It was huge. At least it looked huge to my seven-year-old eyes, although I suspect it was a 14” by 16” scrapbook. My grade two teacher set us to collecting photographs, cutting out magazine pictures, and then describing places.
I grew up in Newfoundland, an island in the Atlantic Ocean, off the east coast of Canada. Surrounded by dark blue sea, I stared out across rocky shores and cold waters and dreamed about exciting adventures to faraway lands. However, I am the middle child in a family of six from a middle-class family growing up in the 1960s. There was no internet for research or iPhone to snap selfies on every family outing. My father ran his own small charter service, so money was tight, and a family vacation was a day trip to the provincial park. But what I lacked in opportunity, I made up for with imagination.
My mother must have shared similar dreams of distant travel because she subscribed to National Geographic magazine. The booklets contained images of exotic lands with giraffes, pandas, koalas and vivid cultures. I scavenged through the house collecting magazines and, with a pair of scissors, began my journey of a lifetime. Staring at that expansive scrapbook page, my mind raced. The colorful South Pacific, so different from my home, was also literally the polar opposite of where I was born in the North Atlantic.
First stop, Easter Island. Great stone monoliths stared off the page at me. The Rapa Nui people carved nine hundred gigantic human figures in eastern Polynesia between the years 1250 and 1500. In ancient times, how were the figures moved? And the eternal question of ‘why’ flittered into my child mind. My fascination with that project lingered into adulthood. Archaeologists suspect the statues are symbols of religious and political authority. Polynesian religions believed carved stone had magical power when ritually prepared. I longed to uncover the truth.
I continued my imaginary journey through the South Pacific to an island so different than my birthplace. Where Newfoundland is blustering, rocky and cold, Fiji is serene, sandy, and warm. I imagined sleeping in those overwater bures listening to the soothing sound of waves lulling me to sleep at night. What about an early morning swim in the ocean before school? What a life the locals must lead in such a place. I filled my scrapbook with pictures of beaches, gardens, and coral reefs, dreaming of living there one day.
More than one of the National Geographic magazines featured Australia and New Zealand. Landscapes with red boulders and volcanoes scraping the horizons became a large part of my scrapbook as well. While these land masses were islands like my home, they offered a variety that mine didn’t. Tropical forests contrasted with desert plains called out for exploration.
I got an A+ for that scrapbook project in Grade 2. I continued to pull it out of my closet for many years and to dream about travelling to those mysterious destinations surrounded by tranquil turquoise waters. Even after I married and the scrapbook got lost in the shuffle of moves over the years, the dream stayed alive.
But the clock is ticking. Things have changed since I’ve had the South Pacific on my radar. Climate change in Fiji has emerged as a pressing issue. As an island nation, Fiji is vulnerable to rising sea levels and coastal erosion. Also, extreme weather has severely eroded the statues on Easter Island.
I’m turning 65 this fall and beginning to suffer the typical signs of aging. Mobility isn’t as easy as it once was with arthritis settling in my joints. A little voice in my head is whispering, ‘Soon. We need to go soon.’
Will I listen to that voice? Time to ask my husband to join me on the trip of a lifetime.