I am somewhere over the Pacific reflecting upon my time in Fiji. I am not an easy traveller – I don’t move from country to country with the ease and grace that many do. Mine is not the liquid carefree transnational border hopping where people just set off for a new destination without a care in the world. On the contrary, I am cross between a travelling diva and an organisational freak. Every aspect of what I do is planned months in advance – there are no surprises. In my world surprises are for people who cannot plan and whose lives will never go very far despite their relaxed travel style.
However, the thing I do attempt to do is to make an effort to watch and listen to all the things I see in any new spot. My mode of information gathering when I travel is osmotic in nature as I am always consciously aware of not being one of the many dickheads I have encountered when I do travel. The world has enough dickheads it doesn’t need me to add to their number. Which is something the loudmouth heehaw Yanks in the departure lounge at Nadi could have learnt. My latest adventure has been a juxtaposition in cultures – I stayed at a five-star resort in what is effectively a third world country and the contrast between the two was not lost on me.
In fact, the trip came at a time when I had been reading a fair bit about does money buy you happiness. For some reason, this subject seems to be a cross between the trendy topic de jour and the selective perception one gets when you latch onto a topic. I will state at the outset that I firmly believe that money does buy happiness. Of this I have no doubt. As a crass example as I write this I am sitting in business class and whilst it is not a wonderfully isolating pod like I am used to and snobbishly wish I had. I am happy I am not down the back of this little buzz box of a jet.
However, my word view did seem to clash with that of the Fijians for whom family, culture and faith are paramount. For them their connection to others is their guiding light and this did cause me to reflect on my own somewhat avaristic nature. But I wonder how one applies this way on a western environment where success is somewhat of a scorecard based upon how much you make. And I have to admit I am a willing participant in this game – my childish obsession with expensive cars is in many ways not for me but for others. The first question you are asked when you meet someone new is what do you do? From this one’s social status is defined along with a perception of how much you make. I want others to see what I can afford. This is how we organise our society – we are not set up for our currency to be based upon the quality of our interactions with others.
This raises the question of what can be taken from such a trip beyond a suntan and additional t-shirts for my collection and I must admit I don’t really know the answer. I have some idea about the notion of balance and connection to others but to me this sounds too new age and somewhat of a half arse notion. The sort of thing you would read being spouted by some man bun sporting, kale munching hipster vegan wanker in an inflight magazine with all the depth of a roadside puddle.
I have always had difficulty with people pretending to be from another culture. Few things used to shit me more in the martial arts than students who wanted to be Asian. They would adopt fake mannerisms and would desperately yearn for an Asian partner. They would travel t country like Japan only to realise that no matter how much you wished to be you would never be one of them. And in some ways, I have the same feeling about people who want to be Fijian and adopt their ways and approaches to problems. There are things to learn such as the relentless friendliness of all of those that I encountered. But there are downsides – the Fijians are very proud of their no hurry no worry approach to life and it is a seductively relaxed way of seeing the world. But after a while it would drive you around the bend.
So the question becomes one of what do you take and what to you leave behind and I don’t have an answer to this as of yet.
But there is a deeper question to this and that is what do they take from us. Is it the good bits or do they succumb to the capricious nature of our world?