After a fairly tumultuous year of emotional upheaval, I finally decided to take a holiday. Actually, it was more at the insistence of my friends and family, their main point being I badly needed some time away from heartache…
My father had passed away at the beginning of the year, and I had decided to leave Melbourne to move back to my home town to be with my family. That August in my home town in Western Australia was completely depressing, not just because of the cold but the emotional pressures a death can bring to a family. I started to feel sad and trapped, and was finding it hard to plan the future. To break the gloomy mood I sought sun. I believe I simply googled ‘awesome beach holidays’, and with the suggestions, followed up on what seemed like untouched paradise- Vanuatu.
Vanuatu is an archipelago in the South Pacific, not too far from Fiji. The indigenous culture was married with French influence, due to the many years of French rule. Vanuatu became independent from 1980, however the incredible combination of islander and european culture appealed to me in a big way, plus the endless choice of beaches, rainforests, reefs, more beaches…
I did a quick online search on hotels, just to get an idea on prices, and then decided I would leave the rest up to the travel agent. The hotel I was most keen on, Le Grande, was fortunately one the travel agent able to get a further discount on, so I extended my initial timeframe of a one week holiday to twelve days in total. I didn’t book any further activities before I left, the idea was to chill and arrange things ‘on the fly’ once I was there, hopefully leading to a more relaxed holiday experience.
At the airport arrivals was a tea chest band, plunking away happily, welcoming all travelers to the island. The international airport is on the main island, Efate, the capital being Port Vila, where I was staying. Airport transfers were included in my booking, and zooming along in the van was a wonderful way to soak up the sights on the way- palm trees, sand roads, villagers walking along the road with fruit baskets on their heads, lagoons and ocean tempting from all angles… Utter beauty.
The Grande hotel was grand – my room had a bathroom, which had a window, that looked through the window of my room, over the balcony to the azure, placid ocean below. The hotel had breakfast included, and also a cocktail bar, evening restaurant, and of course a pool. The necessary four star hotel comforts. The staff, also, were the best, of all the things I forgot- my toothbrush and toothpaste- I went to the front desk as soon as I had unpacked for cash exchange to go and buy them, but instead the lovely John handed me the toiletries for free, and with a smile. Too kind, I felt so welcomed.
After a quick explore around the area of my hotel, I got some pamphlets on various tours, and settled in. The following day started well, with laps in the pool, then after lunch from the markets, reading by the pool, in the tropical sun. I eventually read five novels by that pool, it was my greatest holiday triumph! When on holiday, after being so busy, you end up realising just how many hours are in the day.
With no specific schedule, life revolves around your stomach, and this becomes your only way to quantify what you do. On days I didn’t book activities, I spent time by the pool, or when needing some respite from the heat, writing in my diary in my room, or on my balcony. This time I used to come to terms with my father passing away eight months earlier, something I didn’t give myself a chance to do before hand because I was too busy keeping busy. Complete removal from my home town situation is what I needed, and Vanuatu was the most beautiful medicine.
So, activities? I did so many, I can’t believe I had time to do laps in the pool each day! Here’s a quick recap of my Vanuatu Day Trips
Round Island Day Tour
I did a ‘round island day tour, taking in sights such as Blue Lagoon, stopping for a beer at hot springs bar, and hearing all about local culture and history from the lovely guide.
A visit to Mele Cascades, an impressive waterfall, east of the island. This trip involved a lot of uphill walking, but the clarity and freshness of that water could cleanse any imperfections from the system. Directly after this, we kayaked to a sand bar in Mele Bay and went snorkelling, the reef was magical.
A visit to Hideaway Island with it’s Underwater Post Office was perfect for a fun day of swimming and snorkelling.
Mount Yasur Volcanno
My favourite adventure in Vanuatu by far was the day trip to… a volcano!! We flew, in a 6 seater plane, to the island of Tanna south of Efate. We were then taken by our guide, four wheel driving up to one of the world’s most active volcanos, Mount Yasur. The landscape before the base of the volcano was sight I found eerie, alien and mesmerising. It was as if we were on the moon. Mount Yasur itself was an expansive, tremendous abyss of endless smoke, smouldering rock and a distinct feeling of anger from the centre of the earth. The volcano put certain things into perspective for me…
The thing about this kind of active, soul healing independent travel is you realise you’re never alone, really. And sometimes the best way to understand who you are and your capabilities is through the eyes of strangers. I finally gave myself credit for being strong and self sufficient- the people I met on these tours were surprised at me travelling by myself for such a holiday, and at my willingness to take part in all activities when all the other participants were at least couples, or families. I realized, through many different interactions, that there are rewards to being a friendly and open person- saying goodnight to strangers on the street, swapping smiles with people at the markets, the wonderful staff at restaurants and at the hotel going above and beyond to make me feel comfortable. Did they sense I was trying to heal myself of a sadness?
I can’t imagine anywhere better to have gone for what became a renaissance for me. Vanuatu cleared the negative from my person and recharged my positive outlook on the world and myself. The uplifting perfection of the landscape, air and simplicity of endless beauty of this place could not have been a better medicine to clear the head, and give focus on what life really does have to offer. I’m not sure it’s possible to completely heal after experiencing the loss of a parent.
However, my break in the South Pacific reminded me it is because of my dad I have the possibility to live a life at it’s best, and this is a life he would want for his daughter.
Jade has never been one to sit still. After moving from Australia to London ten years ago, she hasn’t been able to stay put for more than one year in one place. Finally a bit settled in Rome, she has swapped her career in costuming for theatre to a writing career, and is writing about all manner of adventures. Jade is currently writing for a cultural guide for Rome, and has been published on a number of travel sites. She is hoping to soon to combine her love of art and historical costuming with her passion for writing, maybe by writing a book…. or three.