WATT | The Long Story - Obsessed with Travel.

We are a New Zealand couple, Anne and Greg. Our passion is being involved with and showing traveller’s some of the many authentic travel destinations and cultures from around the world. We have a strong affinity for Vanuatu.

( 1 ) Travelling Together and Working Abroad

We met while at University/Training College and immediately travelled overseas together in our holiday breaks, working where we could over the university year to scrape together enough money for the trips. After graduating, we moved to Sydney where we lived for four years, exploring much of Australia as we did so.

From Sydney we moved to Papua New Guinea, where we lived and worked for about five years, and developed a deep fondness for the Pacific, its many cultures and tropical living. Papua New Guinea is a fascinating country that has amazing beauty and is truly one of the last frontiers in the world.

Over our time in PNG, we travelled both within PNG itself, and extensively throughout Asia for extended periods of time, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines to name a few. The island of Java especially was a favourite.

( 2 ) Back Home in New Zealand Again.

On returning to NZ to raise a family, travel was never far from our minds and along with numerous trips to Australia, other locations in the Pacific were explored including Fiji, Hawaii and the Cook Islands. The children were bought along at an early age.

As the children became older, we commenced travelling to Europe, a region we had always wanted to go but which had alluded us to that point. Owning our own businesses has enabled both of us to travel extensively. Travel has rarely been undertaken to just “fly and flop”, but instead the opportunity has been taken to learn as much about the destinations and their communities. We generally travel to one country at a time, exploring individual regions, trying to become immersed in it, and working out the essence of the locality and culture. In this way significant parts of France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Austria England, Belgium, Norway and Turkey have been explored.

Asia too has not been ignored, with Bali, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand being toured with the kids. Vietnam is a highlight, both culturally and in regard to the friendliness of the people, especially considering the clashing histories of our Countries.

( 3 ) Developing "Sanddollar | Vanuatu".
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The Pacific would often be talked about in the extended family, and we had always looked for opportunities to become involved in the tropics again. An opportunity arose to become involved in Vanuatu in conjunction with the wider family, and in 2004 we became involved with Sanddollar Vanuatu. Sanddollar provides quality island holiday accommodation, in a truly idyllic setting, where you can be as far away or a close to civilization as you want.

( 4 ) Hobsonville House | Bed and Breakfast

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In 2008 we spent the two years renovating our house in Auckland New Zealand, to accommodate guests. The house was originally an old bungalow and its function and purpose changed over the prior years, and it was not until after a series of building consents, that it took its final configuration. The result was a building with heaps of character, extending an inviting stay for those travelling through New Zealand. Being able to provide visitors with a glimpse of what makes New Zealand unique gave us both enormous satisfaction, and that passion lead to being voted in the top ten international Bed & breakfast’s in 2013 by bedandbreakfast.com.
Unfortunately, being pulled between our obligations and responsibilities in Vanuatu and to Hobsonville House, lead to the realization that we couldn’t be in two places at once. The pull of the Pacific proved stronger, and with much sadness, the Hobsonville property was sold.

( 5 ) Being Involved | Tanna-Adventures.

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Over the years we have been privileged to have been given an insight to the rich, and vibrant side of ‘Kastom‘ that is so highly evolved on Tanna Island, Vanuatu.

While we had travelled to Santo a couple of times, we did not venture to Tanna for some time. Once there we were struck by the fact that the landscape appeared to be a mix of New Zealand and tropical bush, with lush tropical vegetation combining with huge tree ferns and Banyan trees. With the ever present rumblings of Mt Yasur on the south of the island, adjacent to Port Resolution (named after Captain Cooks first visit there), an image of a rugged but stunning topography is invoked.

The highlight however is the people. When asked if we could help a couple of villages with their tourism projects, we were only too happy to provide a mentoring role. Tanna-Adventures has evolved from a modest accommodation and tour operation located in a unique idyllic part of Tanna, into one of the premier tourist and traveller operations on the island. This is due to in large, to the friendly personality and service provided by Esso, Rachel and their community in Middlebush.

( 6 ) More Recent Times.

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To help communities further their tourism aspirations, there came the realization that we too needed to up-skill ourselves and to this end Greg went back to full time study in Tourism and Hospitality at AUT University at the beginning of 2015 . The result has lead to us being invigorated about travel, tourism and the unique culture and authenticity that is associated with Melanesian society. Already we have been able to utilise the increased knowledge to move communities forward with what they want to do.

Unfortunately, first Cyclone Pam and more lately Cyclone Winstone, swept through Vanuatu and Fiji respectively, causing incredible hardship and disruption to many in these countries. We have been involved in our own small way in developing ways to increase the resilience of Island Communities to such catastrophes.

( 7 ) Moving Forward with Authentic Travel.

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A focus for us to become more strongly aligned to helping island communities to move forward in a manner that allows them to retain their community identity and cultural authenticity. A number of small but hopefully important initiatives have germinated and are progressing. These utilize tourism to provide viable village economies, and realistic job opportunities that will help stem the migration of young people away from their “Kastom” land.

A recent visit to the developed tourist treking trails that have been established in Nepal has lead us to the belief that a strong island-centric tourism structure is possible, which would help island peoples to forge their own future.

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By Greg Watt avid traveller and author of travel websites and blogs. For an insight into all things travel in Greg's life have a look at WATT's | About Us pages. Always with an opinion regarding travelling, you can keep up to date and share travel insights with Greg at Vanuatu Traveller's Facebook Page for things in the Pacific, or Traveller-Info's Facebook Page for things elsewhere in the world,  or with Greg himself on his Linkedin Page or  Google+ Page.