Four years ago Kate and I set off to Sāmoa. Kate would teach part-time at an Apia school while I’d write a travel blog. Also I wanted to research settings – some in-the-moment verisimilitude – for the novel that would become Both Feet in Paradise.
Writing on an island in the middle of the Pacific was going to be easy. Pen to paper, drink to lips, sunhat to head – et voilà! – before I knew it I’d have chilled copy. Except we weren’t staying in a swanky hotel but a downtown apartment without internet. Posting daily blogs required persistence plus any stray Wi-Fi reception I could find. On one occasion I had to take myself and my laptop along to a deserted Fugalei market at night – the only place I could access a Blue Sky hotspot to file that day’s happenings.
Sāmoa threw up regular distractions to the routine of writing. Our room grew as hot as a steam pressed collar by midday, then came the embarrassment of muzak from all the two-tālā shops across the street. I had to escape – first to the library, then a nearby hotel bar, and finally to a beach on the south coast. A whole ocean of inquisitive fish wanted to meet me.
If you’ve ever tried writing anything from a beach, you know the pitfalls. Sunlight on your screen, the cries of seabirds in your ears, and sand between your keys. If you try writing the old-fashioned way, there is nothing to lean against other than your knees. Maybe it is more straightforward – and just as authentic – to stay home and create from the safety of your desk. After all, Frankie never went to Hollywood, Shakespeare is unlikely to have bartered in Venice, and Jules Verne definitely never wrote anything at the centre of the Earth. Perhaps I’d made a big mistake and should never have come here?
To be continued… as writing notes from Sāmoa part 2.