Hi fellow travelers! I’m Nicole – a 29 year old Registered Nurse residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. I work in Pediatrics on a hospital unit. I am a true beach bum by nature and grew up near the sea in California.
I had always dreamed of visiting some of the world’s most remote and beautiful islands, but did not have the opportunity to do so until I graduated from nursing school. After that, the last 5 years have been spent both working as a nurse and traveling as often as I can between my shifts.
My work allows me to condense shifts together to manage to have up to a week off twice per month. I seek to show others that normal people can lead unconventional and inspiring lives through the power of travel.
In my job as a pediatric nurse, I work with children and families battling severe medical challenges, and experienced the profound sadness of a child’s life being lost. My patients inspire me to live my own life as fully as possible. Nothing is guaranteed in life, not even tomorrow. So, I owe it to myself to create the life I truly want to live!
The goal is to find a Robinson Crusoe feeling — far away from the pressures and concerns of city life, to connect deeply with nature and with the present moment. Island culture, regardless of the place, has one parallel: a deep respect for mother nature and symbiotic connection to it.
I have visited islands with nearly a million inhabitants, and ones with but several dozen, and this has rung true consistently. I find this connection to land and sea on the world’s islands to be a beautiful example that the rest of our planet could take lessons from.
The Journey So Far: 50 Islands and Counting
On a quick count (might be missing some), I’ve visited well over 50 of the world’s islands. My country total comes to 20 countries. I make it a priority to revisit my favorites (especially in the South Pacific) and travel deeply rather than quickly in the countries I select to explore.
It all started with a trip my husband and I planned to the Yasawa Islands in Fiji in 2012. We stayed on an island with no roads, electricity available only part of the day and only accessible by boat. The internet went out for five days while we were there.
Those five days were among the most peaceful I have ever had in my life! We spent our days covered in salt and sand, exploring both under water and hiking the verdant green mountains that make the Yasawas so iconic. It was from this trip that I started to fall in love with island life and began exploring more remote destinations.
Another memorable experience was when we traveled to La Digue Island in the Seychelles. The only way to get around is via bike. My husband and I rode our bikes to the start of a trail to a remote beach, Anse Cocos. We got lost along the way and a local man operating a snack shop told us he would show us the way if we came back for drinks afterwards.
Once getting reoriented, we hiked for several miles, seeing massive bats, spiders and a foot long centipede to boot! We arrived at a beautiful beach and relaxed until it began to TORRENTIALLY rain. We hiked back and arrived at the snack shop all muddy and bought sandwiches and beer.
I’m pretty sure the guy thought it was hilarious! The rain didn’t let up and we rode an hour in a downpour and arrived back at our lodge looking like we’d swam in the sea. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.
My 3 Favourite Islands: Tikehau, Anguilla and Maui
It’s not easy to choose favourites from the world’s most beautiful islands, as each place has its own unique attractions. Tikehau, a member of the Tuamotu islands in French Polynesia, is one of my favourites and feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of Tahiti.
I weathered a tropical storm here this past June. The lagoon itself has, hands down, the most beautiful seas I have ever experienced. It is so remote that the lagoon fish are genuinely curious when you step foot in the water and will circle around you!
Anguilla is another beautiful destination located on a low-lying, yet high profile island in the Eastern Caribbean. It has become famous for its spectacular beaches. I visited Anguilla a mere 5 months after Hurricane Irma devastated its shores.
My time here was extra special as I witnessed how resilient island communities are. I heard countless stories from the incredibly strong locals about the storm itself, and the rebuilding process. I was privileged to support the return of tourism and see the island still being rebuilt, without many crowds.
Maui also holds a special place in my heart because it is the island we visit most frequently (just a short flight from California, we visit about 4x a year). Maui has a special energy that you can feel the moment you land and is home to my favorite golden and apricot sand beaches. My husband and I renovated a fixer-upper there and someday plan to retire on the Island!
The Best Activities and Beaches on the World’s Islands
I won’t lie. I lean more towards beach bum tendencies when I travel to islands, but I do enjoy a good balance — alternating between a good book and swimming in the sea. I do prioritize water based activities, however.
Kayaking is my absolute favorite and I try and go out everywhere we go. My favorite kayaking experience was in Mo’orea, French Polynesia. We kayaked about a half mile offshore to a sandbar where stingrays and reef sharks swam below! To date, one of the most incredible experiences I have had.
I love a good hike too and always prioritize at least a couple hikes in each destination. There’s also something to be said of getting around an island on bicycles! But after a couple of days of adventures, there is nothing better than relaxing on the beach.
When it comes to the beach category, the Maldives wins hands-down. The beaches at Drift Thelu Veliga Retreat were as stunning as they were peaceful. The sand is pure white and is unexplainably fine. As a result, the clarity of the water is other-worldly.
Because each island has a coral reef flanking it, the shores are nearly wave-less, creating a natural pool effect. Let us not forget to mention the beautiful over-water bungalows which provide a beautiful accoutrement to the natural scenery.
Amazing Accommodation from around the World
Speaking of beautiful accommodation, there are a couple of places that I highly recommend:
- La Belle Tortue, Silhouette Island, Seychelles: a Michelin starred French chef and his wife run a barefoot luxury lodge which manages to be both no fuss, and inexplicably lovely
- Pangulasian Island, El Nido, Philippines: the most luxurious, a level of service I have yet to see repeated elsewhere
- Playa Escondida, Sayulita, Mexico: a hidden paradise where every room is reminiscent of a treehouse and is completely unique in style.