Adventure, essay

The Final Year in Fiji

Garden Buddha Fiji

We’ve been living in Fiji for a little more than three years, and we’ve entered our last year in the country.

It’s an odd time: looking toward the next thing, while trying to remain present as we continue to live here.

I feel a restlessness that I haven’t felt for a while. It’s part of a natural cycle for me.

We had a difficult landing in Fiji. I was overwhelmed with the initial difficulties: discomfort with the many maintenance issues related to our housing, and a reintroduction to the developing world (last time, we were in Jamaica; this time, we’re in a tropical island nation on the other side of the planet).

The first year was a rollercoaster of emotions. I eventually came to terms with the challenges of my new environment, but I’ve since changed my mind on a few things that I had come to embrace here.

Soon after we adopted out first dog, Guthrie, here in Fiji, I started walking him around the neighborhood regularly to exercise him. I used to think of it as a daily adventure that made me feel a sense of place as part of my new community. Over time, however, this activity became more stressful than pleasurable.

Pollution from road traffic, aggressive yard dogs and strays, aggressive drivers, and uneven or nonexistent sidewalks, plus the high humidity, eventually wore down my enthusiasm.

The developing world has its challenges for those used to living in the developed world. The challenges are primarily ones of convenience (namely, lack thereof) and the need to reset expectations.

While I love the great adventure of living abroad, when living in the developing world, many things you take for granted in the developed world–products, services, and even concepts (for example, sticking to a schedule)–are simply not present, or exist at a lower level than you’re used to, and that can be frustrating.

Living here does have its charms, though, and I can’t deny the experience has been good for me. For instance, it’s easy to eat healthy here because local fresh produce is low cost, abundant and easily available from street vendors.

We also adopted our dogs, Guthrie and Jolene, here, and they are a joyful addition to our household.

Most valuably, living in Fiji has given me space and time to rethink and reset my priorities. These last few years have given me a chance to step out of the rat race physically and mentally while still maintaining a career. I’ve had an opportunity to rediscover my passions. I’ve been artistic since I was a little kid, and I’ve reintegrated that love into my life, which helps me feel whole.

I created my first music album while living in Fiji: a collection of acoustic guitar tracks I’m quite proud of. I’m taking music more seriously, as a lifelong student and practitioner. I’m playing my guitar regularly, and I taught myself to play the keyboard.

I’ve also set up online stores to sell my artwork on products that people can use to decorate their homes and offices in unique ways.

Living in Fiji has allowed me to develop much needed perspective. I’ve learned more about myself during this time, and I’ve come to understand myself more deeply, which is a great gift.

So, yes, it’s been hard–as it often is when adjusting to a new situation that veers from one’s initial expectations–but growth arises from challenging yourself. And life would be boring, and meaningless, if we fail to grow, whether that be in strength, skill, perspective, connection or understanding.

I don’t know what the last year in Fiji holds, and it will be a challenge to stay grounded before moving on, but, as always, I’ll put one foot in front of the other every day and see where that takes me.

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