While seeing Australia has not only been a once in a lifetime experience, getting to also visit Auckland in New Zealand and the city of Nadi in Fiji are destinations I’ll never forget. Each location has helped me gain new perspectives by obtaining greater independence, deviating from the norm, and not being afraid to experience another’s culture.
Our first night in Sydney, we devoured pizza from the Australian version of Dominos. Among the sterile white environment held an aroma of home. Wrapped in three sweatshirts and shivering to sleep that night, I tried to wrap my head around my new life. Bonding together the next day, we found the mall and loaded up grocery carts with food. We carted them on foot for two miles uphill to the village. A few weeks later, I became really close with Stori another girl in my program. We decided to collaborate on our bucket lists, learn the Opal transportation system, make budgets, and each weekend take ranging trips enhancing our independence. Three weeks in, I decided to ask one of the girls if I could join in their upcoming spring break plans. Knowing the worst possible outcome was a “no,” I am glad I didn’t let fear hold me back from such memorable experiences made.
Opening the hostel room above the Chinese Restaurant welcomed a small space that contained four bunk beds and a nostalgic summer camp feel. The aesthetics included a communal kitchen with a sign reading, “turn off power, don’t put us all at risk,” two showers with only cold water, and nighttime karaoke that vibrated the floors and blasted into our ears until three each morning. Everything about Auckland was sporadic. Driving on the left side of the road to Mata-Mata to see the Shire from the Lord of the Rings, bunging off the Auckland Bridge, visiting Mount Eden which is a dormant volcano, jumping out of the Sky Tower the highest point in Auckland, and a last minute trip to Waiheke Island; after missing the last bus to our original destination, we uncovered a winery and breath taking views. The major lessons I took away from Auckland were being able to just go with the flow. We may have gone in without a plan but came out with irreplaceable memories and an enriched sense of adventure going into Nadi.
The protruding sun kissed our skin as we drank coconuts cut straight from the palm trees on the sandy beach. That night the Fiji natives invited us to join their Kava circle. The leader mixed the Kava root with water. One by one we we’re handed a small bowl and instructed to accept the offering by clapping once, drinking, chanting “Bula” meaning hello, and saying thank you by clapping three times. I asked a local sitting adjacent to me about his observation of other western tourists. He replied, “everyone I meet is usually focused on tomorrow, what they don’t already have, and not in the here and now. The difference between our culture and yours is love.” He further explained that for them there is more of a community ideology rather than the fast paced materialistic ideals of the west. That night truly made me thankful that I chose to sit down, put my phone away, learn within another’s culture, and just live in the moment.
My favorite quote by writer Vivian Green states, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” While you can plan to an extent, sometimes life works in mysterious and unexpected ways. Take that step out of your comfort zone, put your phone down, and do something for your personal happiness or fulfillment rather than the potential “likes,” whether that be jumping off a building, talking to new natives of a new country, or deciding to be a better version of “you” halfway around the world.
The world awaits…discover it.