How to Move to Tahiti

How-to-Move-to-Tahiti
Paul Sloan and family in TahitiCredit

When Paul Sloan and his wife, Suzanne, decided to move with their 4-year-old son from California to Tahiti, the discussion only took three minutes. The island of Moorea, after all, does carry some personal history: Suzanne grew up there, and the couple first met while Paul was working on the island as a scuba instructor. These days they're living a family-sized island dream: Paul working as a business developer for a pearl farmer and Suzanne chasing their son through the lagoons she grew up in. Sure beats white picket fences. We asked Paul how they did it.

How long did you plan the move before you executed it? The discussion/decision was literally a 3-minute process. It was actually kind of funny, we were so motivated. The logistics timeline of the move went basically as follows:

  • March, made the decision
  • April, roughed out some planning and organization
  • May, gave 2-months notice to my job
  • June, sold our house, car, & stuff
  • July, spent 1-month vacation with my family in California
  • August, we were living in Moorea.

What was the biggest challenge as you were planning? Digitizing everything to do with our life. We moved all our accounts online (those we needed to keep) so they could be managed remotely via the Internet with secure backup, and no paper. We arrived in Moorea with a laptop and an iPod loaded with all our music and photos.

Now that you're there? The biggest challenge upon arrival was creating a new paper trail for ourselves. I couldn't set up a local bank account without a local cell phone account, and I couldn't set up a local cell phone account without a local bank account. Was comically frustrating, but we eventually broke the catch 22 cycle and got both. (The bank guy was the smarter one…) Today, we don't really have any big challenges; life is pretty easy, even if slow paced. Going cold turkey on the 24-hour news cycle was tough for me personally, but I eventually realized that it was kind of like having your appendix removed (in that you may not have really needed it anyway…)

What exactly are you doing for the pearl farmer? I lead a team overseeing the international marketing and business development for our wholesale and retail jewelry divisions. I interact with talented designers creating jewelry collections featuring Gilbert Wane Pearls of Tahiti, and coordinate our product sales networks through our global distribution offices in Hong Kong and Japan. We also recently opened our first retail store in the US, in Denver, with additional US expansion planned for 2008. I also liaise with UC Berkeley for the company's partnership with the university on ongoing research and a number of environmental projects. In between, I make coffee

How did you make your dream a reality in terms of finance? When we began letting people know of our impending move to Tahiti I was approached with a number of employment opportunities. My current position with Gilbert Wane Pearls of Tahiti came about via a mutual contact at UC Berkeley.

Do you own property on the island? Yes, we bought land and built our house on it.

You've lived on the island once before, correct? How is it different this time? I first lived on Moorea working as a young, single SCUBA Instructor living in a resort where everything was done for you (meals, cleaning, laundry, etc). It was not really "real life". Now we live a family life, with everything mundane and wonderful that entails

What special considerations did you make in terms of moving with Maui? We bought clothes for him in a range of sizes knowing he would be growing and our shopping options might be limited.

How long do you plan on staying in Moorea? Not sure. At some point down the road we will need to consider options for Maui's higher education, but for the foreseeable future our life is here.

Do you make it back to the states very much? About once a year. Fortunately, everyone down here automatically gets 5 weeks paid vacation (French system) so it is easier to make extended trips. My relatives also come down here once in a while, too, so oddly enough we have ended up spending more time together since moving here than when we all lived in California.

At what moment did you realize you were "living the dream"? Everyday is pretty great, but there was one specific moment it hit me. It was just at sunset at the end of a lovely golden day, the "Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" ukulele medley by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was playing on my iPod, my wife was out on our deck watching the waves with the sea breeze in her hair, our 3-year-old son was running circles on the grass in front of the house pretending he was an airplane…the scene was so happy and peaceful, and I swear seemed to be playing entirely in slow motion. It was truly a moment of life perfection.

Facts of Life

  • Flip-flop quotient (out of five): A very strong 4.5
  • Expats to locals: Moorea has about 14,471 inhabitants, and last count about 41 Americans.
  • Population of main town: The main town is Maharepa, about 8,881 people.
  • Languages spoken: Tahitian and French (both official), English for tourists.
  • Get there from the U.S. (the fastest route): daily flights from LAX via Air Tahiti Nui.
  • Closest hospital: Local one on Moorea (15-minute drive), big one on Tahiti (7-minutes).