Stuck in Paradise? Not Really…

Let me go back to the most traumatic experience of my life. It was something that on paper most people would probably dream of… Which makes it even worse. Let me explain.

Earlier this year my fiancé and I were travelling. We were in New Zealand when the pandemic was officially becoming a worldwide problem. Our next destination was Fiji and they had no case at the time. We thought we would be much safer there, perfect occasion to rest a bit before our last destination (Japan). But things didn’t go as planned and everything escalated so quickly… We didn’t see it coming. Maybe we underestimated the danger at that time. Maybe we didn’t feel anxious enough to make a better decision (the right dose of anxiety can be useful sometimes!). But most importantly, we refused to let go so easily on our once-in-a-lifetime travelling experience. We paid the price for it though, we got stranded for 3 weeks in Fiji.

Our first days in Fiji

For the first few days we were in a rather empty holiday resort. Their first case of coronavirus was diagnosed a day after we arrived. Day after day, everything closed down: the gym, most of the restaurants, even the swimming pool. Of course no activity was available and the number of employees at the resort was decreasing quickly. It was pretty scary and we started to feel like we shouldn’t be here. 3 days later, our flight to Japan was cancelled. We had to accept the fact that we had no choice but to go back home earlier than planned… Although it was not so simple.

How we tried to leave

We booked ourselves a last minute flight to London via Brisbane and Singapore. But once at the airport and ready to leave, we found out Singapore has closed its borders, even for people transiting only. We were also informed we needed an authorisation from Australia to stop there too, which contradicted what the British embassy told us the day before when we called them for reassurance. So we couldn’t board on that plane and there was no other flight available for us. Breathe… The next day, we came back to the airport and talked to the embassy again. They were clearly overwhelmed by the situation. A handful of trapped tourists was doing the same thing but no one had any idea what to do.

stranded in Fiji

How we got stranded

A couple of days later, the Fijian Government made the decision to close the airport completely. No planes were authorised to fly off abroad. That’s how we got trapped in a tiny island far far away from home. It was not pleasant at all, we didn’t know how long the situation was going to last… The uncertainty was difficult to cope with. It wasn’t like we could ignore the situation and enjoy our holiday no matter what, everything was closed and the atmosphere not so good.

So we rented an apartment near the airport and stayed inside all day, only going out for necessary food shops around the corner (our diet was mainly based on rice, tuna and sweetcorn). We were using our free time to reflect on things we were grateful for, things we wished we could do (so we could appreciate them more once back home) and what changed in our mindset. The list is long but the main thing we took out of this experience is that when everything is uncertain, everything that is important becomes clear. I’ll come back more in detail to the entire list in another post.

How we finally escaped

It’s actually a tropical cyclone that saved us. The Fijian Government wanted to protect their brand new planes and agreed to let them fly abroad, using desperate tourists to absorb the costs at the same occasion of course. That day was 6 months ago today, the day we finally escaped that nightmare. I feel like I can relate to people who have been released from a foreign prison for a crime they didn’t commit.

This experience taught me many things. Sometimes you just don’t know what people are really going through. I heard so many times: “Well I would love to be stuck in Fiji, it doesn’t seem so bad!”. Although I can understand why some people would say that, I think it’s also particularly inappropriate and shows a lack of empathy. It made me become less judgemental and more understanding of others. I don’t make the mistake anymore to underestimate the impact that words can have on people. We need kindness now more than ever. Stay safe all!

Big Girl x

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