They say travel broadens the mind. They say that meeting new people and having new experiences can fundamentally change who you are. I’m not sure who ‘they’ are, but I imagine ‘they’ are intelligent, worldly types, who wear jewellery fashioned out of Nepalese tree bark, while they drink obscure teas and pepper conversations with stories of hiking treacherous trails.
The last time I was at the dentist, I had to hold my chops open wide for so long that my jaw started to throb and I drooled on the assistant’s hand. I consider travel to be the mind equivalent of this.
A stranger’s gloved hand, covered in my spit, is my inspiration.
My travel totem.
This time next week, I will be in Fiji. As I have been once before, I don’t want to waste valuable mind-broadening time re-learning all the stuff I figured out last time. So, to avoid this, I thought it best to reflect on the lessons I’ve learnt the first time round in Fiji.
Profoundly connect with other humans
Whether you’re drunkenly slurring at a German girl that you like her t-shirt, or letting a guy get to second base because he knows what an Oxford comma is, it’s important to find things you have in common with other human beings, and to celebrate these.
Enjoy some alone time
Of course, some time should also be spent in quiet reflection, enjoying the liberating sensation of your mind opening. Henry David Thoreau once said, “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men, than when we stay in our chambers.”
Reflect on this when you’re snorkelling, and when the really annoying Californian girl who just will NOT stop babbling starts complaining that she’s drifting too close to the coral. Perhaps, in this moment, you just stay in your “chamber”—ie. pretend you didn’t hear her, and leave it to the staff to deal with.
Understand that some experiences cannot be repeated
A bottle of Pimms purchased through duty free mixed with a can of coke from the resort bar can serve as a refreshing and unconventional cocktail. Of course, some holiday experiences are not meant to follow you home. If you order this at a real bar, the bartender will watch you uneasily as he prepares it, suspicion in his eyes, as if you have sinister motives. Clearly, he understands nothing of exotic libations, and the chasm between his unopened mind and yours will make you feel somewhat despondent.
Accept local food offerings
If a Fijian man wants to lop the top off a coconut, fill it with something pink that smells like nail polish remover, and serve it to you with a straw, it is good manners to take it and pay him. After you have slurped it down, filling the coconut up with leftover Pimms and coke is the best possible choice you can make. For, you know, the environment.
Get in touch with your spiritual side
It makes one feel most pious to get up at 10am to attend a religious service on a Fijian island. Of course, as the old saying goes, “the first ten minutes of church is the only bit that’s actually important”, so feel free to clumsily sneak out halfway through because you’re hungry. Etiquette tip: it is advised to hold back giggling until you are well clear of the front door, lest the preacher yell at you.
With all of those lessons learnt in just four short days, I can only hope my second trip is half as educational.