Far Away From Far Away Places.

By the time we landed in Fiji we had been backpacking for just over a year. Our remaining stops were Hawaii, Los Angeles, New York and then home, Dublin. We would be jumping from fall to spring and reliving the same seasons all over again by crossing into the northern hemisphere. We had already done it from north to south a year earlier. It occurred to me that in less than a month we would be very far from these far away places. This was to be the last of these moments.
There are hundreds of islands that surround Fiji, but we picked one that was suggested by some locals. It was a small island with an even smaller population, known for welcoming visitors. That night on the mainland we hit a local bar, got drunk and barely made it to the boat the next morning. After sometime at sea we passed several small islands. One in particular seemed to be nothing more than the exposed tip of a white blade cutting through a blanket of deep blue. All I could think about was the towering mountain that lay underneath, and the unnoticed life that clung to it.
We arrived at the island and sailed through a small channel they had cut out of the coral, just wide enough for our small boat to enter. The island rose up high in the center and was surrounded by several distant and smaller uninhabited islands. A group of local women waited for us on the beach and gave us gifts as several men played native songs on their guitars. There have been times when I’ve felt further than I could possibly be from where I started, and it can be a soft immovable calm and it can be frightening at the same time. That day, as the islanders greeted us from the boats, I felt nothing but calm.
We walked into the village and were shown the huts we would be staying in for the next three days. They had several on the island for tourists like ourselves and they differed only slightly from the ones the locals lived in. Breakfast and dinner would be served at 10 am and 6 pm at a communal eating area.In the center of the village was a bar with one single small screen TV–that was it.
That evening–and for the next 3 days–we explored the island. This was not a difficult task. We could walk the perimeter in just over an hour and each time we did, we discovered something new. Locals went about their daily routines while we walked alone, swam alone, collected shells alone, but mostly just stared out into the ocean, alone. There was nothing to do and it was magnificent.
Connected Horizon

As often as possible we would climb to the highest point of the island to view it in its entirety. I had never seen the horizon meet the water on all sides before. It was impossible to see exactly where the sky stopped and the water began. My best guess was at the center of where white and blue became the same color.

Looking North

In those moments on the hill, even for a non-believer it was hard to block out those feelings. I had many moments when those feelings stirred unexpectedly in the most remote places, and it was only ever in those remote places. It was a sense of connection, that you belonged to the world wherever you were, that loneliness was the result of distraction, doing something wrong. It’s hard to describe so, like many other things, I just never talked about it.

Growing up in Ireland where dusk lasts forever, you can see clearly the tear between day and night. Walking along the beach or in the park, in those moments when the trees are black against a sky shaking out its stars, you suddenly realize that it’s here where all folk tales, music, poetry and those feelings are born and live. Then it’s gone, and there is darkness but the feeling lingers so you chase it with a pen or a song or to the bottom of a glass. Maybe it’s just a simple form of happiness, being lost in familiar woods or falling asleep to your favorite song.

Looking North West
Looking South East
Looking North West From The Coastline
Exploring & Finding
On the last night we were treated to a fire show by the some of the locals who danced, spun flaming clubs around their half-naked bodies and sang their hearts out. It was not for tips, we paid no money, all that was required was our undivided attention to quietly view and absorb their culture. It was amazing. Afterwards we sat in the bar, slowly got drunk and talked to strangers.
A short time later the bar owner shuffled over to the small, battered TV that clung to the wall and switched it on with a loud ‘click’ that got everyone’s attention. Its tiny screen lit up with fire and explosions as a British accent perfectly pronounced the devastation and horror that was unfolding in night vision and shaky hotel balcony footage. The Iraq war had begun. It had found its way through the corral. The bar went silent. I felt all the calm drain from me as easily as I had gained it the last few days on the island.
We finished our beers and returned to the cabin under the piercing stars I had grown accustomed to in the past year. The sky of the southern hemisphere didn’t seem so alien anymore, but the following night we would be in Hawaii, in the company of familiar constellations, our old friends. I couldn’t sleep for the longest time, but I had the sounds of the island and the ocean. And they had me.
In the morning we got the boat back to Fiji and a plane back across the equator to Hawaii. I dreaded Hawaii, I dreaded all its noise, colors and distractions. But upon arriving we checked into a cheap motel and in a few short hours I fell in love with the place for all the wrong reasons. The smell of fried food, the beer-soaked mahogany bars, overly lit gift shops, neon lights and loud retirees in louder shirts telling us were it all went wrong. I felt safe. People laughed a lot less but were more confident, happy but empty. We spent a few days in Hawaii and besides visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial we swam most of the time. We swam in crowds, ate in crowds, shopped in crowds, walked in crowds, and back at the motel we had a fight like we wanted the people in the next room to hear us. On the last night as the motel slept, I sat on the balcony downing beers looking out over the city lights and felt absolutely nothing. I was calm again, and alone.
We lived through the same seasons but this time around it felt different. I never had those feelings anymore and I probably never will, not if I’m always far away from those far away places.  I don’t think they exist now anyway, not anymore.
One Of Hundreds.

3 thoughts on “Far Away From Far Away Places.

  1. Pingback: Nashville Road Trip – Day #7 | Colin Dempsey

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