So we decided where we’re going on our honeymoon: Fiji – not because we were ready to decide, but because there seem to be only two semi-affordable rooms left at any resort in Yasawa island chain where we want to stay. The reason? New Zealand, also known as “Middle Zealand,” “Is that its own country or is it part of Australia?” and “The ‘Lords of the Rings’ movies were okay. Tell me again why ‘The Hobbit’ a two-part movie?” And as we all know, if someone else wants it, it means we have to have it. Thanks a lot, New Zealand!
Thanks to New Zealand, I have to learn how to mentally convert New Zealand dollars to US dollars to Fijian dollars. Also thanks to New Zealand, I’m going to have to talk to a lot of people from New Zealand in Fiji. Fiji is like their Hawaii, only three hours away.
All of this is fine, because I like to collect stories, not stuff. One summer, I made the mistake of taking an assistant director/yoga teacher job at a camp somewhere in the Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania, and one of the camp counselors was this hyper-active New Zealander named Neil. Neil was really good at climbing ropes and jumping into pools when he should have been watching kids. The Australian counselors were decidedly cooler and more mature, so I didn’t spend a whole lot of time with Neil. I couldn’t understand much of what he said, either, which I think had less to do with his accent and more to do with its content. But as much as I hated that camp counselor job, I met people from all over the world and came home with a lot of – admittedly depressing – stories. I can’t go back in time and refuse the job offer, so I pretend the stories were worth it. (In this rare case, they weren’t. Live and learn.)
Stories are usually worth getting, though, even if (like me) you’ve had some seriously bad stuff happen to get them. Stories shape who you are. They’re like verbal wrinkles, conveying information about the life we’ve led and what kind of people we are. They inform us, teach us, and provide good small talk at parties and first dates.
I don’t know what kind of people go to resorts, having never been to one. Ours is very well-reviewed on Trip Advisor, though some people did complain about the lameness of some of the activities the resort offers, for example, jewelry-making and spear-throwing. Last I checked, no one spends thousands of dollars to go to a virtually uninhabited island to become professionals in either of these things, so I’m not sure why these reviewers were upset. So you were given some dental floss and sea shells to make a necklace? Screw the necklace – that’s a very funny story.
In my real life, I’m not always so good at rolling with the punches, but when I’m traveling internationally, I’m a rock star. See-through doors, broken ceiling fans, ants, lack of hot water, buses running on their own timetable, showers that double as toilets – all of this stuff flows off my back like a raging river. In my real life, though, I have a hard time letting go of anything. I like to be in control. I panic over something that no one in their right mind would panic about, and then spend lots of time researching UV lens filters to take my mind off of it. A UV filter is a piece of relatively cheap glass you attach to the front of your camera lens to prevent it from being scratched. It’s not rocket science. If you have a $100 kit lens, you certainly don’t need to buy a $50 filter. But. It transfers my nervous energy to a problem that’s easily solved with the click of a button. The great thing about traveling to countries where you’re out of your element is that you go into the endeavor knowing you’re not going to have control over anything. It’s incredibly freeing.
For a week and a half next summer, my problems will easily be solved by a 24-hour flight and a three hour boat ride. Stuff that’s out of my hands. I won’t mind too much if things don’t go exactly the way they’re supposed to (unless we have problems getting there), because good travel stories can’t be taken away by customs or destroyed by aggressive baggage handlers. Stories can’t be acquired unless you’ve lived a little. Once you get off that plane, it’s up to you to make the activities mean something. It’s a metaphor for life, if only life consisted of jet-setting to tropical islands everyday, climbing mountains, or taking pictures of pink-toed tarantulas in the Peruvian rainforest!
As for me, I am definitely planning on jewelry-making, spear-throwing, and doing anything else offered by the resort that sounds mildly interesting. There’s a lot of value in checking your prejudices at the door and coming home with a good tale or two.