Fiji Water Fun


Living on an island for a week certainly included lots of time with the water and sand. Even getting there was a water adventure since we had to take a boat to get there, no roads! We were able to swim anytime, since we slept literally 10 steps from the sand.  The waves were pretty calm since the reef breaks most of the big waves further out. Watching the tide change was interesting, it was a very big difference in seeing the coral bottom all uncovered vs the waves coming right up to our hammocks. There was snorkeling equipment available to borrow and we were able go out multiple times. We even went out to a reef one day to snorkel that had much clearer water and more aquatic life! We did some fishing too. I will have to do better next time at catching more fish, but I at least caught one. I didn’t learn to spear fish, but that’s more my fault. I should have gone out with Api to harpoon some fish or set some traps/nets. He did this multiple times and he was really really good at it!



Holding a jellie
The bowl was commandeered from the kitchen to serve as the crab aquarium
Sea snake! Check out his fin shaped tail.
Taking it all in
Coral and shell collecting
Found lobster head (or something)
Racing the boat along the beach
Brand new birds we found in their nest

It was amazing to spend so much time on the beach. It was all ours too, there is even a place on the island called secret beach. It’s not that secret, just around the bend. But a great little walk and we found a lot of wildlife. Plenty of hermit crabs, but also baby birds, sea snakes, eels, fish, lobster, jellyfish, crabs, starfish, coral, etc. The kids had so much fun catching all the creepers they could: hermit crabs, and sand crabs mainly. Don’t worry, no coconut crabs. They did this for days on end! We also swam in the water, and it was sweet relief. While it was winter in Fiji and the locals were wearing jackets and were actually cold, we were still pretty warm. It was probably 70-80’s during the day and pretty humid. Mid-afternoon was usually a couple hours of oppressive feeling heat, but the water was a good remedy. Walking along one day I lifted a leaf and in under it was a pile of hermit crabs, I started my camera in time to see some of them scatter:


We were able to go out night fishing and it was great fun. Besides the fact that 2 of the boys fell asleep on the boat because it was, well, night. They had played all day in the sun though, and one was actually feeling pretty ill (dehydrated). The way to go night fishing in Fiji though involves a hook on a line wrapped around a plastic bottle. Any bottle will do, you use it as your reel and manually turn the bottle to let the line out or pull it in. Casting is as simple as throwing the bait on your hook out. If you’re fancy you can even swing it around your head and launch it, we tried and might have ended up hitting each other in the heads with our bait once or twice. And then you wait in the dark and feel the line between your fingers until you feel a nibble. Api was the best to be with on the boat, he would basically talk the fish onto his line! Really, he’d say, “here fishy fishy fishy, just the big ones!” and minutes later he’d pull one up. He spent most of his time untangling lines and cutting bait for everyone else, but he still caught 6 times more fish than the rest of the boat combined! 6 to 1. I caught the other fish, and it felt nice, but he was too small for anything other than cutting up for more bait. We had to watch out fishing because the hooks were getting stuck regularly on coral and things at the bottom. Our Swedish friend Max actually caught some coral rock!

Api caught bait earlier that day
The most colorful bait
Scraping the scales off the bait
holding our fishing rods and waiting
Max with his catch
They gave up and had to rest
My little catch still on the coke bottle line



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Snorkeling was great and seeing the numerous fish. I won’t even try to name the kinds we saw (mostly because I don’t even know), but I can say we saw lots, including swarms of jellyfish, and a few sharks, plenty of coral, bright blue fish and some clown fish even. Thinking of all the varieties of life and considering the size of the ocean really puts our own size into perspective. We’re just small creatures too, finding our place in it all. There are so many fish in the ocean, and so much sand on the beach. It’s so great to be in it, and connect with it, and just take it in. Along those same lines, is another part of Fiji that I absolutely loved, the stars!


Being on a remote island with the only “civilization” light from town to our back over the jungle peaks, we saw more stars than I can ever remember seeing. We could sit at the beach and see billions of stars! I didn’t count them, but my kids told me there were that many. We could see the milk in the milky way! You’ll have to take our word for it, because the photos never turned out. The best was when there was no moon, because then we could see so many more stars. One night though we were out looking at the starts and could see Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn all lined up across the sky along with the moon. It was magical. It continually made us think of simpler times when all people on earth shared the stars and formed their own belief systems about what the stars meant and their personal, yet small place in the cosmos.

I wish I took this … Photo by Felix Mittermeier on



Off the grid in Vorovoro, Fiji

Our time in Fiji was amazing! We were on a small island that is a couple kilometers square and stayed for 8 days. It’s just north of Labasa, on Vanua Levu. We Flew to Labasa, took a taxi to the coast, and then a boat (like a little motor boat) to Vorovoro. We stayed in a vale (hut) with 6 beds so we all had space. Our vale was steps from the beach on the edge of the village. We had compost toilets, bucket powered showers we filled with collected rainwater, solar powered charging stations and communal meals with everyone (courtesy of Misi) and kava on the grog mat every night. We went snorkeling and fishing and played volleyball and swam at the beach and enjoyed the company of the Fijians and the wildlife. They had an injured pet fruit bat (Becky) in the kitchen hut where we could pet and take care of him. There were chickens wandering the island with baby chicks. A guitar and ukulele in the grand bure. Plenty of hammocks around the fire ring and along the beach. We enjoyed walking along the beach and finding hermit crabs and shells, walking into the water and looking at the coral and fish and even snorkeling right off the beach and finding more. Mat weaving Fiji style, visiting the primary school on neighboring island Mali in the village of Lingalevu,

We went one day out to a reef and saw loads more fish and beautiful coral and even sharks!

The food


Fiji was colonized by the British, and to farm sugar cane they brought over a large population from India who knew the crop already (and they had also colonized). There is still a large Indian population in the area, and they have greatly influenced the cuisine. They eat curries and rice all the time on Fiji, but they have their own treatment with local vegetables, we mostly had fish curry and chutney. It was delicious, and not usually as spicy as the Indian food I’m used to, but it was still really good. We ate coconut, fish, chicken, fish, rice, curry, chutney, pancakes (which were more like scones or donuts), bananas , oatmeal/porridge.

The Language

  • Tui Mali – the chief of the Mali tribe.
  • Bula – Hi (literally it means life or health)
  • Bula Sia – The local way to say it on Vorovoro and the surrounding area of Labasa.
  • Vinaka – Thank you
  • Yadra – Good morning
  • Kerekere – Please
  • Tulou – Excuse me
  • Moce – Goodbye (pronounced Mo-they)
  • Sulu – The traditional skirt everyone wears.
  • Kava – The traditional drink of Fiji. Also called Grog.
  • Tanoa – The traditional bowl where kava is mixed.
  • Sevusevu – Ceremony when you arrive at a village. You bring kava root and present it to the chief.
  • Cobo – (Thombo) the deep handed clap you do on the kava mat
  • Oh ya – What men say as they approach a home.
  • Manavanduuu – What women say as they approach a home. They say this right after the men would say Oh ya. It’s kinda sung and trails off at the end like an echo.
  • Bongi – What everyone says at night as you first approach a home or kava mat.
  • Dondo – When on the kava mat, men sit cross legged, and women sit with both legs to the side on the knees. Sitting there for hours and visiting is great, but your legs get very tired, so the chief can call a rest by saying ‘dondo‘. We had a good joke going around the village that we needed a ‘full body dondo’
  • Kerekere vaka cangu – What you’d say on the grog mat when you’re ready to go to bed (not sure the exact spelling or meaning, but basically means, can I please go to bed?’ you ask the chief after you get everyone’s attention by cobo-ing three times, and he will say ‘Vinaka‘)
  • Lovo – The underground oven meal/feast. Super heat rocks in a fire and place them in a hole covered with food to cook. Including fish, chicken and veggies and then you cover with banana leaves and then dirt to keep the heat it and let it cook for about an hour and a half. The fun part is digging it up without burning your hands too bad!



Kava deserves it’s own section here. Every evening after dinner will be a time everyone comes together in the big pavilion called the grand buré. Kava is a root, which they will pound into a powder and then mix with water to make a drink. Kava doesn’t necessarily taste good, but it’s not that bad either. It makes your tongue and mouth go a bit numb and tingly at first. They say it relaxes you and that once you’ve had it daily for a few weeks you can get drunk off it, though there is no alcohol content. I don’t remember the word in Fiji, but it sounds like “lambchop” in english and someone once confused the two, so now they just say that. Not like a crazy drunk or a sloppy drunk, but a mild mumbly laughing drunk. We never felt anything other than a tingling in our mouth though. But it’s not just a cup or two, they will sit for hours and hours on the mats, basically from dinner until bed, all night even sometimes. They combine the crushed kava root (they just use stones or metal or anything hard to pound the root) with water into the tanoa. Then they use a coconut shell as a cup and dish it out for everyone one at a time. They will pass the cup from person to person, and to receive it you cobo once, and after you drink you pass the cup back and cobo three times. There are kava guards that sit next to the tanoa and pass it around to people and keep the kava stirred and mixed. They will pass to everyone there and then take a break until the chief calls for another round usually 5-10 minutes later. There is a special kava ceremony when you arrive in a village called a Sevusevu, where the visitor presents the chief with a wrapped kava root and states the intention of the visit, then they are received by the chief as family (literally one of their own) and he will speak for the land and the ancestors in welcoming you to the land. There is also another similar ceremony when you leave , we were able to participate in a couple and see a few more of these types of ceremonies and it was nice to learn the rhythm of it all.

Off the Grid

We were off the grid because we did not get cell service where we were, and there was not much electricity anyways. There is a charge station for phones and things, but half our stay the solar panels or batteries did not work, so we were always trying to conserve our charge. IT was really nice to not be connected to things like Facebook and instagram, though some of you worried about us going dark. We did find after a couple days that there is a peak you can hike to that we did get signal on, so we would go and post photos and send messages to let everyone know we were still alive.

Bridge The Gap

As we mentioned earlier, we were on Vorovoro as guests through an organization called Bridge the Gap. They are in partnership with the chief and other tribal leaders to help the people live sustainably and adjust to the local challenges of climate change. Read more about their mission on their site. It was a great cultural experience to learn about the traditional of Fiji and get to know the people.


We’ll have a few more posts about our time in Fiji, so stay tuned! In the meantime, here are some more photos:


The Jump

While having a blast at the reunion, we were also busy getting our final packing finished and the last purge. We had a few things to finally let go of, like our pillows and other random things, like our minivan…


We luckily found a great buyer who was in need of upgrading their vanimal and they dropped us off at the airport!


It was quite a strange feeling having just sold our last vehicle and jettisoned anything that wouldn’t fit in our suitcases and backpacks and to step onto an airplane! Very freeing, but also quite anxious. There were second thoughts and moments of panic, but we reassured ourselves that we’d done the planning and preparations and now was time to jump!

It was also very freeing to let go of everything society says we should have and accumulate and work hard to keep. We no longer are living the “American Dream” of owning our own house (and paying the bank dearly for it in interest and insurance). A yard to call our own to play ball with the kids, our own kitchen, and growing some veggies or spices. We do value that and are still interested in that, we just have a different dream right now. We want to travel light and experience different cultures and places, we want to go not as tourists, but as travelers and learn from the experience. We also want to learn to detach from the things and stuff of our commercial consumer culture. We want to JUMP! You can too!



Our first jump is to fly from SLC to LA to Nadi, Fiji to Labasa, Fiji, then a taxi to the docks and a boat to Vorovoro for a week of culture experience living sustainably with a Fiji village. More on that to come. The fun part was crossing the date line, in that we left LA on a Thursday night, and arrived in Fiji Saturday morning, yet only 12 hours later. So we jumped into the future too!

Family Reunion-ing at Bear Lake

A great family reunion spent at Bear Lake on the border of Idaho and Utah. We had a washer-toss tournament, trivia, water games, world cup watching, card games and lots of food! It was perfect timing for us to be leaving right afterwards, it was like a sendoff party all week!

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Friends in Utah

We had great visits with long lost friends and family going through Utah. We visited only a fraction of those we wanted to see, but it was a packed zip through the state. We were able to visit many old friends from Georgia as well as mission friends and cousins! A stop in with Thomas McConkie for some mindfulness practice, visit with Sasha and fam, Lunch with Zanne and Mica, playing at the park with Matt & Madeline and Elle, a hike with Stix and kids, visit with Nate and Amy little and fam, the Johansens, another hike but with the Lowry clan followed by gelato, visiting Stix at his fire station, and some Mullins cousins for lunch! We got photos of some of the gatherings, but not all.

Special thanks to Aunt Zanne for acting as our mailbox and letting us mail everything (including our passports) to her house since we no longer have one and didn’t want to mess with forwarding things from our mailbox!

PSA: Moab is hot during the summer

Driving from Colorado to Utah is beautiful and I was able to literally “work on the road” again as we went, though some places along the interstate don’t have much as far as data connections. I was able to get my work done still.

My kind of corner office… Coding + Roadtrip = Codetrip

We were heading to Utah and we wanted to return to Moab for some family hiking. We visited about 10 years ago and thought the kids would love it. As we pulled in the night before we decided to check the weather and we were a little surprised. We hadn’t put two and two together, that it was summer and we were heading to the desert. Not sure why we hadn’t even thought about that yet, but we had just enjoyed some beautiful weeks in Colorado. Anyways, it was hot than expected so we rearranged our schedule to hike early in the morning before it hit 100 degrees since it would stay above 100 until 8pm when it started getting dark.

We had a good hike to the delicate arch though and the kids became convinced we were trying to kill them with the heat already, so we called it a day and went to hydrate and swim at the hotel before heading north.

Colorado Springs has the Garden of the Gods

A visit to Colorado Springs can’t be complete without checking out the Garden of the Gods park. It’s free and it’s great fun to climb around the immense rock formations.

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We celebrated a birthday and visited lots with Aunt Teresa and cousins! We even made her a website: Also had a great trip to the movies (Incredibles 2) and some fun places to eat: Smash Burger and Rizuto’s ice cream!


Bailey Colorado For Our First House/Pet Sit

We are now officially experienced house sitters. We spent 2 weeks in Bailey, Colorado house and pet sitting and it was awesome. We cared for 4 dogs, 1 cat, 1 turtle & 1 fish. It was in a cabin feeling house with a beautiful view of the mountains west of Denver at an altitude of nearly 9k ft. We did all the things we normally do: work, homeschool, field trips, play at the park and library and visit with whoever we know in town. We kept pretty busy with so much to keep us entertained with a hot tub on the deck and movie nights and more! We really enjoyed the pets too! All the kids took really fast to the dogs and cat especially, they were super happy to have a pet in their life again.


1 very large malamute, 1 young husky, 2 black lab mutts (which reminded us a lot of our own Lucie), a gray sleepy cat a turtle and a fish (which the turtle ate and we felt like the worst pet sitters in the world until the owners told us it happens all the time). We were busy taking care of the home with our daily chores and taking care of the animals. You can’t imagine the hair that 4 big dogs shed in June!

We found a few hiking trail around and spent a good bit of time preparing for our international leap across the big pond to the west. We had a few immunizations (typhoid and Hep-A, yay!) to get as well as finally sorting out our luggage plans and international driving permits etc etc etc. So it was a mix of errands and fun/educational field trips, but we totally loved Denver and the areas we were able to explore.

We’re HUGE fans of trusted house sitters though! Go read more about it and sign up today! We were very happy to earn our first 5 star review!


Preparing for Fiji

Through a worldschooling group on facebook, we stumbled on a family service trip/cultural immersion experience in Fiji. This was exactly what we were thinking of doing with our world nomad travels! But, getting to Fiji looked very expensive. 


That’s a benefit of a round the world (RTW) mindset. We’re looking at one way trips and connecting them along the way with our housesits and other destinations. Since we’re not getting round trip tickets, we could treat Fiji as a stepping stone to the Pacific/Oceania region. We had Australia and New Zealand pretty high on our list so we thought we’d apply for house sits in those areas and make it happen. Soon after we were confirming a number of sits in the region! This also helped us decide on an international nomad adventure rather than going the overland/RV route. What better way to kick off a RTW tour than by visiting with a local Fijian tribe and living with them in a coop and help them but also be immersed in their culture.


The organization works to help a remote island of Fiji (because Fiji isn’t remote enough). We’ll first fly to Nadi, on the west coast of Viti Levu (the biggest island of Fiji), which is the international airport in Fiji. Then we take a domestic flight to Labasa, the town on the north side of Vanua Levu (the second largest island of Fiji). Then we take a ferry out to the tiny island of Vorovoro. Look just north of Labasa, and you’ll see Mali Island. Vorovoro is an even tinier island off the coast of Mali, it’s not on this map but you can find it here.

Vorovoro is inhabited by the Mali tribe, which also has villages on other nearby islands. It is also the home of the tribe chief, Tui Mali and the cultural center. First the island was the location for a tourism community project which featured on the BBC Documentary called Paradise or Bust run by Tribewanted. After that, they partnered with a company called Bridge the Gap and Auburn University to assist the community with sustainable community development.

Bridge the Gap partners with Vorovoro in the planning and execution of Vorovoro’s community development goals and to bolster Vororovo’s global outreach opportunities while maintaining the integrity of the tribe’s rich cultural heritage and working to protect the local natural environment. The partnership uses a multipronged approach for reaching these development goals. This approach includes business mentorship programs, sustainable agricultural training, infrastructure support, and networking with various international organizations. (thanks Wikipedia)

We’ll be involved in building a kindergarten classroom for the local village school this summer and also joining the tribe for ceremonies and meals and other cultural activities like basket weaving, fishing (I hope to catch a fish with a spear), snorkeling, hiking and hammocking and more. We’ll stay in a hut by the beach as a family and eat (and learn to cook) local meals.


So we’ll basically be living in Moana’s village, with a healthy portion of Given. At least that’s what the kids think and I hope they’re not wrong. If you want to learn more about those who started the Bridge the Gap organization here’s an interesting interview to read. Stay tuned for our updates, we fly in 1 week!

Mormon Stories Retreat in Park City Utah

The timing worked out for us driving from my work conference in Jackson, Wyoming to our first house sit in Bailey, Colorado, that we had an open weekend. Researching where to go, we came upon a Mormon Stories Retreat in Park City, Utah. It fit our timeline perfectly and also was something that we’ve been interested in for a number of years.

A little backstory, we’re LDS, or Mormon, by way of religion. We were both raised in Mormon families and have been practicing and participating members of the church our whole lives. I even served a mission for the church for 2 years, which I think may have sparked my itch to travel. I was in France and Belgium and talked with many people about Jesus. So, I had to learn French to talk to people and I really enjoyed getting very familiar with a foreign culture.

Slowly over the past decade, we’ve had what some would call a faith transition where for example we don’t take things as literally as we may have before. Mormon stories is a podcast that has helped us make sense of some of the issues we’ve had. It’s aptly named, they discuss stories of Mormons and aren’t afraid to talk about the taboo topics either. It’s part of the Open Stories Foundation, a non-profit, and the family of podcasts and websites has helped us view this transition as more of a journey or stage of adult development, rather than a crisis where everything comes tumbling down and crashing. Founded by John Dehlin, I know, controversial in the Mormon sphere, but seriously, don’t discount him because you’ve heard scary things about him. Take a look and see on the retreat agenda, there is no church bashing or telling anyone to leave. In fact, multiple times he shared the sentiment that “Leaving is not the answer”. Anyways, we’ve been fans for a while and have always been so far from any of the events that it hasn’t made sense to attend, but to have one fit in right when we had time and right in the area we already were was dare I say providential.

The Open Stories Foundation mission is to promote understanding, healing, growth, and community for people experiencing or impacted by religious transition.

The focus of these events is on healing and growth during and after a faith transition. John and Natasha DO NOT bash the LDS church in these events, and all efforts are made to make the conversations “safe” and affirming to believers and non-believers, church attendees and non-attendees. While attendees will sometimes vent their frustrations with their experiences, John and Natasha are fiercely committed to nurturing a constructive and positive environment where all are supported and affirmed.

The atmosphere and topics were very therapeutic and helpful and even healing. There was a large focus on mental health and positivity! We made fast friends with some kindred spirits! We even discussed how interesting it was that perhaps because we were all being totally honest and vulnerable with each other we were quicker to bond. We had a great time attending the presentations and discussions and even singing karaoke! Krista nailed Hamilton with Dr. John Dehlin! I did ok with some Weezer, and we and some other relevant favorites.