Having been to Fiji with a girlfriend and then a boyfriend, and at different ages, it's amazing how different a place can feel.
The trip with the girlfriend went something like this...after flying from LA, we landed in the middle of the night, with nowhere to stay so we visited an agent at the airport (as who isn't open at 2am!).
She was very helpful, and arranged somewhere to stay, and then a couple of different trips. Off we trundle with our backpacks, and sit in the back of the van, which proceeded to disappear down a dirt road in to the darkness. We do look at each and think - are we going to be on the news when they find the bodies of two backpackers who should have known better?
Most fortunately, we made it to the B&B/hostel as the only guests, and our travel agent takes the room next door. We wake the next morning and decide where to go.
Now on this trip, we went to two islands, I can't remember much about the first but the second will remain etched in my memory forever...
We arrived by sea plane, and then by boat to be greeted by the most welcoming of couples and adorned with flowers. Our accommodation is a beautiful hut. There's no electricity and no running water, although they've fashioned both a shower and a toilet through collecting rain water in the middle of all the huts - it felt very luxurious.
Our fellow travellers were a mix of ages, there were Aussies, British, Canadians and seemed a fun bunch.
I couldn't even tell you how long we were there, but it was the most magical of times. We ate well, swam in the sea, sat around singing songs by candlelight (thanks to the Aussies and their guitars), drank a few beers and retired to our hut each night.
A day trip on a boat proved to be fabulous. The Fijians have the most incredibly large feet and were steering the boat with them, quite a skill.
We were taken across to another island, and had lunch on the beach with the most gorgeous fruit selection, which is where the inspiration for our zesty Grapefruit & Orange Blossom candle collection comes from.
Then across to another island to have Kava with the chief, play games with the kids, and be shown round the village.
I don't recall the Kava having much of a scent and it tastes a little like muddy water but it's an honour to be given this in the presence of the village chief. Arriving back at dusk was an interesting experience, no health and safety here, we had to scramble across the rocks as the sun went down, and make our way back into our little haven.
Now my second visit to Fiji, 9 years later with the boyfriend went something like this...arriving into Fiji via NZ, so a long trip from the UK and off a nice hotel.
The next day, we arranged to go and visit some of the islands, and it was beautiful.
The hut wasn't quite as pristine, and there was a fan this time, however, being turned off at midnight didn't help the boyfriend with his sleeping. After the third day of a lunchtime and dinner meal of Spanish mackerel, we were ready to move on.
There had been some excitement, an Argentinian staying there was stung by a sting ray and had to be taken to the nearest hospital. We went to church on another island, which was an uplifting experience. It just felt more commercial this time round.
We left this island for what can only be described as a hell hole. And once you're on an island, you can't get off for another 24 hours. The people were friendly enough, but the place we were staying had locks on the outside of the doors (think horror film). The toilet and shower only had the grubbiest of shower curtains across them, and the beds were the kind you crawled into and hoped that nothing was going to crawl into your sleeping bag with you. We burned a citronella candle all night to try and rid the assault on the senses from the room.
Needless to say, we didn't sleep much, and were up to watch the sunrise, and then the long wait for the boat to come back and get us.
We still talk about 'that place' as it was an experience we'll never forget but that's what makes travelling so exciting, not quite knowing where you'll end up.
So what I did learn after this trip...go with the flow as much as you can as you never know where the trip might take you, but most importantly, don't try and recreate something magical as the likelihood is that it just won't work out!