Written by Andrew Bates, 2015 Auburn University Study Abroad Student
I first visited Vorovoro in 2015 as a rising Junior at Auburn University studying Mechanical Engineering. Since then, I have been back multiple times for months at a time. When I look back upon my 5 years since I first visited Vorovoro, I can hardly process the myriad of ways that Vorovoro has impacted me. So, instead, I will highlight just two.
The first way Vorovoro has impacted my daily life has been to give me increased perspective. French novelist Marcel Proust said, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes". Too many times travel consists merely of seeing beautiful landscapes as an observer, and our eyes never become “new”. It is when our whole being is ‘stretched’ that our eyes can become new. Vorovoro has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but at the end of the day, it is still just a beach. But the memories I have had on that beach - those have given me new eyes. I remember laying on the beach with Api after a long day "seaweeding" as he told me about growing up on his home island of Kia off in the distance. I also remember playing on the beach with some Fijian children as they laughed while I struggled to catch crabs. These interactions stretched me in a way a beautiful beach alone never could. Vorovoro is more than just a pretty background to pictures. On Vorovoro, it is the foreground that is special. This foreground is filled with new friends, life lessons, and copious amounts of laughter. Not a day goes by when something I have learned on Vorovoro doesn’t broaden my perspective and slow my rush to judgement. My eyes were made new on Vorovoro. And I will add to anybody that asks - it would be impossible to not have eyes made new when they are crinkled in laughter as often as they are on Vorovoro.
The second way Vorovoro has impacted my daily life has been having a constant reminder to focus on what really matters. There are loads of tasks and activities in my life that suck up my time. Some of these are necessary for life in the western world, while others may just be an escape from stress. On Vorovoro, I learned to prioritize my time being with other people and being close to the earth. And perhaps most importantly, I experienced rejoicing in the tasks of everyday life. Anyone who has spent time on Vorovoro knows that just as much laughter is produced in the kitchen as food. At home, when I can make my daily tasks come alive with joy and I can prioritize being with people and in the outdoors, I am living my happiest (Fijian inspired!) life.