The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!
I recently had the privilege and pleasure of hosting two visitors to Saipan. Ricardo and Cristina De Leon are from South America. He is from Colombia, and she is from Guatemala. The couple are on a round-the-world trip visiting countries in this region and chose Saipan for a four-day stay in May.
While driving around the island, I called them at their hotel in Garapan to offer them my Jamaican-on-Saipan-off-the-beaten path tour of the island, but found that they needed no help at all!
Cristy: (by phone) “….we visited Mount Tapochau, Forbidden island, Banzaii Cliff, we met local residents who invited us into their homes, we toured from north to south! There’s not an inch of the island we haven’t seen!”
Walt: Wow, maybe I should be asking YOU to give ME a tour!
Later that evening, we met in their hotel lobby, and I got to know Cristy and Ricky even more. We talked about family, relationships, their travel adventures, and, of course, Saipan.
Walt: So, how did you two meet?
Cristy: We met in an airplane! It was in 1983, in March. We met in the airplane on a flight from Bogota, Colombia to Miami, Florida. He saw me sitting in the waiting area to board the plane. Then, after about 30 minutes or so after departure, he asked me if he could sit by my side. Of course, I said yes, and we talked all the way to Miami!
I was going to school in California, and was working for handicapped children and adults at that time. I was going back to Colombia to teach. That was my plan, but little did I know that he was going to rob my heart and make me live a way completely different from the one i had planned.
Ricky: Twenty-six years later, here we are!
Cristy: We’ve been to 129 countries together!
Walt: Wow! 129 countries. I’m really curious about that. Do you plan everything out first? Do you make contacts in each country first?
Cristy: We just go! Well, now we do a little more planning, but back in the 80s and 90s, things were a lot different. We would just show up at the airport, walk up to a counter and say, “We’ve got so many miles. Where can we go?”
The ticket agent would type away for a bit, then say, “Well, you can go to Australia, there’s a flight leaving in 10 minutes at gate 7. Here’s your ticket!”
Sometimes we’d get to the gate, and the flight would be full, and we’d end up somewhere completely unexpected. That’s what happened once. The flights were booked, so the ticket agent said, “Well, there’s a flight leaving for Switzerland, so we ended up in Europe, but we had packed for the tropics! We have some great pictures of me shivering! But, it was a lot of fun!
This time, we got a “Round-The-World” ticket.* But we don’t usually make contacts first. That’s part of the adventure!
[*Search for “RTW” at wikitravel.org]
Walt: So, what brings you to Saipan?
Cristy: Well, when you’ve traveled all around the world, you ask yourself what else is there? We found your sites on the internet and contacted you. So, thanks for making this trip possible.
Walt: You’re welcome. So, now that you’re here, what do you think?
Cristy: The energy here is awesome! It’s a healthy place to be! The air here is so pure.
Walt: Well, you know, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, Saipan ranks number 55 out of 56 states and territories for air pollution*. In other words, we’ve got the cleanest air in America! [See 2008 CNMI Toxic Release Data at www.epa.gov]
Ricky: (To Cristy) See, I told you! I mentioned to Cristy that I could feel the difference in the air here when we were at Forbidden Island.
Walt: I’m impressed that you found Forbidden Island and trekked all the way down on your own!
Cristy: We learned a long time ago that the regular tourist experience is very limited. We like to get to meet people and find out what life is like. A lot of people just visit a place. We like to experience a place!
Walt: Any suggestions of how we here on Saipan can improve that experience?
Cristy: We’re very adventurous, and we know how to get around. But, we’d love if there was more signage. You know, a consistent sequence of signs that say go this way, then go this way to find what you’re looking for. Especially when we were going to Mount Tapochau. There was that first sign, and then, not much else.
Walt: I’ll see what I can do! Anything else?
Rick: Also, is there anything you can do about the garbage we saw?
Walt: What do you mean?
Rick: Well, some of the places we went to had a lot of trash about the place. What was odd was that a lot of it was actually in garbage bags. So, it seemed people were dumping there.
Walt: There’s actually an organization called BeautifyCNMI, that was started to address that very issue. Volunteers organize to pick up trash around the island and educate the population. Things have improved a lot, but I guess there’s still work to do.
Cristy: I was looking for information on Saipan online, and except for your sites, I really couldn’t find what I was looking for. Even your sites didn’t have the-- [This would be where we turn of the “microphone” and Cristy shares some of her suggestions and world-traveler wisdom for me to improve my Saipan websites! Sorry folks! This is “market research!” I don’t share everything, you know!]
Walt: Thanks, Cristy. I’ll add those to my sites right away!
Cristy: You’re welcome. And don’t be afraid to just pick up and go! You don’t need to know people there. Just do it! In fact, I’ll give you a homework assignment. Check out Siem Reap, Cambodia. We’re going there as part of our ticket, and I think you’d like it. Maybe we’ll see you there!
Walt: So, where are you off to next?
Cristy: Back through Guam on the way to Fiji, then Vietnam…
Walt: Any final words?
Ricky: Well, Saipan has got a sensation of safety and security you don’t find everywhere. Everywhere else, you’re constantly looking over your shoulder!
Cristy: It’s such an exotic destination. It really is! I’m so glad we came!
Note: Ever wanted to direct your friends and family to a set of websites that revealed the best things about Saipan? Do what I do: send them to www.bestofsaipan.com!
Note: Fans and followers of the books, Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin: Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan (saipanfactorygirl.com) or Jamaican on Saipan (jamaicanonsaipan.com), or Doing Business on Saipan (saipanliving.com) may place orders on those sites, or…..yes, AMAZON.COM!