Over and out. I’m off to live differently for a while

Five flights and a boat trip. Three down, two to go.

It’s the middle of the night in Cairns, Australia and I’ve just woken up. Hello Jetlag. I’ve just spent a quiet day in a lovely little B&B with a rockpool after my first three flights: Hamburg — Dubai — Brisbane — Cairns.

Enjoying my last night in a proper comfy bed for a while.

In 2 hours I’m off to the airport again for the last two flights before arrival: Cairns — Port Moresby — Alotau.

Having prepared for this moment for months I can hardly believe the time has come.

Last week was so busy preparing for this trip and finishing off other projects I was working on before departure, as well as spending precious time with family and friends.

Before leaving I felt at times that they were even more excited than I was about this adventure — I was so busy getting stuff done. There were of course peaks of excitement and anticipation, and then getting back down to work. Saying good-bye to family and friends, being dropped off at the airport was definitely one of those wonderful exhilerating moments: “Ahhh, I’m off to a tropical island to live in a small community, learn from and support the local tribe build a hut and compost loo with a group of awesome fellow adventurers. I can’t wait.”

But it’s not until today that it’s really sunk in — I spent the day speaking to various travellers in the B&B I’m staying in during my 20 hour layover in Cairns.

The first question typically asked amongst travellers is: “So what are you doing in Australia, how long are you staying, what’s next?”

I started answering the question and after a while realised that the others had stopped their other conversations and joined ours, were listening to my story about the adventure to Gonubalabala Island with Tribewanted, previous and other Tribewanted projects, sustainable tourism, indigenous tribes, community, PNG… they had so many questions and stories to tell of their own. I was so full of energy and anticipation talking about it (eventhough I had been on the road, or rather in the air for over 30 hours) and it was wonderful the way there was such a buzz around the table and genuine interest shown in the project.

In the past few days the following topics and questions have predominantly been on my mind:

About the island and local tribe:

Nydia Steven, Community Manager, Tribewanted Gonubalabala

I’ve been in touch via email with the lovely Nydia, our community manager on Gonubalabala Island who is leading the project from their side, for the past few months planning. She has such a soft and warm voice on phone, I’m so excited to meet her in person at last.

But I haven’t spoken to any of the other 20 family and clan members who live on the island yet.

What are their feelings about opening up the island to us as a group for a whole month camping on their beach?

I have so many questions to the island community and cannot wait to learn about their daily lives, rituals, their community life, traditions, beliefs, taste their food, how and where they learn, their thoughts and dreams.

And at last I get to see and feel the island I so far have only know from photos.

About the adventurous first footers:

Look at this awesome tribe :)

I cannot wait to meet them. I feel I sort of already know them. Communication so far has mainly been via email and we’ve been sharing our preparation, travel plans, thoughts and excitement in our tribal facebook and whatsapp group. But it’s going to be amazing to actually see them all for real for the first time and welcome them to the island next week, grow as a community and share this awesome experience.

The questions I’ve been asked most and can confidently answer these with NO:

- Aren’t you worried about being on an island in such a different culture so far away from home? No. I love getting to know and understand new and very different cultures.

- Are you not afraid of the cannibals? No!! There are no cannibals there!

- Won’t you be bored on such a small island? Hell no. I’ll be surrounded by amazing people, getting to know local culture and traditions, we’ll be building a hut, bedframes, compost loos, going spearfishing, working in the organic gardens, going snorkeling every day, having amazing talks about life and much more around the bonfire. And — living on a beach!

- Are you not afraid of being with a group of people you don’t know? No. I’m looking forward to meeting new friends, a group of like-minded people that are spending time together to support the local community

- But what about going to the toilet and shower — how will you cope? No, not afraid. Pit loo’s and bucket showers are also loos and showers. But I will be a bit excited to use the compost loo as soon as we’ve built it.

- Aren’t you afraid of getting Malaria or any other disease? No, not more than on any other trip. I’m prepared, have got a first aid kit. Worst-case there’s a doctor in Alotau.

- Aren’t you afraid of snakes and scorpions? Luckily no. (But I’ll be honest, I have a bit of an issue with spiders, this was never asked though).

- Aren’t you afraid you won’t get proper food? No, of course not. I’m going to be eating delicious freshly caught fish and locally grown fruit and veg. Cleaner and properer food than in any supermarket.

- Are you not going to miss your bed? No. I’ll be camping on a stunning beach. Open up the tent flap/door: a bed with a view.

Apart from all the excitement I have to be honest there have been moments of feeling a little nervous:

  • How will the local community feel us being on their island for the month. They are very excited to welcome us right now, but this is really a big thing for such a small community to suddenly have a group of up to 10 people camping on their small island of only 2 hectares
  • What if the fellow first footers joining don’t get on with each other, or are not happy, or dissapointed, or get ill, or or or…
  • Big fat juicy spiders. Everywhere. But I’ll be honest that I’ve been working on my arachnophobia in the past weeks — EFT tapping therapy — let’s see if it worked :) I’m almost looking forward to see one to see how I react

And I also know that what I’ve been feeling nervous about is natural and luckily these thoughts only popped up rarely.

As long as we are open and communicate our thoughts and vulnerability I’m convinced anything that happens to surface will be resolved.

I am so happy that Filippo and Marisella discovered Gonubalabala on their travels and initiated this project and so grateful to be a part of it.

So, I guess I’ll try to get another 2 hours sleep in this comfy bed before heading to the airport.

Filippo and I will be meeting up in Port Moresby in the morning and flying on to Alotau where Nydia and her husband Nelson will pick us up from the airport and take us to our new home, just 90 minutes by dinghy from Sanderson Bay in Alotau.

We have a week for last preparations before welcoming the adventurous first footers to the island on 2nd of November.

Over and out. I’m off to live differently for a while.

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