A Travellerspoint blog

Making Travel More Meaningful--

Get Off the Tour Bus

When I left to sail around the world, I had no idea how far I would get; but four years later I returned with a lot of stories to tell about the islanders I had met along the way. As those stories coalesced into my book, VOICES ON THE WIND, I realized that I had enjoyed experiences that few people ever imagine. Not only had I crossed the world's oceans on a small sailboat, but I had sat with an aborigine chief and his wives in Australia and feasted with Trobriand Islanders in New Guinea. I had been entertained with stories told by the natives, and they had laughed at my stories, finding common ground despite vast cultural differences. I had learned much from these islanders.

When my book was released, reviewers commented on how refreshingly different my book was. Good Old Boat Magazine said it was "a book to be experienced, not just read." Five time circumnavigator Webb Chiles said it was "beautiful beyond all expectation." TV personality and sailor Hugh Downs called my stories, "fascinating."

I began to peruse travel magazines and websites in search of other writers who had learned lessons from other cultures as I had in my travels, but I couldn't find any. Travel writing sounded as if the writers hadn't gotten off the tour bus. They wrote accurately about the places, the sights and smells, the food, the traffic, and the cafes, but the people who gave life to the places were missing. So I decided to create a blog that might help travelers get off the tour bus and experience the essence of a place: its people.

As this blog unfurls, I'll offer some thoughts on why people travel on tours and cruises and why small group travel ( or solo) is preferable.

I'll address common fears that create a herd mentality and how to overcome those fears.

I'll offer practical tips on how any traveler of any age can interact with locals in ways that enhance the travel experience, and may in some small ways promote world peace. Stay tuned for some surprising and useful information. I hope to learn from you, too.

Posted by VOTW 22:00 Tagged educational Comments (0)

Sione's Visit

A lesson learned from a Tongan

Copyright 1995 Bonnie McGee

Sione’s Visit (Tonga)

“On your island,” Sione asked, “how much does a boat like this cost?”

“Many, many dollars,” I answered. I glanced down the topsides of my thirty-three foot sloop, small by most ocean-crossing standards, but large enough to have carried me across the Pacific.

Sione shook his head gravely. “How do your people get these dollars?”

“They work very hard and earn much money.”

“I work very hard,” he said softly, fingering a coconut with his leathery old hands. “Making copra is hard work.”

“Of course,” I replied, “but how many hours do you work in a day?”

“Many hours. In the morning, I weed in the garden and under the coconut trees. My youngest grandson helps me. We work two hours or more. It is hard work. I am old.”

“And then?”

“Then we swim. The boy hunts the octopus.”


“When the sun is overhead, we eat at my daughter’s house. Yams, taro, fish, paw-paw.” He smacked his lips at the thought. “Very nice.”

“After lunch you go back to the garden?”

“My word, no. We sleep. Two, maybe three hours. Until the sun is over there,” he said pointing.

“Then back to the garden?”

“No. Then is time for visiting. Neighbors meet and talk about the news. Kava loosens the tongue. Later when the shadows grow long, we fish.”

“With your grandson?”

“No. Little granddaughter very keen on fishing.”

Sione sat silent for some moments and I knew he would say no more.
Many nights I had heard soft laughter from families camped on the beach, their faces half visible in the flickering firelight. The young girls turned the smoking fish while the others sat in a circle listening to the old men’s tales of a time before the missionaries. Occasionally, I would hear a baby cry as it searched for the breast. And long after I had gone to bed, I could still hear the faint music of happy voices on the beach.

“In my country,” I began slowly, “it is very different. Our men work very hard to make money. They work eight, sometimes ten hours a day.” Sione listened carefully to my words. “This they do for five, sometimes six days a week.” Sione furrowed his brow and shook his head slowly. “For fifty weeks of the year they do this.”

“Fifty weeks?” he repeated, scrutinizing my face in disbelief. “But when do they fish… and play with the children?”

“When they get two weeks’ holiday.”

We sat in silence for several minutes, both contemplating the absurdity of it all. Finally, I smiled, and Sione burst into laughter, assured that I was just joking.

Posted by VOTW 17:18 Archived in Tonga Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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