He touched down on our shores on Tuesday this week, and so far, Graham Grover from London, England, is in love with Samoa.
So much so, that it made him wonder why he left Samoa as the last destination to visit on his bucket list of places to visit in the South Pacific.
Speaking to the Dear Tourist team, the jovial man said it was always his dream to travel the world ever since he was a small kid.
Remembering how he began his journey to parts of the world was somehow vague, but he recalled that it all began when he was a teenager.
“I was just a little kid who was fascinated by South America. I also remember when I was about 13 years old; I had a beautiful photographic book published by Air France. When I got that book, it really fired my imagination as a teenager,” Mr. Grover said.
He said the book showed him the beauty of the South Pacific Islands, including Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Tahiti, so he had it in his head to travel and visit the places surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean.
“But it took a little longer than I thought. But then I learned to speak Spanish and I spent a lot of time going to South America,” Mr. Grover said.
“It was not really a little later when I moved to Asia, in my 30s, I moved first to Hong Kong, Japan and then it became easier to get to the Pacific Islands, so I started investigating the islands.
“When I moved to Asia I was involved in the shipping services and it was an advantage because I get to travel the world, and you know London, Hong Kong and Tokyo have big shipping businesses.”
He first visited Tahiti (French Polynesia), Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and New Zealand for the first time about 25 years ago.
“That was pretty much the end of that trip,” Mr. Grover said.
“So now I am retired, and there’s nothing much really to do than to travel, my favourite thing to do.”
Mr. Grover has also visited New Caledonia, Tonga, Fiji and Kiribati.
“I don’t know why I left it so long to come to Samoa,” he said.
“I’ve only been here since yesterday (Tuesday) and I love it very much. Now the weather is clearing up, it’s beautiful.
“What I’ve seen so far, I guess I was bit surprised at how big Apia is. There are a lot of modern buildings and everybody is of course so friendly and yes very good impression so far. And I look forward to discovering some more.
“In this trip, I will be going through the United States, Columbia. First to New Zealand and then finally Canada and will decide from there.”
Mr. Grover travels not for the sake of leisure, but to learn more about different cultures and experience what places have to offer.
“Well there are a lot of things I like, beautiful natural places like Samoa; I also like modern buildings like museums, a number of things. Simple way to put it is that I always like to look around the next corner, as much as I like what’s on this side, I always like to think, hmmm, what’s over there? Well as long as I still can, I love to search and travel more.”
Mr. Grover has a lot on his wish list while here and all he wants to do is to visit as many places as he can and understand the local culture. “I will certainly have a look around this island, and then will certainly move over to the big island of Savai’i and explore the island.
“When I leave Samoa, I hope to get a little bit more understanding of South Pacific life, how it is, the reality as well as the beauty of it, I don’t have any connections, so no invitation to visit family, anyway it’s good to be with the people, and learn the culture. The people are very welcoming, but I haven’t tasted any local food, not yet I’ve only tasted pizza-like food,” he laughed.
Mr. Grover says to develop the local tourism industry depends on the people of Samoa.
“I’m not a professional in the tourism business, but it depends on what the Samoan people want, I think they need to make a decision on whether they want mass tourism or do they want to stay with more gentle, not too over developed.
“I don’t know whether the cruise ships come here, but if they do, I don’t know whether that’s good. You would want visitors to stay a little longer, learn about the culture and other things about Samoa.
“Let’s look at Fiji, it seems highly developed, with a whole range of things, but some of that are not so attractive.
“Perhaps for Samoa, the best thing for them to do is to preserve their natural surroundings, obviously people need jobs and to improve the economy, but Samoa strikes me as already doing really quite well, economically, but comparatively speaking,” he adds.
Mr. Grover said he always looked forward to returning to any place that he visited.
“Very rarely where I have been to a place and I feel like I don’t want to return. Oh I will always want to come back, yes.”
Don’t count him out yet.