Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost from The Road Not Taken
We've blogged about how we choose our next sailing destination and why, in particular, we're so keen to cross the Great Australian Bight (GAB). But probably the more frequently asked question is why we choose to go “off the beaten path” in the first place.
First, let's define what we think of as “off the beaten path”. It's the path less chosen. Quite honestly, just living on a sailboat and sailing off into the sunset is off the beaten path enough, don't you think? However, even within the cruising community, we tend to be a bit “off”.
For instance, the most traveled route from North America across the South Pacific is called the Coconut Milk Run. It has the most predictable weather and there's lots of company en route. There are sometimes flotillas of boats that travel together from Central America or Ecuador to the Galapagos, then French Polynesia (the Marquesas, the Tuomotus, Tahiti, Bora Bora, etc). The route continues through the Cook Islands to Samoa or Niue, Tonga and then to New Zealand or sometimes points further west.
We chose to sail off the beaten path to avoid all the traffic. Don't get me wrong. We like other cruisers and enjoy their company, but we enjoy meeting the local people and seeing sights others have missed more than we enjoy cruiser camaraderie. Not to mention we dislike crowded anchorages. So our trip across the Pacific began in southern Chile and included Juan Fernandez Island (Robinson Crusoe), Easter Island, Pitcairn Island and Isles Gambier before meeting up with the the rest of the crowd.
We've found, without exception, that the further off the path you travel, the more warmly you are welcomed. The locals realize how hard it is to get to an island that's not mainstream and they seem to appreciate the effort. If you're the only boat anchored in the harbor, you provide “flash”, as one Vanuatu chief told us. For sure, if you're the only sailboat there, you really stand out and it seems an open invitation for interaction with the locals. They're always as curious about us as we are about them.
Off the beaten path opens up all sorts of opportunities for out of the ordinary experiences. This is usually the time the 90-day rule kicks in and something extraordinary happens. Whether it be an invitation to someone's home for a local meal or a chance to visit some remote sight that most people never get the chance to see, much less know about.
I guess it comes down to why we cruise, doesn't it? Perhaps, a topic for another day.
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