After two months of fieldwork in the Solomon Islands, I am back in the UK now. “So, how was your trip?” I have heard this question a lot recently. The truth is: I have been struggling to find a satisfying one-word answer. “Amazing”, “successful” and “rewarding” are equally true as “overwhelming”, “challenging” and “frustrating”. I only know that my trip to the Solomon Islands was completely different from anything that I had experienced before.
It was a journey full of contrasts. I saw the dirty and dusty, overcrowded roads of Honiara as well as the absolutely stunning nature and diverse wildlife on Fanalei Island. I met lovely and hospitable people who would always try to help me as much as possible, but also experienced very disrespectful behaviour towards women. I felt challenged and sometimes frustrated by the speed that people work at, but absolutely loved the tranquil and relaxed atmosphere on the remote islands. I was thrilled to live a simple lifestyle, but also happy to return to running water and more (vegetarian) food choices. I felt sad to see and hear about the everyday problems that people face in the Solomon Islands, but grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to improving their situation a little bit. I loved learning bits and pieces of two new languages and immersing in this very different culture, but also enjoyed blending in after my return to the UK (it’s easier for a German to hide here).
I travelled to the Solomon Islands to study how local communities are being impacted by climate change and coastal hazards. I left with a lot of data for my PhD and new knowledge about climate change impacts in the country. However, that is only part of the story: I also left with new experiences, new friendships, new ideas and a feeling that I will never forget this place. I might not be able to give a one-word answer to “How was it?”, but one thing I do know: It changed my life and I hope to go back someday.