Heaven Is A Place On Earth And That Place Is Vanuatu

Oh you guys, Vanuatu. How can I tell you about Vanuatu? It feels like a beautiful dream I had a long time ago, the sort of thing that's only hazily real. Often now, I catch myself thinking "Was there actually once a time where I did nothing but kayak lazily in the morning, sunbathe gratuitously all afternoon, read a novel a day, and fall asleep to the sound of the ocean lapping at the sand?"

And then I think "Oh right, there was. Let me just wipe up this pile of cat vomit and remove that parking ticket from the windshield of the car and I'll get right back to remembering it."

Vanuatu was heaven. Vanuatu was the real honeymoon part of our honeymoon---you know, the part where you just laze around all day and wear beach coverups made of gauzy material and call each other "husband" and "wife" all the time and then giggle because ha, it's all so new, and also you would like another drink with an umbrella in it please, who can bring you that? 

It was beautiful and glorious and utterly relaxing. It was like nowhere we'd ever been before. When we were deciding where we wanted to go for our honeymoon, we agreed that we wanted somewhere that made people wrinkle their brows and say "you're going where?" With Vanuatu, we got it. 

Ninety percent of what made Vanuatu so incredible was the place we stayed, which I think was quite possibly Heaven, South Pacific Branch. It was called Eratap Beach Resort and I can say with some confidence that it was the best hotel I've ever stayed at in my life, and Internet, I've stayed at a lot of hotels. There were only eleven villas at Eratap and all of them looked straight out onto the ocean, which meant the crashing of the waves became one's own personal 24-hour white noise machine. And oh, it was so, so calm. Even though all eleven villas were occupied while we were there, most of the time we felt like we were the only people at the resort.

So we swam and we snorkeled and we boogie-boarded and we beach-walked and we kayaked and we sunset-watched and we read and read and read and read. Honestly, is there anything more luxurious than reading with abandon, turning page after page with no guilt or distraction, gobbling up book after book just because you can? One day, we got one of the boats to take us out to a deserted island in the middle of the ocean, where we splashed in the surf and ate hunks of french bread and lumps of cheese and drank ice-cold bottles of beer we'd bought the day before in town, and for a few hours before the boat came to pick us up again as dusk was falling, we were the only people for miles and miles and miles around.

This, however, is probably the kind of crap you hate hearing about from your freezing cold study or your beige-paneled cubicle, isn't it? I know, I get it, I'd hate hearing about it too. Quit it with the white sand beaches and the turquoise water and the giant soaking tub and the outdoor shower and the crisp white linens and the coconut margaritas, I'd think. Just shut up.

And so therefore Internet, you will not mind when I tell you the story of how I threw up in the sea. Bingo! That just made you instantly less envious, didn't it? "Threw up in the sea?" you're thinking. "Did she say she just threw up in the sea? Hmm. Suddenly Vanuatu is not seeming all that desirable to me after all."

It's true, Internet, I threw up in the sea, and it was probably the most revolting experience of my life. Because I'd come back from the Bahamas last year all pumped up on scuba diving, I'd convinced Sean to get certified too. We'd only done one dive together prior to leaving for Vanuatu, and that was in Monterey, where the experience was---how do I put this kindly?---sort of like swimming through a pitch black freezer with a blindfold on. So on our honeymoon, one of the things we were super excited to do was go diving again together, this time in warmer water with the chance of seeing more than sea kelp. We booked a morning trip with an instructor, and we were all set for it to be totally mind-blowing. But mind-blowing, unfortunately, instead turned into blowing chunks when I discovered---surprise!----that apparently I get seasick. Very, very badly seasick, in fact.

If you have ever been seasick before (and I never had, so it was pretty bizarre for me) you will sympathize with the fact that we were on a teeny-tiny miniscule little boat---I'm afraid I have no proper knowledge of boat jargon but I can tell you that it fit, like, four people at a rather tight squeeze---on an ocean that was rocking and rolling with such intensity that it was like God had switched on the radio, early-era Madonna had come on, and the ocean had been all COME ON BABY, LET'S DANCE.

I made it through the first dive alright---bizarrely, you feel a lot better once you're at the bottom of the ocean, where it's nice and calm---but I barely remember the recovery period between the first and second dives because I was trying so hard not to ralph. The dive master even had to PUT MY FLIPPERS ON FOR ME like I was a three year old because the second I looked down, my eyes rolled back into my head with the force of the nausea. The second dive was fraught with a weird and tenuous Am I Going To Puke Into My Regulator? sort of anxiety---never the best kind to have, I think you'll agree----but it was when we came up to the surface at the end of the dive and had to wait fifteen minutes in the roiling ocean for the TINY BOAT THAT HAD MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARED (not a good time to remember that movie Open Water, incidentally) that I lost, quite literally, my lunch. And also I think my breakfast. And probably every breakfast I'd ever eaten in my life before that. Boy, I really hope you're not eating while you read this.

Internet, if there is anything worse than throwing up, it is throwing up in an ocean. And if there is anything worse than throwing up in an ocean, it is throwing up in an ocean in front of three perfect strangers (as well as your brand-new husband, mind you) and then floating in a semi-circle of your own vomit while you scan the horizon for a very small boat that has vanished from view and may or may not be coming back at some point to pick you up.



Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I think we're going to need a nice calming picture for a second while we all take a few deep breaths.

So yeah, that was fun, and by "fun" I mean I had to lie flat on my back for the rest of the day once we got back to the hotel, alternately pressing a cold can of ginger ale to my forehead and sipping from it weakly, but since this activity took place on our villa's private sun porch in the middle of the South Pacific, it was, you know, not as bad as it could have been, I guess. 

Also, later that day, one of the waiters presented me with a coconut that another of the waiters had scaled a tree to get for me---the Vanuatu version of bringing People magazine and chicken soup to the ailing?---and we had to figure out how to crack that bitch open while owning no coconut-opening tools whatsoever. So that sort of took my mind off things for a while.

Needless to say, when it was time to leave Vanuatu, I had to be dragged from the country kicking and screaming, and if you are looking for an off-the-beaten-track vacation destination, I cannot recommend it highly enough, a fact you can probably deduce from the seven hundred and fifty six million photos I took while I was there. You will notice, however, that no photos exist from the morning we went diving. Man, I simply can't imagine why.

Nov 12, 2009

Looks amazing! I've been before, but, like, fifteen years ago when I was six or something, so not so clear in the noggin anymore. Sorry about the puking though :( but on the upside, it adds more colour to the story for sure!

Nov 12, 2009

You realize, of course, that Survivor was set in Vanuatu one season...and now you had your own personal survivor challenge in the form of the diving experience?

At least I finally was able to read about the part of the trip I was dying over. Tell me about dreamy beach destinations any day. I want to live vicariously through you. (Okay, except for the floating in puke part.)

Nov 12, 2009

Just so you can file this away for future reference, morning sickness and sea sickness feel very much alike. When I was pregnant with our 4th child, I was able to give my husband that frame of reference and he felt immediate and utter sympathy for me. Always a good thing when feeling poorly!
Also? The beaches look lovely and despite your description of your bout with seasickness, I am still insanely jealous!

Nov 12, 2009

Oh wow, how I'd love a holiday like that sometime. Without the puking, obviously, but feel free to include a can of ginger beer anyway, as that would be a nice treat.

Jan Ross
Nov 12, 2009

Ah, the motion sickness. There is nothing quite like it. I have had it all my life and am never without my trusty Bonine. However, my husband was taken with it quite suddenly on our recent trip to Ireland and ralphed on the floor of the tour bus. Luckily, everyone was very understanding. But I would hate to hear what they were REALLY thinking.

Nov 12, 2009

I'm a diver, and I've seen the vomiting thing happen before. We were diving in the Cayman Islands and the person got seasick. Since, as you noted, the seasickness often goes away once you get under, she opted to do down. Unfortunately, she vomited at around 50 feet. Possibly the grossest/funniest part of the experience was that a bunch of fish were immediately attracted to the vomit, and she was basically swarmed!

Anyway. She was fine after she vomited, we did the dive, and then she got back on the boat and we went home. So don't feel too bad; you're in good company!

Nov 12, 2009

UGH. The unexpected sea sickness is the WORST. I thought I would be fine b/c I'd been out on large bodies of water in small boats, but a small boat on the OCEAN is a whole different story. I got horribly sea sick in front of my future husband and father-in-law when they chartered a boat to go out deep sea fishing. It was so, so awful. But now, I know! So I take the drugs and it's fine. Thrilling story, the end.

Nov 12, 2009

That is an all together amazing and unforgettable story – in every aspect. And gorgeous pictures too! My cold and windy walk from the noisy NYC subway seems far more dreary now. Vanuatu really does sound like a dream and it will go back on my list of "places I must travel to" once your "breakfast" leaves the vicinity of their oceanfront.

Sensibly Sassy
Nov 12, 2009

How painfully beautiful. I too have been seasick...and your description is right on. So much so that I had to stop reading for a second. I also threw up in front of a boat load of strangers....3 times.
Anyway, back to the beauty, wow, I need a honeymoon asap! Well first I need to get married that would be a good first step. Well scratch that, I need to get engaged, then married and then Vanuatu here I come!

Nov 12, 2009

oh poor you. i get seasick too, so i feel your pain. but! only on small boats, i am ok on ferries. i guess the movement is different? (free tip: never drink before going on a boat. having liquids sloshing around in your tummy makes everything worse.)
that said: vanuatu? it looks like you were in heaven for your honeymoon!

Nov 12, 2009

Lovely pictures! Sorry to hear about the seasickness. I had a similar experience on a tiny little boat one spring break in Puerto Vallarta. My friends were all "paaarty, yay spring break!" and I was all "blerg, moan, can we go back to terra firma yet?" It was awful. I have much sympathy for you. Looks like you recovered in the most beautiful place on earth though so there's that.

Home Sweet Sarah
Nov 12, 2009

Oh yes, the reading! That should be the one piece of advice all married women pass on to engaged women: Bring a shit-ton of books on your honeymoon. We went through all the books we brought, had to buy more books from the hotel sundry, and even then, finished our books on the plane ride home. Close call!

Also, did you ever catch a glimpse of the honeymooners who booked the honeymoon villa before you did? Please tell me you tripped the bride, or, at the very least, accidentally-on-purpose spilled a fruity drink on her beach cover-up. (Yes, I am the Devil.)

Oh, and if anyone needs me, I'll be in Vanuatu next week. Hold all my calls!

Nov 12, 2009

Wow - those are gorgeous photos! I definitely have to add Vanuatu to the list of places I must visit some day. Beautiful!!

Nov 12, 2009

I'm glad you tempered this idyllic vacation with some puking. Because I was dying a little inside at these pictures. We've picked Ireland for our honeymoon (have any travel tips?) and these beaches in your photos are causing me to regret it...

Locusts and Wild Honey
Nov 12, 2009

I'm a beach snob. For instance, Hawaii does not meet my standards--AND I AIN'T AFRAID TO SAY IT.

However, Vanuatu does. Gorgeous! You get the Alison stamp of approval, tiny island!

Nov 12, 2009

I've loved all your honeymoon stories, even the pukey bits. :)

Nov 12, 2009

I'm glad to know that getting into the water doesn't make it any better (even though I wish it did). Because last week, I missed the chance of a lifetime -- to cage dive with Great White sharks -- because I couldn't even take my eyes off the horizon long enough to put on my wetsuit. And I kept thinking, If I can JUST get into the water, it will be better! But apparently I was wrong, and I feel a little better for not pushing through the nausea to get into the water, where it would have been just as bad and I might have had to look my cage-mates in the eye as they floated around in my vomit.

I think I'm going to vomit now.

God, I'm sorry for this entire comment.

Nov 12, 2009

Can I just tell you how much I feel your pain? I went to Maui this year for the first time with my boyfriend and all everyone kept telling us was that we had to snorkel. Even though I know I get a bit seasick on boats, I never even factored in the possibility of how seasick one can actually get IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OCEAN. I ended up getting sick, puking and just being pulled towards shore lifeguard style until I could swim in enough for the waves to just throw me up on the the sand in Ka'anaapali in front of all those tourists...full on in my fins and everything.

Totally romantic. :)

Nov 12, 2009

I cannot stop laughing about the situation. I feel very sorry you were sick. I have actually gotten seasick on 2 cruiseships and those are HUGE so I can't even begin to think how awful you felt on a small boat. However, the pics look amazing and it's nice to learn about a place that's so beautiful. I've never heard of it.

Nov 12, 2009

OMG! Amazing! I would like to be there right now, minus swimming in your own vomit. Yuck!

Nov 12, 2009

Holy moly! How have I never heard of this place (consider me one of the wrinkled brows)? It looks amazing. I, for one, will never tire of other people pictures (especially when they're so beautiful). So keep 'em coming!

Nov 12, 2009

The one time I've been truly seasick, I seriously considered throwing myself overboard - I'm not kidding. Horrific. I hear you.

Vanuatu has been on My List forever, and this just reinforces my crazy desire to go, these pictures are gorgeous.

Maybe I'll save it for my next honeymoon - my original one was in Thailand. At Christmas. In 2004. Yeah.

I, for one, love seeing pictures like this while I'm in my little cubicle, it makes me remember why I'm slogging away for the pay cheque. Thanks for posting them as a reminder (for me!) and I'm most definitely saving the name your resort too.

Nov 12, 2009

ps, the light on your face in the picture of you on the striped towel is gorgeous.

Yes, I'm still looking at your pictures and drooling.

Nov 12, 2009

Ah, don't feel so bad. I actually did puke into a regulator once in Hawaii. I fought so hard not to be sick, and then once we started descent I thought my stomach was settling quite nicely. But nope, it fooled me. Blech.

Nov 12, 2009

The worst part of the story is the floating-in-the-water part. I haven't even seen Open Water, but just knowing the premise of the movie and then hearing your story freaks me out.

P.S.-Did you know your apartment (well, the Apartment Therapy feature on your apartment) is on Elizabeth Ann Designs today?? I saw it in my Google Reader and thought "that looks like Holly's apartment..." and then I realized it WAS and then I wondered if it's creepy that I recognize the apartments of complete strangers whose blogs I read. I'm going to go with a tentative no? Hopefully?


Amy --- Just A Titch
Nov 12, 2009

Oh, my. For a vomit-phobe like me, that sounds like hell. Thankfully, the rest of the pictures assure me that the rest of the trip was amazing. I'm so happy for you.

Nov 12, 2009

I thought I loved those photos a whole lot when I saw them on Flickr, but then I read this entry and realized that your writing will always always always trump some dumb old photos of some dumb old beach paradise. You're so damn talented, Holly. Now, onto writing your memoirs, chop chop!

Nov 12, 2009


Do not pass "go", do not go to Vanuatuanatanua, do not collect 200 sharks.

Go to Ireland. You will NOT be sorry!

- M (the Devoted Celtophile)

Nov 13, 2009

I totally feel for you because I get so seasick. I found this out when my uncle took us out for a ride in his little boat when I was about eight years old. I was fine until he stopped in the middle of Lake Geneva (in Wisconsin, not Switzerland) for lunch. I started feeling kind of pukey and then heaved.

Ever since then, I get carsick if I'm not driving and airsick if I don't take Dramamine. That means even for the short flight from the Bay Area to San Diego, I have to knock myself out with drugs. In exchange for not vomiting, I am totally groggy for an entire day. I've tried the less drowsy formula, I've tried cutting the pills in half (which is what my mom does) and I still totally conk out no matter what. It's a small price to pay in order to avoid vomiting though.

When we went to Hawaii, my husband reminded me to take Dramamine before we went to Pearl Harbor (which we knew required a short boat ride). Imagine my relief/disappointment when we found out that the boat ride was all of three minutes. It was a relief to know I wouldn't be puking all over fellow tourists, but disappointing that I knew I would be assed out all day for such a short ride.

At least you look fabulous in the post-puke picture!

Nov 13, 2009

Hey Holly,

Anthropologie sells a wallpaper called "Vanuatu Twilight".

If you look really closely at the pattern, you can see a small bird yarking into the ocean.


- M

Anne in SC
Nov 13, 2009

Sounds fantastic (seasickness not included). I get pretty sea sick...first time I realized it was in front of the madly handsome dive hand on a trip when I was 17 (I was also slim, curvy, and single, and on vacation). He had to hold the window to keep it from falling out of the boat while I hurled. Nice. I never saw each other again after the boat docked.

Second barfing time was snorkling with my son when he was 4. I had been fighting it and finally had to throw up while we were in the water. He was very impressed with all of the "pretty fish" that came up. Again, nice.

And I'm with you, being under the water while diving is WAY, WAY (did I say way?) better than bobbing around like a cork on top. I want to be first one in, last one out, and under water the whole time.

I would have had a hard time on the plane ride getting me to Vanuatu. Alcohol really helps though (but you can't do that and dive).

Balkan Girl Down Under
Nov 15, 2009

Oh man, Vanuatu?! Lucky!

Sorry to hear about the seasickness, d'oh! Kudos to you and Husband, however, for having the balls to scuba-dive in the first place (I'm a bit of a fraidy cat where that's concerned).

I discovered your blog earlier via the awesome Jive Turkey, and was quietly thrilled to realise you'd been to Melbourne (I'm a Melbournite!) and Sydney for your honeymoon.

(And yes, my first thought WAS along the lines of "uh, why?" :P)

Jesting aside, both fair cities kicketh some major ass. Oh, and Melbourne has Sydney-like beaches too, 'cept you have to drive an hour-and-a-half to see 'em, heh heh.

Now, I must reveal city-envy: you live in SAN FRANCISCO?! Aaaaaiiiiiiiiiieeeee!

I have been fascinated by the utter gorgeousness that is that city ever since I was a wee one growing up in the Fmr Yugoslavia (I was a big 'Full House' fan and...Uncle Jesse fan, too :D).

What's it like to live there? Can't wait to see it one day...!


Lynn B.
Nov 15, 2009

This has to be one of the funniest stories I have read in a long time. Thanks for the laugh. Just. had. to. comment.

Nov 17, 2009

I love SCUBA diving...I'm now terrified that I will puke my first time in the ocean. Ugh.

Also--I have a couple of friends who lived in Vanuatu for a few years and they can not recommend it highly enough. I'm so glad you loved it as much as they do.


Nov 17, 2009

I'm heading to Vana next year for my nursing school rounds and I am terribley exctied about it!

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