As my month-long holiday is coming to an end, I find it ironic how I take a vacation from my vacation (Australia) at HOME. But more than that, I realize how incredibly LUCKY I am to be able to do so - that my "home" is a vacation.

Granted, Sacramento isn't the biggest tourist destination (ha), but that's my original home and I will always always ALWAYS love it dearly. I got to be in one of my oldest friend's wedding, spend time with my family and play with my nephews that are growing all too fast (reality check, or should I say a slap in the face by reality: when they're around 20 years old, I will be 40!! FORTY!!). Anyway, I got lots of good family time in and got to see some old friends as well, which is always nice. I absolutely LOVE summer days in Sacramento consisting of BBQing, swimming, going to the lake and ending with the most amazing warm summer nights!
I was back and forth from San Diego to Sacramento a total of 3 times. That's three 8-hour drives & one flight. I didn't originally intend on going back and forth so many times, it just kinda happened. When I first arrived back in the States - 

OH and can we first talk about how I was reeeal reluctant to go back, BTW? I may or may not have been a little careless with my passport the week prior to flying home  so I might have an excuse not to have to go back (sorry America, but I looove Australia and I reallyy wasn't ready to go back to reality)

- I had landed in LA and then took a train to San Diego after hanging out with my mom in the horrible city that is Los Angeles (8 hours in the city really solidified my hatred for this place. From the exasperating traffic, to getting lost in the ghetto - thanks mom! haha - to rude employees at the train station.) After spending the 4th of July in not-so-sunny SD, I drove up to Sac for my high school best friend, Rosy's wedding. I drove up with my friend, Miles, and was close to deciding to just stay in Sac the remainder of my time in The States, until he ended up needing a ride back down to SD. 

My first few days back in SD were kind of a bummer. Everybody was pretty busy working & what not and I spent the weekend mostly by myself. The weather was perfect and I went on bike rides to the beach and ate all of my favorite food - alone. I decided to go back up to Sac early and then of course, my last 2 days in San Diego, everybody was around and reminded me why I love this place so much. It's funny because I was seriously questioning whether or not I ever wanted to move back to San Diego and then did a complete 180 and am now excited to move back here when I return from traveling. I guess loneliness will do that to you.

Anyway, I spent my last couple of days in San Diego wishing I wasn't going back to Sac and wanting to stay there. I had a flight from Sac-LA and then my international flight from LA-Melbs and so I decided last minute to change my Sac-LA flight to Sac-SD so I could spend my last few days back in SD. Talk about last minute plans.

So I made the drive back up to SacTown and spent more quality time with the fam. My dad came into town, which is a kind of rare occasion, so it was nice hanging out with him. And then my mom came up for my sister, Mallory's birthday a few days later and so we had a BBQ with each of them (one perk of your parents not being able to be in the same room as each other = more family events because of having to separate them). So here I am back in Sacramento and you can probably guess what I'm thinking by now - I just want to stay here instead of going back down to SD! (Yes, I sometimes wonder if I am clinically bipolar as well).

I literally thought of every possible way to just stay in Sac and worked out a pretty good plan, but decided last minute to just go back down. So now, I'm in San Diego on my last full day of vacation before heading back to Aussieland (and for some reason I'm inside blogging instead of laying on the beach...hmmmm...). And of course, I'm not completely 100% thrilled on going back (I may or may not have delayed getting my visa to enter back into Australia, at the chance that I may not have to go back). 

Not that I'm not incredibly excited to see Nate, but this trip back and pretty much my entire trip to Australia, has made me realize how much I love my home. How much I love California and honestly, America overall. And I've never been one to be super pro-'Merica. But I love this place - this country - and I love living right by the beach (No - Australia is NOT all beaches like how their propaganda leads us to believe!) I love cheap alcohol you can buy everyyywhere. I've missed my friends and my family so much. I'm LOVING watching the Olympics from America. I miss having a working iPhone (damn you AT&T for making it impossible to use iPhones with foreign sim cards!) I miss driving, In-N-Out, California Burritos, having toilet seat covers in public restrooms, Sacramento water (it tastes amazing! Although I may be a little biased since I grew up there), seeing all American sports on TV, driving on the RIGHT side of the street and the rest of the familiarities of home.

So as much as it seems like all I've done is whine and complain about where I am or where I'm going, from all of this, I've come to really appreciate so many things - everything really. Not only am I blessed to be able to travel to all of these places - my homes included - but they're all so amazing that whenever I arrive at each one, I don't want to leave. 
Overall, I had an amazing time catching up with old friends - one of the biggest things I've missed while being away is having a lot of friends. I've made a few good friends in Australia, but most of the friends I made at all have moved back home. I've missed the nights of going out with a big group and then passing out on a friends couch with the pizza guy banging on the door because your drunk friend ordered a pizza and then decided not to wake up when he came to deliver it. I don't miss getting hammered 5 nights a week (well, every so often I might), I just miss making crazy memories with friends. 

I'd love to think that one day I will decide to just live in some exotic city like Nepal or Tuscany or something, but I honestly don't think I could permanently live anywhere but California.
 
Six Days of Fiji.
Definitely not enough time to see all the beauty this country has, but enough to fall in love with it.

Nathaniel and I flew into Nadi, which is on the main island on Monday, June 18, after a looong journey consisting of closed airports (damn you Avalon Airport - always fly Tullamarine in Melbourne, it's not worth paying less to fly Avalon!), waiting for them to open at gas station cafes, sleeping on airport floors, and racing to catch our connecting flights. Our first stop was the Hilton Resort, also on the main island. Our funds limited us to only one night here, but I'm glad we were only on the main island for a night since there are so many islands. The Hilton was GORGEOUS. 7 pools overlooking the ocean and beautiful rooms. We spent the day by the pool reading, drinking and watching the sunset.

After continuously checking the weather in Fiji weeks prior to leaving, only to finally accept the fact that it would rain 5 out of the 6 days we were there - we were welcomed by perfect, sunny, warm weather. It ended up raining a total of 1 morning we were there and the rest of the time we were blessed with the best weather we could ask for.
The second day we went on the South Sea Island Cruise, which wasn't so much a cruise but more of a ride to South Sea Island where we would spend the day. This little island was beautiful and TINY. You could walk around the entire thing in 5 minutes. Day 2 was spent going on a glass-bottom submarine, snorkeling, drinking our unlimited supply of alcohol (included in the cruise package), kayaking, laying out and eating. It was my first time ever snorkeling, which was amazing seeing all the underwater life. They took us on a boat to snorkel the outer reef, which was 10 times more amazing than the reef right on the island. After missing our boat back to the main island and having to catch a separate ride, then getting lost on the way to our second accommodation, we arrived at Tropic of Capricorn, which was....no Hilton. 
We only spent one night at Tropic of Capricorn and then we were off to the Yasawa Islands. Well, we tried, anyway. We arrived at Denarau Port, which is where all the boats depart for all Fiji islands and attempted to get on our boat, only to get rejected because our travel agent failed to let them know we were supposed to depart that day (Fiji only has one boat to go through all of the islands - departs once a day for the far islands like the Yasawas. Make sure you're booked for the exact days you plan on departing/arriving or else the boat might be full!). Luckily, they made room for us and we started our 4 hour cruise to the northern islands. 

We got to pass through all of the other islands, which was awesome for the first half until I started getting sea sick. It was all completely worth it when we arrived at Blue Lagoon Resort on Nacula Island. All white sand, completely clear water, a beautiful resort and a welcome song by the Fijians. We snorkeled, hung around the beach and then had dinner. Everybody at the resort has dinner together and so we sat with a Kiwi family and the Fijian people served us our delicious dinner.
We started the next day off with a snorkeling trip on one of the Yasawa Islands outer reefs. We took a boat out about 20 minutes out and then all jumped out into the middle of the ocean. The reef here was, by far, the most amazing reef we had seen yet. The water was a little bit cooler - so about 77 degrees or so? (Compared to the 80 degrees at the shore... and compared to the 65 degree water in San Diego). After snorkeling for about an hour or so, we rode the boat closer to shore where they did a "fish feeding". They had us all jump out of the boats and then threw this corn bread/cake kind of stuff where hundreds of fish swarmed us to get the food. It was the craziest, scariest experience ever being surrounded by so many fearless fish. They're completely harmless, hungry fishies, but I was still slightly terrified they were going to eat my face.
After the snorkel trip, we went on a hike. The island was much bigger than South Sea Island and was pretty "hilly" so we wanted to hike up the hill to get a good view. From the resort, it didn't look very high and so we decided to go on our own. What I assumed was a brief stroll up a hill (in flip flops - or barefoot in Nate's case) ended up being about a 5 mile, treacherous hike. Okay, not so treacherous in regards to steepness or even general difficulty at all - but we were literally walking up a mountain of reeds taller than me. Granted I'm not very tall, but they were a pain in the ass, to say the least, and made this allegedly leisurely stroll extremely unpleasant. Of course, the view made up for it at the top. You can't complain about a hike (oh wait, I guess I just did..) when you see this from the top.
Our last night on Nacula Island, we had another delicious dinner and then did crab racing with wittle baby hermit crabs! They had us buy a hermit crab (FJD$5 - which would be donated to the schools on the islands. & BTW - their conversion rate is a little over half. So $5 Fiji = about $2.65 USD/AUD) and then all of them were put on the sand where a circle was drawn out. First to make it outside the circle wins. Our hermies made it to the final round (1st 12 to make it out of the ring the first round) and one of ours ended up getting 4th - not too shabby, but unfortunately only 1st-3rd got prizes. 

The next morning, we went on a tour to the Sawa-I-Lau Caves. We took a boat about 30 minutes out and after our janky boat died about 3 times, we finally made it to the caves. We got out of the boat onto shore and then walked a short ways to a man made staircase that lead to the opening of the cave. You climb up and then back down the staircase into the cave. The bottom of the staircase is just water so you have to jump into the water. After our tour group of about 20 debated about who would jump in first (our guides decided to let us endure the entering part on our own while they waited by the boats), a girl around my age ended up going and we followed her in. The ceiling of the limestone caves were super high and we couldn't feel the bottom either. When the entire group was in, half of the group went through the underwater tunnel, which was about a meter under water and 2 meters long, into the other caves. One of our Fijian guides was on the other side with a flash light, and the other guide was on our side to help guide us through. I had a slight panic attack but made it through fine without somehow getting lost in the tunnel and drowning. 

The other side of the caves were completely pitch black. It was also mildly terrifying because images of all of those scary movies where the tourists go on these adventures and then a boulder blocks the entrance and they all die - were involuntarily flashing through my head. 
After buying some souvenirs made by the Fijian people and packing up our stuff, we were off to Island #4: Bounty Island. We decided to stay one night here - it's a smaller island close to the main island and it would be convenient for transportation to the airport the following day. Bounty Island was surprisingly nice. We had low expectations after our maaany hours spent on tripadvisor.com and other Fiji resort review websites. Not that these sites had so many bad things to say, but we were expecting a low budget resort on an island not nearly as amazing as the Yasawas. The resort may not have been as nice as Blue Lagoon or Hilton at all, but the people there were one of the nicest we had met. All Fijian people are super friendly and hospitable - everywhere you go, they all greet you with "Bula!" (which is their normal greeting). The Fijians at Bounty Island were especially friendly and really made you feel comfortable and at home.

We arrived in the late afternoon, so we mainly just lounged around the beach and bar. The dinner wasn't amazing but they sang us songs throughout the entire meal, which more than made up for it. After dinner, most of the people at the resort, including the employees, hung around the common room area and played various games like monopoly or pool ("snooker", as the Aussies say). A lot of people gathered around the shore for a while taking pictures of the little baby sharks that swam right up to the sand.

The next day we left Bounty Island, all too soon, and were back on our way to the main island. We hung around Denarau Port until leaving for the airport where we had to say goodbye to this beautiful country.
FIJI DOs & DON'Ts:
DO pack light (just carry ons) - the weather is usually so warm anyway and you'll be in your bathing suit 80% of the time! (& you'll save $ on not having to check luggage!)
DO visit the outer islands away from the main island - they're more expensive but definitely worth it! The Yasawa Islands were the definition of PARADISE.
DON'T be scared of the crazy humungous bugs - even though I was. The bird-sized bug that resided in the bathroom for almost 24 hours prevented me from being able to use the bathroom without an escort (AKA boyfriend).
DO bring your own alcohol - duty free!! It's cheaper this way and will save you lots of money.
DO bring a waterproof camera/go pro - hence all of my amazing snorkeling pics ;)
DON'T forget to negotiate a cab price before getting into the cab - they sometimes try to rip off tourists. Cabs shouldn't ever be more than about FJD$30.
DON'T stay on the super small islands for more than a night or two. They're small and you'll run out of things to do.
DO island hop as much as possible! Our original thought was that islands are islands, but each of them have different personalities & different things to do!
DO bring bug repellent - I got eaten alive.