Where do you go when you can’t take another minute of politics, gas prices are close to $7/gallon, you’ve had a headache for two weeks and you have 85K airline miles that are about to expire?
At nearly 11 hours, the flight from Los Angeles on Fiji Airways was the longest flight I’ve ever taken. But movies, books and the perks of international flights (blankets and pillows, free drinks and lots of snacks) helped pass the time.
(Note: If your seat reclines, do you have to recline it as far as it possibly goes, even if that means into the lap of the person behind you? Asking for a friend. And if you do have to recline, a polite warning to aforementioned unsuspecting person followed by a gradual and gentle recline may prevent you from nearly decapitating them as they lean forward to retrieve something from their carry-on jammed under your seat.)
But I digress.
We left L.A. Wednesday night and landed in Fiji early Friday morning. My friend’s birthday was Thursday, but I couldn’t acknowledge it properly because Thursday never happened in my life. I am not a fan of time travel books or movies because the concept boggles my Capricorn brain. When we landed, I had a text from another friend asking for a recap of the future.
A shuttle, ferry and golf cart later, we arrived at Lomani Island Resort on Malolo Lailai in the Mamanuca Islands. (The predominant letters in the Fijian alphabet seem to be A, I, L, M and O. Only writers care about this.) Those of you who read my book will not be surprised to learn that Lomani is an adults-only resort (but its sister resort on the island welcomes families, and we spent a lot of time there too).
Our Lomani hosts greeted us with warm smiles, fresh coconut water still in the shell and profuse apologies that – even though it was 6:30 am and check-in started at 2 pm – our “bure” wasn’t quite ready. They seemed relieved and grateful when we told them it was no problem and we didn’t expect an early check-in, we wondered if the “ugly American” stereotype had preceded us. They whisked our luggage away, showed us to the private lounge to freshen up, and invited us to enjoy breakfast and all of the amenities while our bure was prepared.
It’s amazing how a single room can be so luxurious and relaxing. With a private yard just steps from the beach, our bure was truly a tropical haven, with a heavenly bed, comfy sitting area, huge bathroom and (my favorite part) outdoor shower. I’ve never showered so often on vacation.
Fiji is beautiful. Not just the stunning gorgeousness of the islands, but the true beauty and kindness of the Fijian people and their culture. Everyone we encountered wished us “Bula” – more than just a greeting in Fiji, it’s a wish for happiness, good health and the energy of life.
We did all the things: kayaking, SUP, riding bikes around the island and taking boat trips to snorkel among endless tropical fish and coral in the crystal-clear water. The beauty and magic of the ocean never ceases to amaze me. Though the 8-foot waves at the world-famous surf breaks nearby were above my pay grade, I paddled out anyway – when the water is 84 degrees and you’re used to fighting your way into a thick wetsuit, you go.
It rained most days, the kind of tropical storms where you relax on a lounge chair with a drink and enjoy the thunder, lightning and huge warm raindrops. The rain brought out literally hundreds of frogs all around the property, congregating in little frog gangs around the walkway lights.
Our last night on the island coincided with Lomani’s weekly cultural celebration, including a full-on Fijian buffet featuring ish cooked in an earth oven and a traditional Kava ceremony. A beverage made from the Piper methysticum plant, Kava is a popular drink used in South Pacific ceremonies. (The first sip tasted terrible, but I felt the same way about coffee and red wine, which are now staples of my diet.)
Kava is supposed to be relaxing, and while I didn’t feel it that night, the next day I felt a sense of calm that I haven’t experienced in years. Maybe it was the kava. Maybe it was sitting on a SUP in the tranquil lagoon after spending a week in the sheer beauty of nature. Maybe it was being away from reality and social media, surrounded instead by chill Fijians and Australians and a handful of couples from the UK. Maybe it was all of these things. I vowed to hold onto this “bula” when I returned home – and to revisit this mindset when I felt it slipping away.
We left Fiji late Thursday night. We got home Thursday afternoon. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.