I promised some interactive travel planning and I intend to deliver.
And so, onwards with this countdown, and I’ve made a few changes around here. I’ve been sprucing up the appearance of this page recently to make it ‘travel ready’ – we have a countdown to flight number 1 and a schedule of all things travel from there onward (If I can get the damn thing to work, advice on linking Google calendars with WordPress would be much appreciated!).
My New Zealand visa ends on 26th November and I have no intention of cutting my time here short, so my first flight? 2:05pm on 26th November of course!
I figure I am so close to the new year when I leave, and so close to the best place in the world to spend that new year celebration, that I might as well hang out around these parts for a little longer to make sure I can welcome in 2017 with a colourful firework display at Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Since I can’t stay in NZ past the end of November, but don’t want to spend an entire month in Sydney, Fiji seems like a pretty decent compromise for a month.
Don’t you think?
Let’s plan Fiji!
I haven’t been involved in a volunteer programme for quite a long time, in Kenya I worked with children, in Namibia with wild animals and some regional work in Australia saw me fake it ’til I make it as a station hand, so a little bit of variety there. But I’ve never tried my hand at construction.
I’ve chosen a volunteer project in Fiji which will focus on construction and renovation in Suva.
In February 2016, the category 5 CYCLONE WINSTON: Fiji’s strongest storm in recorded history, destroyed the homes and lives of a peaceful nation. With some of the earlier stories suggesting that 5 lives had been claimed in the overnight whirlwind, further stories emerged over the week that followed with more and more bad news and an increase in the number of lives lost with every report. The final death toll came in at 44.
Born and bred in the UK, I have never experienced extreme weather conditions. I recall walking to the pub at 18 years old and thinking that the breeze blowing my fringe out of place was a life changing disaster. My life then was shallow. My life experience limited. 10 years later, I still, thankfully, can’t comprehend the pain and suffering of staring into the eyes of a natural disaster as it pulls apart everything I’ve ever known and loved. People lost their lives, and there is nothing anybody can ever do to make that easier. But for those who survived this chaos, some lost their homes, their schools, their businesses – and I CAN and WILL help to make that battle back to the surface easier – because that’s really all that anybody can do.
There are lots of companies out there who specialise in volunteer projects and all of them will have opportunities to help out in Fiji, but I have chosen Volunteer HQ for a few reasons:
- They seem to have a wide range of different types of projects available, so there could be opportunities to try my hand at a few different things, not just construction and renovation, but community support and outreach work might be on the cards too.
- All of the projects they have in Suva run from the same volunteer house, so I think this will offer lots of opportunities to meet new people, one of my favourite things about sharing a space and an experience.
- Their prices are the most affordable and seem to include a lot of the expenses that other companies don’t take into account. Their information was upfront about the extras which are not included in the price, so I felt I could trust them not to drop too many unexpected last minute costs on me.
- They allow you weekends off for exploring, which means I will hopefully get to enjoy a few adventures around Viti Levu and some of the neighboring islands.
I’ll be starting this project on December 5th and will be working hard at whatever I’m told needs digging, building, painting, tearing down etc. for 3 weeks. I finish up just in time for a Christmas celebration with the locals.
Well what’s interactive about that? I’ve already got it all planned out! Not quite.
Congratulations to anybody who noticed the big empty space between arriving in Fiji and starting the project. This is where you come in…
I am really looking forward to spending a few weeks getting my hands dirty and helping the local community, getting involved in all sorts of local culture and customs if the opportunities arise, but I’m also working pretty hard here in New Zealand, (granted not physically, but my job can be pretty mentally and emotionally draining) and by the time I leave I will have been hard at it for 12 months, so I’d love to enjoy some free time to see some of the Islands.
I found this Island hopping experience, it’s the right amount of time and seems to include a good variety of the islands, but is this unnecessary and overpriced? $1,230 for the lowest level package for 8 nights, but it does include all food, travel and accommodation for the week across all 4 of the islands visited.
Have you spent some time in Fiji? Enough to be able to offer some helpful advice?
Do you have any better ideas for my first week on the islands, or know of a better package than this one?
Do you think I should book something like this, or just turn up and wing it?
If you can recommend any 9 day trips or tours that aren’t going to cost me the earth, I want to know about it. I’m also not adverse to spending a week in one beautiful place with my feet up, or even propping up a bar with a couple of G&Ts, with tourists or locals (though a combination of all of the above would be ideal!)
I have no idea what wisdom you have to offer, but I’m definitely open to suggestions, let’s go crazy with my time (and wherever possible, go easy on my bank balance).
Progress so far:
- √ Vaccinations (Nothing additional required)
- χ Travel Insurance
- √ Work and Travel visa (can be organised on arrival)
- √ An understanding of the local culture and customs (appropriate clothing, behaviour, etc.)
- √ Some basic greetings in the local language (sometimes it’s necessary, sometimes it’s just polite!)
- √ Flight to Fiji
- √ Airport transfers
- χ Local finances organised (Bank Card vs Cash)
- χ Emergency numbers saved to my phone
- χ 8 nights of accommodation or adventures
- √ 3 weeks of construction volunteer work
- χ 5 days of accommodation including Christmas
- √ Flight out of Fiji
“A ship in the harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for”
– John A. Shedd