Monday, November 19, 2018

What Living in Fiji Has Taught Me

When packing for our flight to Fiji, I was only required to bring the essentials. There was a slight panic because I normally bring the whole house with me. After a few deep breaths, I thought of the ocean in those holiday brochures to justify this decision to pare down. I was about to live a tropical island dream. Who needs stilettos anyway? I set aside 60% of my belongings in an empty container and gave everything to my sisters. It was my tipping point on decluttering and also, learning a few valuable lessons in life.

If I were still in my 20s, the idea of swapping a modern city to live in an island would shock me. I used to be drawn to a busy lifestyle trying to chart my own career path early on. Sometimes I put myself under pressure for fear of being left behind. When I lack achievements, there was an unnecessary guilt of not being focused or driven enough. We think of those who are devoid of goals as lacking the hunger to succeed. As if being constantly busy gives a sense of fulfillment that is something to brag about. We are raised to believe that success equates to being rich, famous and admired by many. Unfortunately, there are also people who keep doing things they despise just to endure the day. Even slowing down is a luxury in itself. But then, there is Fiji where you only follow the rhythm of the sun and the ocean.

Personally, my definition of success has changed by finding joy in every day life. I was already at a point when a slow lane appeals to me more. Moving to Fiji was sort of an escape away from all the stress-inducing situations I outgrew like traffic, crowded malls, work exhaustion, unnecessary noises, and dealing with inconsiderate people. I embraced the concept of "island time" by not stressing over things I can't control but savoring the moment (good or bad) instead. Losing sense of time is completely normal in the island. "Sega na lega" as Fijians would often say, which means "no worries". I started to realize how possible it is to detach yourself from the rush and rediscover inner peace. One must always be present and connected in order to settle a busy mind. By being in the moment, you appreciate the small details that might otherwise be missed—the birds, the smell of earth after the rain, the rustling of leaves or how quickly the sky changes its colors during sunset.

Eight months in the island opened my eyes into a slower-paced lifestyle. It took a bit of adjusting but totally a different experience that has shifted my views on life. I've seen locals go about their daily routine with ease and contentment. By not having too much, they seemed really happy. I wanted to maintain that discipline of having less. Comparing life in the big city, people are easily tempted to purchase in excess or to live beyond their needs. Another makeup? New phone? Fancy clothes? It's hard to escape the trap of materialism where the dark side of consumerism makes you addicted to wanting more. In the island, you are left with a few options so you end up buying only the basics. There was a time when it took us half a day looking for my fluffy house slippers. Having little access to a variety of shops, this supposed simple shopping turned into a quest. When an item ran out of stock, I had no choice but to wait for the next delivery—some could even take several days. This is also the reason why many islanders have their own gardens. Fun part was receiving fresh veggies every week from the neighbors! I went around in plain tees, denim shorts and even bare-faced in all its naked glory. That feeling of comfort is truly liberating for me.

If you stop focusing on what you lack, you tend not to notice what anybody else has. For Fijians, value isn't measured by income or possessions but the kindness in your heart. No comparison. No competition. No jealousy. Living in the island can be difficult like any other place out there or it can be the paradise you imagined it to be. My time in Fiji was a humbling experience I would never trade for anything else.


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