As Lucas mentioned, we recently returned from a week in Fiji. Absolutely one of the best family vacations we have ever had – but not for the obvious reasons.
The first part of our stay was on the main island, at the Westin. Frankly, if you make it to Fiji, you should skip this part. While many of us will enjoy recognizing the hotels like the Westin, the Sheraton, the Sofitel, and others, it really isn’t the authentic Fiji experience. The beaches aren’t all that, and to experience any great snorkeling or to see any sea turtles, you have to take a boat and go on somewhat long excursions.
Luckily, after a couple nights at the Westin, we took a ferryboat towards the Mamanuca Islands – which consists of about 20 islands, of which seven are covered by the Pacific Ocean at high tide. One of the 20 is Monuriki, which was the island featured in the movie, Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks.
As soon as we arrived on Mana Island we were immediately welcomed by the locals and staff of the one resort on the island, where we stayed for 4 days. The accommodations were simple, the food was good (but not exceptional,) but the island and the people who live there are what we will remember.
We quickly lost track of Lucas and Chloe, who were welcomed by the locals and invited to play touch rugby, Ping-Pong, and other games. They went to visit local farms and went to talk with the staff about where the best snorkeling spots were. Julien, who rarely likes to be handed off to a kid’s club, was the first in line each day. He could not wait to go to the kid’s club to see the other kids, and to see what activities were planned for them that day.
As we left a few days later, the staff was playing music and waving us off – back onto the ferryboat. As they were waving us off, several of the guys came over to hug my kids and wish them luck. They told them how much they had enjoyed getting to know them and hanging out with them. The kids, and Lucas especially, were touched – completely moved.
And as I watched, I felt something too, and I realized something important.
Over the last 7 weeks, my kids have been battling it out every single day. They have been working *hard* to make new friends. Fighting every day to break into existing circles, to be accepted, to be liked, to be welcomed.
And while the majority of the Kiwi kids have been nice to them, it is still a process. We all know that kids will be kids – and we have had a few tough moments.
As adults, we know what it takes to make new friends – we know the amount of effort and energy that goes into it; but kids, they don’t know that. And mine had no idea. And so they have been learning it the hard way.
But here, on this tiny island, these people had welcomed my kids with open arms. They had taken them in, asked them to join them, and had been so happy to have them. I had no idea how much they had needed that.
I had no idea how much we all needed that.
What made this trip exceptional wasn’t the beautiful beaches, or the sunshine and the warm weather. It was the human interaction and genuine kindness that we really needed in that moment, even if we didn’t know how much it had been missing.