VANUATU vacation

A few people told me I was brave going overseas alone to Mongolia earlier this year. When I mentioned my plan to go to Vanuatu with my one-year old solo they thought I had gone a bit crazy. Turns out it was a bit of a crazy idea, but it was also an incredibly insightful journey.

One of my goals each year is to get overseas, to go somewhere I’m not familiar with and learn about a new people, a new culture. I’d already been to Mongolia this year so I wasn’t seriously toying with the idea of heading overseas again. An email from HR stating I had too much leave and had to take a holiday changed that idea. On the back of that email and with about a months’ notice, I frantically organised and booked this short week-long stay in Vanuatu.

For most of the week it rained. Those with kids can probably imagine how difficult it becomes when you have to keep a small mobile teething and sick kid entertained in a small room. We napped and ate, played in the bath tub which he enjoyed more than playing at the beach when we finally did go, but mostly we read the same 2 books over and over and over. In hindsight I should have brought more involved books, or simply more books, but I also hadn’t expected we would be stuck indoors for so much of the trip.


When it wasn’t raining too hard or had cleared up, we made our breaks. With the tiniest hint of sunshine, we would bundle into the car and head straight for a beach or island to visit and play.

Despite the weather, the place was still stunning. The water was incredibly clear; we sat on the edge of jetty’s and pointed at the fish, starfish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins hanging around in the shallows below us. The coral beaches made a beautiful tinkling sound as the waves rolled out and the broken bits of coral rolled down the beach. Driving around in those moments of sunshine we saw that the locals had the same idea to get out; kids were playing, kicking balls or chasing each other, the adults were doing chores or chasing the kids out of the house, probably for a bit of peace and quiet.

Everyone smiled. As you travel around you are greeted with waves, with smiles, with a warm welcoming feeling. This has been something I have come across throughout the Pacific Islands and part of the reason I chose Vanuatu for our short holiday. I was able to meet some local connections and learnt more about bee keeping on the island, and taken for an island visit with another wonderful connection, getting a feel of local lifestyle.


Relaxing by the sea on a beautiful beach sounded like the perfect holiday plan, but playing it out didn’t work that way. Firstly, you can’t truly relax on your own when you have a small child crawling about, eating coral and almost drowning himself because he is independent and doesn’t want you to hold him in the water because he thinks he can do it himself. Secondly, and more importantly, I’m not a relax by the beach person. I had convinced myself that the rest and recovery I have needed (as my MS is not yet under control) was to sit by a beach and read a book. Many people had told me to go somewhere and do nothing, to relax in a way they identify as relaxing, but that doesn’t work for everyone; it didn’t work for me. I had convinced myself that they were right – it works for so many people, so many people suggest it, it must be what I should do. Perhaps if I didn’t have my boy it would have been different, but I think unlikely.

It seems obvious now. Looking back at all the islands I’ve visited, sure I loved the beaches and snorkelling in the beautiful reefs, but I adored the hikes in the mountains, the challenge of the climbs and the beautiful waterfalls or panoramic views. I feel re-energised, revitalised, when I use my muscles surrounded by lush green vegetation and rushing mountain waters. It seems that it took a difficult holiday with a sick baby, stuck inside most of the time and struggling with worsening MS symptoms for me to realise the thing I needed most was time in the lush green mountains.

This brings me to the highlight of my trip. With the rain easing to passing showers, we bundled into the car and headed for the closest rainforest walk, the Mele Cascades waterfalls. The walk was an easy climb and there were plenty of pools for us to swim in on the way. The final climb is a staircase up the waterfall, and the waterfall at the top is beautiful. The rain had ensured the pools were full and the water was gushing down over the stairs we climbed. You can see in the pictures the joy and happiness we both felt being in this gorgeous place. When we started the walk, I felt immediately better. My symptoms felt as if they disappeared, the heaviness on my heart and mind dropped, a lightness filled me and I realised in that moment that this is where I should have been all along. Walking through rainforests, swimming in the pools of waterfalls, this was my way and my place to relax.


It was an important lesson. I truly appreciate my experience in Vanuatu, the amazing experiences I had with the local people, and the reiteration of a lesson I hadn’t been taking in despite all the travelling I’ve done. My recovery, my rest, isn’t necessarily best achieved through stillness. My best recovery and rest is to immerse myself in a luscious green rainforest, or a windswept mountainside, or scrambling through a canyon. This is how I recover and recharge, and I think we all need to learn what the best medicine is for us – what works for one person definitely isn’t always going to work for the next person.


Next time I look longingly at a picturesque beach scene I must remind myself that it may look amazing, but the mountains are what my soul calls for.

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