Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Where is the fairest place of all?

Article for Wave

And the mirror said; Tonga!

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Where is the fairest place of all? by Robert Bryce, Tonga, South Pacific

The ancient Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific? Not what you expected? You probably have never heard of it. But, before getting into why Tonga, maybe we should get into; why even move at all?

There are two driving forces that motivate any overseas move; one is the lure of what you are moving to, and the other is that which you are moving from. Most people know more about what they are moving from, than to. If your house is burning, you rapidly move from it without a lot of regard of where to---just get out. I have noted that the “moving from” reasons people have given me recently are sounding like a house afire.

For the longest time people were moving to paradise for all the adventure that life might offer. Today, most people are running from what they claim are a myriad of reasons, many to do with lost freedom issues, loss of faith in their governments, too much talk of war on this and war on that, and just plain fear for what the future has in store. This is particularly true of those in the Northern Hemisphere. The 9/11incident in America has a lot of folks, worldwide, looking hard at its implications. Some are saying; “Inside job, I’m out of here!” Some don’t know what to think but are not waiting to see how things turn out; just in case. And I left the homeland because I was tired of traffic lights. That is kind of a joke, but some truth to it. Granted the white sandy beaches, extraordinary freedom, frontier kinds of opportunity and emerald islands were the real draw.

Who knows what is really true, but the Internet is full of websites now that tell a potentially horrific story. If any part of it is true, this little haven in the South Pacific is not going to need any promotion to get its fill of new-comers. Of course nowhere is exempt from some kind of trouble. Even sleepy Tonga had its début with trouble recently. Last year a group of young dissidents turned into looters and succeeded in burning some of the small capitol. We live in ever peaceful Vava’u, 160 miles away by sea from the scene, so we weren’t directly affected. In any event, the perpetrators are all in jail now and the general consensus is the city needed a facelift anyway.

If you are visiting this site, you must have some inclination of making a move. So, we are starting with an enlightened mind and that is where everything notable on this planet came from. Congratulations.

Websites advertising living “overseas” seem to thrive, and for good reasons. “The grass is always greener…,” for one, but these days the dieing grass in our homelands indicates the saying may no longer be a cute metaphor. More like a statement of fact.

Migrating to greener soil; to paradise, has been going on since people grew legs. The Pilgrims landed in America in 1620, leaving what must have been not so “jolly old England.” The migration kept on moving west until they met the sea on the other side. There are a lot of stories about these pioneers. Most of them are about how they faired with arrows in their backs, but many more met with huge success and new lives that were greener than they had dreamed. Generally, we get to read only what the perils of this migration were, rounding the horn and wagon trains in circles, but books and news of strife are better sellers than those boring stories of bliss and living happily ever after. No wonder we are fearful of this kind of activity. We have been falsely misled. If it didn’t work well, you wouldn’t have San Francisco and LA.

Well, too much of a good thing can be a problem too. “LA (or the equivalent) is fine, but it aint mine” as the song goes, pointing out how success can take a turn for some. Our tolerance for trepidation is accepted by the slow process in which it consumes us, akin to the old science experiment with the frog in the pan of water on the stove. As the water heats slowly, the frog tends to adapt, until it is too late. One can get complacent with what many would consider unacceptable as the heat saps your will. The smart frog, aware of the science of things, will leap from the pan while his muscles still function. This article is dedicated to some of the frogs out there that see the situation heating up. You do something about it. The planet has billions of people stewing in large pans, but paradise is relatively small, so in any event, there is not room for all. Heaven forbid, for I shall be chastised some by some of my more selfish fellow expats for letting this cat out of the bag. But, the result is; there are a lot of smart frogs moving out of Dodge, and we are pleased to be in their good company.

Enough of “moving from” issues? If not, you can get all the reasons you want to convince friends and relatives of your move on the Internet. The websites are full of “the rest of the story,” complete with conspiracy theories that are so incredible that to even have had that seed grow to what it has become should be enough to show us that the lights in the tunnel may well be a train coming. Who knows and who wants to be there to find out, if you have options?

Now, back to paradise.

We, the expats of Tonga, even before the talks of war and today’s more serious issues, traded our cubicles of confinement; our corporate enslavement; our obstructed views; dirty skies; laws for what color to paint your house and the fears of the consequence from even a burned out tail light to the two beers stop on the way home, red lights and worse, blue ones---we traded all that for peace; new opportunities for prosperity; ocean views from every home and business; sandy beaches; the cleanest air on earth and probably, most of all, we traded what was then low-level fear for the incredible relief of knowing we are safe and with freedom far beyond what anyone calls that apparently compromised remnant in “the land of the free.”

If you are ready (or not) to make the move; just do it.

It can be as easy as selling the farm, the house, the car, quitting the job and buying or starting a business in paradise. Buying one is the instant coffee way to make it all happen and assures you of at least knowing what to expect in the way of income. Add a little of your own new ideas and behold, you may improve on a winner. To get your resident/business visa, you need to buy or start a business. Some folks (like me) sold their business, homes, cars and what-all, and bought a bar/restaurant here on the harbour. Ah yes, a big change from a fancy office and a 12 cylinder commute car. But, it was rather incredible to play a Hemmingway’s kind of bar-owner role for the first time; playing host to tourists, yachties, locals too and for fun and profit. It felt like I was living in a movie—still do. Sitting with customer’s, overlooking the harbour, telling each other stories while the lovely and low-cost staff handled the business at hand was easy to get used to. I sold the bar for a nice profit, started the first Internet cyber café, a laundry then started a rental boat business and now into development. One thing leads to another and as you settle in you see the opportunities. Some of my critics say; “If I you could do it, anyone can.” Not really a compliment, but true, I never ran a bar before.

There are a few businesses for sale on this website or some land to set up your own operation, should that suit you. Bars and restaurants are popular starter businesses. Anyone who can cook has the advantage of not worrying if the chef doesn’t show up. Inept at cooking, I cautiously limited my fare to pizzas, which anyone could make with our coveted recipe.

There is a charter boat business for sale that certainly has the right appeal. Imagine telling your beastly boss to shove it; that you are sailing off in paradise with your own sailing charter business. If you don’t know how to sail, the skipper will show you. Like cooking, I suppose it is better if you have some idea before embarking, but not really necessary. Which brings us to “why Tonga” and expressly, the Vava’u Island Group in which we thrive. It is not only perfect for sailing; Vava’u is paradise as seen on TV.

In fact these islands have been used to film some reality type TV and a run of “Treasure Island.” What makes this island group unique in the world is the fact that it is completely surrounded by a huge protective reef system and island chain that takes the punch out of any potentially destructive waves the ocean might muster—including tsunamis, which have never occurred in known history. The Moorings charter boat company thrives well from what nature bestowed upon us. Fair winds without threatening seas within this tranquil group of mostly uninhabited islands is the perfect place for charter boats and is, in part, what attracts the hundreds of cruising boats that stop here every year. This is where much of the tourism business comes from during the season commencing May through November. There are normally no excesses, hot or cold, wet or dry and generally it is balmy and pleasant year round.

Diving, snorkeling, island touring, boating, game fishing, kayak, canoeing and even swimming with the whales (only 3 places in the world offer that) are some more of what makes this place the perfect haven. Of course, a major factor to consider is; as of today anyway, you still can immigrate here with fees under $1,000 and without needing a fortune to invest. Try that anywhere else in the world with the same idyllic backdrop.

You don’t have to start a business to live here if you can qualify by showing a significant government pension of “assured income,” but, with this visa you can’t operate a business or work. This program works well for some of the lucky ones who just want to live better on their “fixed income.” You can pick up a plot of land overlooking the sea for under $2,000.00 USD down and under $100 per month. You can build a modest house for under $60,000.00 USD and live happily ever after.

For more on Tonga, especially Vava’u, contact Robert Bryce at robert@southpacificrealestate.to