U P D A T E – Jan.’16

Photo by Nikky Wight Lua in Vava’u

Good evening, everyone! This is a progression update; we will be discussing changes of plans, new information discovered since last update, and more! As expected, plans change. New opportunities show themselves and sort of de-fog the bigger picture a smidge (sorry, Indiana folk slang). It’s that clarity that keeps us encouraged, focused, and eventually successful. Also, when I state “we”, in reality is it me (Becca) writing while still reserving Darien an invisible place on the blog, due to the fact that he will be just as important in this process as I. I just do the majority of the blogging!

First off, a big thank you to all of the expats and locals currently in Vava’u and active online! We have received so much information, assistance/guidance, and encouragements from you all, and we really appreciate it. Malo!

Now, a rather large announcement: in the next 2-3 months, we will be relocating to Sitka, Alaska! Yes, you read it correctly. My father is in the process of selling his house in Southern Indiana, as well as attempting to buy a house on a small island off the South Alaskan coast. He has previously lived in Anchorage, Juneau, and Kenai; I consider him an Alaskan expert  (growing up with a dose of a few Alaskan stories a day). If you aren’t convinced, he’ll show you his Alaskan book collection.

Source: Pics Actually

Looking for a house in Southern Indiana? Check out my Dad’s home + six acre property for sale here.

We weren’t planning to go with him originally, but we eventually sat down and thought about the benefits of this short detour:

  1. The house will need renovations, and will also need to be converted to off-grid. What better practice for Tonga than setting up an off-grid homestead on an island up north with your outdoors-man-dad?!
  2. What’s a good homestead without a garden and greenhouse? Lots of planting will be taking place, and I will finally be able to use those inspirations posted previously. There are also opportunities to sell produce in the markets, so I might jump on that if our stay extends.
  3. The National Park – ferns, peat moss, and pine trees galore. If that doesn’t do it for you, then there’s always the strange coincidence of the park’s name: Tongass National Forest. Yes, TONGA with -ss. Moving to Tonga after exploring and potentially having a summer job as a tour guide in the Tongass National Forest. Goosebumps ensue –
  4. My father LOVES to fish. He’s been doing his whole life (most of my childhood memories were either located on a home being built, in a creek panning for gold/gemstones, or on the lake fishing), and is pretty much a professional. He recently received all of his permits to commercially hook fish and cage catch crab, which he can in return eat or sell. Major extra savings can be made from crab and fish such as salmon, halibut, and many rockfish.
  5. While many solely hear the name ‘Alaska’ and shiver, Sitka is actually mildly warm most of the year. Since it is off the Southern coast, it boasts winter averages of 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Right now in Indiana, it is 5 degrees with about 4 inches of snow (4 more coming late tonight). It’s no tropical island paradise weather, but it’s still tolerable and gives you the ability to fully take advantage of exploring the natural beauty around you.

The timeline of when we will depart for this trip, how long we will be staying, and when we will leave for LA (and eventually, Tonga) are all still unsure and subjective. The initial departure is dependent on when my Dad’s house in Indiana sells; once it has, he will move and purchase the house up north. We will follow shortly. We’re suspecting to be gone for 6-9 months, depending on harvest of crops and renovations/projects. This move to Alaska is exciting, unexpected, and is looking to be very profitable (both by experience, knowledge, and slightly monetary).

Once leaving Alaska, we will make a short (approximately one month) stop in LA. During our stay there, we will be working with a wonderful non-profit organization, Ikale Tahi, to send care packages to Tongan children in need. Follow them on Facebook here, they are wonderful! We look forward to working with them and helping benefit the Tongan community. After this has been accomplished and we have prepared everything we need, we will be flying out of LAX to Sydney, Australia. From there, we will fly to Nuku’alofa, rest a day or two, and then fly to Neiafu, Vava’u.

A LOT of traveling in 2016 for us; but we’re up for the challenge. We don’t expect everything to go swimmingly, and being American makes others assume that we expect nothing more than ease and boast ‘I want it now’ mindsets. But the real catch is, that’s exactly what we are trying to escape. See, we too see the flaws in such haste and perfection-seeking, and we have had enough.

Photo by Nikky Wight Lua in Vava’u

We have had a lot of feedback since starting the blog, which is exactly why we decided to blog in the first place. A lot of you have been very supportive and helpful, and we thank you deeply for that respect. Hearing all of your stories and advice is truly rewarding, and it really helps us with updating the blog and making our next moves. We recently received feedback from a lovely gal on a Facebook blogging group that brought up some good points. She had a lot of questions and was very honest about how she viewed the blog and what information was missing. In light of this discussion, I will feature many of her questions in a list form, but will include our answers to each. We do this in hopes that many of these seemingly common questions can be answered for all and displayed publicly for reference, in case of question or doubt. Remember: a main point of this blog is to have open discussions about any topics discussed; don’t be shy and feel free to drop a comment, question, or concern. It will be addressed as promptly and as accurately as possible!

Facebook user: It comes across as a pipe-dream, with little backing. Have you been to Tonga?

Escape to Vava’u: We have not. Our initial arrival in Tonga will be more of a trial period with no exact timeline of leaving. We will have a round trip ticket in case of immediate hatred or trouble within the first month in Tonga. Many have advised us to extend our visa for up to 6 months before deciding to stay as a resident; if we have to, we can take a plane to Fiji and back to reset the visa restrictions if needed. It is also rumored that it takes a good while to get all visa paperwork settled once deciding to stay as a resident, this giving us no rush or time restriction on making the official decision. Worst case, we can spend the tourism season in Vava’u and the off-season in Alaska making extra money. People tend to make the situation a lot more difficult than it has to be, leading to negative outcomes. Again, we are anticipating road blocks and know that it will not be as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Facebook user: Do you know anyone there? Do Tongans want you there? Are you legally able to live there? What impact do expats have on the local community?

Escape to Vava’u: Over the course of starting this blog and reaching out to many, I have been in contact with approximately 25-35 expats and locals currently in Vava’u. I know none of them personally, but have been able to sift and find many friendly, extremely kind, and open folks that are excited for our arrival. We’d had a few people offer to pick us up from the airport, let us stay with them, help us find property, provide transportation, and lead us on adventures. As far as Tongans wanting us there is a bit of a complicated question, simply because we haven’t chatted with every single Tongan and we hate generalizing opinions like such across an entire nation. To answer the question, generally speaking, the Tongan government values foreigners/expats because they typically bring in tourism and business, which in turn helps the country. Tongans are extremely friendly people who welcome newcomers and only ask for their culture to be respected. Legally, yes almost anyone can live there. A few years back, Tonga sold passports to China, allowing for them to come reside and build business. The only complaints we have heard about foreigners from locals/expats are about this heavy Chinese population, stating that they mainly keep to themselves and are rude on many occasions. The general impact that expats make on the local community is positive, and in turn gives back to the community through boosted business or extra profit.

Facebook user: Tonga is a small Island nation with limited resources and the threat of climate change is real and huge, you don’t have money behind you (deduced from the fact you are crowd sourcing $$$) are you really going to be able to do this without being a burden on locals?

Escape to Vava’u: Climate change is a huge issue, and the lengths of its impact are still partially unknown. In America, about half of the population still denies its existence (thus another reason for us to leave the country). A big reason we’d like to move to this coastal area threatened by many human-created problems is to be able to study the effects of pollution, plastic production, waste management, etc. and help take action towards restoring our oceans and environment. Living off-grid in a house made from earthen materials using only solar power and rainwater collection really doesn’t have the qualities of being a burden on anyone, especially due to the fact that Vava’u has an entire island for those wanting to move and live an eco-friendly life in the bush. Would I be bold to say that this would benefit not only the local community, but also give back to the environment and represent a small way to contribute to fighting climate change? We’ve learned that it’s sometimes the small victories that count. Crowd sourcing is a great way to gather a buzz about a cause, as well as earn some additional funds to benefit the whole operation. We wouldn’t be planning any of this without a plan of income/savings, nor would we solely depend on crowd sourcing to fulfill all of our money needs.

Facebook user:  Do you have building experience? What is your background to enable you to succeed in this venture?

Escape to Vava’u: Yes. Growing up, I assisted my father on many building jobs (framing, drywall, landscape, roofing; the whole enchilada of home building), as well as helped grow most of our food in the garden, and helped butcher chickens and fish for eating. Setting up solar panels, a generator, and the whole solar power system as a whole will be new for us, but we will have practice of this and the majority of the off-grid adjustments while in Alaska. We will touch up on our building skills and gardening as well during our stay up north; in turn, we feel that this will benefit us tremendously in preparation for the big move. If that isn’t enough of a background to be enabled to complete a task such as this, there is also the fact that we were both raised being taught the important of preserving the earth, to make a difference in the world, and to live life the way we feel most beneficial to the world as a whole. We all view live in many different ways, thus not allowing some to understand our purposes for moving to a remote island location. Some of you can only see the lack of transportation, high shipping costs, and lack of paved roads; a great example of reasons why we dislike generalizations and feel the need to specify our reasons/motives to move to this micro-degree. Those who view the world this way will simply not see our reasons for moving as valid ones, and we can’t fight that. Also, the cons outweigh the pros to many, thus not being worth it to those individuals. This is okay too, but we have to remember that just because you can’t see yourself doing something, that doesn’t disable every other person from being able to. There’s no way to earn experience other than by getting out and trying it!

Facebook user: Tourism marketing makes pacific islands look idyllic – in some ways they are, but in many ways they are a very challenging place to live, both for locals and expats.

Escape to Vava’u: It seems like in most places, there will be challenges to face. Here in America, we face enslavement by debt, the militarization of police, a constant push to keep consumers for the corporations (who are worth more money than many countries, by the way), tornadoes and ice/snow storms in our area, large percentages of crime, and the overall lack of human concern for the people from the government. Yet, people view moving to a remote island more of a ‘pipe-dream’ while seemingly ignoring the factors above. “Honey, why move to a place with real freedom when you can blindly pay taxes and never question where that money goes”. I get it – we’re crazy and unrealistic for wanting to relocate to the South Pacific but it’s not completely insane to still believe that America isn’t a war-based economy that is owned by a few rich families? Seems legit.

All in all, I’m hoping that this blog will eventually be able to help increase tourism and boost the local community by shedding a light on the country. It may seem a little out of reach, but that’s okay. Not everyone wants what we want, but that doesn’t disprove capability. All I can really guarantee is that we are going to try our hardest and will use whatever tools helpful along the way. We’ve always been simple folk; don’t need much to be happy. After all, we are chasing a fulfilling life, not an easy one. Thank you again for your comments!

A long conversation, I know, but most of these points are valid and needed to be addressed. I am sometimes quick to respond to criticism, and have to take a step back to review and respond (yay, water signs). After some time to review, I realized that I had yet to address most of these issues visibly and clearly for viewers to see and understand, so I thank the Facebook user for providing me with an opportunity to do so.

Lastly, we will be making a few adjustments to the site. If you haven’t noticed already, we have included our official logo within the top menu and have changed up the sidebar menu. A beautiful ‘About Me’ page is in the works, so keep an eye out for that! Also, it has been decided that a blogging schedule needs to be set in place, in order to keep me accountable and consistent. I will be posting 3 times a week (Mon, Wed, Fri), thus producing more content at a more rapid pace. Help keep me in check by viewing, commenting, and sharing posts –

I N  C O N C L U S I O N

The move to Sitka, Alaska, will be a very beneficial opportunity to get ready for Tonga; it will help us prepare an off-grid homestead, retouch gardening skills, earn extra money through hook fishing, cage catching, and summer national park jobs. Once in LA, we will work with a non-profit group to send care packages to Tongan children in need, thus helping the community. Once in Tonga, we will take all of the necessary steps towards getting settled in, finding land to build, sending shipment of materials (very small shipment due to using mostly earthen materials to build almost everything), and setting up an eco-friendly, self-sustainable homestead. After those basics have been achieved, we will work closely more with the non-profit group, while also conducting research on climate change (also raising awareness) to find ways to repair the environment. If you feel you may be a help in any of these areas, do not hesitate to contact us! Comment below, email us, or hit us up on FacebookG+, Pinterest, and/or Twitter.

 ☽ ☼ ☾

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