Australian television presenting couple Steve and Rose Jacobs recently decided to throw in their fast-paced Aussie lifestyle and relocate their family to a more relaxed location. They crossed the South Pacific and landed on the white sandy beaches of Vanuatu. Original story by news.com.au.
We have been holidaying as a young family in Vanuatu, a republic archipelago of 83 volcanic, tropical islands for around eight years. Every single holiday seemed to get more and more magical as we saw our two young daughters come alive outside of their Sydney routines and together, Steven and I reconnected as a married couple, being based in the same city for more than a day! (A rare thing given we both work as travelling television presenters sometimes up to 300 days away from home per year).
Vanuatu isn’t just anywhere. The second you step off the plane you inhale the sweet aromas of the native flowers, the smoke of the local bonfires and the heat of the South Pacific sun. Leaving the airport you are reminded of Old French Colonial times, passing supermarkets named Bon Marche and driving on the right hand side of the road. Coconut palms casually line the streets and a rainbow of bougainvillea vines hang off ramshackle buildings, instantly bringing them back to life.
The oceans and coral reefs surrounding the “ring of fire”, the volcanic islands of Vanuatu, vary from deep dark blues to blindingly bright turquoise. The reefs are teeming with cobalt coloured starfish bigger than your head and an abundance of lobsters, crabs, poulet fish and blue fin tuna. Needless to say, the local cuisine is hard to beat, especially when you throw in fresh coconut cream or a papaya, coriander and pineapple salad.
We have begun growing our own vegetable and herb garden at home, something that has been a bucket list activity for eons. Our daughters have settled beautifully into their new international school and spend their afternoons either snorkelling with clown fish, climbing trees, collecting hermit crabs or painting. They have taken up horse riding, French lessons, tennis, ballet and piano.
We’ve made amazing new friendships with a huge number of local expats and Ni-Vanuatu. On weekends we do group family trips away to remote local islands and stay in tiny huts and build bonfires and toast marshmallows. We’ve joined the local running group (and recently competed in the Vanuatu Round Island Relay!). We are entering local art competitions and doing life drawing classes. We go bike riding and kayaking for exercise. Steven has discovered the local surf break and is starting French lessons himself too! I have stumbled upon a yet-to-be-identified tropical flower that I am hoping to infuse and include in my new fragrance range based on rare native ingredients from the islands. And together, Steven and I are looking into launching a botanical range of rum from Vanuatu — which you will have to wait for the secret ingredient of once we launch! But long story short, our creative brains are on fire, for the first time in years!
It’s true, though, that the transition hasn’t been super smooth. Within the first month of arriving, I was diagnosed with Dengue Fever, or “Broken Bone Fever” as it’s commonly referred to. It’s a mosquito borne virus that will now be in my blood stream for life. So that was nice!
Trying to register our car has also been quite a fascinating experience. What would normally take a few hours in Australia took a week in paradise, partly due to “island time”, a general lack of cohesion, direction … and hours upon hours spent lining up in queues only to be told that we were “in the wrong queue” and that we needed to start again in a new queue.
The potholes and the traffic are a living nightmare, since the South Pacific Games are due to be held in Vanuatu at Christmas time, so needless to say, the roads and infrastructure have begun their transformation from terrible to just a little less terrible.
And yet, the strangest thing has happened. A year ago, Steven would have sat in this traffic and felt his road rage rising to new heights. I would be cursing the potholes and writing letters of complaint to the powers that be about the lack of competence in government departments. And yet, we don’t. We actually embrace the pace. We laugh at the potholes and we love the road signs that say “slow down”, not because they hold up traffic but because they are so symbolic to us about why we moved there.
And the truly great thing about Vanuatu is that while we live there in our own little remote pocket of tropical bliss, we still jump on a plane and check back in with Australia every now and again (it’s only a two hour flight to Brisbane). We reconnect with loved ones, we get our hit of real-life shopping and dining and then we smile when we board that flight home again, knowing that nothing in Australia has changed — except us and our stress levels, our quality of life and our appreciation for what we have had the courage to create.