thirdly, it’s based in Brighton and I’ve had a keen interest in reading books taking place in the UK recently. Lastly, the main character was a woman of color and lets be honest most books’ main character is a white woman with blue/green eyes (hair colors range, but there’s always a unique eye color unless we aren’t meant to particularly like them then they have dark eyes) – this is of course just my opinion and I haven’t put much thought into it. 

This book would also be classified as a mystery and bit of a thriller and I really enjoyed it. Did a really good job with the twists and turns and I really didn’t have much pegged once the story was unraveled. I loved that I didn’t have everything figured out so of course I’m not giving any spoilers. 

Goodreads’ Synopsis

**WINNER OF THE PRECIOUS LIFESTYLE MUST READ OF THE YEAR AWARD 2018**

Brighton Beach, 1993

Teenagers Nell and Jude find the body of a young woman and when no one comes to claim her, she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. Nell is still struggling to move on when, three weeks later, Jude disappears.

Twenty-five years on, Nell is forced to quit her job to find out who the Brighton Mermaid really was – and what happened to her best friend that summer.

But as Nell edges closer to the truth, dangerous things start to happen. Someone seems to be watching her every move, and soon she starts to wonder who in her life she can actually trust…”

Book Review 15: Big Little Lies

I know I said I would chill out on reading, but then Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty was waiting for me at the Radison’s guest library. The first book I read by Liane Moriarty was What Alice Forgot for a book club a few years ago in NYC. I really loved that book. It was a captivating story and set in Australia so I knew I liked Liane Moriarty’s writing, but I haven’t read any of her other novels. 

When Big Little Lies became a HBO series it was star studded and quite reasonably became a hit. I usually try to read the book version before seeing the screen version of a story, but this was an exception. I had watched the full series (it sadly hasn’t been renewed for another season) before reading. The main difference between the print and screen versions is the location – originally set in Australia, but the series is based in California. The character descriptions also differed a bit and I just couldn’t replace Resse Witherspoon’s portrayal of Madeline out of my head. Besides that the book and series pretty much follow along the same story (of course there’s a point where the series goes off script due to the end of the book as in the last season). 

Even knowing what happens (or maybe it was because I knew) I couldn’t put this book down. Once again Liane Moriarty proved her abilities to write a captivating book. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t watched Big Little Lies I would recommend to read the book ASAP. I full enjoyed reading this one and look forward to reading more of Liane Moriarty’s novels. 

Goodreads’ Synopsis

“A murder…A tragic accident…Or just parents behaving badly? What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny, biting, and passionate; she remembers everything and forgives no one. Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare but she is paying a price for the illusion of perfection. New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for a nanny. She comes with a mysterious past and a sadness beyond her years. These three women are at different crossroads, but they will all wind up in the same shocking place. 

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the little lies that can turn lethal.”

Book Review 14: Talk of the Town

I’ve never been good with moderation. So when I finished my “Fiji book” on the plane ride over from Melbourne that should have been a warning sign. Now less than two weeks into being in Fiji I’ve read four books. I’ve had activity filled days and I have been socializing constantly so I’m not sure where I’m getting the time to read so much. I have come to the conclusion that whenever I do have a house of my own I’ll have a hammock in the backyard under a tree but with plenty of sunshine as that’s become my favorite way to read. 

In the reception of Blue Lagoon resort they had shelves of books. Only a handful were in English and none really drew my attention, which was okay because I was in the middle of Burning Glass. The friend that I was traveling with pulled one out and joked that I would like the book because of the cover. She was right the guy on the cover is my type, but reading the back synopsis it sounded like a Lifetime/Hallmark movie plot, and I rolled my eyes and put it back. 

The next night at dinner making small talk with the table one of the girls was a raving about a book she couldn’t put down. The plot sounded familiar and low and behold it was the same book I had put back on the shelf, Talk Of The Town by Rachael Johns. I told her if she liked it so much I would like to read it when she was done. That night the book was on my bed when I came in to go to bed. 

So that was how I got the book in my possession now for the actual review. Truth be told my original suspicions were valid and it was totally a Hallmark/Lifetime love story just based in a small town in Australia rather than America. However, that didn’t make it a bad thing. The story was well written and the characters nicely developed. I’m a pretty good guesser so I had the plot pegged early on, but I enjoyed reading the details unravel. All the main characters were likable and a welcome changed from the last few books I’ve read. 

I would say this is a perfect summer beach or holiday read. It’s the tenth book for Rachel Johns and if I were to stumble upon another I would gladly pick it up. Now I’m trying to moderate my reading, but I’m already itching to pick up the next book already…

Goodreads Synopsis

“Lawson Cooper-Jones has two priorities in life – his son, Ned, and the survival of the dairy farm that has been in his family for generations. Despite the best efforts of the town matchmakers and the determined pursuit of local girl Adeline Walsh, Lawson’s heart belongs still, and only, to his late wife. 

But when a flat tyre strands Lawson and Ned in nearby Rose Hill, he’s surprised to find a woman living alone in the old general store of the deserted town. Ned immediately forms a bond with the beautiful stranger called Meg, and Lawson is surprised to find himself captivated by her too. 

Although shy at first, Meg starts to open up to him about the haunting secrets of her new home and, with Lawson unable to get her out of his head, they agree to investigate the history of the old building together. Soon they find their friendship has bloomed into something more.

But when meddling Adeline makes it her mission to uncover the truth about the newcomer and her real identity is revealed, Lawson and Meg’s budding romance comes crashing down. Can they both learn to forgive in order to claim a future for their damaged hearts?”

Hotel Review – Nadi

One thing I will admit is that planning a holiday in Fiji isn’t the easiest thing to do. Mostly because there are so many options, but not that much information. Also, Apple Maps is pretty much useless in Fiji and Google Maps is only slightly better. It’s hard understanding distances and getting directions (Apple Maps doesn’t even have the option to route things outifit can even find what you’re looking for).  The only way to really know what to do is talk to other people who have been to Fiji or travel agents (who are most definitely trying to get commission from you).  

My friend and I didn’t know much and were planning our trip based on three things: 1. Snippets of information we got from others (me from travel buddies I’ve met in NZ and my friend from her coworkers). 2. Saving money and being savvy. 3. My friend had never stayed in a dorm and she was willing to try, but didn’t want to be in a dorm the entire trip (understandable). To avoid a dorm and be economical we decided to stay at an Airbnb in Nadi for two nights, but then we realized it was kind of isolated and maybe not the best choice. When my friend and I met up we noticed there were hotels right by the port (this would have been so much more convenient). They also were about $200 AUD a night so splitting that cost it would have been a price I was more than willing to pay for the convenience and touch of luxury. That was my plan when I got back to Nadi after island hopping. 

Waiting until the last minute, naturally, I booked two nights at the Radisson Blu Resort. I was once again blown away by the staff’s professionalism and kindness. The resort was gorgeous, breathtaking really with a very open and green/jungle/topical look. I was “upgraded” to a suite upon checking in. My room was massive with a kitchenette, enormous bathroom with a bathtub and washer/dryer, a proper separate lounge area, and a magnificent, clean bed. I’m not hinting that the other places weren’t clean, but I think they were “island standard” clean not “resort crisp.”

The resort had a spa, several pools including an adults only pool, five restaurants/bars on property, a mini market where you could by snacks, water, or even some groceries, a fitness center, and more. It was also located right on the beach so you could go swimming or have a go at the water sports. Honestly, this was a vacation location and I didn’t want to leave – I extended my stay an additional night. 

I really loved the Radisson and may stay there again when back in Nadi at the tail end of my trip. That being said it didn’t completely outrank island hoping – so go to the islands and then treat yourself to a couple of nights here before flying out.