When planning an epic trip it is most important to take advantage of free layovers. Islands always act as great free stops if you have the time in your holiday schedule to enjoy something new. The best open jaw from Toronto to Europe is Iceland while flying from Australia back to North America the most common is a beach break to the Pacific Islands. Avoid that arduous direct flight home in paradise!
My flight back involved two free layovers. I left Sydney for Fiji and then continued on to Hawaii before arriving in Vancouver. I spent ten glorious days in Fiji, first arriving in Nadi, the capital, where I lived with a local family. They had a few Japanese exchange students living with them so I had the opportunity to brush up on my Hello Kitty jokes.
Fond memories of my first night in Fiji include my hosts warm generosity, the island intense humidity and a black out just that took place just as we were performing a traditional Fijian Kava Welcome Ceremony. With the romanic flutter of light across our whicker floor mats I was forced to drink a vile local brew known for its lip numbing abilities.
The following morning I headed for the cities port where I hopped on a tourist filled double decker speed ferry. I spent the next 3 hours hopping from island to island north along the Yawawa’s. We would drop off and pick up tourists on this stop and go form of public transit. I jumped off at Wai Lai Lai Island and was greeted by local villagers on guitar singing us a Harry Belafonte welcome. I spent the next three days on Wai Lai Lai relaxing on the beach with my Scandinavian friends while evenings typically featured cultural shows and cold bottles of beer.
After three days of rustic island life I hopped back on the ferry and sailed north to the more expensive resort, Manta Ray Island. I had researched this resort before I arrived in Fiji and it was ranked as one of the best in the Yasawa’s. The island featured one dorm room (which a cheap guy like me slept in) as well as beautiful private bungalows sitting amongst towering tropical gardens which overlooked the beach. The main beachfront is famous for its amazing ocean life which often feature giant manta rays. I spent most of my days tanning on the beach and then cooling off with a snorkel. Fiji was becoming an emotional place for me. Hovering under the water and watching thousands of colourful fish pass under my toes for some reason reminded me that this long two years abroad was coming to an end.
I made a group of friends from the UK, Sweden and Germany and told them about my travels whenever they pressed me on the subject. I spent my last few nights in Fiji dedicating myself to a hammock, staring over the Pacific as the sun set into orange, red and pink trying to fight back tears as I looked forward to my soon to be reunion with friends and family as well as the detachment I would soon feel from that wonderlust life.