Moving to Fiji with $50

Updated: Jan 10, 2021

'It is never a disservice to see more in someone than they show you.' I am not sure where this quote comes from, but I am sure I read it somewhere. It is one of my guiding principles today, and for me, that is exactly as Hosanna saw me. Always as more.

That's how she treated me as well.

It's much simpler to tell people that she is one of my best friends. She is. But this is the beauty of childhood connections. We met when we were 16 at a mock government conference. After reaching for the same suitcase to help the bus driver, we felt like best friends and have simply always 'gotten' each other. Ten minutes later, people were asking us how many years we had been best friends. I have come to know a handful of other connections like this... that blossom so rapidly and strongly... that never flicker or fade...

However after the week was over, we only had the luxury of hanging out like maybe 10 times before we left to college. We participated in the Twin Falls city council together, and when I wasn't busy at school, we would have sleepovers. She was homeschooled and was ahead of me in many ways, one of them being advancement in academics despite my own advancements. Though I ended up only a year behind her academically simply because she took a year off to learn Hindi and travel to India to teach people about sanitation.

Just as I was dropping out of University, she was graduating from the University of Hawaii. She told me that she was kind of seeing a guy there, and that I should move to Fiji with her.

So that's what I did. I sold my car for $850 to move to Fiji. Though, it only really paid for the plane ticket. I knew I would be working and had a place to live so I didn't worry too much about the rest.

Though, I remember Hosanna asking me out of curiosity how much money I brought: '$50'. It was all that I had. Her and her boyfriend kind of laughed I remember, and though their laugh struck me, I never understood why because I had no concept of money--a good thing.

My first day in Fiji was a dream. It was all so very amazing, but it could have gone any way to be honest. I never planned for anything. In fact, when I showed up to customs they asked me where I was staying (normal) and I didn't know. They asked me when my return flight was (normal); I didn't know. They asked me how long I was staying (normal); I didn't know.

So they brought me to the back room. Still, I wasn't alarmed. I sat down, and the gentleman asked me what I was doing in Fiji, and I responded, "Oh I am just here to visit my best friend Hosanna!"

"Hosanna!? Hosanna Kabakoro is you best friend! Oh!" with that, he stamped my passport, and I was on my way.

It was 6:45AM. Hosanna looked incredible, per usual. Did I mention that she was Miss Congeniality in the Miss Teen USA pageant? Yes, she is fabulous. Even at 6:45AM, she looks like she's prepared for a paparazzi bombardment: totally incognito but subtly fierce.

I felt bewilderment. Exhaustion. Excitement. The weight and energy of the tropical atmosphere. The vibrant blues of the sky. The colorful buildings. The sounds of the birds. The trees. There's nothing like it. Beyond being a tropical haven, Fiji will always be my favorite destination.

Hosanna wastes no time. She picked me up from the airport, got some hot buns and pies, drove around for a quick tour, and then we dropped off our stuff so we could change and go SURFING.

I had never been surfing before--Hosanna had been a handful of times, but lucky for us, we had two surfing instructors to help us. We drove to this beach by the Intercontinental...I remember the drive so vividly. We stopped at this very small convenient shop full of brown boxes of snacks and large cast iron guards on the doors.

The drive was somewhat long, but it didn't matter because my heart was consumed by excitement. Each moment the colors seemed to be more vibrant than the next. The trees became a blur as my eyes would get fixated on the brightly colored flowers or houses I could see in the distance.

Through the trees, I finally saw beach. Just for a moment. We turned down a dirt road, and the breeze was slightly cooler, slightly stronger, and slightly heavier with salt. We were so so close.

We had arrived. I followed in the footsteps of Hosanna as she ran to the ocean and dived into the first wave. It was our own beach. We were in our own world. The smiles. The energy. The joy. It is timeless. It reaches me now.

We followed Hosanna's boyfriend Meli and the hot, Australian surf instructor to a spot further down the beach, surfboards in hand as we prepared for our first lesson. We started on the beach as he went over, quite simply, how to paddle and the idea of standing up. We practiced the process on the ground a bit before making our way to the water.

The water was shallow, and there was a small wave break in the distance. There was some coral beneath us, but our instructor simply told us to starfish as we are falling so that we do not get hurt. I remember standing up on the first try, and Hosanna was so impressed. It made me feel like I had done something special.

The moment was special, but every moment was special.

We spent a couple of hours at the beach as Meli and my surf instructor practiced playing kite surfing, and Hosanna and I worked on our tans. After I completely fried my body, we made our way to our friend's house who lended us the surfboards. I got to feel the vibe of the people of Fiji. Kids with their nanas. The respect for the ocean. The connection with nature. The joy of life. Fiji felt like my home then, as it still feels like my home now.

To say hello in Fijian, is 'Bula.' If you literally translate it, it means 'to give life.' My experience there was nothing short of that.

Hosanna is an absolute legend. That would have been a full day for anyone especially after a 14 hour flight, but our day was not over. She would not let me sleep. We had too much to celebrate. We had kava with friends--a ceremony I will explain in depth in a later post, and we stayed out until 2AM! Having shots until I literally was falling asleep standing up. At that point, Hosanna, let me, US, go home.

That's how you don't get jet lag. It works a treat. I slept amazingly that night and woke up at a normal time the next day. Hosanna knows so many of life's secrets.

It was perhaps the next day that we left from Nadi to Suva. This was when I learned that Hosanna's boyfriend's dad happened to be the Prime Minister. We were going to stay with him for a week while we learned about sharks as they were going to be ambassadors for shark conservation.

I will never forget it. The first time I ever snorkeled was above Tiger, Bull, and Lemon sharks while my friends dove with them. It was exhilarating but stressful for me... every time I felt the remora suck on body, I would jolt! It terrified me. Though remora, known as suckerfish, are commonly found around where sharks are and are completely harmless.

At home, or the place where we were staying, I was reflecting massively on the profoundness of me staying at the Prime Minister's house the very first week I came to Fiji. I was trying to imagine what it would be like if I had some friends come visit me from another country, and I was able to provide them with a place to stay at the President's house.

Ratu Frank Bainimarama and I both woke up early, and I would have chats with him about the world and politics while he sat in his white boxer briefs. It humanized political figures for me. I saw him eating breakfast and playing with his grandchildren and kissing his wife. I saw a human, which is so important when we relate politics to back home in the United States.

Meanwhile, I was having difficulty sleeping my first few nights. I was waking up at 3AM. A time that I was told was the devil's hour. I told Hosanna, my third night in a row... and she told me of a demon local to the island who would watch women in the night. If you had a sexual dream about a very attractive man, then that was the demon taking over. I hadn't had such a dream. She said then, I was safe, but what I must do is eat garlic while sitting on the toilet. This would make me super unattractive to him.

The next night, I woke up, and I sat on the toilet cautiously looking around whilst eating raw garlic. I went back to sleep and never woke up in the middle of the night again.

When I told Hosanna and her boyfriend of this, they died of hysterical laughter. It was all a joke, but it worked for me... and in that, I see a lot of other creative ideas to solve things we perceive as issues.

This was simply my first week in Fiji, and I spent 3 months there. This was back in 2013, and I have since grown into so much more.

I am realizing that who I have grown into has a lot to do with the belief that others have had in me which has helped grow the belief I have in myself. Believe in the good. Support the good. It will grow. Where focus goes, energy flows. Belief brings things to life <3.

The adventures that followed inspired me to write a poetry book. The poetry/prose book is a collection of writing from the past 7 years of traveling. I hope it brings some faith and inspiration into your own life.

Subscribe for updates and please please please help me publish my first book:
'i LOVE what i've forgotten' by following this link to my Kickstarter Campaign.

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