When Story Time became Fiji Time

Written by Leanne Esposito

Let’s focus on the word adventure! An unusual and exciting or daring experience or an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.

Whatever its meaning I think I had more than a brief encounter with adventure this past week floating around the islands of Fiji.

Bula Vinaka good people of the Wide Bay. Fiji is the setting for my first adventure in five long years. Another first was boarding the cruise ship MV Reef Endeavour for a 7-night voyage on the Remote North Discovery Cruise to the Lau group of islands. Never before had I entertained the possibility of boat travel as I’ve struggled with seasickness my entire life.

Covid-19 must have wiped the memory from my brain. So starved was I for excitement that when a girlfriend said she had a spare ticket and a stateroom booked, I shrieked with delight. Once my bags were packed, I suddenly recalled that old queasy feeling and trepidation took hold. I grappled with my anxiety yet set it aside, eager for a new challenge and unknown risks.

Captain Cook Cruises promise that passengers will discover islands and reefs rarely visited by tourists. That the village children will treat you to songs and dances. Snorkelling, glass bottom boat tours and diving will feature daily. You will stand on the 180th Meridian which is the arbitrary dateline between today and tomorrow. Island nights of kava, meke and a lovo feast are all a part of the deal.

Sure, it all sounds like the perfect travel brochure blurb but somehow the words didn’t do the experience justice. I got all this and so much more. What I experienced was a welcome into a world so removed from my western first world life that it exposed the treadmill upon which our daily grind is based. The divergence was striking.

The first difference is in time. Fijians all live on Fiji Time; a phenomenon acknowledged world-wide. It doesn’t exist as a time zone on the world clock, and it is not measured. That’s the point. Despite the fact that Fijians don’t clock watch at all, things still get done. Fiji time is actually a cultural philosophy. It is the notion of things getting done eventually, or not at, without the stress of time. Fiji Time is living life and not rushing it. A long meditative exhale helped me adjust. After all I was on holidays and my calendar was clear.

Fiji Time aside the itinerary was met. From September 10 to 17 we set sail from Port Denaurau and made our way to Tivua Island. Next stops were Makogai, Vanuabalavu, Fulaga, Yagasa, Vuaqava, Kabara, Totoya, Vunisea, Nalotu and back. Each island we visited was prefaced by the presentation of a gift of Kava to the chief before we were welcomed ashore.

The kilometres we covered was astounding. And the scenery was outstanding. To categorise the multiple hues of blue between sky and sea is beyond my abilities. The sunsets were striking. The seascape breathtaking.

My fellow passengers all agreed. We documented our trip in photos. My friends of action frantically ran from one activity to the next. I was happy to passively enjoy and journal. To observe and to note the people and their customs. The most striking of which is that Fijian people are happy and love to make others happy. Their smiles are reflexive; ample and wide. Not surprising that slogan is featured by Fiji Tourism – Where happiness finds you.

I noticed that situationally the villagers’ experience of their environment varied according to their resources and ability to survive. Despite a reliance on subsistence living, I believe it is proud heritage of deep cultural roots which presents as cohesive strength. The fundamental understanding of knowing where they’ve come from gives them a resilient identity – one they are happy to share with the world.

While I developed my sea legs with the assistance of some pharmaceuticals with the self-same name, the physical momentum of the swaying sea stayed with me a few days after disembarkation.
So too does the experience and the knowledge that despite their difficulties Fijians are uniquely joyful people.

Fellow on-board passengers included Tourism Fiji CEO, Australian expat, Brent Hill and his beautiful wife Kellie as well as celebrity Andhy Blake, Fiji’s most popular television personality. Both men were on holidays, so we didn’t realise we were in esteemed company. Their passion for Fiji inspired us further and their presence added another layer to an authentic Fiji experience.