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There comes a time when all you want to do is abandon life as you know it and set out in search of the unknown. I went through something similar about two years ago. Back then I didn’t realize that the decision to move to Tahaa, a remote island in the French Polynesia, would prove to be the best decision of my life.
So, on July 2015, I quit my job, packed my bags and caught my flight to Bora Bora. At first I had only thought of it as an elongated vacation that I desperately needed. Travelling over 5,000 miles all the way from Montana to the French Polynesia, little did I know that this place would win my heart too soon to change my mind.
Since I landed there in the summer, it was almost as if I was one of the seasonal tourists that visit the Polynesia’s signature island – the Bora Bora. While it would have been a dream come true to indulge in the luxury of one of the opulent overwater private bungalows or spend a day or two on a resort on the Pearl of the Pacific – the extravagance just didn’t suit my budget.
Yes, I had saved enough to afford a little luxury, but hey! I planned to spend at least six months in the Polynesia – and there are over a hundred islands in it.
So I settled for one of the small lodgings run by local families. Best thing to do if you want a deeper insight into the culture and experience life closely! Bora Bora was nice, but in all honesty, I was looking for something more peaceful and less crowded.
On my second morning in Bora Bora, I saw a distant lagoon that seemed like just the place I was looking for. Upon asking the local accompanying me about it, I found out:
“That’s Tahaa. Not many people live there.“
It was the second sentence that caught my attention. A little more digging and I found out that Tahaa is the lesser known island of the Society Archipelago, with barely a population of 5,000 people. This is where I wanted to be, but what seemed so near that morning from the coast of Bora Bora turned out to be a distance covered via two flights and a boat trip!
The minute I set foot on the island of rolling hills, sleepy villages, pristine beaches and gorgeous gardenias, it started to rain. The sky turned dark, the clouds pouring down – not the most ideal welcome, but I was too high-spirited to be irked by this.
By the way, did you know that most of the vanilla beans used in high-end restaurants across the world come from Tahaa?
Well, even I found out about that after moving to Tahaa. The place has lush vanilla plantations in abundance and they are the most fragrant vanilla beans I’ve ever come across. My hosts were the Moreaus – a local family of four who were kind enough to let me be their guests for more than two months. Cortez, the lodge owner, told me that vanilla beans and black pearls both form premier exports of the French Polynesia and they come from Tahaa. The man was even kind enough to take me to a black pearl farm.
After over two months of living with the Moreau family, I realized I had to find myself a job and probably my own place – because Tahaa won me over in a week and there was no way I was leaving the place anytime soon.
I soon found a job at a local school in Raiatea as an English teacher. I am still working the same job. It earns a decent income and that’s enough to pay the bills and some low key luxury. Like enjoying a refreshing cocktail on the beach overlooking the spectacular horizon. If nothing else, I have for sure perfected the Poisson Cru – a local delicacy Ada Moreau taught me when I first came to Tahaa.
While the staggering beauty of the place is enough to make most people fall in love with Tahaa Island, two years of living here have given me a lot more than its natural grandeur to cherish about the place. It’s the ocean’s balmy warmth, the perfectly tasting mangoes, the rain that often patters on the roof, the glorious gardenias that aromatize the surrounding in full bloom, or the peaceful sea turtle accompanying me while I swim.
Yes, living here has its challenges – like catching a boat every morning to Raiatea for work, or the unexpected rain showers that come out of nowhere – but life here is simple. There is less of fear, stress and anxiety that is common in big city life. The locals are great, I made friends in no time and kids back at the school love me.
Do I miss Montana? Yes! Would I want to trade this life for a chance to go back there? Probably not, unless I’m planning a city vacation.
For more island living, check out Living in Tenerife.