Palm trees flanked my view while four yellow and blue beach chairs faced the turquoise waters that rippled onto the shore. The beach was empty as I captured this brief moment of paradise through my camera lens. This vision of harmony is a small island in Fiji called Nananu-I-Ra.
The escape – a dream come true
The bus stumbled like a drunken old man over unpaved roads for many miles around Suva, the main island of Fiji, before reaching the dock that was the gateway to this remote island. A small group of fairly unknown individuals sat on the long boats that lurched across the channel to Nananu-I-Ra. The boats would not appear for another four days.
I was looking forward to the solitude of a remote island experience. I was hoping to survive these four days with a hammock, a book and sunblock. While sitting on the longboat as it crossed to the island, we witnessed the sun setting in the distance, creating the magnificent yellows, reds and purples that painted the evening sky. After the one-hour boat ride, we were directed to the large dorm room with many bunk beds. I plopped my bags down, had some dinner and retreated early to bed. My body was still dragging due to the time change.
One girl in the dorm covered herself in tightly wrapped netting to keep from being eaten by mosquitoes; another was spraying the mosquito repellent all over her sleeping bag. The girl wrapped in netting looked like she would strangle herself from mosquito paranoia. Thankfully, a mosquito has never chomped into my skin. I watched in amusement as the girls fussed over the bugs that flew overhead and a mouse that scurried across the floor. I drifted off to sleep in the midst of subtle chaos.
I awoke in the early morning hours; the island dwellers remained motionless. I quietly removed myself from my bunk bed and headed for the highest peak. Walking a steep path towards the crest, I heard only the twigs snapping beneath my feet. The place was slightly eerie in the early morning fog that wrapped the land. I passed a few cows that seemed unalarmed by my presence, shifting only slightly to tweak their heads. I was more concerned by the intense smell of cow crap as I hurdled over several beach ball size mounds along the path.
The smell of cow poop subsided when I reached the summit. I felt the serenity and solitude of the island. At the top, the cloud cover kept the sun hidden; it allowed the grey glare to drip upon the terrain. After taking a moment to feel the quiet, my body embraced the calm beauty of simplicity.
Less than one week earlier, I was asphyxiated by mounds of paperwork, reports, a crappy supervisor and insane deadlines at a job that was leaving me in massive, migraine hell. My decision to escape, to free myself from the rat race, was only a dream. I had no idea I would find my way to the top of a mountain on a Fijian island where I would release the stress of the intense, rapidly-moving, employed society behind – and become free. Though in shock that I left behind my familiar ways, I reveled in the excitement of the unknown. Before I wandered back to the sleeping village below, I noticed each step was a crucial part of my journey; each led me to better understand how to live in the moment.
Fiji was my first destination on my around-the-world adventure. I stood at the top of an island in the middle of the South Pacific – living my dream. I wandered back to the village in search of a hammock.