In the years since, she has explored countries spanning the furthest reaches of the globe.
What sets Nadine apart from many other travelers is that she really tries to experience the culture first hand rather than staying in the isolated luxury of five star resorts.
She doesn't even go the backpacking route. She actually rents an abode and lives with the locals!
In her most recent sojourn, Nadine leaves her home in Alice Springs, Australia, for Nadi, Fiji, where she rents a house, which she is now sharing with several others.
I must say, after reading Nadine's fascinating account of life in the Fijian capital, I'm tempted to fly down to the South Sea Island Paradise and experience it that way myself!
The following entry was posted in Travel with Papino on 18 February 2011. It is published here with Nadine's permission.
Going Barefoot in Fiji
Well, if there's one way to really experience a country, it's to rent a home, live with the locals, and immerse yourself in their way of life. I can now say I have truly done that once again, in the beautiful paradise of Fiji!
Just after arriving, I rented a house in a local area in Nadi. Renting here is not like in the Western world, where you ask around at the real estate agents and search daily classifieds.
You find a house that appears empty and ask the local taxi driver who owns it. You then ask the neighbours how to find the owners, and generally they will give you a phone number or, as in my case, invite you into their home and call the owners directly for you.
And Wa-La! The house is yours. (Especially when the neighbour mentions that you are an Australian girl… $$$ Cha-Ching!) There is no contract or no inspection…
You move in and a few days later, hand over the first month's rent. Simple!
After scrubbing the house clean for days (no, they didn't clean it for us!), you begin your daily life as what I like to call "the life of a Fijian housewife”. This involves waking up early and hand scrubbing your clothes in the back sink, so that you can get them out in time before the afternoon shower.
You spend the rest of the day praying that it doesn't rain and cursing when it does. Generally your clothes are so wet that they don't dry in a day and end up smelling of dampness so you spend the next two days re-washing them anyway! Currently my favourite red bra has been on the clothesline for three days as it wont stop raining!
I don't know what it is about Fiji, but the houses end up with so much grit on the floor you end up sweeping 10 times a day. . . with a straw broom!
World's Oldest Bus
You then catch a ride into town on the world's oldest bus, which has no glass on its windows and the longest gear stick you've ever seen – but the cheapest bus fare! – to the local supermarket to pick up your groceries.
Everyday, you ask?
Well, the bread only stays fresh for a day, the vegetables not much longer, and you always realize you're missing an essential ingredient to a meal, which happens often in a house of seven people!
For me, I wander the aisles of the supermarket drooling over the Australian imported items that are three times the price I would normally pay, refusing to fork out that amount, but wishing I could!
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the food in Fiji, but as anyone who's lived abroad will know, you always miss what you have spent your life eating.
Vegemite – Yummmm!!!!
A few days ago I decided to lash out and buy myself a small jar of Vegemite for around A$10… Before I even had myself a well deserved Vegemite sandwich, my lovely boyfriend dropped the jar and smashed it to pieces!
Come dinner time, we lay out our red tablecloth… no, not on the table, but on the mat on the floor, where we all sit around and eat… usually with the wrong utensils as we don't have enough of any one! Eating spaghetti with a teaspoon is not so easy when you're hunched over your bowl on the floor!
But, don't get me wrong… I'm not complaining. I love every aspect of this life! I love the feeling of accomplishment when I have scrubbed out stains on my denim shorts, the feeling of riding the bus with the locals instead of taking a taxi, and the "togetherness" of a family meal on the floor in our living room.
Nadine publishes Travel with Papino, which she describes as “an on line community where you can relive travel tales, seek travel tips/advice, and explore the world of travel”. We met on Facebook and share a love of traveling – and a love of writing about it.
Pictured: Nadine Gray