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Off The Rock | Finding A Real Paradise

Guam is the travel destination where you can find a real paradise—a place far away from all reality, where you will be so blissfully bored you’ll have nothing else to do but lie on a beach, have a cocktail, enjoy a good book, and take a nap (perhaps consecutively or at the same time).

 Gab Gab Beach-- got a tan, got a nap, and only a magazine was trashed. (Photo credit: Wendie Burbridge)

Gab Gab Beach– got a tan, got a nap, and only a magazine was trashed. (Photo credit: Wendie Burbridge)

Hafa adai (pronounced “half-a-day”— really, I’m not kidding) is Guam’s version of “Aloha.” It means “hello” in Chamorro, the language of the native people of Guam. It is also humorously referred to as the way Guamanians work and play—very laid back and casual.

And for any frazzled American—laid back and casual is how we want to spend any vacation or holiday—right? Yet, it always amazes me that when I go on a trip or vacation, all I seem to do is create a schedule of events and plan my days “off” with everything but relaxing moments. Sometimes I feel like planning for a vacation is more like planning a strategic military offensive. Sometimes I just really want to get a tan, read a trashy magazine, and drink until I am blind.

And believe me, Guam is the place where you can do just that. Sure, there’s a lot of history on the island, and a number of World War II monuments, as well as rich Chamorro history and culture, but after you see all of that, there is little else to do but to relax and unwind. I was forced not to check my e-mail every five minutes (no cell phone use in Guam, unless you want to pay international phone rates), so my social media demands were killed. I didn’t have to plan for hours of driving, sell an organ to buy amusement park tickets, or have any kind of schedule. I woke up when I woke up, drove to a beach, parked my butt, read a book, swam, snorkeled, took some pictures, took a nap, met friends for drinks, had more drinks, and then went to bed to do this all again the next day. Not a hard days vacation, right?

 Agat Beach-- the Marine's landed here. Wouldn't you? (Photo credit: Wendie Burbridge)

Agat Beach– the Marine’s landed here. Wouldn’t you? (Photo credit: Wendie Burbridge)

Now I know Guam is usually not on the top of a “Dream Getaway” or a “Win a Trip for Two to Sunny Guam” listing in any travel magazine—but it really should be. Guam is where you can completely relax, and get away from it all. So when my husband suggested it, I agreed we should spend our winter break there– it seemed ideal– warm, sunny, a chance to visit with dear friends we hadn’t seen in years, good food, and lots of beach time. It was a no brainer.

Guam is basically a small island in the Pacific Ocean and the Philippine Sea. It played a large part in World War II and is still a major strategic base for the U.S. military. I want to say it’s like Hawaiʻi, but it’s really not—there’s a lot less traffic, less people, and less tourists. It’s more humid and everyone moves and lives at a much slower pace. It is one flight away from Honolulu, no layovers, no transfers, no real problems for anyone to get there. It’s technically a foreign country, even though it is a U.S. territory, and you will need a passport to enter and exit the country.

 Japanese pill boxes, reminders of the Japanese occupation of Guam during World War II, can still be found all over the island. (Photo credit: Wendie Burbridge)

Japanese pill boxes, reminders of the Japanese occupation of Guam during World War II, can still be found all over the island. (Photo credit: Wendie Burbridge)

The island is beautiful, green and lush, where caribous often roam freely, and the beaches for the most part are undeveloped, complete with remnants of the Japanese pill boxes from World War II. The people are incredibly friendly—in two weeks I did not meet a rude server, shopkeeper, or salesclerk on the island. Even when I was being a pushy customer, or demanded some sort of special accommodation, they were willing to do what they needed to make me happy. How many of your local businesses can you say that about?

The food is amazing—eat chicken kelaguen, beef tinaktak, fried pita bread, and red rice until you are stuffed. Forget carbs, counting points, and calories, and just eat it all. If you need nightlife there are a few things to do– nightclubs and karaoke bars if you want to dance and have fun that way. Visiting Guam is Japan’s alternative to the Hawaiian vacation, so they have a small strip of high-end shops and hotels in Tumon Bay called Japantown, but if you want more local flavor, visit Chamorran Village for authentic Chamorro dancing, food, and culture. Visit the National Park’s “War in the Pacific” sites, the Governor’s Mansion, The Plaza de Espana, Latte Stone Park, Talafofo Falls, the Spanish Fort, Magellan’s Landing, and Two Lover’s Point.

 Traditional Chamorro Latte stones. (Photo credit: Wendie Burbridge)

Traditional Chamorro Latte stones. (Photo credit: Wendie Burbridge)

That seems like a lot to see and do– but you can basically do it all in a day or two if depending on how much time you want to spend at each spot. Once we drove around the island and visited the historic spots– there wasn’t a lot left to do except relax. But perhaps that’s what we all need– a deserted island with beautiful beaches and even better restaurants. Perhaps getting stranded on Guam is the best way to really vacation, because all I know is, after two weeks on Guam, I was rested. I spent time, real time, talking with my family, and with the dear friends who were wonderful enough to welcome us into their homes. People looked at our faces, and said “Hafa adai” with complete sincerity, and even though we were just guests– they made us feel at home.

My advice to you when you’re picking your next island get away? Strand yourself on Guam. Your stress level and your busy hectic crazy life won’t ever regret it.

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About Wendie Burbridge (15 Articles)
Wendie Burbridge is a Contributing Editor for Sweatpants & Coffee. She also writes the popular Hawaii Five-0 blog “The Five-0 Redux” for The Pulse, the online magazine for The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Her fiction, poetry, and plays have been published several times in different literary journals and textbooks, most notably by Bamboo Ridge Press, ‘Ōiwi: A Native Hawaiian Journal, Fat Ulu Productions, and Autumn House Press.

11 Comments on Off The Rock | Finding A Real Paradise

  1. Wow…Guam sounds like an amazing place and I totally agree with you about vacations. My most favorite mainland place to vacation is the Outer Banks of North Carolina just for the types of reasons you state. There is plenty of things to do there if you want to go look for them but they’re not screaming in your face like so many vacation destinations. I remember the first time we took our daughter to Disney we felt like if we didn’t do EVERYTHING we were missing out on the experience and by the time we came home from vacation we needed a vacation!!! We were exhausted.

    That’s why I love the Outer Banks. If I want to do something there is no shortage of things to do but if I just want to VACATE on my vacation I can do that too without feeling like I’ve missed anything. I go there because it is relatively remote and not super crowded. When I go to the beach there is always a fairly wide distance between us and the next blanket over. I can sit back and enjoy the sounds of the water and the sea birds, lose myself in a trashy novel and vegetate.

    I kind of think about it in one of two ways. There is a TRIP and then there is VACATION. A trip is like Disney, tons of stuff to see and do and it’s exhilarating and exciting and a ton of fun and positively exhausting. Then there is vacation. I can take a vacation at home if I have to because as long as there is quite, rest, no schedule, good food, good company and peace…I have vacated my life and can relax.

    Although I’ll probably never get there Guam sounds like an amazing place to do just that. Thanks for letting me live vicariously through you again! ♥

    • ohhh Outer Banks, NC sounds like a place I need to get myself to soon! Thanks Linda:) I’m with you- sometimes we go on a Trip and sometimes it’s a Vacation! And I usually want a Vacation! 😀 Awesome distinction. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and your experiences. Love that you could relate to my time in Guam. It really is special that we can find these tucked away gems and find places to relax and just BE:)

      Thanks Linda- for reading and commenting and for your wonderful support! Aloha, Wendie

      • The Outer Banks are really awesome. As soon as I cross over the bridge into Dare County and smell the sea I can feel my entire body de-stress. I’ve been begging Den to let us move there for decades! LOL

        Being down south now, it’s totally doable for you Wendie. If you DO go, head down to Hatteras Island in the Southern Outer Banks. It’s a bit more remote than Nags Head or Kill Devil Hills where there are more condos and actual hotels. Hatteras Island is mostly all individual houses with plenty of space between them. The beaches are never crowded and to the north of Rodanthe (yes, as in Nights in Rodanthe) there is a 26 miles National Wildlife Refuge called Pea Island Reserve where houses are not permitted. Walking on that beach is like going back in time. Not a soul in sight, nothing but sand, air, water, birds and peace. There is another almost 30 mile stretch to the south that’s the same. Ahhhhhhhhh I feel the calm as I type!

        If you ever want to go let me know and I’ll give you all the info for the realtor we use when we go. I use them every time.

  2. OOOh I want to go now!!! never thought Guam in a million years but now I have to add it to my bucket list!!! thanks Wendie!!

    • Dina! I know it seems like a different kind of add to a Bucket List- but I really loved it there. I hope you get to one or more of your tropical dream destinations SOON:) XO Mahalo for commenting and supporting! Aloha, Wendie

  3. Ahh Guam, the place where my husband learned the difference between wasabi and guacamole (the hard way) while seated next to the Lt. Governor at a formal dinner. Good times. I didn’t get to go but I want to, even if it is just for the snorkeling. I think I would need to stay a while to recover from the 17 hour flight. Ugh. I am like you, I plan too much for vacations. I love the days where we just get up and not have any agenda. I am enjoying the “mini-vacations” that you are posting. Thanks for the great article and pictures.

    • Hi Kathy-
      Whoops! Wow! That must have been a tastebud shocker for your husband. Yikes- Wasabi would really shock you when you think you’re getting a dab of Guac. LOL I hope he recovered okay:)
      My hubs and son went snorkeling at Gab Gab Beach and they said it was amazing. I’m not that brave, but I’m sure you would enjoy it. The beaches really are lovely- and warm. I know 17 hours is long- but you could stop in Hawaiʻi and catch a breather:) And don’t plan when you hit Guam- believe me, just drive with your swim stuff in the car and stop at a beach and then go find food- it’s not hard and not far- you can’t get lost! 😀 And then again- if you did get lost- no harm, there’s another beach, and another restaurant around the corner:) Lazy days make for perfect vacations:) Thanks for taking the time to comment Kathy! Aloha, Wendie

  4. Guam, you say? Well, of course I have a story! The neighboring ranch was sold to a new family a few years ago. The older son was retiring from 18 years in the Navy (get this, stationed at Pearl!) he moved his wife and 3 daughters from Hawaii to Montana…and his wife, Helen, was Guamanian! What a delightful lady! The hardest thing in the world for her was learning to drive, and being so far away from the ocean! She loved to talk about her homeland and her family. She was always telling me to go visit Guam! It sounds like I should! The family moved on a few years back, but they’re still in Montana.

    Now, your idea of a vacation sounds wonderful to me, but this is where my husband and I differ in opinions. He HAS to be doing something all the time, all the time! He’ll happily drive all over an area to find things to see – he doesn’t golf, and he really doesn’t swim, but he loves to explore! He’s an “off the beaten path” kind of guy! But I like spa days, longggg lunches, a little shopping, and, of course, a good trashy novel, too! So, actually, Guam sounds like a perfect compromise for us! But it is kind of far away from Montana…

    • Well- if you get to Hawai’i- Guam is not too far- and your hubs can explore and explore and explore- and leave you on the beach to read and relax:) Love your story about your Guamanian friend- it is different being an island girl living away from the ocean- I can relate to that. I’m hoping you can get to visit Guam at some point- maybe just you and the hubs and no family with you- that may make it an extra special “get away”:) Thanks for reading and commenting Lynnette! Aloha, Wendie

  5. I gotta try this one out.

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