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Didn't someone say the best things in life are free?
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Amazing scenery in Fiji & Australia

For more, visit my new blog :)

 
Nathaniel and I have only hit two out of eleven-ish destinations so far and already have a list of DO's & DON'Ts for flying. 

*When airlines say a MAXIMUM of 10 kilos, they actually mean 10 kilos. Not an extra 7 that we tried to carry on. If you're as unlucky as us, they'll weigh your carry-ons and they WILL make you get rid of the extra weight. We ran into this problem when flying Tiger Airways from Melbs to Gold Coast (our very first flight ha). We "got rid" of our extra weight and proceeded to the terminal with multiple shirts/jumpers on & loaded pockets. Do what ya gotta do. 

*What we learned from this mishap was to obviously pack lighter, and if you get caught in a situation like this, wear as much of the weight as possible. Hey, if 250 pound people can fly, then I should be allowed to wear half the wardrobe I brought.
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I made this chart for the carry-on requirements for the airlines we're using
*We had this supposedly brilliant plan to sleep at airports when we have an early flight the next day. Because who wants to pay $100+ for a hotel you're barely utilizing. So check out of your hotel, drop your stuff off at the airport & store it in a locker and bam! You have the entire day to do what you want, a place to keep your stuff and a (possibly uncomfortable) place to sleep without any accommodation costs!

*What you should make sure before this brilliant plan kicks you in the ass: is the airport open all night, enabling me to sleep indoors? At Gold Coast, the answer is NO. As in, we slept on the beach, again wearing multiple layers of clothes. Of course, if you also have a whiny boyfriend complaining about his legs going numb at 130am, you will not do much sleeping on the beach and will instead wait outside the airport until they open at 4am

*When flying budget airlines, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. So we booked all of our flights well in advance and got great deals. We paid about $65 a person to fly from Bali to Phuket via AirAsia. Unfortunately, flying budget airlines means they can change or cancel your flight and not do a damn thing to help you figure out what you should do about it. So goodbye $65 direct flight and hellooo $200 flight with a layover, causing us to lose half a day. And no, AirAsia (nor either of our travel insurances) did not pay the difference or give any kind of compensation whatsoever. They didn't even refund us so we're instead, having to dispute the charge via our credit card. 

*Budget airlines might cancel the entire service of flights from one city to another, like they did with AirAsia. Sometimes they'll just move your flight up 3.5 hours and completely mess up your schedule and cause you to miss the tour bus that you were planning on taking in the Philippines. Again, airlines like Tiger Airways, will NOT do anything to help you - such as changing to a different flight or giving you a refund. 

*If at all possible, fly more legitimate airlines. Unless you're bargain (aka broke) travelers like us and need to get the cheap flights. If you're like us, then my advice is to be very flexible with flights because they can always change. As in, don't book too many transfer flights where missing one where cause you to miss the other. Also, maybe spend more time in each place you're visiting to ensure you have sufficient time there in case situations like these happen. 

Summary of Dos & Don'ts:

*Don't check luggage - this will save you literally HUNDREDS of dollars
*Pack as light as possible! Weigh your carry-ons before you go to the airport. They don't always check but it's better to be safe than sorry!
*Sleep at airports when possible if you want to save money but always make sure they're going to be open. A lot of smaller airports will not stay open all night for domestic flyers (most airports will for all international flights). 
*Be flexible if you're shitty budget airline decides to screw you over. 
*Read your travel insurance coverage carefully. They may or may not help you get money back from cancelled/delayed flights. May as well try to make a claim regardless.
*Make an adventure out of every mishap because they'll never stop anyway and they make for good stories later:)

Now we're off to New Zealand, hopefully we don't hit any more bumps along the road!
 
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.
 
There's no better place or time to write than when you're sitting at the airport. So here I am. I'm not yet leaving for Australia, but just going back down to San Diego/Vegas/LA for a week until my final departure.

First of all, I should probably mention that I kept a diary for about 13 years until my laptop tragically crashed a little over a year ago, resulting in the loss of about 7 of those years. (Always back your computer up on an external hard drive or a flash drive at the very least!) The remaining years are on actual handwritten diaries or old-school floppy disks. I decided to quit writing after that (dramatic, I know). But it’s pretty discouraging (AKA heartbreaking) when literally hundreds of pages slash my entire high school and college life were erased (this also includes pictures. Thank God for Facebook). But ya, so I've had a few years of experience with writing at airports/on airplanes.

Anyway, it’s always so bittersweet being at airports. Always leaving somewhere behind. I suppose I should be more optimistic and see It as going somewhere, but it always seems more bitter than sweet. I sit here now (which is currently on the plane), leaving Sac until July – which isn’t even that big of a deal because I’ve gone longer without being home or seeing my family. It’s just weird now that I’ll be living in a different country, even further away from my adorable nephews and the rest of my amazing family. My nephews are all getting so big, it’s crazy! When I get back they’ll probably be twice the size they are now.

NorCal was good while it lasted. Went to a Kings/Warriors game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, which was fun – minus the Kings losing (PS, how am I going to watch basketball in Australia?!!). Hung around the bay for a couple days visiting Nate’s family and then came to Sac about a week ago. Jumped around my sisters houses and got to spend some quality time with the family. I feel like I’m getting pretty good at this packing light (well trying to) and constantly moving thing because we changed houses every 2 days at least.
So now I’m heading back to San Diego right now and then I’ll be leaving for Vegas on Friday until Sunday. Monday I’m having my going away/birthday dinner with my friends. I hate goodbyes because I’m definitely not the emotional type and basically just get really awkward and uncomfortable in those situations. It’ll just be weird because I’m not sure if I’ll be moving back to San Diego, ever really. I mean, I obviously wouldn’t mind and if I didn’t have any other plans, I might as well (there or back to Sac). But my goal is to keep traveling and moving around. Hopefully Nate or I (or both of us would be nice) get a good job somewhere and can move to a different country or even stay in Australia. That’s the plan for now, but who knows – things always change. 

OH & I added another thing to my bucket list. My old dance coach Kristin convinced me to go to this hip hop dance class last night and so I went. Almost forgot how much I love dancing. Or how good it feels. (Or how out of shape I am). So I’m determined to find a studio or somewhere in Australia to take dance classes. It definitely filled a void I didn’t even realize I had. 

So hopefully all of my blog entries aren’t this long. I realize I should probably be trying to cut them short to keep my audience’s attention. But it’s so hard to condense everything I want to say. I guess I’m a little too used to doing the whole diary thing where I would write pages and pages about my entire life. So I’ll work on making it short and sweet. Til the next airport I arrive at!