Filed under Traveling in the Raw by Frederic Patenaude
I recently released my new course on How to Travel the World for Free.
Today I want to tell you the story of how it happened.
You see, I’ve always been a traveler, and traveling has always been one of my biggest expenses.
It’s a life choice.
Some people spend a lot on a big house, some people buy a trendy sports car. Some people like to buy trendy clothes.
I chose to travel.
A few years ago, I got in contact with a great friend with whom I had lost touch for almost 10 years. Her name is Shelli Stein, and she’s a fitness trainer in Honolulu.
Shelli quickly became a close friend and mentor. She’s about 20 years older than me, and sort of became my “big sister,” giving me all sorts of useful advice and feedback.
Maybe I got along well with Shelli because she was also a traveler.
In the few years since we’ve been back in touch, she’s traveled all over the world.
- She went on a 3-week trip to New Zealand with her partner
- She went on a 3-week trip to Italy again with her partner (in the same year!)
- She went on a trip all by herself all the way to Hong Kong and Bali
- And many more
It’s the style of Shelli’s travels that impressed me. She would be flying in first class and staying in high-end hotels. So I assumed she was extremely wealthy.
I was wrong.
She knew something I didn’t know.
She discovered methods for traveling for pennies instead of dollars.
So over the next year, she patiently taught me everything she knew about her method for traveling.
At first, I thought she was just gathering frequent flyer miles by going on trips often, and then redeeming them for other trips.
“You know I get frequent flyer miles too,” I told Shelli.
“In fact, I get almost 2K a year in traveling just with that!”
But Shelli wasn’t impressed. She had discovered methods that were way beyond that. In fact, she would manage to get trips that would normally cost over 10K for just a few hundred dollars.
I’m talking about flying all the way from the West Coast to Europe in First Class, and then staying in the best hotel in town for a week. For less than $200…!
As I started applying Shelli’s techniques, I was blown away by my results.
At the moment, I find myself in a weird situation.
I could go *anywhere* in the world, but I just don’t know where to go.
I could fly *anywhere* in the world in first class, and stay in a 4 or 5 star hotel for about two weeks.
I haven’t decided where I’m going to go yet. But I’m looking at my options.
The bottom line is I managed to do all of this through the method that Shelli taught me.
Check it out:
When I was young, I wanted to travel.
I used to read lots of National Geographic magazines and dream about the places that I could once visit. I was really fascinated by Iceland, and for some reason, the Seychelles islands in the Indian ocean.
It wasn’t until the age of 21 that I even stepped on an airplane, when I had my first long flight going from California to Hawaii.
I always had the dream to travel the world.
I wanted to see the Greek Isles, and the pyramids of Egypt, and swim in the warm lagoons of Tahiti. I wanted to wander in the streets of Paris, see Versailles, and go “down under” to Australia and New Zealand.
I wanted to go to Fiji.
I was curious about all these exotic cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Istanbul.
And when I finally accomplished my dream, and traveled the world, I felt relief. I felt like I could live the rest of my life without regretting not having seen the world.
Do you dream about traveling? Have you fallen behind on your travel dreams and goals? Do you wonder how you could afford those trips?
I used to always think that traveling was expensive.
That paying for traveling was the ONLY way.
When I found out that my friend Shelli was traveling the world, flying first class and staying in high-end hotels for almost nothing, I wanted to know how she did it.
And then I uncovered an entire universe that I wasn’t even aware existed, where it’s possible to catch up on your travel dreams at a price anyone can afford.
I’m talking about spending only a few hundred dollars instead of thousands and thousands of dollars.
I’m talking about getting a trip that would normally cost $8000 for less than $250.
Dreaming big doesn’t cost anything.
But traveling big for very little is also possible.
If you’ve fallen behind on your travel goals I want you to know that you’re not alone. And it’s not your fault. Nobody showed you that it was possible.
It starts with a dream.
Where do you want to go?
Do you want to build a travel portfolio that will make you the envy of everyone you meet? If that’s the case, you’ll want to include Paris, Rome, the pyramids of Egypt, and Hawaii on your bucket list!
Maybe you want to experience new cultures. Places like China, Thailand, and Japan will give you this.
I personally have a fascination with islands. And the farther they are from everything, the more excited I am about visiting them! That’s how I feel about the South Pacific.
But it’s really up to you. It’s your goal and your travel dreams.
It’s good to have a goal, but how are you going to get there? How will you realize these dreams?
There are many techniques that can help you, but essentially you need a system to help you reach those goals and fulfill those dreams at fraction of what it would normally cost.
What if you could pay almost nothing for airfare (just enough to cover taxes) and pay nothing for hotels?
I haven’t found how to pay nothing for restaurants or food, short of dumpster diving or stealing, so you’re going to need to spend a bit for that. But I don’t consider that an extra spending because that’s something we need to do all the time anyway.
If you manage to handle the flight and hotel for almost nothing, you can have a truly memorable trip, maybe going on tours that you normally couldn’t afford.
So if you’ve fallen behind on your travel goals, check out my course on How to Travel the World for Free.
When I was living in San Diego back in the late 90s, I met my friend Shelli, who’s a fitness trainer and was a raw foodist at that time.
She had hired me a raw food chef for her for a couple of days, and I also took care of her sweet dog Lucky.
When I left California we lost touch.
But a few years ago she found my website and got in touch again. And we’ve been great friends every since.
Because she’s older than me, I consider Shelli to be my “Big Sister” or my mentor in many areas of my life. For example, she helped me train for a half-marathon, and also gave me lots of useful advice over the years.
But one thing about Shelli that blew me away was when I discovered how she traveled.
She kept telling me about all these crazy luxurious vacations she had been on, and I really thought she was loaded!
For example, she told me how she flew from California to Hong Kong in First Class, stayed at a four star hotel and then went on an 2-week trip to Bali, staying in a posh Balinese villa.
Or, she would go on a whim to New Zealand, or prepare multiple trips to Europe in the same year.
Well, I was happy for her, and I could not judge her for traveling so much, since I myself have the travel bug and have gone on more than one extensive trip.
But one day, one thing she said really caught my attention.
“Fred, this last trip cost me nothing.” .
I didn’t really register what she said. I mean there she was, flying in first class and staying in luxury hotels. When I traveled, I only flew economy and stayed in cheap hotels.
So what was the deal?
She had a system for traveling the world paying almost nothing for flights and hotels.
And I had no idea how she did it.
I mean, I had a rewards card myself, and I used it for many of my purchases. Through that I would get enough points to pay for a flight or two per year. I thought that was great.
But what she was doing was way beyond getting a flight or two per year because you gather some points.
She would go to truly expensive hotels, fly in first class, and do it more than once in the same year!
I really wanted to know how she did it .
So patiently, she taught me everything she knew. And I started applying it. And it worked. And then the more I did it, the better it worked.
So together we put together a program on How to Travel the World For Free, and it rocks. Check it out below.
Filed under Traveling in the Raw by Frederic Patenaude
I visited over 25 countries from July last year until April of this year, with the intent of meeting some like-minded people and spreading the message about the benefits of a mostly raw, plant-based diet. I visited with many people and shared thoughts on raw food eating and what it’s like to do it in the most unlikely places (like Iceland!)
Over and over again, I have found that in most places of the world, it’s easier to lead an unhealthy life than a healthy one, and that almost *no one* really understands even just basic health concepts, like not eating animal products.
I remember I was in Turkey last September, and was trying to order something healthy at a restaurant. I knew five phrases in Turkish, and one of them was: “Do you have any vegetarian food and salads?”
Then the waiter proceeded to try to sell me on ordering a chicken dish. “Oh yeah, we have chicken. Chicken is vegetarian! Very good!”
I tried to tell him that chicken was NOT vegetarian, but with the straightest face he kept trying to convince me that chicken was perfectly okay to eat for vegetarians because it was not red meat.
After a round of arguing in English and in the few words I knew in Turkish, I managed to order some kind of Turkish salad, which was quite a feat too, because I had to explain what I didn’t want in the salad. In the end, the waiter appeared a bit upset.
You’ve probably heard some stories of people who order a “decaf” coffee, only to realize later, after they’re all wired up, that the waiter made a “mistake” and brought regular, fully-caffeinated coffee instead.
“Oh sorry, we made a mistake!”
And just how do they plan to correct that mistake, especially if the person has ordered their “decaf” in the evening and won’t be able to fall asleep that night? It’s quite funny, sometimes.
Many vegans have reported the experience of ordering something that was supposedly vegan, only to realize later that the soup broth that their vegetables are bathing in was made with the carcasses of dead animals.
The worst thing is when restaurants *pretend* to have options for vegetarians, when in fact they don’t. I’ve found many places like this on my trip around the world.
There was a place in Greece that advertised “vegetarian food” in big bold letters outside of their restaurant. When I entered to check it out, I looked at the menu and noticed that nothing on it was vegetarian… just salad topped with salmon, eggs, and cheese.
Then I asked the waiter what their “vegetarian” food was. He explained to me in broken English that they had plenty of “vegetarian” salads. When I pointed out that they all contained meat, fish, cheese or eggs, he told me that these items could be left out.
Talk about a vegetarian menu!
Getting raw foods while traveling was not always an easy task. In some countries, I would ask people where I could buy fruit. I would even ask Taxi drivers to take me to “the best place I can buy fruit.”
In 90% of cases, they would take me to a regular supermarket or corner store. In fact, they did not take me to a great supermarket, just an average one, generally the closest one.
Then I learned that I had to specify that I did not want to go to a supermarket but to a place that sold “only fruits and vegetables,” like a public market.
I had to learn the word for “public market” in many languages to get my point across!
When it came to breakfasts at B&Bs and hotels, it was always a disappointment. At first, I would explain that I just wanted fruit for breakfast.
But for some mysterious reason, just saying that I wanted “only fruit” for breakfast was understood as “this guy wants fruit along with the rest of his breakfast.” Even in places where English was the first language, like Australia or New Zealand!
So in the morning, I would get a regular plate of eggs, toasts, jam, coffee, and some fruit!
When I finally managed to explain that I actually ate ONLY fruit in the morning, people were very puzzled and reluctantly brought me one piece of totally unripe banana along with some other kind of unpalatable unripe fruit.
In the end, I had to visually describe exactly what I needed beforehand, by writing emails to the owners of the B&B.
“I only eat fruit for breakfast. I hope that’s not too much trouble for you? In fact, it might make your job a lot easier… but I do eat a LOT of fruit. For example: an entire large papaya with 4 fully ripe bananas.”
I found that by describing exactly what I needed, along with exact quantities, I got better results, but some people still didn’t get it. They brought me totally unripe bananas and only a little more fruit than normal.
I then modified my approach to explain that I’d be “more than happy” to pay for any extra costs of buying all this fruit.
At that point I got good results about half the time, but the portions were still depressingly small. That was okay because I thought of this breakfast as a snack before my real breakfast that I would make in my room!
In the end, I had the idea of putting together a mini-website along with pictures, showing exactly what I eat for breakfast. I got this idea at the end of our trip, so I didn’t have time to try it out. I suspect though, that some people still wouldn’t get it!
The best thing is to be 100% self-sufficient and be in control of what you put in your body at all times. But if you have any social life at all, you will inevitably have to deal with restaurant waiters and other people responsible for serving you food, once in a while.
Here are some tips:
1) Be Extremely Clear — Don’t just say that you’re vegan, most people don’t understand what that is! Explain exactly what it is that you don’t eat. For example, you could say: “I don’t eat any dairy products: including milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, and anything coming from milk. I also don’t eat meat, chicken, pork, chicken, fish…”
Depending on what you’re ordering, make sure to enumerate every single thing that could end up in your food that you don’t want.
2) Give Options — Most waiters and chefs will be extremely discouraged upon hearing this long list of negatives. So make sure to describe some options, if that’s the case.
For example, when we were stuck in a resort island in Fiji and NOTHING on the menu was even remotely raw or vegan, I gave the chef a long list of possible dishes they could make for us, along with ingredient lists for each, based on what I knew they could get on the island.
Initially the chefs had no idea what they could make, but after seeing this list, they suddenly “remembered” that they were trained chefs and could come up with delicious dishes, when given some guidelines.
3) Triple Check — Even if you clearly explain what you want, there’s a good chance that some people still won’t get it. So it’s a good idea to triple-check with the waiter, if you have any doubt that they won’t understand.
4) Don’t Get Resentful — Some restaurants will refuse to cater to the needs of vegans. And that’s okay. I prefer that a restaurant be honest and say that they WON’T make anything vegetarian, rather than claim they will and then fall short on their promise.
It’s pretty unlikely that there won’t be anything you can order and modify on the menu. But there’s a chance that you might not be able to make a nice meal out of it. That’s okay. Order a simple salad, and enjoy a good time with friends.
5) Be Willing to Make Compromises — I’m not saying that you should compromise on your principles, but be reasonable. Maybe the salad you got was not organic, or that the olives they put on your salads are from a can.
You don’t want to be the impossible client who returns every single dish and gets angry. There’s a good chance that eating five black olives from a can won’t kill you. In fact, there’s a good chance that it will do zero damage to your body. So learn to relax a bit, and enjoy your food, even if it’s not 100% perfect.
If they put a big hard-boiled egg on your salad, you could simply take it out instead of returning the entire dish and passing again for an ungrateful impossible person.
NOTE: You can still draw the line somewhere. I refuse to eat certain things, like animal products when they show up in my food.
6) Prepare for Disappointment. There’s a good chance that you’ll be disappointed with the food. Come prepared! I know many people who carry little jars of their own dressings when they go to restaurants, or bring a ripe avocado in their purse! I’ve done it and it works.
It’s amazing how a simple salad of raw vegetables can be totally transformed with a healthy dressing. Nobody will be upset that you brought your own dressing, but if you go to a more upscale restaurant, you might explain to them that you’re on a special diet and request that they bring you your salad with your dressing served on it.
7) Don’t Trust Anyone! People love to say “yes” when in fact they can’t deliver. Don’t trust that the decaf you’re drinking is actual decaf. You might be better off ordering something else that you know has no caffeine (decaf is almost as bad as real coffee anyway).
Don’t trust that the person you talked to understood your needs even though they said they did. Often people say “yes” just to avoid confrontation and appear competent, even when they have no idea what you actually meant. That’s particularly true in foreign countries.
Finally, learn to enjoy life and live it to the fullest, no matter where you are and what the circumstances are.
I just came back from an eight-month trip around the world, visiting over 25 countries and countless cities and islands.
During this “tour around the world,” I gave talks in many countries, including Denmark, the Czech Republic and Australia, and met many of my readers, as well as many very interesting raw foodists, vegan activists and other health minded people.
Coming back to “reality” has been a little challenging, especially considering the fact that we had no official place to stay when we arrived. Fortunately we were able to quickly find an apartment in beautiful Vancouver, but we’re still in the process of moving in. No more traveling for a while!
There’s still a LOT about the trip I haven’t had a chance to share with you, simply because of lack of time while traveling and bad Internet service in some islands.
So to end this trip with a bang and celebrate our return to North America, as well as to show you some of the most beautiful places I’ve seen on this trip, I’m announcing a special event next week called:
Raw Island Week!
Starting on Sunday this week, and running every day for 7 days, you’ll get to see in video seven amazing islands of the South Pacific, including my commentary on what it’s like to live as a raw foodist and a vegetarian there.
I think you’ll be quite surprised and even enthralled by these tropical islands, and it will not only give you something to dream about, but also give you some insights as to what it’s *really* like to live on a tropical island.
Every day of the week, in addition to the videos and possibly some articles, there will be a special for one of our product. Each product will be on sale for 24 hours, and you’ll be able to get the discount using a coupon code that has the name of the island of the day.
Make sure you check your email every day for these “Raw” island videos and the special of the day.
For now, I wanted to share with you some more insights I had after my trip and some of my “Top Best Lists” from around the world.
Did you read the Raw Food Controversies? One of my readers writes:
I loved “The Raw Food Controversies” – it filled in so many blank pockets of missing knowledge I was unaware of, both regarding the history of the raw food movement and shedding light on the weaknesses and strengths of eating this way. My value system regarding what to eat has totally changed and I finally consider I have my feet on the ground with my food choices.
If you haven’t read the book, go immediately to: http://www.rawcontroversies.com
Top Places in the World for a Raw Foodist, Part 1
This article may surprise you, but it comes from the genuine opinion of someone who just travelled to over 25 countries in eight months, having visited many more prior to this last trip. Although I may be missing some places I haven’t yet visited… this is just my opinion based on what I know. Feel free to comment.
Part 1: Top Vegetarian Cities in the World
Let’s start with the big cities that are the most vegetarian friendly in the world, especially those that understand the concept of veganism, gluten free and raw foods. Based on my experience, my choices would be:
#1 London, England — Let’s start with the city that has the longest tradition of vegetarianism in the world for any Western country. This is where vegetarianism was born! This is where Gandhi famously studied and lived as a vegetarian. London today may not seem as vegetarian-friendly as other cities I will mention below, but it has the longest tradition of vegetarianism, and the country in the world after India where the most people label themselves as “vegetarian.”
#2 New York City — There’s no lack of vegetarian, vegan or raw vegan option in New York City. This is the city that has it all! HappyCow.com, the website that inventories vegetarian restaurants around the world, lists over 111 vegetarian, vegan, or veg-friendly restaurants in the Big Apple.
#3 Vancouver, Canada — Okay, I may be a little biased, because this is where I live now, but I find Vancouver to be one of the most health-conscious, vegetarian friendly places in the world. The city is practically Asian, but almost every single restaurant has a vegetarian or vegan option, and we even have a couple raw restaurants. But more importantly, Vancouverites seem to care about their health, and it shows in the thriving health food culture here.
#4 Toronto, Canada — There is a sort of rivalry between Vancouver and Toronto as to which city is the most vegetarian-friendly. There’s no doubt that Toronto boasts more vegetarian, vegan and raw vegan restaurants, but to be fair I will tie it in with Vancouver!
#5 San Francisco — HappyCow lists 45 vegetarian or veg-friendly restaurants in San Francisco, but everybody knows that San Fran is a health conscious city where it’s very easy to eat healthy and live healthfully.
#6 Singapore — The number of vegetarian restaurants in Singapore in mind-boggling. HappyCow lists over 200, but I suspect there are many more. When I visited the city, I located approximately 20 vegetarian restaurants within a five-minute walk around my hotel. I am not kidding! Generally the food is vegan, and the only downside is that the menu only varies slightly from one restaurant to the next. Raw vegans will love the fruit and durian sold in Singapore year round. Singapore is also known for its “durian bars” on the street where you can buy several varieties of durian and eat on the spot.
#7 Portland, Oregon — I have to admit, I have never spent much time in Portland, but everybody tells me it’s one of the best places in the world for vegetarians and raw foodists, beating many the cities I have mentioned previously. I can’t argue with the consensus!
#8 Hong Kong — I found Hong Kong to be like a combination between New York City and Singapore. Hong Kong has a vibrant vegetarian culture based on the buddhist tradition, and most restaurants are not listed online. But you’ll find them everywhere as you walk the streets of the city. I won’t rate it as high as Singapore simply because not as much fruit is sold on the streets.
#9 Chiang Mai, Thailand — This is the most vegan-friendly place in Thailand, boasting many vegan restaurants. By definition: any vegetarian in Thailand will be vegan because the word for “vegetarian” in Thai literally means “vegan” (no animal products). In addition to its many vegan restaurants and observance of the Vegetarian Food Festival in November, Thailand has all the fruit and fresh produce you could hope for. Think massive quantities of the best fruit you’ve ever tasted, at rock-bottom prices!
#10 Melbourne, Australia — Melbourne may not have as many vegetarian restaurants as the other cities I mentioned, but it’s a very health-conscious city where the word “gluten-free option” appears on more restaurant window than anywhere else I’ve seen. It has a vibrant raw vegan culture and its central market is one of the best I’ve seen in the world to buy fresh produce.
In my next article, I will share with you the top places in the world I’ve discovered for raw foodists!
Stay tuned for Raw Island Week starting next week!
First, I want to show you a little video I made when I was “lost and cast away” on a tiny island in Fiji, which inspired me to create a new episode for the popular Lost show… one featuring yours truly. You’ll also see some unique and beautiful scenery from Fiji.
Once you’re done with my little video… read the article below to discover what it’s really like to live on a tropical island!
Do You Ever Dream of Moving to a Tropical Island?
There are only three weeks left to my trip around the world, which started back in July of last year. As I feel totally stranded on a tropical island in the middle of the South Pacific, I started thinking about islands and the myth surrounding them, and also the reality of living on a little island versus the fantasy.
Many raw foodists like to dream of paradise, particularly warm tropical islands, isolated from the modern world and ideally providing them with all the sunshine and the fruits they need. I’ve always had a particular fascination with the South Pacific, as to me it’s the closest thing we can experience on Earth to interstellar travel.
Each island is like a little world onto itself, isolated by miles and miles of blue Ocean from other world, and for the longest time in human history these little gems of paradise were completely unknown and undiscovered.
The South Pacific is the last large area of the world to be colonized by human beings and the discovery of these island is probably one of the greatest pre-historic achievements of humankind.
I’m writing these lines on the little island of Aitutaki, a speck of Paradise part of the Cook Islands, reputed to have one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world. I won’t disagree with that… seeing Aitutaki from the sky was a formidable spectacle.
The Cook Islands were some of the last islands to be discovered at colonized by humans. In 200 BC, a good 1300 years after Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and a few other groups of islands in the South Pacific were discovered, knowledgable adventurers left for a discovery mission, and ended up in modern day French Polynesia.
About 500 years later (AD 300-400), the same Polynesians left for Hawaii, Easter Island and the Cooks. Incredibly, New Zealand was the last main island of the South Pacific to be discovered in 900 AD.
What Islanders Actually Eat
Fast forward to present time, these islands are still incredibly fascinating, and some of them quite a challenge to get to, but the islander’s way of life have dramatically changed since ancient times. While the Polynesians lived on a diet of fish, root crops, breadfruit, pork, and very few other things, today’s islanders like to indulge in fried chicken and junk food (mainly white bread, chips and chocolate bars), supplementing their diet with some traditional fare. They also eat a lot of fish, as most of the meat is actually imported and frozen.
There is no McDonald’s on the island of Rarotonga, or anywhere in the Cook Islands (we even saw a sign pointing the direction to the nearest McDonalds, over 2000 KM away!), but there’s plenty of fast food to be had.
Cook Islanders often say that they “live to eat,” and admit this freely and by that they don’t mean green smoothies or even fruit. Many Cook Islanders have a freezer bigger than their fridge, and in fact the remote island of Pamerston in the Cooks boasts the highest freezer usage per capita in the world! That’s because they have to get 3-5 months of groceries at a time, because on their atoll there’s not much land to grow food besides coconuts. It’s mostly sand with little topsoil.
It seems that almost everybody on these islands is at the very least overweight, if not obese. The healthiest-looking islanders we ever saw were probably in Fiji, while the unhealthiest and most obese are probably in Hawaii. There are always exceptions, though. I remember meeting a ripped-looking couple in French Polynesia, who swore they stayed healthy by drinking noni juice daily. I suspect their diet was a lot better than the other locals, too.
How Small These Islands Actually Are
Rarotonga is not a big island. It’s about 67 square kilometers (SQ KM), or about 42 square miles, and most of it is impenetrable jungle from the mountainous interior. There’s a road that circles the island that’s 32 KM long (20 miles). To put that in perspective, the Big Island of Hawaii is over 10,000 SQ KM (or 6250 SQ Miles). Seeing Rarotonga from the sky is quite amazing, as you can literally see the entire island in one glance below you.
Aitutaki is even smaller, being an atoll in formation, most of the original island has sunk to the bottom of the ocean. What’s left is a little island surrounded by a beautiful lagoon and a few islets. Going about 40 KM per hour (25 miles) on a scooter, I could go all around the island in less than 25 minutes!). After going around the island a few times, I knew my way around, a good thing since there are no street signs or addresses…
Foods You Can Eat On a Tropical Island
On Aitutaki there’s fruit trees everywhere, but not much for sale at the market. Apparently, a cyclone recently devastated a lot of their crops. In any case, going around the island I saw a lot of breadfruit trees, papaya trees, coconuts, noni fruit trees (used for medicinal purposes), and mango trees. I went to a farmer’s market one morning in Aitutaki, and all I could buy were a few green bananas, green papayas and coconuts, along with a few vegetables such as cucumber and potatoes.
Rarotonga was more well-endowed with fruit, but the variety was similar (we also got some delicious carambola, or starfruit).
Some islands have more fruit than others, like the Seychelles, where I could find jackfruit, mangoes, cherimoya, and many other exotic varieties, and some have less. You might think that it’s a good idea to just go “foraging” for fruit in the wild, but because these islands are so small, every fruit tree you might find on the side of the road probably belongs to someone, so foraging is the equivalent of stealing. This is NOT how you should behave, as the locals make far less in a month than you would make in a week at home. It’s best to ask when in doubt.
Typically, the fruit you will buy on these islands is very good, but there’s just not a lot of it. Every papaya I ever had in the South Pacific has been absolutely delicious… with neon-orange flesh and amazing fragrance. When I visited French Polynesia in 2006 (which is our next destination before heading back home), I remember that the fruit was very good, but not necessarily cheap or abundant.
While You Dream of Islands, They Leave Them
When you first arrive in some of these beautiful tropical islands, the first thought that crosses your mind is: this is so beautiful, I never want to leave. At the same time, many of the islanders can’t wait to get out of their little Paradise! Everybody loves the Cook Islands, but there’s not many opportunities for local youth. Because the Cook Islands are in free association with New Zealand, Cook Islanders hold a New Zealand passport, and most of the young people eventually leave to go work in either Australia or New Zealand. They come back for vacations and to visit family, but many of them get more excited by the bright lights of Auckland or Sydney than the sleepy ports of the Cook Islands.
About 20,000 people live in the Cook Islands, but over 75,000 Cook Islanders live abroad. In some of the smaller and more remote islands, you’ll hardly find anybody between the age of 18 and 50.
It’s quite a contrast when you think of all these island daydreamers who think they would love to live on a tropical island if they could… including raw foodists!
My Ideal Tropical Island
A few years ago, I read the story of two young people who apparently had some extra money to spare, and decided to start a raw food community on a tropical island in the South Pacific. They scoured the area for months and finally found an island in Fiji to buy. However, their story abruptly ended and I never found it if they managed to make their dreams a reality.
If I could design my ideal island, I would like to find an island about the size of Rarotonga, which is small enough to feel cozy, but big enough to not feel too claustrophobic. I would plan the entire island with fruit trees of all kinds (not just papayas, coconuts and mangoes!), and the morning farmer’s markets would be glorious.
I’d try to find a way to generate clean energy for all the island, but this wouldn’t be an easy task. Almost all islands get their electricity from diesel-burning generators. There are not many alternatives at the moment, besides nuclear power, because wind and solar energy require too much land area and are too expensive, and generally most islands don’t have ways to generate hydro-electricity or enough volcanic activity for geothermal power.
I’d like to turn the island into a giant fruit orchard, while at the same time having enough conveniences for modern life, including fast Internet. But now, I’m totally daydreaming as this will probably never happen!
My Favorite Islands
During my trip, I’ve briefly fallen in love with a few islands, my favorites being Bora Bora as the most beautiful one of all, the Seychelles for the most amazing beaches, the island of Crete in Greece for the best combination of culture and natural scenic beauty, and finally the islands of Hawaii as having the best combination of everything one could want on an island. And if we count New Zealand as an island (or two, actually), then it certainly makes it at the top of my list as an awesome island that has a bit of everything.
Sometimes we daydream of tropical islands… but we might forget the reality of living in Paradise. If we want to define Paradise as:
- Beautiful lagoons and beaches
- Sunshine and warm weather
- Tropical plants
… then yes, tropical islands are absolute paradise. But to me Paradise is an attitude of wonder you can bring with everywhere beautiful. Although I’ve dreamt about living on a remote tropical island, I’m not ready to make that move yet because I still love civilization and fresh produce, the beautiful and never-ending landscapes of North America, fast Internet and good infrastructures, and yes, a good variety of fruits and vegetables!
Although being on Aitutaki makes me realize that my home country is probably the best place for me to live, I’m sure when I’ll get back to rainy Vancouver I’ll be finding myself daydreaming about the warm, turquoise lagoon of Aitutaki… proving once more that the grass can always seem greener somewhere else.
Although I would probably not move to a tropical island permanently, I still think it’s possible to make your dream of moving to a tropical paradise a few months a year a reality! I’ve been living this dream, spending all my winters in the sun for the past 5 years now, and discovered how you can move to a tropical paradise without abandoning the comforts of home… and in fact without even spending more than you do now! For more information, check out my course on How to Move to a Tropical Paradise at www.fredericpatenaude.com/tropicalparadise.html
What about you… have you ever dreamt of living in a tropical island, and what would be your ideal tropical island?
For the past six months, I’ve been traveling around the world. I’ve also been an avid traveler before that. These are a few things I learned on this trip.
Most Places Are Not That Scary
During all of my travels over the years, I’ve been warned that the world is a dangerous and scary place by friends and family who haven’t been anywhere at all really. Combined with the media attention on natural catastrophes and crime statistics, at some point I was even afraid to travel to certain places myself, having been warned that these places might not be safe.
Every place I have ever traveled to that I initially feared, turned out to be perfectly safe once I got there, from Rio de Janeiro to Mexico. On this trip, I had some doubts about certain countries such as Egypt and the Philippines, but I found again that my concerns were unfounded. Cairo was different but not scary, and Cebu City in the Philippines was quite easy to get around.
On this trip we missed a few “catastrophes” by a few weeks or months. We were in Egypt just a few months before the revolution started. We arrived in Brisbane (Australia) a couple of weeks after the floods destroyed their city, and left Cairns just five days before a Cyclone was due to devastate the area. We arrived to Christchurch, in New Zealand, just two weeks after a giant earthquake devastated the city and killed more than 200 people.
I believe that even if we had been at the “wrong place at the wrong time,” I still think we would have been okay. Once you’ve travelled for a while, you develop a certain “street smart” way of keeping yourself out of trouble and knowing what to do if something goes wrong.
Often the media can make us think that it’s safer at home, but when we look at statistics we can find that many US cities are more dangerous than cities abroad, and that natural catastrophes are just as likely to strike New Orleans as Indonesia or Chile. Overall, the world has never been a safer place, so if you’ve put off traveling because of some irrational fears, you should take a look at the issue again and try to overcome these fears to start living your dreams. That’s what I found through my personal experience.
Everybody Eats a Crappy Diet
No matter where you go in the world, everybody eats crap. That’s my current conclusion after traveling extensively for eight months. The concept of “natural” and “traditional” diet does not exist anymore in most places and even remote islands. I don’t mean that everybody gorges on junk food all over the world, but most people’s diet is really poor and low in nutrients and high in refined packaged foods.
In Thailand, the locals eat a diet that is loaded with salt and fat, and would be more than happy if you took them out to Pizza Hut. The only reason why they don’t eat American fast food more often is because it’s too expensive and local street food is dirt cheap.
In Northern Europe, people eat cold meat, white bread and sausages for breakfast. In Costa Rica, the locals load up on fried chicken whenever they get a chance, and drink gallons of sugary cola drinks. In the Philippines, people eat mounds of cheap white rice and greasy meat, with almost no vegetables and pour ketchup on everything!
When Westerners travel, they are eager to try out the local “wholesome and healthy” cuisine. Don’t kid yourself anymore. Everybody is westernized, for the most part, and eats more fat and meat than their grandparents ever did. The restaurant food you will eat almost anywhere in the world will be unhealthy, nine times out of ten.
This is not to say that it’s impossible to eat healthy while traveling. You can find fresh produce and vegetarian restaurants in most countries, but almost every large population on the planet now eats an unhealthy diet, and to eat healthy while traveling requires a lot of preparation and hard work.
Your hardest challenge will be trying to get a salad or steamed vegetables that are not doused in oil.
There is a Commonwealth
Being from Canada, I used to laugh as a kid that we had a Queen on our bank notes and coins. When I learned that Canada indeed had a Queen, the same that ruled England and a dozen other nations (symbolically, for the most part), I scoffed at this antiquated idea of monarchy and refused to acknowledge the fact that we were part of what is referred to as a commonwealth of nations, a vestige of the old and vast British empire.
Many people don’t realize that the British empire was the most powerful and vast empire the world had ever known, and that it’s what spawned essentially what we refer to as modern Western civilization. Many young people today like to criticize these old colonialists for their bigotry and arrogance for wanting to take over the world, yet don’t realize that the freedom of speech and strong institutions they enjoy today is a direct result of over a thousand years of evolution in Britain (and to a lesser extent, France), that got exported all over the world.
When I travelled the world, I saw what is left of the British empire, from the tiny islands of the Seychelles, to the prosperous city state of Singapore, to Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and many other places. You wouldn’t believe how many coins and foreign currencies Queen Elizabeth II appears on! I was blown away by the sheer size of the legacy left by the British Empire (not counting Canada, India and even the United States).
Sure, the colonialist British were motivated by greed and did some pretty nasty things. But they certainly weren’t the worst conquerors the world had ever seen, a fact that can be illustrated by the fact that most if not all former British colonies are proud of their British heritage. In the end, most if not all of these countries are much better off than other countries that were colonized by other people.
The way I see it now is: if Britain hadn’t conquered the world, we’d be in a much bigger mess today. Who knows, we might not even be talking on the Internet right now and shared these amazing ideas about health if that had happened.
Most People Are Friendly and Honest
In eight months of traveling around the world to over 25 countries, and in years of prior traveling experience, I have never once been robbed or mugged. On this trip, we lost many different items along the way, from a pair of sunglasses to underwear! It was all our fault, of course, but once we did forget a rather expensive camera at a restaurant in Bali, and only realized couple of days later! When we showed up at the restaurant again, the staff was waiting for us with the camera, having kept it in their bin of “lost items” behind the till.
The worst that happened to me while traveling was being overcharged because I was a tourist and didn’t know any better. A common tactic in the Philippines from taxi drivers was to avoid telling me the fare, instead asking me how much I wanted to pay for it, not knowing how far my hotel was or that the local rates for taxi fares were absolutely dirt cheap. I once had a hotel employee rip me off in Hong Kong, as he suggested to take a cab ride to the airport, telling me it would only cost around $25. The total fare cost over $80, and I suspect that he was working together with the taxi driver to extort such high prices (I read on the Internet from other people complaining about the same issue at the same hotel).
Being overcharged or ripped off by a few dollars happens everywhere, especially when you first get to a new country and don’t know any better. But I’ve never had anyone actually rob me and found that most people, in most countries are honest. There are always bad apples, but in my experience it’s not generalized.
Vegetarianism Is Not a Worldwide Concept
I did not realize until I started traveling that vegetarianism and veganism are truly an anglo-saxon concept. Outside of North America, Australia, maybe New Zealand and some parts of Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong and a few other select countries, most people have absolutely no idea what a vegetarian actually eats, let alone a vegan or a raw foodist.
In most languages, there isn’t even a word to describe a vegan diet. In Thailand, the closest approximation is the word “Jay,” which defines a Buddhist tradition of avoiding all meat and flesh, as well as onion and garlic as a method of purification. The concept of eating a vegan diet for health reason is something that has been imported from the West, not a concept that exist in most cultures.
In most places, when you ask for a vegan meal and finally explain what you mean by that, many people are left totally confused that they will literally not know what to say. For example, if they have on their menu a chicken sandwich with a few leaves of lettuce, they might think that the vegetarian equivalent is to simply serve the exact same sandwich, while removing the chicken and having nothing else to replace it.
In Istanbul, Turkey we were asked to come inside a restaurant to check out the menu. When we asked if they had any vegetarian food the waiter pointed out the chicken section to us and said sure chicken is vegetarian, it’s a vegetable! I’m not kidding… I guess “meat” only means red meat.
In the Philippines, I once asked for a “Greek Salad” without the feta cheese. Of course, they had nothing to replace the feta cheese (not even more vegetables). It was simply the same small salad with a few tomatoes and cucumbers, sans feta cheese. Hardly a snack let alone a meal!
Once you’ve tried living as a vegan or raw foodist in some countries, you’ll realize how easy it is to eat that way in North America, Europe or Australia! People in those countries often complain about how hard or expensive it is to be a raw-vegan or even a vegetarian where they live. Get the same people to travel for a few months in the Philippines and they will come back in tears, kissing the sacred ground that their local Whole Foods is built upon!
Filapino cuisine contains a lot of oyster sauce, chicken stock and meat, so very few items could be prepared vegan for us, so we just ate as many “fruit plates” as we could get our hands on.
As a raw foodist, you pretty much have to go self-catering the whole way, which makes certain destinations absolutely out of reach unless you’re willing to live on dried fruits and nuts. As a low-fat vegan, you’ll find some countries havens, while others will be a complete nightmare.
On this trip, we’ve found some countries very easy, such as Thailand (for its abundance of fruit), Singapore and Hong Kong (with more vegetarian restaurants than any other city in the world!), Italy (for the produce), and Australia (where everybody understands what vegan food is).
The worst countries for vegan food were the Philippines (where they literally had no idea), Iceland (for obvious reasons), France (cheese and butter are in almost everything) and most remote tropical islands.
Cooked vegans will have a hard time in some places where the only thing to eat that’s vegan is fruit. Raw vegans will have a hard time in some places where there’s no fruit, but some vegan options. The best combination I’ve found for traveling is to try to eat a lot of raw food whenever possible, but fall back for cooked vegan options when that’s not possible.
Healthy Food in North America is Cheap!
Most people in North America often complain about the cost of organic food, or that the selection at their local health food stores or supermarket is scarce. They will often complain that certain stores like Whole Foods are too capitalist and overpriced, and voice their complaints about the prices. Whole Foods has even been labeled “Whole Paycheck” as it tends to be very expensive there.
At some points during our trip, it would literally have been a Godsend to find a place like “Whole Paycheck”! In many countries, your options for healthy organic foods are non-existent. When you manage to find some organic products, they are often imported from other countries and two or three times the price you’d pay in North America.
Americans are just spoiled. They don’t realize how good they have it. They think they have the worst selection of fruits because they can’t get mangoes or tropical fruits year round, yet they don’t realize that in most tropical countries only a few types of fruits are available at any one time of the year. In the Philippines, we had access to mangoes, apples, bananas, watermelon, papaya, and that’s pretty much it. Fresh vegetables are hard to grow in the tropics, and in some places greens like kale or spinach are just not available.
Thank Heaven for the Indians and Asians
In many places, we were saved by Indian or Asian stores and restaurants.
In the Seychelles, we would not have survived without the supermarkets owned by Indian people that had a wider selection of vegan items and produce. In French Polynesia, without the Chinese people there would be no green vegetables. Thank heaven for the Indians and Asians who use more vegetables and legumes in their cuisines than the Western world. Don’t forget the Italian and Middle Eastern markets you find scattered all over the globe are a haven for vegans as well.
We also find amazing tropical fruits at ethnic markets like the Indian/Pakistani honey mango, lychees and durian in countries all over the world. Without these places, there would be far less fruit available for local people in general since they tend to buy in bulk together and distribute them among their family owned stores, which means better deals for you and me!
Poverty Has a New Face in 2011
We often think of poor people as people living in absolute slums, under the worst conditions possible, without running water and unable to feed themselves.
While traveling around the world, I saw a new face to poverty — the modern “Coca-Cola” poor.
Many poor countries in the world can afford running water and have enough food to feed their population. But it doesn’t mean that people are thriving. In Bali, the average monthly salary is less than $100 a month. At that level, people have enough to eat and live, but they can’t possibly indulge in the same luxuries us rich Westerners take for granted.
The face of poverty in 2011 seems different to me. It’s as much intellectual poverty as it is other types of poverty. I remember some of these islands in the Philippines where people had plenty of food and coca-cola, but spent all day doing nothing, being out of work and preferring to spend their time watching games of chickens fighting and killing themselves. I see entire communities of well fed people in Palermo, Sicily, going about their days sitting on street corners but without much else to look forward to for the rest of their lives.
Health and Fitness Is a Foreign Concept in Many Countries
When I attempted to go out for a jog in Bali, the locals were very preoccupied. As I was running, some people asked me where I was going to or if I needed any help. When I told them I was just running for the “health benefits” they looked totally confused, as if I told them I was cleaning up garbage as a recreational activity. My friend Andrew Perlot got a similar reaction when he went for a jog in Bali, they asked him if he was running away from something or to something and needed a ride!
When I went running on a tourist beach in the Philippines I had hawkers trying to chase me down and sell me goods and other people laughing at me trying to keep up while they tried to imitate me. Most Filipino men are fairly slim and don’t overeat in general, so to them it’s pretty ridiculous to go for a run every morning especially on a tourist beach.
The concept of health and fitness is a foreign concept in many countries. Most people in many countries have no idea why anyone would not want to eat meat every chance they could, avoid dairy products, run for health or lift weights!
People only see what they want to see, and when countries want to emulate the West, they only see it as a positive thing and are unaware of the negative side effects.
The World Is About to Change
Some people don’t like to travel these days because they don’t like the concept of “mass tourism” and the fact that there are very few unspoiled places left on the planet.
What I noticed while traveling around the world is that the world is changing at a very fast pace. Cultures are eroding and people are no longer eating their traditional diets. Immigration patterns are mixing all cultures together and many people are losing their sense of cultural identity. Places that used to be unknown and pristine now have resorts on them.
It led me to think that one day, maybe 20 or 30 years down the road, we’ll look fondly at those days we have now where it’s still possible to travel the world for relatively cheap, experience new cultures (even though this tends to be diluted) and still find a few spots that are relatively untouched and unspoiled.
The world is changing, and it’s changing at a very fast pace. If you’ve put off traveling until now, you may want to change your mind before it’s too late!
I just came back from a visit to Fiji, and I can’t wait to tell you about what I discovered there. So in today’s article I’ll share my thoughts on Fiji, from the perspective of a fruit lover and raw food enthusiast.
The word “Fiji” itself conjures images of tropical paradises, beautiful beaches, and perhaps even the upscale “Fiji Water” that you now find in your grocery store (which actually comes from Fiji for real, but more on this later).
When I planned my trip around the world, a few years ago, I knew I wanted to stop in Fiji. I’ve always felt this irresistible attraction for distant and mysterious South Pacific islands, and Fiji was no exception.
I knew a little bit about the history. When Captain Cook landed in Tonga in 1772, he named these islands the “Friendly Isles,” as the Tongans welcomed him with baskets of fruit and invited him to a party! A couple of years later, the same famous Captain Cook arrived in Fiji, where the islands were called the “Cannibal Isles,” due to the ferocious appetite natives who regularly ate human flesh (generally their enemies).
Nowadays, no one eats humans in Fiji, as the practice has been reluctantly abandoned when the islands embraced Christianity a long time ago. But the Fijians like to joke about their cannibalistic past, as I discovered onsite!
Fiji is comprised of over 300 islands. As you can read on the back of the Fiji water you buy at the grocery story, Fiji is situated in between Australia and Hawaii, 1300 miles northeast of New Zealand.
The main island is called Viti Levu, which is about the same size as the Big Island of Hawaii (actually, Viti Levu is slightly larger).
We flew from Sydney to Nadi, the main airport on Viti Levu, which took around three hours. My first impression upon landing, after needing to eat all of my leftover fruit near a garbage bin before reaching customs (otherwise it would have been confiscated by customs, due to some agricultural restrictions to prevent diseases on crops), was “how friendly!”
As soon as we got into the terminal, a group of smiling Fijian were playing a song for us and greeting us with a big “Bula,” the equivalent of the Hawaiian greeting “Aloha” that you’ll hear a hundred times a day while in Fiji.
Fijians are world-famous for their hospitality and friendliness, and after having visited many countries in the world, I must say that they certainly rank among the top friendliest people I have met, close to the Thai and Costa Ricans. But the thing that Fijians have that other cultures don’t is a wicked sense of humor. As I quickly discovered during my stay in Fiji, the locals love to joke around, and are usually in a very happy and playful mood.
When you arrive in Fiji, you’re greeted with a free 4-month visa, which you can extend for another two months if you want. Compared to other countries, with their restrictive and punitive visa rules, this felt much better.
When we first arrived in Fiji, we stayed a night near Nadi, and then we headed for four days to the Yasawa group of islands. This is a string of islands Northwest of Viti Levu, where a lot of people go for the “Castaway” experience.
We boarded a boat that took us to the island where we would spend the next few days (called Nanuya Lailai), and during the five-hour ride we passed many little islands, some of them so small that the only thing that was on them was a resort! One of these islands was where the movie Castaway was filmed (if you haven’t seen this classic with Tom Hanks, go rent it immediately, you’ll love it!).
Our island was pretty small too. On low tide, I managed to run around it in around 45 minutes. The reef in front was superb, with lots of undersea wildlife and coral. Besides snorkeling, there wasn’t much to do other than laying around and enjoying the weather, but we did manage to go visit a cave that was featured in the movie The Blue Lagoon with Brooke Shields, in 1980.
Now I’m sure you’re wondering… what the hell did you eat on this island? To be honest, there wasn’t much to eat. In fact, the big problem with all of these island resorts is that there are literally no options besides the hotel restaurant. We contacted many of these places in advance to ask if they could at least prepare vegan meals, and all of them said “no,” except the one where we went to, who seemed happy to accommodate any dietary needs.
All the islands get daily supplies from the mainland, but it’s pretty limited. There was fruit available, but only bananas, papayas and watermelon. Fortunately, we brought some food with us, and managed to explain to the chefs at the restaurant what we wanted.
When I first told them our basic requirement was that we wanted foods with no dairy products, eggs, meat or fish, they were truly dumbfounded. However, once I wrote down a list of actual meals we could have, suddenly it made more sense to them and they actually managed pretty well to prepare new and interesting meals every day.
Needless to say, I did not stay 100% raw on the island. But I managed to stay vegan, which was not a small feat! Overall during my stay in Fiji, I found the hotel chefs rather good and able to accommodate special requests, as opposed to the semblance of chefs they have in the Philippines, who have absolutely no culinary skills whatsoever and could not prepare a meal without grease or meat to save their lives! Yes, the food is that bad in the Philippines…
The only unfortunate thing that happened on this little island was that a power surge from the power generator destroyed both of my computer adapters, which meant I was without computers and unable to work for almost 10 days! I took that as a sign to take things easy and enjoy some “Bula” lifestyle.
After spending four days on this tiny island, we headed back to Viti Levu to discover the “real” Fiji.
I know that some tourists only go to expensive resorts and stay there the whole time, or hop from one tiny island to the next. I really don’t understand why, since all of these islands are pretty much the same. The only thing that’s different is the resort itself, and perhaps the dinner menu!
Although I enjoyed my Robinson Crusoe adventure on this little island, I found the rest of Fiji more interesting. On Viti Levu, we rented a car and got to discover some interesting local stuff.
The Cost of Living
The South Pacific is not cheap, but of all the island nations Fiji is the most affordable. They use the Fiji dollar, which converted at $1.85 Fiji dollars for each US dollar when we were there. This favorable exchange rate meant that most things were priced affordably.
Frankly, the most expensive thing in Fiji is staying at expensive resorts or island hopping. On the main island of Viti Levu, we found a nice little hotel with a very friendly staff, a pool and access to a beautiful beach, for only US$45 a night. This was a very good deal and you can find decent places even cheaper.
Cab rides are cheap, car rentals are relatively affordable (compared to other destinations like Australia or Europe), and restaurant meals are generally much cheaper than in Western countries.
Fruit on the side of the road or at farmer’s markets was downright cheap, as long as it was locally grown. For example, on the road we found “papaya stands” where locals were selling them for US$1.10 for five Hawaiian style papayas.
Speaking of fruit, Fiji is not a fruit paradise like Thailand or even Singapore. When we were there, papayas were in season, and they were delicious and cheap, so we ate a lot of them.
The pineapples were mediocre, but the watermelon was okay. There was plenty of locally grown bananas, and of course coconut, which is heavily used in Fijian cuisine. The local bananas were not very tasty at all so we opted for some imported navel oranges instead because they actually tasted better.
Surprisingly, there were a lot of greens. That’s probably due to the fact that the Indian-Fijians consume a lot more vegetables than the locals! Speaking of which…
The Fijian population is divided in half. Half of the locals are Melanesians, the same line of people that Captain Cook met when he first arrived in 1774. The other half are Indians, descending from the workers that the British brought when they added Fiji to their world empire almost 150 years ago. They’ve been a British colony since 1970, but technically the Queen of England is still the head of state, and that’s why you see her image on the face of coins and bank notes.
Due to the British influence, most Fijians speak fluent English. That’s because all formal education is done in English only. Even though the locals speak Fijians among themselves, and are very proud of their language (the Indo Fijians speak a variation of Hindi), the only official language of Fiji is English.
I was very surprised at how well the Fijians spoke English. I thought that they spoke it even more fluently than the Filipinos, who are considered to be the Asian nation with the best English skills. In fact, everything in Fiji is written in English, so you’ll have no problem communicating if you ever go there.
Internet Access, Infrastructures
The roads in Fiji are in pretty bad shape, reminding me of Costa Rica, with an endless number of potholes. If you rent a car, try to get one that might withstand the assault!
Most places offer pretty bad Internet access and charge for it too. Our savior in Fiji was a mobile 3G Internet stick from Vodafone we got at the airport and could use throughout Fiji, including on the remote island in the Yasawa group that we first visited! If you ever go to Fiji and need your Internet, I would suggest you get the Vodafone stick upon arrival!
What’s There to Do?
Most people who go to the smaller islands end up spending most of their days at the hotel, laying in the sun, reading a book and perhaps go snorkeling. That’s fine for me for a couple days, but after that long I don’t see the point anymore. I flew all the way here to actually see and do something!
On the main island of Viti Levu, there was just more cultural stuff in general to do.
The highlight of our trip was a visit to the “Robinson Crusoe” island, a small island off the shore of Viti Levu where a friendly company organizes day tours that feature snorkeling, fun in the sun, and an awesome evening Fijian dance performance. This was truly one of the best tours we have done anywhere all over the world.
When I was in Hawaii for my honeymoon, we went to a traditional Luau in Maui (an evening dance/performance in Hawaii), and I thought it was cool. However, after seeing the evening performance in Fiji, I now think the Hawaiian Luau sucked in comparison (and was seriously overpriced)!
What was interesting about the Fijians running the Robinson Crusoe island adventure is that they did everything. They were our tour guides, our drivers, snorkeling guides and free diving experts. They opened coconuts, told us about the medicinal plants on the island… and finally at the end of a busy day, they transformed themselves into awesome performers and dancers! I was literally blown away.
If you’d like to check out the highlights of this performance, you have to see the video below.
Watch the Video Below!
Compared to the Hawaiian dancers who are for the most part fat and out of shape, the Fijians were ripped and ready to replace Mekhi Phifer in the next Hollywood action movie!
The Fijians in general, like most Polynesians, are a sturdy people. They are tall and tend to grow massive muscles and stay ripped (we Caucasian males hate you, of course). In the Cannibal days, the used to grow massive afros. The women on the other hand are often rather masculine and manly-looking, for the most part. Like I said, it’s a sturdy race.
If you go to Fiji, you’ll surely hear about kava, a drink concocted from the roots of the local kava plant, that is used in traditional ceremonies in many island nations.
The drink is rather famous because when people drink A LOT of kava, they can feel stoned, as the plant has “tranquilizing” properties.
Kava is actually raw. It’s made from the roots of the Kava plants, which are dried and then turned crushed. The resulting powder is put in cheesecloth or fabric sheets and then infused in water.
Most people find that it tastes disgusting and looks like dirty dish water, but having been used to strong green juices over my years of raw foodism, I found it easy to swallow my kava (which is served in a coconut bowl).
As expected, as soon as I drank the kava, I felt a little tingling sensation of my tongue. Other than that, I felt perfectly normal. I drank about half a full bowl (a “low tide”) Later, I heard that the locals drink over twenty “high tide” bowls to start feeling seriously stoned! I personally did not notice any effect after one bowl.
Here’s a video of me drinking Kava… watch it!
Note for Vegetarians, Vegans, Raw-Foodists
As mentioned previously, Fiji is not the fruit paradise that South-East Asia is. Although I ate plenty of papaya during my stay, I did not commit to 100% raw.
Like in most island nations, the supermarkets suck for the most part, although you should be able to find plenty of survival foods to eat. If I ever come back another time, I would certainly bring a supply of goods that are hard to find, such as raw nuts and seeds.
There’s actually a few vegetarian restaurants in Fiji, almost all of which are owned by Indian-Fijians and serve vegetarian Indian food. In Nadi, there was a place called “Shakti” that was vegetarian, and in Suva (the big city), there was at least four vegetarian Indian restaurants.
Note that most Indian restaurants in Fiji are not that great, as they appeal mainly to the locals and serve mostly meat dishes, with lots of grease and optional fried potatoes. The best thing in Fiji is to go to hotel restaurants, who have better trained chefs, and ask them to prepare something for you. I’ve had no problems with that approach during my stay.
The Mystery of Fiji Water
Okay, just admit it. Don’t you love Fiji water? It tastes better than most bottled water, and it actually comes from Fiji!
The weirdest thing is that in Fiji, “Fiji Water” is found everywhere and is relatively cheap, compared to the outrageous prices some people pay for that water overseas. However, it’s clearly marketed for the tourists and not for the locals, who are happy to drink regular tap water.
There’s something weird behind the success of Fiji. The water actually comes all the way from Fiji, but the company will claim that the more you drink of it, the more you’ll save the environment!
I agree, their water is not bad. However, will drinking more bottled water do a thing for the “environment”? I don’t think so.
When I arrived in Fiji, I was determined to find out where Fiji Water was produced and go there to shoot a little video.
I soon realized it was a bad idea. A few years ago, a reporter who worked for the magazine Mother Jones went to Fiji to investigate Fiji Water, and she came back with a shocking story of controversies and drama, after running into some troubles with the authorities, too. You can read about it by googling the terms “Fiji Water, Mother Jones.”
On the back of the Fiji bottles, they put an address where Fiji water is produced. While I was in Fiji, I tried everywhere to find that location, and it is nowhere to be found! I asked the locals, but nobody would tell me. It seems that they don’t like to have journalists sniffing around. Apparently, it’s a really remote location that’s very hard to reach anyway, so I decided to just give up and swallow the blue pill.
I thought I would make a shocking video about Fiji water, but instead I decided to enjoy the rest of Fiji.
Would I come back?
The main keyword I would associate with Fiji was “fun.” It was fun to be in Fiji, even though the weather was a little grey and rainy due to the rainy season South of the Equator. There was still plenty of sunshine, people were friendly and we had a good time.
The islands are very pretty, but I must say that I’m a little spoiled, having visited other beautiful tropical islands in the past. The Seychelles were truly stunningly beautiful (more so than Fiji), with the best beaches I have ever seen. I also think that French Polynesia has the most beautiful lagoons in the world, at least that I’ve seen.
Still, I don’t think anyone who would go to Fiji would ever say “That sucked!”, unless they insisted in having an tremendous variety of ripe tropical fruit all the time.
I would definitely go back to Fiji, mainly for the cultural experience. Most likely, I don’t see myself going back there anytime soon… but if you end up in Fiji, please send me some warm “Bula” my way so I can remember the great times I had on the Cannibal Isles.
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