One day we may disappear, but for now Tālofa!
By Morgan Hannah, Life & Style Editor
I spent a day wandering around my gulf island neighbourhood asking people if they knew what Tuvalu was. The results were quite varied but never on point. Most people thought that Tuvalu was a band or an artist of some sort, others thought it was a new brand of retail, or a place to go for lunch. No one guessed that it was a country. Although, you could go there for lunch, so… points awarded!
Admittedly, I also didn’t know what Tuvalu was until recently. I’ve been fighting a bad case of the travel bug lately and unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the cure is in limited supply. Sure, I could travel within Canada still, but so can all the rest of Canada, which makes everywhere highly touristy right now. Having made the extreme choice to move to a British Columbian gulf island to get away from the crowds, I’m not quite ready to leap back into them anytime soon—which has reshaped the way I plan to travel in the future when COVID settles down.
So, I Googled “the least travelled countries in the world” and was pleasantly surprised with a list from the site farandwide.com. A particular article titled “The World’s Least-Visited Countries—And Why You Should Check Them Out,” by Meagan Drillinger is officially my new bucket list of 30 places to travel to. The list includes some unexpected locations: Madagascar (a country I totally thought was more travelled than it is), Bhutan, a landlocked Eastern Himalayan Buddhist paradise that I recently learned about, and French Polynesia, a tropical island slice of heaven that I have been meaning to check out for some time now. Number one on Drillinger’s list is Tuvalu, a tiny, independent country in the South Pacific located halfway between Hawaii and Australia that is but a smidgen of land.
With a total population of around 11,800 people scattered across nine thin islands and the centre entirely filled in by the ocean, Tuvalu has fewer tourists than most live-music venues at any given time! Ornamented with palm trees, the sparsely populated island chains are outlined with soft white sand. Among the amenities to partake in are tropical fish to chase while snorkeling, uninhabited outlying islands to explore, and historic WWII attractions. For travelers that require more than a sandy strip of beach to sink their sandals into, perhaps Tuvalu isn’t ideal, but to me it sounds perfect.
Tuvalu does not have any real city infrastructure. There is an airport, a bank, a hospital, and a road which stretches across the length of the Archipelago. Anywhere you stand in Tuvalu is an easy view of the entire country. But the country makes up for its lack of infrastructure with its wholehearted familial culture and no homeless population—everyone is of the same family and everyone shares everything. #onelove
According to Drillinger, Fiji Airlines flies in and out every Tuesday and Thursday—don’t plan according to this flight schedule though, it is known to be the most unreliable flight service in the world and tourists are sometimes waiting upwards of a week to get home.
Another astonishing fact about Tuvalu is that its landmass is about the size of Disneyland and is one of the first countries that scientists which believe in man-made climate change estimate to disappear as a result of rising ocean levels. It’s sad to think that a country that is thought to contribute next to nothing towards climate change might experience the most change and one day disappear.
Another interesting Tuvalu fact: the country makes $5 million a year because its web addresses end with .tv, so websites like twitch.tv pay Tuvalu to use the web address ending. This may be a contributing factor to the high quality of life that Tuvaluans share—other factors include public education bringing adult literacy up to 99 percent, and the lifestyle of love that Tuvaluans have cultivated.
One day Tuvalu may disappear into the Pacific Ocean, but until then, the islanders welcome the few tourists who venture out with a warm and welcoming visit… I plan to be among them.