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  • Writer's pictureDr.Eleonore Op de Beeck

Visiting French Polynesia for FREE, how I did it!

If you think travelling to exotic places is only for the rich, think again...I have been travelling non stop since 2019 and hardly spent any money, ok, I did spend some but I actually also made money! This to say that, it requires some work and thinking ahead as well as being in the right place at the right time and grabbing the opportunity. Sometimes, we believe that luck is not on our side when the truth is the universe is there working FOR US and not against us, we get offered opportunities on a daily basis, what we need is to OBSERVE and be more VIGILENT...have you noticed that when you were pregnant (if you ever were that is) that suddenly you saw pregnant women everywhere??? Or, you just bought a red car and now the only thing you see is red cars everywhere???The same goes for opportunities, you have to practice the "observation" of opportunities and of course, secondly, you have got to GRAB THEM! Because if you don't, someone else will!

That said, this is what I did to get to this absolute stunning place called "French Polynesia"...I was at the time in the Caribbean working on a boat and my contract was to be finished soon.

One of my biggest dreams was crossing the Pacific on a sailboat and I knew that it was soon the time (season) for it (it was February) so I decided to look actively online on Facebook pages and instagram for people that were planning to cross the biggest ocean on earth...and after a long and hard look I found an ad with an Australian couple that needed a "cook" to help them with the cooking while delivering their boat back to Australia with a few stops in between like the French Polynesian I applied!! and I got it! This was not a paid job but more a "you help me, we help you" kind of "contract" and that was fine by me!

After my job in the Caribbean was finished, I took a plane to Panama, where the sailboat was located and that's when one of my biggest dreams was about to start...the actual pacific crossing....then of course, arriving to these amazing islands in the middle of the Pacific...I have no words to describe what a feeling it is, after three long weeks at Sea with no land to view and no other boats around us, to see these stunning, huge, lush peaks that looked like the movie "Jurassic park"'s one of those things you need to experience in life as there are no words that will ever describe the feeling.

From Panama, our first stop was the Galapagos islands, where we were not planning to stop but because the captain found a leak near the engine we decided to make an emergency stop in the Galapagos as it was too risky to cross the Pacific not knowing exactly where that leak was coming from. It was still COVID times and entering the Galapagos was not an easy task, we had over 10 people coming on to our sailboat to check we didn't bring any drugs (they questioned my many vitamin supplements saying if I were to eat well I wouldn't need so many vitamins, they of course have not been sailing with little to non fresh provisioning that's for sure!), then they checked if we were vaccinated, they checked all the boat documentation and at first we were denied entry until we could confirm that we were actually at risk and that if anything were to happen to us we would blame it on them for not letting us solve the problem (actual captain's words to the officers!) that was that, we stayed for a week!!!

And guess what?! Galapagos was another one in my large bucket list to fill, and there I was, living the dream! If you are into conservation like me and know all about Darwin, then you know THIS IS THE PLACE TO BE! This is such a unique place...the tortoises, the sea iguanas, the landscape...I took an excursion to go to one of the many islands where I snorkelled surrounded by curious sea lions...I thought I was in the middle of a David Attenborough documentary !! Sea lions were swimming all around me, on top, on the side, under me...touching slightly my GoPro to know what I was all about yet keeping a safe distance...I count stop smilling and feeling amazed and incredibly happy!

After this amazing week, it was time to continue our journey with a sealed boat and no more leaks to worry about. Three weeks at Sea...calm seas, little wind and lots of motoring and when sailing, it was with a nice down wind so it was a smooth sailing all along...we caught just two fish the entire trip and I must admit that I was happy about that as I'd rather leave the fish alive at sea...we had still enough food not to fish and kill anything but I understand not everybody feels the same way and let's face it, it wasn't my boat either!

First stop after three weeks was "Nuku hiva", where we stayed only few days, then Fakarava...a long and beautiful atoll where the waters are known to be the clearest of the world, you can dive down 10-15 meters and still see it all perfectly clear ! I rented a bike here and biked the entire atoll....we stayed here for a week until our next stop, Papeete (Tahiti)...where "urban" life was real again...traffic, shops, towns...loads of people....the marina where we stayed had coral reefs literally on the walls, there was no need to look further and scuba dive far away, just right there we would be enjoying the colourful fish and corals comfortably sitting and having a Tahitian beer!

After more or less another week, we headed to Moorea where we stayed just a few days but omg the view...this picture here below was taken there, during my morning coffee...can you imagine ?? I hiked, I snorkelled...I walked the lush greens...there's so much peace and beauty. and let me tell you about the amazing polynesian people, so welcoming, friendly, open hearted and always seem to be happy (no wonder living in paradise!)

This picture was taken while coming back from a hike, where I crossed a Polynesian couple, she was wearing this crown and I told her in French how pretty she looked with it, five seconds later she approached me and handed the crown to me saying it was a gift for me! this is how they are, I felt really grateful and touched!

Our journey had to continue and our next stop was Bora Bora! I was not allowed to go all the way to Australia because of COVID restrictions nor was allowed in Fiji which would have been my next stop after French Polynesia, so I had to make a decision and decided that Bora Bora would be my final stop then to head back home (Europe) from Tahiti as it being French it would be easier for me to get a plane from there. But, for now...Bora Bora was my stop...and what a stop, people think this is a place only for the honeymooners and yes, I saw lots of them, but there is plenty to do if you go on your own and if you love to explore nature and the ocean...and not that expensive either...I rented a room at a hostel for very cheap near the beach (not difficult considering you are on a small island!) and rented a bike that took me all round the island...I was stopping every 5 minutes to take pictures as every corner of this little place on earth is just pure magic, the high peak mountain, the gorgeous turquoise're just swimming in shallow water and before you know it there's a sting ray just passing you buy!

Then there is of course the fish and the bigger fish, the sharks...this was my second time swimming with sharks, yet, this time I was surrounded by hundreds of them and I wasn't scared...there si something about them, swimming peacefully keeping safe distance from you yet checking you out at the same time...I was amazed and extremely overwhelmed !!!

Need I say more??? Don't wait to get married to come to Bora Bora...there are other ways and NO, it does not need to be that expensive, you just need to be adaptable and willing to be open minded...stay at a cheaper hostel instead of the five star hotel, the view is the same I promise you! And with the money you save from the hotel, go on an excursion or two and get out into the amazing water!!!

If you need more tips on how to travel cheap or even free, send me a message.i will help you achieve your dreams!

Eleonore xx

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