Over the summer I took a trip to New Zealand and Fiji. I spent my time in Fiji on just one island dubbed Vorovoro by Tribewanted. Now, Tribewanted is a pretty wild eco-tourism/online community/adventure travel/communE-like experience. The group leased half of a Fijian island for 3 years. Tribe members have been voting and discussing online since mid-2006 regarding what to build and how things should be run. It was pretty incredible to be a part of the development, watch the progress, and then show up on the island to see what had been accomplished and meet the people behind it. The main point of the experiment is to have travelers very involved in the development (yup, most visitors join in the building and managing of the projects) 0f an extremely environmentally friendly and locally sensitive vacation spot.
The entire project was sanctioned by the local chief and employs a group of locals as well. It is perhaps cliche but it was incredible to see how happy everyone is on the island. No electricity. No running water. No phones. No hospitals anywhere close by. Yet, they pretty much laugh all day long. On regular occasions they come together to drink kava, a root that is pounded into a paste and squeezed into a communal bowl of water. It ends up looking like muddy water, but it is a mild narcotic. Every night they got together and invited us tourists as well to sit, sing, drink, and talk late into the night.
It’s a shame, though: a site called the Jem Report comes up in the first few results when you Google Tribewanted. The headline for that link? “Is Tribewanted.com a scam?” Now, Tribewanted has been going strong since September of 2006 and I can say, having spent a week there, it is very much not a scam and actually an incredible experience. If you go to that site, you’ll see the post has been up since July of 2006, when, granted, it was valid to have doubts about the project. Unfortunately you can’t easily email Jem and the only way to respond to the post is to register on the site and put a post up on the forum which is wildly unsatisfying.
I remember, around that time, Tribewanted had set a limit of 5,000 participants over the first 3 years. I found out about it when they had about 500 members paid up and was worried it might hit the tipping point and fill up within days. In part because of the above post (and the military coup several months later didn’t help either), I believe, the number of members shot up to 1,200 or so and pretty much stayed there. It is now at 1,328.
Hopefully this link will fall down the ranking once the book by Ben Keene about the first year and the BBC 5 hour documentary are released in the spring. (Ben is a great guy. I talked to him for hours about Tribewanted and his plans, etc. Can’t wait for the book and to pick myself out in the documentary.) For further proof: here are my flickr photos and some MP3s of songs we danced to during the wedding held on the island.
So if you’re looking for something completely different on your next vacation, check out Tribewanted.