A trip to a Pacific island paradise for an off-the-grid vacation puts the ‘American Dream’ into question – Daily News

My wife turned 39 again a few weeks ago and wanted a little adventure for her birthday, so we decided to go off the grid for a few weeks to see what life was like at the end of the world – the remote Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia – 3,500 nautical miles from home.

To get there, fly three hours past Hawaii to Tahiti, hop aboard the cargo/passenger ship, the Aranui 5 – which also brings supplies to the six islands every two weeks – and sail the Pacific for another day and a half to find the heart of Polynesian history and culture.

It is a rare glimpse into the past and present of these proud warrior people whom they often meet only when they are served dinner or their rooms are cleaned. Tourism in Hawaii and Tahiti pays its bills, but it’s on remote islands, like the Marquesas, that you find what makes a mark.

Our plan was to go to cold turkey. No internet, TV, smartphones, or Yahoo news lets us know how sexy Demi Moore looks in a bikini at 60. You know, the basics of life.

I made it to the sixth day before I sneaked into a small internet café – Mango Bar – on the small island of Hiva Oa to see what the Dodgers were like, and if anyone noticed I was gone. What’s the point of being disconnected from the network if no one notices?

Wi-Fi costs $3 and beer $6. You’re logged into the breaking news that Steve Bannon has been charged. The Irish couple I was with – Billy and Dorothy Lawton from Dublin – bought a tour of the house.

The Aranui 5, described as a “cargo ship to heaven,” was a floating United Nations made up of nations. There were 14 representatives on board: 56 French nationals, 30 French Polynesians traveling between the islands, eight Germans, seven New Zealanders, five Spaniards, four Australians, a couple from Ireland, Canada and the Netherlands, and one Austrian, Belgian, and Romanian.

And we, the ugly Americans.

Most Americans go to the Caribbean or Hawaii, and don’t travel the extra three hours to visit the Tahiti Islands, which is unfortunate because they have their own unique beauty and archaeological sites, and Polynesians tend to love Americans.

Polynesian historian Kyaw Nesmet, a flight lecturer who grew up in Marquesas, said the French could not afford too many of them, since they had taken Tahiti as one of its colonies in 1880. It was a very bold comment considering that nearly half of the passengers were French citizens.

“In general, I hear more complementary things about Americans than French, though there is confusion now,” he said. “The ideal of the American dream versus gun violence and anarchy is a big scratch for the Polynesian people.”

A young Romanian who travels a lot for work said it’s a big scratch around the world. When I grew up, your country was the American dream. We all wanted to live and work there.

“Today, no one in Romania grows up dreaming of coming to America. Sad thing. You have been Disneyland for us.”

I asked the Germans what they thought, but they said they knew no English, and they ignored the question, as most French did too. Our English speaking guide, Frank McCain, who also served as a French guide, said I shouldn’t read too much into it.

“Ah, the French,” he said, dragging from the Pall Mall. Tell them to go there and they won’t go there. She tells them not to go there, they go there. They are free spirits.”

Which brings me to the Irish, Australians and New Zealanders with whom we shared tables at dinner, vying for our last glass of free wine. They also believed that the situation in America now was a real scratch.

Toast the Marquesas at the end of the world with Billy Lutton from Dublin. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

“So, what do you think, Billy?” I asked my new Irish friend, a true free spirit.

“Well, I don’t know,” he said. “Buy me a pint and I might remember it.”

Ah, the Irish. I’m thinking of taking a cultural and archaeological tour of a pub in Ireland with Billy for my next birthday.

Dennis McCarthy’s column is published on Sunday. He can be reached at dmccarthynews@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: