In this time of self-isolation, I am once again happy that Eva Michelle Wheeler is sharing more of her recent trip to Vanuatu, an island country in the South Pacific Ocean. She found paradise!
And a place that promotes good eating. Title image: The billboard says EAT HEALTHY ALL THE TIME
Eva made it to Vanuatu and back to Durham, North Carolina by mid-March. Just before borders around the world started shutting down. Her posts today and last Friday will likely be the last travel blogs on my site for a while. Maybe even quite a while.
Show us more of paradise, Eva!
Paradise Found: But Which One?
My trip to Vanuatu wasn’t inevitable. In fact, Bora Bora and Tahiti were at the top of my Pacific Island bucket list. But, if travel has taught me anything, it’s that life doesn’t always neatly follow our plans. Vanuatu came onto my radar while I was searching for cheap flights from Brisbane, Australia.
When I’m planning a trip and know when I want to go but not where, I use a site called Sky Scanner. It lets me put Everywhere as my destination. And Everywhere is the perfect destination for my travel-loving soul.
So, for this trip, I entered my dates. I set my destination to Everywhere. And I looked at the list of flights that popped up.
New Zealand was first.
Next New Caledonia.
After looking at pictures online, I was initially leaning toward New Caledonia. But I couldn’t make up my mind.
Then I asked my Instagram followers for their opinion, and they overwhelmingly picked Vanuatu.
So, just like that, I set out on a course to find paradise, and Vanuatu did not disappoint.
Paradise Is Paradise But Not Perfection
When I say that Vanuatu is paradise, I don’t mean that it’s perfect. I definitely got caught in a torrential downpour without an umbrella and had to walk home with a plastic bag on my head.
Sometimes, the humidity was as high as 90 percent, and it was often tough to cut the island heat without air conditioning.
Everything costs a premium.
There are few sidewalks outside of the downtown area.
Mosquitoes will still bite you, and flies will still buzz around your food.
There is class separation and a push to preserve local culture amid an influx of foreign investment.
Paradise: What Language(s) Do They Speak?
Language can have many faces in Vanuatu.
On one hand, there are more than 100 indigenous languages spoken by approximately 275,000 people. This makes Vanuatu the country with the world’s highest “linguistic density”.
On the other hand, though, language also points to a relatively recent colonial history.
Prior to Vanuatu’s independence in 1980, the territory was under French and British control, and English and French are still official languages in the Republic.
The national language is Bislama, an English-based creole. As I walked around Port Vila town, I read the signs in Bislama and usually found that I could figure them out if I read them out loud.
Translation: “Public Notice: Smoking, Drinking Kava or Alcohol is prohibited inside the Park. No throwing litter (‘dirty’) all about, No making fire. Please keep the environment safe and clean. Thank you so much. Management”
Paradise and COVID-19
Even in paradise, you can’t escape from everything. I arrived to Vanuatu on March 9th, and the scene at the airport was my first glimpse of how COVID-19 was affecting nations around the world.
At the time, Vanuatu had no confirmed cases of COVID-19. (In fact, when the nation closed its borders on March 20th, there were still no reported cases). Despite this fact, or perhaps because of it, all passengers had to pass through a screening tent after leaving the plane and before entering the airport. In the tent, airport employees asked us screening questions, checked visas, and took each passenger’s temperature using a no contact infrared thermometer.
Signs in the airport informed passengers about the symptoms of the virus. And signs around the island reminded everyone of the necessary precautions for avoiding transmission of the virus.
This sign, in Bislama, was posted at a local supermarket.
While I was in Vanuatu, I knew that I would be coming home to a world that would look much different than the one that I had left behind on March 1st. But, if only for a few days, I decided that I would lie back beneath the coconut palms and focus on savoring every moment in paradise.
Paradise: Finding the Balance
Like any place, Vanuatu has good and bad. Whenever I travel, I always look for the good and hope that, in the end, all the good outweighs the bad. For me, paradise doesn’t mean that a place is perfect in every way. Instead, it means that I found peace there. That the fit was easy. That I saw beauty all around me, and that, at the end of the day, the good ended up outweighing the bad.
My wish for you – when things have calmed down and everyone is safe – is that you find the place that feels like a perfect fit. The place that makes your soul feel at peace. The place where, after weighing the good and the bad, the good wins out.
I found that place in Vanuatu.
Also by Eva Michelle Wheeler: Vanuata: Finding Paradise in the Pacific Ocean
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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen