I flew to a remote island for a week.
Rarotonga is part of the Cook Islands and is located in the middle of a vast ocean between Brazil and Australia. It's 26 square miles wide and most people get around on motorbikes. When my travel buddy picked me up at the airport on motorcycle, I knew I was in for a fun vacation. Riding the curvy coastline together, warm wind in my hair, I was stunned by the turquoise blue of the water. I had never seen oceans that color. I remember many things from that trip but one thing that has stayed with me to this day was a dinner we had with some locals. My friend had traveled extensively, unlike me, and was very outgoing. During our stay he had made friends with the hotel concierge. He invited us to dine with him and his family one Sunday night for a traditional Polynesian dinner. At first, I was nervous. These people were strangers. Could we trust them? Once I got over my fear of the unknown and embraced something new, I was humbled and my fears quickly turned to love. They welcomed us that night into their home, strangers is our own right, told us all about how the food was prepared, the traditions they followed. Explained the many tattoos we'd seen on everybody's body, women too that signified family and their heritage. When the best fish I'd ever had was passed around the circle (we sat on the ground on a traditional blanket) it was carefully wrapped in banana leaves, a typical way many Polynesians cook food, using natural resources to respect the earth and others. That trip changed me in many ways. I never travel to an area now without learning more about the people and the culture. I never knew what I'd been missing all those years, traveling to see places but never really getting to know the people who live there. I will be forever grateful for my travel buddy who invited me into his open hearted life for that brief week and for the strangers who welcomed us into their lives for one brief night.