Fiji… It kind of personifies paradise, right? Remote and exotic, the island effortlessly shares its stunning beaches and rich cultural heritage with all who visit. But trouble swept through paradise in the form of Tropical Cyclone Winston over 2 weeks ago. It was the most powerful storm to ever hit Fiji and news reports and images made me fear for the Pacific island nation’s future. Is paradise lost? Will travelers now steer clear? Or worst, will they even care? Well, here’s my take on why every traveller should take notice and flock to Fiji this year.
Let’s face it, facebook was never going to light up with Pray for Fiji posts. It’s too far off the beaten path for most. I’m not sure if I’d even care if I weren’t of Fijian descent (don’t judge!). It’s impossible to champion every noteworthy cause these days. Instead, I think action should come from those, like me, who have a relationship with Fiji – families abroad, neighboring countries and the travel community.
The travel community? Yes, it’s easy to understand why I’d call on family and neighbors to support Fiji in its time of need, but I also see an inherent link between travelers and their destinations. It makes sense that travelers support their community and when a country whose economic backbone is tourism finds itself in trouble… Perhaps a little attention is in order, eh? Whether you’ve actually visited or simply dreamt about it, I encourage travelers to protect all that you’ve invested into Fiji. Donating to relief efforts in paradise is one way to help. Another way is traveling to Fiji. After all, the storm did not impact the beaches or discolor that clear blue water. And travel in the aftermath of such a harrowing event offers a unique glimpse into the resilient and enduring nature of the world’s happiest people. Right now, you have a chance to be a part of Fiji and not just an on-looker.
Think it’s too soon for travel to Fiji? Bringing a sense of normalcy back to the island is important and tourism is the mainstay of Fiji. Now, I don’t deny the devastation of Tropical Cyclone Winston. The storm toppled entire villages down to the ground, knocked out power lines and left remote areas without food, water or shelter. However, Fiji is resilient and rebuilding quickly, and while it does, it needs tourism. As a traveler, I’ve accepted that most destinations have some kind of environmental or social issues at play and while I respect and acknowledge this truth, I don’t let it deter my exploration. I mean, the mafia hasn’t kept me from seeking La Dolce Vita in Italy!
Perhaps I’m an outlier, but voyeurism is not my goal as a traveler. I try to find authentic cultural experiences and often what I see is not without flaw. Even still, these honest moments affect me quite deeply and I get protective. Protective of my memories and for the wellbeing of the people and places with whom I’ve made a connection. I see it as a responsibility that comes with the privilege of travel.
While I fully acknowledge that this post is quite preachy, I really hope I’ve encouraged travelers to visit or at least think of Fiji in these days. Whether you’ve seen it or dreamt of it, Fiji is worth reliving or realizing. Before you go, tell us about your memories or expectations of Fiji in the comments below!