Walking down memory lane (or Beach road to be exact) is Danish journalist Mikkel and his Bulgarian wife Gergana.
Dear Tourist finds out that this is a special trip for the European couple for a number of reasons; the first being that they are here to celebrate Mikkel’s 40th birthday in a place that wife, Gergana, describes as Mikkel’s “spiritual home”.
Mikkel came to visit Samoa two decades ago on his 20th birthday.
Samoa had such a lasting effect on him that he would speak often about his Samoan adventures to anyone when he returned home to Denmark.
His tales of Samoa eventually caught the attention of a special lady - his now wife, Gergana.
“When I first met Mikkel, Samoa was the first thing he told me about and because he spent three months here, I heard a lot about this place,” said Gergana.
“It was such a long time ago, but he was talking a lot about Samoa and how it is his favourite place, so when his 40th birthday came up, I thought we’re going to go to this place and visit again.”
Reminiscing on his last trip to Samoa, Mikkel started out his twenties by embarking on a big adventure on a small island- quite by accident he tells Dear Tourist.
In a series of “random” events, the young Mikkel found himself participating in the 1997 Samoa Games.
“Back then the dateline was on this side, so I celebrated my birthday first in New Zealand and then I landed in Samoa on Saturday and celebrated my birthday again and that was pretty nice so I had a birthday for like three days,” he laughs.
“The Samoa Games just kind of happened, everyone was just inviting us in and then all of a sudden we were discussing with the officials about participating and we were discussing which sports and we decided it would be football (soccer). I remember we had to go around all the hostels to recruit players.”
Gergana knows this story so well that she adds: “Mikkel decided to make a team, a Danish team representing Denmark but instead they just collected a bunch of tourists and called them Denmark.”
The “Denmark” soccer team made up of all tourists eventually played the opening game at the Samoa games losing 11-1 but he didn’t care because he thought it was just amazing to even participate.
“We didn’t think about it as a national team, we just said we were going to get a bunch of people together to make a team,” Mikkel said.
“At the opening ceremony, this little Boy Scout was walking in front of us with a sign that said Denmark, so then we were introduced as the soccer team for Denmark,” he laughed.
Gergana, for one, is excited to discover Samoa’s charm for herself and find out why her husband has had such a soft spot for an island half away across the world.
“For us, where we come from, this is the furthest place in the world you could go to – it’s not New Zealand, it’s not Fiji but it’s Samoa,” said Gergana.
“We took a 45-hour trip just to come here. We didn’t have a layover on the way here, it was just straight. This is a very a special time for us and this is a special place and I love it.”
The couple, being keen travelers, have visited many countries and having journeyed two days to Samoa, Gergana was relieved that while the distance was long, it was worth it for a number of reasons.
“We go to a lot of different countries, we went to Cuba in January and we don’t speak Spanish very well but here because we are all speaking the same language (English) it just makes it so much easier and people are very approachable and accommodating and everyone is very chatty and they want to talk to us about what they are doing whether it’s collecting flowers or collecting leaves,” said Gergana.
“People just take their time to walk towards us and tell us about what they are doing. You don’t see that in many places. Even in some other secluded places in the world, they can be very protective and I think here in Samoa, people want to share.”