By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
It sounded okay, but just okay. There was nothing we could think of that would add a real spark to our lives. Then Carla said, offhandedly, “We’re writers. We can work anywhere. We should just drop out of this rat race and move to Rarotonga.” We’d talked about it before — moving to some faraway fantasyland — but never seriously. We’d visited Rarotonga nearly 10 years ago and had become enchanted with the island. Granted, we’d only stayed for a week, but our memories conjured up romantic images of a lush paradise without a single traffic light, and with loads of white sandy beaches, ripe fruit trees lining the roads, and a vast turquoise sea studded with candy-colored fish, that most certainly promised a stress-free existence.
Maybe it was Carla’s pregnancy-induced hormones or the first throes of Mark’s midlife crisis, but the idea of moving to an island in the South Seas didn’t sound as preposterous as it would have at some other time. “Maybe we should do it,” Mark said, gulping down the dregs at the bottom of his double espresso. “I could really go for a change.”
We’d done the same kind of thing twice before — once we went to London for six months, fresh out of college in 1984, and another time to Japan for five months in 1987. The memories from those extended working trips had always burned more brightly and deeply than our recollections of the following years living and working in San Francisco and Los Angeles as magazine editors and writers. We wanted to experience that fresh, wonderful strangeness brought on by living in a different country for several months. But we wondered if we could do it again, 15 years later, this time with two young children. And could we do it for at least a year?
We had to find out.
One friend told us we were fooling ourselves. “You guys are taking this Polynesian Pop thing too far,” he said. “It’s one thing to make your house look like the Enchanted Tiki Room. It’s another to move to a volcano that gets 10 inches of rain a month. Besides, you’re having a baby in March. You have no idea how hard it’s going to be to take care of two little kids. You’re going to forget all about this idea when you have that second baby.”
Another friend of ours wrinkled her nose when we told her about our plan. “Oh, that sounds crazy!” she said, batting her hand at an invisible fly. “You guys aren’t that adventurous. There’s not enough to do on a small island, anyway.” She seemed almost mad that we were contemplating it.
Other people loved the idea and were rooting for us. “We’re going to live vicariously through you guys,” said one frazzled couple who, like us, were spending their days working like hamsters on a wheel so that their kids could go to private schools and take everything from ballet to horseback-riding lessons. We told them we were looking forward to spending our days sitting under a tree, plinking a ukulele and writing ‰ in our journals while Sarina dug in the sand and Jane slept blissfully in an infant hammock.
We would rent a cheap bungalow, we decided. We would pull the plug on everything. We started making a list of all we had to do to extricate ourselves: Sell our house. Sell our car. Find homes for Sarina’s pet bird, rabbit and frogs. Pack up all of our furnishings and store them in a warehouse. Buy airline tickets. Cancel our Internet service, cell phone, DWP, gas, telephone, security, newspaper and other services. Find out about schools and pediatric medical care on Rarotonga. Research homeschooling options for Sarina. Make arrangements for someone to handle our bills and banking. Get a birth certificate, Social Security card and passport for the baby. Buy plug adapters so we could use our laptop and battery rechargers. Find a furnished apartment in L.A. to stay in after we sold the house and were waiting for Sarina to finish kindergarten. We’d wake up in the middle of the night with a new to-do item on our minds, scribbling it on the inside cover of a paperback with a crayon.
For the next three months we thought about little else. Our move seemed so romantic, so adventurous, and it was a great conversation piece. More accustomed to interviewing than being interviewed, we now found ourselves at the shining center of every gathering we went to. Our tropical spiel became more and more flamboyant. “I plan to wear a pareaand spear fish for supper,” Mark caught himself saying. Without missing a beat, Carla added, “And once we learn the ropes, we’re going to live on a deserted island, at least for a few weeks.” Our simple plan was turning into a wild and daring fantasy that even we had never imagined ourselves doing before.
Two days before we were about to leave, however, the reality hit that we were actually about to abandon the comforts of America to not only live on an island but to compete with the adventures of Swiss Family Robinson. Mark’s stomach clenched whenever he thought of it. On top of questioning whether we could really live up to our boasts, practical considerations began to overwhelm us: Are we throwing our writing careers away? Will we blow our small savings? Will we be able to find a place on the island to rent? Will we be able to get Sarina enrolled in a school? Are we going to go stir-crazy on a rock-sized island?
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