Charting my course

Part 1: The South Pacific (January – June 2023)

I started 2023 in Kosrae, one of the four main islands of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Although I’ve retraced my steps by returning to Kosrae, there are several reasons why I came back here:

  • After spending months slogging through dusty, dangerous parts of central Africa, I needed some R&R.
  • Kosrae provides the perfect R&R. I have a wonderful apartment on the beach. The people are great. I have worthwhile and satisfying work here.
  • The College of Micronesia needs teachers.
  • There’s an environmental issue involving a 50-year-old causeway that needs to be replaced. I’m here to meet with designers and engineers to help guide this process along.
  • For the first time in recorded history, Kosrae will experience a total solar eclipse on April 20, 2023. This will be my fourth eclipse in a row, which makes me officially an “eclipse chaser.”
  • Kosrae is a good base from which to visit six remote island nations on this side of the world that I haven’t seen yet.

And what are these countries? They’re not well-known places, that’s for sure:

  • Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) — Famous for the Bikini Atoll where the US detonated 23 nuclear devices between 1946 and 1958. I’ll avoid becoming radioactive by staying about 800 kilometers away from Bikini on the capital island of Majuro.
  • Kiribati — This country consists of 32 atolls and one remote raised coral island, dispersed over 35,000,000 km2 of ocean. I’ll spend most of my time snorkeling around the main island of Tarawa. Because Tarawa was the site of one of the fiercest battles of WW2 in the Pacific, there may be some good wreck diving here.
  • Nauru — In the 1980s, the mining of Nauru’s phosphate deposits made it one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita. Today, with only 200 tourists per year, Nauru is the least touristed country in the world.
  • Samoa — According to legend, Samoa is known as the “Cradle of Polynesia.” I’m going there to learn about Polynesian culture, see lots of tattoos, and visit Robert Lewis Stevenson’s grave.
  • Tonga — This country of 171 islands was known as the “Friendly Islands” because of the congenial reception Captain James Cook received on his first visit in 1773. Ironically, the king actually wanted to kill Cook, but didn’t go through with it because no one could agree on a plan of action. Tonga — officially the Kingdom of Tonga — is the only Pacific nation that was never colonized.
  • Tuvalu — This atoll is a microstate of only 26 km2. Its highest elevation is 4.6 meters. Tuvalu will be one of the first nations to disappear as the oceans rise. I figure I’d better see it while I still can!

When and if I see all six of these Pacific island nations, I’ll have visited 178 of the 193 members of the United Nations — leaving me with only 15 to go. The remaining 15 un-visited countries are on the other side of the world in Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Part 2: Africa (July – August 2022)

Please follow this blog and wish me luck for my adventures. Meanwhile, I’ll maintain a world map of the 170+ countries I’ve visited so far. As always, feel free to share this travel blog with your friends and family. Send suggestions or questions by email or post something in the comment section below each chapter.