"You can move, but you'll still be you when you get there."
November 12, 2013 8:13 AM   Subscribe

 
Having never been to a tropical island before I can't imagine not spending every waking moment going " this is going to be underwater in 30 years and everyone here will be dead."
posted by The Whelk at 8:21 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


"You can move, but you'll still be you when you get there."

Or, as has been said before (and rather more elegantly), wherever you go, there you are.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:24 AM on November 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


TIL Guam probably has more Taco Bells than New York. WTF Taco Bell we too need delicious chalupas and crunch wraps supreme.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:27 AM on November 12, 2013


Banana trees in her yard? Why would you ever leave??????
posted by ian1977 at 8:28 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also for some reason I thought Guam was one huge military base and nothing else.
posted by The Whelk at 8:30 AM on November 12, 2013


I grew up on a small tropical island and there's a lot to love about it. My particular island is also a long way from anywhere that is not an island, and there are many downsides to that.
posted by rtha at 8:32 AM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Island paradise get-away" sounds like it doesn't really pass for actual therapy, at least for that writer.
posted by k5.user at 8:33 AM on November 12, 2013


I lived in actual Hawaii for two years, and while yes, I was still me in Honolulu, I was ME, IN HONOLULU.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:39 AM on November 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Actually, bananas are the clue to this story being false. Bananas don't grow in yards, they grow in bunches!
posted by ian1977 at 8:43 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I knew a girl from Guam and she said that there were a lot of power outages so you spent a lot of time playing cards.
posted by goethean at 8:44 AM on November 12, 2013


Banana trees in her yard? Why would you ever leave??????

Because Saipan's a fucking hellhole.

http://www.saipansucks.com/about.htm
posted by ocschwar at 8:47 AM on November 12, 2013


I spent the last two years of high school on a small tropical Island, in Micronesia, so not far from where the author was. Our island was so small there was no need for privately owned vehicles. A lot of what she writes is true. People are people, and small tropical islands have asshole people too. There may be less assholes on a small tropical island, but then it's harder to avoid the few that are there. And small town politics and gossip are definitely an issue when you live someplace where everybody really does know your name.

Somehow, I lived there two years, amidst a treasure trove of coral reefs and WWII wrecks, and I never learned to SCUBA dive. It's my biggest regret from that time. The snorkeling was amazing enough, but the diving...
posted by COD at 8:58 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also for some reason I thought Guam was one huge military base and nothing else.

Guam is really mind-blowingly enormous for a Pacific island — meaning, like, it spans a few hundred square miles and multiple towns. Culturally it's Micronesian, but their nesos actually isn't all that mikros.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:01 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having never been to a tropical island before I can't imagine not spending every waking moment going " this is going to be underwater in 30 years and everyone here will be dead."

Don't you live in Manhatten?

In re the article, sometimes I think travel must be a bit like being Cassanova: you can never hold on to all the beauties at once...
posted by Diablevert at 9:02 AM on November 12, 2013


The snow in the air today makes it rather improbable that Manhattan could be considered a tropical island, although with global warming WHO EVEN KNOWS ANYMORE.
posted by elizardbits at 9:11 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I kept waiting for an explanation about why the water was polluted. My guess is all the banana skins left by the goats.
posted by arcticseal at 9:15 AM on November 12, 2013


There was a link to an 8-page pdf that I also declined to read but I assume it is people poop and agricultural runoff.
posted by elizardbits at 9:21 AM on November 12, 2013


Everyone I've known (myself included) who had and took the opportunity to move to a totally foreign place for a chunk of their early adulthood has been very well served by it. Realizing that you're still you in a totally new environment may be a positive or a negative, but either way it's a part of figuring out who you are, or want to be.
posted by usonian at 9:22 AM on November 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


I kept waiting for an explanation about why the water was polluted. My guess is all the banana skins left by the goats.

Cheesy Gordita Crunch wrappers and runoff from the Taco Bell Run refueling plant
posted by theodolite at 9:25 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The snow in the air

I think that reference was about islands being under water in 30 years more so than the temperate climate thing.

Besides, my financial goal in life has always been less about specifics and more about just having enough money to not have to deal with other people. While I'm thinking about it, I might as well go ahead and add another zero to the end of that number.
posted by Blue_Villain at 9:26 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


5 Things I Learned Leaving My Minimum-Wage National Park Cashiering Job And Oregon To Move To The French Riviera (With Lyon And Helsinki In Between)

1. Socialized healthcare really works, which is great when you're broke. I am indeed still myself, because I am alive and non-bankrupt to say so! Phew!
2. You can swim in the Mediterranean. There's no killer undertow like in the NW Pacific. Both are polluted. Whales are injured in both of them too. Not cool.
3. Couldn't afford a Beemer, Jeep or Honda in Eugene. Can't afford a Lamborghini, Rolls Royce or Ferrari in Nice. Never had a bus driver take us on a drag racing strip, which no one has ever explicitly told us is possible.
4. Cats meow the same around the world!
5. Couldn't afford downhill skiing on Bachelor in Oregon, can't afford scuba diving or parasailing on the Riviera. Cycling's cool in both, though. You just have to watch out for right-handed right-of-way intersections, otherwise it's pretty similar.

FIN

which is a word used both in English and French. On se retrouve partout où on va !
posted by fraula at 9:41 AM on November 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


This is exactly why I don't sail off to the Caribbean to live on a sailboat. Because after a month the novelty wears off and you realize that maybe the weather's better, but the food is worse, and the boat is cramped, and the water's beautiful, but you miss the forest, etc.

Almost everywhere is beautiful in a certain way and awful in another.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:42 AM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is exactly why I don't sail off to the Caribbean to live on a sailboat. Because after a month the novelty wears off and you realize that maybe the weather's better, but the food is worse, and the boat is cramped, and the water's beautiful, but you miss the forest, etc.

I'm reminded of yesterday's thread about losing weight. It's incredibly tempting to think that if you could just change your life in one big way, everything would turn out OK, and it's just that one thing holding you back from true happiness. And then you do, and it turns out that life is kind of similar, and that a lot of the little problems you used to have still exist. Self-improvement can be a wonderful thing, but mostly in small doses gradually over time rather than in broad, life-changing strokes.
posted by Copronymus at 9:49 AM on November 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I kept waiting for an explanation about why the water was polluted. My guess is all the banana skins left by the goats.

People have to shit. And when they aren't wealthy enough to build treatment plants with reliable power supplies, they have problems.
posted by ocschwar at 9:49 AM on November 12, 2013


I knew this would be about Saipan before opening the link. It is not nearly as pretty as the little islet photo at the top of the piece.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:02 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Don't hate me..."

Too late.
posted by Caskeum at 10:09 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


This seems to cover it:
Saipan is the second most densely populated island in Micronesia and experiences many of the environmental pollution problems seen in the larger industrialized nations of the world. Solid and hazardous waste disposal, illegal dumping, urban runoff, unregulated waste discharges from various commercial premises, and the disposal of primary treated sewage effluent directly into the ocean, rank among the most critical environmental problems seen on the island today. (source)
That survey is about heavy metals, but there are a number of other assessments indiciative of untreated light industrial and residential discharges: high levels of estrogen and depletion of dissolved oxygen in the lagoon; coral damage, etc...
posted by bonehead at 10:11 AM on November 12, 2013


2. You can swim in the Mediterranean. There's no killer undertow like in the NW Pacific. Both are polluted. Whales are injured in both of them too. Not cool.[0]

Offer valid in participating beaches only. (Israel's beaches are notoriously prone to undertows.)
posted by ocschwar at 10:16 AM on November 12, 2013


This reminded me of the Louis CK bit about the cellphone. To paraphrase: tropical paradise doesn't suck, your life sucks even if you're in paradise.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:17 AM on November 12, 2013


"You can move, but you'll still be you when you get here."

Really needs to be the Florida state motto.
posted by ocschwar at 10:19 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


In conclusion, the ego is a land of many contrasts.
posted by thelonius at 10:29 AM on November 12, 2013


Mainland Americans, if they think of Guam at all, usually use that island as shorthand for the end of the Earth. ("She's moving to Maryland? Why not Guam!")

Huh? I can think of some Guam-analogies in the lower-48 but Maryland hardly makes the list. It's one of the best educated and highest earning places in the country, not to mention home of major institutions like NASA, NSA, NIH etc. .. it's dead center in the Empire. Sounds like too many episodes of the Wire maybe. Or a NYer who knew the next step for her career was DC but fled to Guam instead.
posted by stbalbach at 10:34 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


And when they aren't wealthy enough to build treatment plants with reliable power supplies, they have problems.

Except more than enough money to have proper sanitation and power exists, courtesy of the federal government. It's just stolen or squandered.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:59 AM on November 12, 2013


Banana trees in her yard? Why would you ever leave??????


Banana spiders.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:10 PM on November 12, 2013


Anyone considering the next flight out for an extended tropical exile should really take a look at The Sex Lives of Cannibals by Maarten Troost, which details an extended stay in Kiribati.
posted by jquinby at 12:43 PM on November 12, 2013


Banana spiders.

From Wikipedia:
Brazilian wandering spiders, armed spiders

The fuck? Wandering and armed spiders?Where are they wandering to they should stay where they are! What the fuck kind of arms?

I don't care how many tacos locos I can get I'm staying away from Saipan.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:51 PM on November 12, 2013


Huh? I can think of some Guam-analogies in the lower-48 but Maryland hardly makes the list.

Don't fret. To many New Yorkers, parts of Queens are the equivalent of moving to Guam. Basically, anything not within a 45 minute subway and/or cab ride of Times Sq. might as well be a trans-continental flight away.
posted by Diablevert at 12:55 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's incredibly tempting to think that if you could just change your life in one big way, everything would turn out OK, and it's just that one thing holding you back from true happiness. And then you do, and it turns out that life is kind of similar, and that a lot of the little problems you used to have still exist.

Yeah, this, definitely. I've just stumbled across a really vivid memory I'd forgotten I had: When I was younger, sometime in my preteen years there was this one pair of glasses I really needed to have. I don't know why that specific pair was that important, I suppose they were endorsed by x celebrity or made by y designer and that's why they appealed so much. For whatever reason, I convinced myself that if I wore these glasses then they'd show everyone how cool and fashion conscious I was, rather than being a symbol of geekdom like my current pair. At the time I was becoming acutely aware of things like my appearance and my social standing, but I didn't have the skills or tools to change them, so I let this pair of glasses become my idol in my cargo cult worship of coolness. They were way more expensive than anything I'd owned before; I remember saving for ages to get them, fantasising the whole time about the new Ned, but eventually I got them.

I remember walking to school on the first morning with them, fully expecting a social metamorphosis. Obviously it was never realised. I'm sure there were a few compliments and well meaning comments, but compared to the overarching transformation I'd dreamed of they were somewhat lacking. I understood very keenly that day that it's the Ned behind the glasses that people see, and there is no magic fix-all for life's problems. With hindsight it was a good lesson to learn, but damn did it feel crushing at the time.
posted by Ned G at 12:55 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I spent a couple days in Guam and Saipan a couple of years ago. Guam had invested a lot in catering to Japanese tourism and there were a half-dozen high-end duty-free malls (designer label clothing, that sort of thing) scattered around the island with shuttle buses running in a loop between them. Unfortunately they built up all these malls then the Japanese economy tanked and the tourists stopped coming. Each mall seemed to have the same stores with the same content so I never really understood the point. And none of them dared drop the prices 'cause they knew it would end in a bloodbath. We had nothing better to do (were there on work, hadn't really planned on having any downtime, and so were unprepared for "vacation for a day"), so we spent the day wandering from empty mall to empty mall just to pass the time. It was one of the most depressing things I've ever seen.

The CNMI also allow products made there to carry the "Made in USA" label with the corresponding benefits while at the same time not being beholden to US labor and environmental laws. Sweatshop conditions are common and I'm sure this is part of the reason for the polluted waters. We were at the harbor in Saipan for a couple of hours before we could leave our ship and saw a surprisingly large number of containers being off/onloaded.
posted by Runes at 1:33 PM on November 12, 2013


I'm a little disappointed at this piece. The article's a bit empty. It looks like the author might just have wanted to "drop observations about Guam and the rejuvenating powers of scuba diving and the tastiness of brothel-made spring rolls" ...
posted by Riton at 2:09 PM on November 12, 2013


Having never been to a tropical island before I can't imagine not spending every waking moment going " this is going to be underwater in 30 years and everyone here will be dead."
posted by The Whelk


Bah, having grown up on a tropical island you stop worrying about it pretty quickly because life is just like life anywhere else except you can walk to the beach after school. Also, guitars + beach + sunshine is pretty much a winning equation.

Everyone I've known (myself included) who had and took the opportunity to move to a totally foreign place for a chunk of their early adulthood has been very well served by it. Realizing that you're still you in a totally new environment may be a positive or a negative, but either way it's a part of figuring out who you are, or want to be.
posted by usonian


I didn't quite move to a totally foreign place (from Puerto Rico to Saint Louis) but having been living here for about 9 years now, I can say that the weirdest part is growing older in a different cultural environment and not being sure if it's adaptation or just your own natural growth pattern or a bit of both.
posted by lizarrd at 2:24 PM on November 12, 2013


Having never been to a tropical island before I can't imagine not spending every waking moment going " this is going to be underwater in 30 years and everyone here will be dead."

High point of Saipan = 1560 feet above sea level, according to Wikipedia. I think it will still be around in 30 years.

Also, even if it were entirely underwater in 30 years, this isn't the island from Lost with mystical forces which prevent anyone from ever leaving. So no, they wouldn't all be dead in 30 years.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:34 PM on November 12, 2013


I'm watching this experiment unfold with a friend of mine who moved to Hawaii in May. He, too, is a lawyer. It took about three months, but he landed a job and routinely uploads to facebook photos from the trails he's hiking or the beaches he's visiting. It's going to be interesting when he has seen or done it all, but I think a certain amount of pleasure is being somewhere that isn't home. At home, he lingered in the shadow of his father, who was a long time state politician, and had a job in state government that resulted in him crossing paths with people he know or who knew his father all the time. I think he's gained a certain amount of peace by separating himself by thousands of miles of ocean and land from the town that threatened to be his birth and death place.

As an aside, I once worked with someone who grew up on Saipan. He went playing off in the jungle near his house and came home with a Japanese helmet he'd found in the underbrush. It wasn't something he had noticed when he grabbed it, but when his mother turned the helmet over, the top of the poor Japanese soldier's skull was still resting inside. Otherwise, I think he had all right memories of the island.
posted by Atreides at 2:38 PM on November 12, 2013


Also for some reason I thought Guam was one huge military base and nothing else.

Maybe you're thinking of Diego Garcia?
posted by compartment at 4:01 PM on November 12, 2013


Sometimes called the "geographic cure" - Junkies will talk about moving to this or that place where they will be able to escape their addiction. Doesn't work.

I live on a tropical island but it's among the largest islands in the world. The size removes the languid beach lifestyle dream aspect while leaving the need a plane to get anywhere isolation aspect. Still, I am very fond of the bananas in my back yard.
posted by BinGregory at 4:03 PM on November 12, 2013


This is a nice antidote to this 'wherever you go, there you are' piece I read recently, in which the author travels to a different country, rejects every experience, feels miserable, returns home, doesn't learn a god-damn thing.
posted by Catch at 4:36 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"geographic cure"

It worked for Jim Carroll. That's what he said when I saw him read, anyway. Maybe the main ingredient of that was just getting out of New York. (Carroll interrupted himself often, and was always going on digressions that were much more interesting than his poetry, like his story about getting a cab stolen from him by Salvador Dali, or his rant about seeing Billy Idol let his girlfriend take a pot bust for him).
posted by thelonius at 6:36 PM on November 12, 2013


If not for Saipan being part of the U.S., this is pretty much 'expat leaves home, finds the world is different, writes shallow, uninsightful puff piece about living overseas,' which as Flapjax mentions, has been said before, and better.

That said, do your best to get away from home, if only for a while. It's not just that travel and/or living overseas broadens the mind. It's that it puts you squarely in the middle of a culture that not only doesn't do things the way you do them (and have grown to believe is the correct way), they do them in a completely different way that works just as well. It's good to have your assumptions questioned, but it's even better when you're living among the very real proof that there are other ways to do things.

And Saipan... is a whole. It's wretched. Seriously, if you have a choice between Saipan and Guam, don't go to Saipan. Honestly, I'd say don't go to Guam either, aside from the awesome Jamaican BBQ place. On Guam, there's the base, and the shopping centers catering to Japanese tourists. On Saipan, there's a bunch of abandoned buildings, some beautiful beaches, a ton of poverty, and brothels for the Japanese tourists.

Both Guam and Saipan have Taco Bell, though. Maybe it's a more recent development in Saipan, but it was there, and it was pretty close to the best food we ate on the island (aside from an AWESOME vietnamese place, which, yes, had good springrolls).
posted by Ghidorah at 8:09 PM on November 12, 2013


And small town politics and gossip are definitely an issue when you live someplace where everybody really does know your name.
Yeah, coming from a small town, I found that when you don't provide anything interesting for others' to share about yourself, they're more than happy to fill in the details.
posted by Ochiee at 8:40 PM on November 12, 2013


A huge factor in reinventing your life in another country is that all of a sudden you're exotic.
People will strike up a conversation with you when they hear your accent,they want to know what you think about the place.
It's like having a charisma injection and is half the reason foreign climes are so attractive.
posted by bystander at 9:47 PM on November 12, 2013


Exactly, it's fun to visit Philadelphia because I instantly become the best dressed person in the room.

For my purposes Philadelphia is an exotic foreign location. The only people who wanted to talk to me in Budapest for six months where people who wanted money.
posted by The Whelk at 10:06 PM on November 12, 2013


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