Destination Decisions: The Pacific Islands

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I am in a very enviable situation- I have vouchers for travel, I have to use them before they expire and I only have enough time to go for one week.

Be aware that I am not trying to gloat when I tell you this. Obtaining those vouchers was hard earned and a test of the human spirit, patience and endurance. Plenty of sweat and tears were expended in their acquisition. (OK, so all I did was complain to an airline after a cancelled flight, but hey, it was kind of traumatic.)

For those unaware, I had to spend one very long and uninspiring day staring at the walls of an airport only to then have my luggage ‘misplaced’ upon arrival at my final destination. I’m not one to complain about things normally; I find confrontations awkward and uncomfortable. One side doesn’t want to relent and the other is angry and unreasonable. It’s just not something that’s naturally in my makeup. This time I did though, and had a win. Lesson learned.

Now comes to the time when I need to choose somewhere to go. With that in mind, I’ll try to explain the best options when looking for a destination close enough for a quick break.

It’s not like long holiday planning where you pick a place and worry about it later because you have time on your side- it’s a precise art form. The decision making process in determining a location to holiday for such a short period of time can be like a forensic investigation. You draw up lists of pros and cons and research every element on your hypothetical visit. Flight times are analysed like they hold some kind of secret answer. You read and re-read travel books, looking at a million websites hoping that something will jump out at you that can tip the scales in favour of one particular place making the process just that little bit easier.

What is needed is some kind of travel calculator; a program that you can enter your budget, holiday duration and current location to determine what is the best place to consider. While I’m sure that something like this exists in the dark corners of the web, I am yet to stumble upon it. It might sound lazy, but for the busy worker, it would take away several problems. Sometimes you just want to be brainless.

Being based in Australia makes the process hard. The place is frigging huge. It’s an anomaly of the country that it is more cost effective to book a holiday to Indonesia or somewhere in the Pacific than it is to get from Melbourne to Perth and back.

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Seriously- easier to get to another country than to the other side of your own.

So that narrows down the search.

Bali is always an option (and the most common). I could join the billions of Australians already drinking the country dry of Bintang and explore one of Australia’s closest Asian neighbours. Really, it’s like a rite of passage, almost law, for all Aussies to at least contemplate a trip up North. That being said, the law of averages says that I’ll either end up visiting or being invited to a Bali wedding at some point in time, therefore I struck it from the list.

Being realistic is important in the decision making process. Bali has perennially been a cheap and easy destination to get to from Australia. I have every intention of making it there in the future, but using my voucher to do it now seems like a waste. Why wouldn’t I use it on a slightly more expensive location that I normally wouldn’t be able to afford and save myself some cash?

That leaves New Zealand and the island nations of the Pacific.

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New Zealand

 

Of all the places I’ve been, New Zealand is hands down one of the most beautiful. Australians and New Zealanders have this strange kind of rivalry; Australia thinks New Zealand is awesome and New Zealand laughs at Australia because we are shit at rugby union. Australians like to claim famous New Zealanders as our own and New Zealanders keep laughing at us because we are shit at rugby union. Either way, our neighbour across the Tasman is a fantastic and, at times, overlooked location- even going as far as being a ‘last resort’ that people consider. The decision is then, do you go somewhere you have already been?

Then there is the Pacific Island nations.

The Islands of the South Pacific are often referred to as tropical island havens that are only accessible to those with a passion to visit them or the money to pay to get there. Like New Zealand they get disregarded, based predominately on the preconceived notion that unless you are on a honeymoon they are not worth the trouble. Samoa, New Caledonia, Tonga and the Cook Islands are criminally overlooked. Countries like Fiji and Vanuatu, the more well known in the region, attract larger numbers than the others but don’t fare much better. Too often the Asian nations like Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam steal the thunder of these beautiful specs of land.

Let’s weigh up the facts, then: smaller crowds, relaxed atmosphere and beautiful tropical location mean that for those of us looking for a quick, week long getaway, we have no further to look. If I wanted to battle large throngs of people I’d stay in Australia and swim between the flags at Bondi Beach on a forty degree day.

Coming to the decision to go to the Cook Islands was relatively simple in the end. All I needed to read were the words “sleepy island nation” and “has at least two breweries”. I like the idea that very few people have anything negative to tell me about the place. That means that either very few people go there (win) or it is a quiet tropical destination that is so relaxed it is half asleep (also a win).

When choosing a location to travel to, some people have the knack of putting on the blinkers and only considering a very few destinations. Don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons, dig a little deeper and consider places that you may not have considered in the past.

Wayward Tip: Don’t be afraid to go somewhere close to home. Just because it is close by does not mean that it isn’t worth the time or money. It could very well be the best trip of your life.

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Koh Tao, Thailand.

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