Short break offers escape from modern-day stress
IN THE frenetic pace of life in the 21st century, sometimes we even forget how to slow down on holidays. We think we need to cover several countries, fly to the other side of the globe, then participate in every activity under the sun to be armed with plenty of vacation anecdotes for Facebook and pictures for Instagram.
Let’s take it down a notch, shall we? Sometimes one destination, one week or long weekend of relaxing and soaking up the serenity is what we really need.
Everyone has their ‘happy place’ – the place where they feel most calm, the place that never fails to put a smile on their face, the place where the housework that needs doing, the bills that need paying and any thoughts of work commitments no longer cloud your waking moments.
For me, that place is Fiji. A three-hour plane flight from Brisbane and I’m a world away from the everyday. The ‘real me’ – not the crabby work colleague, the stern mother or disagreeable wife – returns soon after being hit with the tropical heat on disembarking the aircraft and walk across the terminal veranda into the Nadi arrivals area.
Perhaps it’s the ‘bula welcome’ from just about every airport worker I pass or being serenaded inside by a Fijian musical group as I stand in the immigration queue.
Perhaps it’s the familiar face of our driver, year after year, his eagerness to take our bags and his polite conversation in the mini-bus.
The 90-minute transfer to the Coral Coast, 70km away, is like stepping back in time to a childhood where fruit and vegie stands still line major roads, cows graze on the grassy verges and lush fields of sugar cane stretch as far as the eye can see.
Fijian friends and neighbours will still gather together in the afternoons under the cool of a makeshift pergola or sprawling tree. Tethered goats munch on bushes, while kids, dogs and chickens roam free and adults walk beside busy road shoulders (except now they carry mobile phones to their ear).
Palm trees and colourful bougainvillea dress up modest housing on stumps or small stilts, and bright-coloured ‘bula shirts’ and sulus (sarongs) hang from clotheslines held up to the sun by old, wooden poles.
Life is simpler and nature grows wild, as was intended. Banana fronds reach for the sky – the ‘odd man out’ in a rainforest setting. The orangey-red flowers of a random royal poinciana gives respite from the green of the undulating hills. Yes, I love this drive: so little to see but so much to see.
Take the ride year after year and you’ll notice such subtle changes – maybe the grass is a little greener after a devastating cyclone months earlier.
Maybe a distant burn-off aims to ward off bushfires after a long, dry spell.
Maybe a few more buildings have begun construction or last year’s roadworks have finally been completed.
But some things never change: the happy chatter of schoolchildren in a bus with no windows. The utes filled with labourers holding on for dear life in the back. The bustling markets in Sigatoka Town.
Life in this part of the world goes by ‘bula time’ – a mystical time zone only Fijians understand.
And even three nights worth of ‘bula time’ can recharge the batteries enough to face the real world back home.
Even a few days in Fiji provides an escape from the daily grind.