There are Mosquitos in Paradise
I’m writing this from Tuvalu. It’s as close to paradise as I can think of. I’m alone on an island in literary the middle of the Pacific. Well, not completely alone. I’m staying a guest house run by a local family. I am the only guest, and they’ve been spoiling me rotten by giving me as many coconuts as I want and cooking incredible food for me. Fresh-caught fish, breadfruit, taro, cassava, kokada and more!
The picture you see is my morning reading / watching hermit crabs spot. I can sit in the shade of coconut trees there with the wind blowing a refreshing breeze on a hot sunny day.
I’ve been searching for this paradise for months! My one goal was to wake up and go swimming! My first stop was Jeju Island - it was amazing, but let’s just say not as tropical in March as I imagined - ok, this was my fault for not researching at all… There were also a few other Jeju Island hardships I should have known. It was a great trip overall, and I’ll definitely be back, but it was not the stress-free vacation I needed at the time.
Next, Bali! I booked an AirBNB for an entire month only to be completely disappointed, giving everything up, and going to New Zealand for two months on a whim instead. At least I knew what to expect in New Zealand. I knew it would be Fall there, so I wouldn’t be able to swim like I really wanted, but I also knew that the nature was gorgeous, the air was clean, and it would be easy (everyone speaks English!).
After resting a bit in New Zealand, I had enough energy to risk finding my paradise once more. This time Fiji and then Tuvalu. They’re on the way to San Francisco after all! I first planned to be in Fiji for 2-3 weeks only again to be disappointed after asking a friend about it and learning how expensive it was.
After doing some soul searching, I realized that if I was going to go to Fiji, I wanted paradise. I wanted to be in a resort where I wake up and go swimming. I didn’t see the point of paying for an off-the-grid AirBNB or cheap hotel that I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere from and that’s not on the beach. I also haven’t ever been to Fiji, so it was really hard for me to judge if this would be possible. But either way, I didn’t want it to be hard. I wanted a simple wake up and swim life for a bit.
Luckily, I stuck it out in New Zealand and planned my paradise in Fiji for only three days. Even though the hotel I found was on the beach front on Google Maps and in a very popular hotel spot, the beach there was a disappointment. Nobody swam in it except me one time. Everyone else chose the pool instead. Ok, it wasn’t that horrible… at least I had a pretty morning walk! But still not great for swimming… A local told me it was man-made by the hotels out of swamp land…
To swim, I had to take an expensive touristy boat tour to an island (1.5 hours one way to get there!). This was fine for a day, but there was no way I could afford to (or even want to) do that every day. I just wanted to wake up and swim! Oh, and the hotel ran out of coconuts!
Finally, I made it to Tuvalu! In Tuvalu, I found my paradise! Finally! My life here consists of waking up, swimming, eating a coconut for breakfast, sleeping in a hammock, reading, watching hermit crabs under the shade of coconut trees, amazing lunch, working some, writing, taking another nap (it’s hot here!), swimming at sunset, eating an amazing dinner, reading some more, looking at the stars, chatting with the local family members, and going to sleep.
It’s perfect… well, almost! As soon as I got here, I immediately got devoured by mosquitos. My all-natural, DEET-free bug spray doesn’t seem to work much. There are flies that try to steal my coconut.
There is a house cat here that hates me - it blocks my room and makes the scariest sound at me every time I walk by. There is no hot water in the shower, and I have to share a bathroom (I have to walk pretty far every time!).
Ok, I know these are not all that bad… in fact, Tuvalu is the closest I’ve come to paradise. But I’ve come to realize that there is in fact no paradise on this earth! I’ve searched!
The problem is inside us. A place can look perfect on a picture. It can sound like paradise. But as soon as we go there, it will for sure not be paradise. Why? Because we’re humans and there will be something that irritates us there. Whether it’s mosquitos or rats or dogs or people smoking or other people’s screaming kids.
Every place has at it’s own problem (most likely a set of problems) that will rattle you specifically during the trip.
I still think of the recent conversation I had with an accountant from New Zealand on my island boat trip in Fiji. He planned every single detail of his vacation (sunset dinner cruise and everything!). He even looked up the location of the random island we were going to (I was just excited got go somewhere to swim… booked this trip the day before). He asked me if checked the weather (I did not! It was Fiji, it was going to be hot…) and then told me how upset he was that the weather app was not good at predicting weather in Fiji. It promised rain, so he was prepared for that, but it turned out to be sunny instead!
I guess that’s why people miss home. It’s easier to deal with problems you know about and are used to than the surprising ones you don’t expect in paradise. After all, it’s impossible to imagine mosquitos after seeing a picture like this (my daily view in Tuvalu!)
I’ve found that the best way to travel is without expectations. Especially without expecting paradise! That way, you end up being pleasantly surprised by the things that go well vs disappointed by the things you expected to be perfect turning out not that great after all. My favorite things about Fiji include the local food, Kava, and everyone saying Bula! - I did not have knowledge of any of these things before arriving to Fiji. A nice surprise!
Unfortunately, I haven’t followed my own knowledge for the past few months. I’ve been so stressed inside, I wanted the outside to be perfect. Somehow finding paradise, the perfect place, no matter how remote, no matter the cost, would make everything ok. But instead, this search stressed me out even more with disappointment after disappointment.
The only perfect place that can exist is the one inside - that one we have to work hard to make regardless of where we are. And once we have it, everywhere is paradise!