Why we moved to the South Pacific

We want to find out what it is like for us, an urban American family -- accustomed to 24-hour supermarkets, multiplex theaters, top quality medical care, freeways, high-rises, thousands of restaurants in a 20-mile radius, and a daily barrage of media -- to slow down. So we moved to the South Pacific. Our first stop is Rarotonga, a tiny island in the South Pacific.

It's a big change for us. We'll be staying on a land mass that's 99.9993 percent smaller than the United States. It means living among wild dogs, pigs and roosters (which run freely on the island), instead of screaming car alarms, smog-belching Hummers, and random incidents of road rage. It means spending long, sultry afternoons wandering through the rainforest as an after-school activity, rather than sitting in traffic on the 30-minute drive home from school, only to rush through computer games and indoor "playdates" with other friends. It means picking mangos and breadfruit, buying taro root and coconuts from the front porches of people's houses, and fishing for supper, rather than zapping a frozen gardenburger in the microwave the moment hunger strikes. It means experiencing life's moments, rather than breathlessly trying to keep up with our schedules.

Of course, if all we wanted was a simpler lifestyle, we could load up a U-Haul, drive 60 miles, and move into an Ojai farmhouse surrounded by orange groves. We could live a simple life there. So why did we single out Rarotonga as a place to run to? For a couple of reasons. First, a tiny tropical island nation is an excellent location to carry out our experiment. In an isolated microcosm like Rarotonga, we can get completely away from our current way of life. Second, we want to get as close as possible to realizing the fantasy of living simply on a South Pacific island, the kind of place dreamed about in books and movies ever since Captain Cook arrived in Polynesia in the late 18th Century and set the imaginations of Europeans on fire with stories of idyllic weather, awe-inspiring natural beauty, and bountiful food. We want to live simply, but richly, and the South Pacific seems like a better place to do this than some barren outpost in Nova Scotia.

Our goal, our experiment, is to see how simply we can live on an Island known for its simple, but pleasant and easygoing, way of life. In the United States, "simple living" has become little more than a style statement and a marketing strategy. We are going to pursue true simplicity. Besides immersing ourselves in the culture of Rarotonga, we are going to remember to enjoy being far away from our frenetic, crushing, overscheduled circumstances in Los Angeles. This is the time and the place to slow down and spend time experiencing life: exploring tide pools, connecting with each other, catching fish, buying produce from neighbors, hiking in the jungle, strumming the ukulele, and simply enjoying the sky, the sand, and the shore.
In June 2003, Mark Frauenfelder and Carla Sinclair moved from Los Angeles to the South Pacific. Our first stop is Rarotonga, a tiny island in the South Pacific. We brought our two young daughters with us.

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