A New Life in American Samoa

Exactly one year ago, today, Nate’s plane landed in American Samoa. Three weeks later the kids and I joined him. And so, began our new adventure in the South Pacific. This past year has been one of growth and learning, adventure and relaxation, frustration and fascination, sorrow and joy. Every family has a unique experience living here, this is ours:

New Meaning to Simplicity
Nate and the boys, relaxing in the ocean, after a long day of play

New Meaning to Simplicity

We’ve spent the last few years minimizing our possessions and time commitments, in exchange for more quality time and experiences. This took on a whole new meaning as we packed everything we owned into just a few suitcases and moved to American Samoa. We’ve been living with less than ever: Minimal kitchen supplies, very minimal furniture, and just a couple fish posters on our walls. As I home-schooled the kids this past year, we kept a loose schedule, which was always flexible enough to drop everything and head out for a hike or beach day. We maintain a family first policy for every Saturday and Sunday (with the exception of Nate having to work 24/7 for the month following Cyclone Gita). And I’ve got to tell you, we’ve loved it! We’ve been so spoiled here with the lack of clutter or commitments; I hope it never changes.

New Sight for Save the Oceans
One particularly trashed beach trail

New Sight for “Save Our Oceans”

I’ve never paid much attention to the environmentalists crying about our earth; I was perfectly happy in my ignorant little bubble of naivete. That came to an abrupt end after we moved to the island. The amount of garbage that washes up onto shore and the rest that no one sees unless their snorkeling is appalling! I’ve been sick to my stomach after some trips to the beach, when we’ve had to wade through trash to get to the pretty shoreline. We’ve begun instituting pretty severe bans on plastic use and wastefulness within our family.

New Understanding of Heat and Humidity
During one hot hike, Hadley harvested leaf fans for each of us

New Understanding of Heat and Humidity

After just a few days on the island, I realized that I hadn’t ever known what humidity meant. Supposedly, there are two seasons here- Summer and Winter or the Dry Season and the Wet Season, but all I’ve experienced is hot and humid. Mold, rust, and decay rule all! We’ve heard that it’s not so bad in houses with a/c, but we made the decision to go a/c free, so that one’s on us. On the plus side, we’ve actually had a few nights recently that got cool enough to turn the fan off and cover up with a lava lava; I’m talking 72° F. Brrr

New Levels of Patience
When I get too frustrated, I remind myself to take my eyes off the road just long enough to notice the beauty around me

New Levels of Road Rage Patience

I love the people of American Samoa, but on the road, they can be the kindest and most infuriating drivers! The top speed limit on the island is 25, but there are certain drivers that take that mean 15. You see a gobs of 4-wheel drive trucks and SUV’s that insist on slowing down to go over the endless potholes in the roads, driving at a pace even a snail would roll it’s eyes at. And don’t get me started on merging into traffic. Okay, I’ll tell you… The nice ones will stop in the middle of busy traffic to let cars in. The inconsiderate ones will jump out in front of you and then proceed to drive 10 mph, or if you stop to let one car in, the next ten will push their way out as well.

New Longing for Fresh
$15 per pound?!?!

New Longing for Fresh

I really miss having a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. You can find certain imported produce, but it’s usually far overpriced and often spoiled by the time it reaches the store shelves. There’s something to be said for the conservation of resources and I appreciate the fact that tons of fuel isn’t being burned through, just so we can have our fresh berries and kale, but I do still miss them. The one thing that makes it bearable, is that during the right seasons, we have access to incredibly fresh tropical fruits.

New Value in Friendships
The kids LOVE when we meet friends at the beach

New Value in Friendships

Moving to the other side of the world, can be lonely. So, we have relied on the kindness and friendship of strangers. We’ve found common interests with people from different countries and from all walks of life. But people also have different prioritize and time constraints, sometimes leaving us to feel the ache of loneliness, missing the close friends we left behind.

New Appreciation for Reliable Internet
We’ve discovered this really neat thing called “snail mail”, no internet needed

New Appreciation for Reliable Internet

I remember the days of complaining that we were only allowed three devices on our Netflix account and having our internet company bump us up to the next data package because we were exceeding the allotted amount. Haha We canceled Netflix a month after arriving in American Samoa because the shows loaded too slowly and the data costs weren’t fitting into our new minimalist budget. Luckily, two new cables have arrived on island and we’re seeing the internet speeds beginning to increase. But no, we will not be resubscribing to Netflix, we’ve loved spending our time doing other things.

New Views of Hills and Valleys
This is not the view from our back door, but still one we get to see whenever we feel like driving half an hour

New Views of Hills and Valleys

We’ve experienced new landscapes literally and figuratively. Literally, we wake up, look out our bedroom window, and see the waves crashing onto shore. We drive half an hour and see some of the world’s most breathtaking views. We’ve never lived in a place quite as picturesque as this. We’ve also experienced new landscapes figuratively. Our life on the island has had higher highs and lower lows than our “normal” life on the mainland. We’ve missed some things like crazy and felt desperately discouraged about others. On the other hand, there’s little that compares to the high of tackling an eight mile hike, in South Pacific heat and rainstorms, single-handedly, with your three young kids in tow, reaching the peak, and knowing that you are in the right place, doing the right thing, to be giving your kids this experience!

New Courage
Holden and me, just before being pulled out past the breakers

New Courage for Challenges

Over the past year, I have made it my personal mission to not avoid anything out of fear. I’ve climbed heights that made my legs shake and my heart race. I’ve gone snorkeling with the goal of finding a shark and conquering that fear (I still haven’t seen one, but I will!). Last year, we took on the challenge of home-schooling our kids, which was scary and a little crazy, but successful. And I had a big lesson in having a healthy and respectful relationship with the ocean just a few weeks after arriving, when Holden and I were pulled out into the deep ocean in a rip current with no flotation devices or snorkel gear to get us safely back to shore.

New Love for Family

New Love of Family

I appreciate our family back in the States for still loving us and not telling us we’re crazy when we moved their grand-kids and niece and nephews so far away. I appreciate their patience and understanding as we commenced on our adventure, not knowing when we’d be reunited. Our little family, here in American Samoa, has grown closer than before. Yes, we still have our bad days and our disagreements, but now we depend upon each other completely. We have adventures together, we make plans together, and we dream together. Every decision we make comes down to, “What’s best for our family, as a whole?”

With one year under our belts, we look forward to the future. We don’t know how much longer we’ll be living on this lush, tropical island, and so we keep exploring and enjoying it as much as we can, for as long as we can. We’re also keeping an eye on that globe, spinning it until we find our next place to call home. If you’ve ever wanted to live somewhere new or if you’ve felt jealousy as you look through my Instagram, you should consider looking into American Samoa. Especially for Americans, the process is fairly simple and new contract employees are always needed. Comment below or email me personally if your looking for more info.

What are some things you still want to know about life in American Samoa or overseas in general?

Also, if you had the freedom to live anywhere in the world, where would you choose? And why?

Pinnable New American Samoa Life Image

37 thoughts on “A New Life in American Samoa”

  1. I loved reading this! Although we are on the complete other side of the world, in Costa Rica, I can relate SO MUCH to what you’ve written! I have still yet to overcome the humidity, and it is the same as America Samoa; Dry season and Wet season (which we are currently in).
    We moved here for the quality of life, and let me tell you, sometimes I need to remind myself why we are here. There are several adjustments much like what you’ve described. But the silver lining is, we both live in beautiful places, and I think it is a culturally enriching experience for the kids!

    1. Yes, I agree. I love that we’re able to provide this opportunity for our kids. It all comes down to priorities and personal preferences. I know some people who wouldn’t be willing to make that trade to live here, while I wouldn’t be able to trade what we’ve found here for the comforts of their lives. We spent a week in Costa Rica and weren’t blown away by it, but I think if we were to try to make a life there, we would find the beauty and adventure, so we could make it our home.

  2. I think I learned more about American Samoa from reading your article than from all my years in school, ha-ha. very educational and informative. Thanks for sharing your experience in American Samoa with us 🙂

    1. You’re so welcome! Yeah, I really didn’t know anything about the territory before we moved here either, so I’m glad that my post could be helpful in sharing a little information. We love this place and I love telling everyone about it! haha

  3. Enjoyed your article. I am considering moving to American Somoa, and actually will work there (I am in healthcare). My husband and I are older and want to experience a different life. Are there a number of expats there? I am sure the humidity will be a challenge, but the opportunity to learn about a new culture and meet new people…it is an attractive adventure.

    1. Oh, how exciting!!! We love living here! Life is definitely different here, mostly for the better. Yes, the humidity took some getting used to and there are still some days when it gets me down, to be honest, but that’s what makes the island so lush and green, so I’ll take it. The Samoan people are so beautiful, inside and out, and so friendly, too. There are quite a few expats and contract workers. Some live in the villages, but there are a few small “palagi” (white people) communities. We are definitely the minority, which has provided great lessons for the kids and ourselves. Good luck and please let me know if you have any questions about life here. I’m always happy to share our experiences.

  4. Thank you for your article! I enjoyed reading your perspective. I have been looking at a position there and wondered more – I was glad to have stumbled on your post. Do you have any insight in Pago Pago specifically? Any areas of living you recommend? I know the cost of living will be different but moving on my own, I would like to be in a safe area! Thanks for any insight you do have!

    1. Amy, I’m glad you found us and so excited for your possible move! There isn’t really a bad part of town. The actual village of Pago Pago is pretty quiet and definitely safe. We live on the west-side, near Tafuna and have found it very convenient, as it’s near most of the shopping and close to some of the best beaches. Most contract workers work for the government, with most of their offices closer to Pago, that would make it nice for your commute to and from work. Some of the outer village are quiet and have spectacular views and beaches, so if work wasn’t an issue, they would be a dream to live in.
      Please feel free to email me with any other questions or concerns. There’s no such thing as asking too many. Good luck and I hope to hear from you soon!

  5. I am considering moving to the American samoa, but I can’t find any websites or information on housing rentals?

    1. Hi Savannah, I’m excited for your possible move! There really aren’t any websites for finding housing here. Your best bet would be to join one of the Facebook marketplace groups, either “American Samoa Dealz and Stealz” or “684 Buy/Sell/Trade or Free American Samoa”. People are usually responsive and very helpful. Good luck and please let me know if you have any other questions.

  6. hi me and my wife will be working in LBJ, we are from the Philippines. Still need to look for a house after the free housing. We are ready to accept the challenge if island life! 🙂

    1. Hi Wyn! Sorry, I just saw this comment. When will you be moving to American Samoa? Housing can be pretty tricky as it’s mostly through word-of-mouth, but I’d be happy to help you find something. I’m excited for your move and would love to meet you and your wife in person and help show you around.

  7. I am so happy to have come across this blog. My husband and I will be relocating our family to American Samoa next spring 2020. I couldn’t be more happier and excited. I am Mexican and my husband is Samoan, but we’ve lived in California the majority of our lives and our children were also born here. 2 of our 4 children will be moving with us, the others are young adults and are still debating whether to come with us or stay back. Our 2 young kids will be going to high school in Samoa. Hopefully they adjust well… I visited Samoa this past April and fell in love with the island and the people, this is why we are making this transition. Lord willing we will meet up one day in Am Samoa. Talofa!

    1. Yay! I’m so excited for you and your family! We love living here. Of course there are challenges, but the rewards of living on this beautiful, tropical island, with all the friendly people, far outweigh them. Please let me know if there’s anything I can help you with to make your transition smoother. I’d love to meet up once you move here- meeting new friends is always a good reason to go out for dinner or have a relaxing beach day. Tofa!

      1. Okay, we will be moving in June of this year. Can you give me pointers as to how to enroll my children into the public school system? Oh, and by they way, your videos are awesome, keep them coming!

  8. I will first give my stats. I’m living in Los Angeles, recently retired, and I am !
    looking for a new place to live far away from the hubub of America and frankly because I think the U.S. is moving in a terrible direction. I am looking for a place to live that has the advantages of being an American citizen, such as Medicare but is far away from the American mainland. I would like to live in a community that has expats, and hopefully some musicians to play with. Any comments would be appreciated.

    1. Hi James, thanks for introducing yourself. It sounds like American Samoa could be just what you’re looking for. There is a great expat community here and plenty of opportunities for jamming out with other musicians. We will always love the US, but we’re also enjoying having some distance between us and the Mainland. Please feel free to email with any specific questions you have about life here. I’d love to help you decide if this truly is the place for you.

  9. I had no idea the US had a territory in Samoa until today, when I saw Bloomberg won the primary election in American Samoa. I thought, “What would make people living on beautiful, tropical islands vote for Bloomberg?” I think he’s a horrible man. I used to live in NYC.

    What a beautiful place. Seems like a place I would love to live. The people seem very generous and careful. Can you tell me more about the people of Samoa?

    Have you decided to make Samoa your permanent home? It seems like a delicious place to live. I used to live in a small palapa on the beach in Tulum, Mexico, before it became overpopulated.

    I hope you post more stories about your life in Samoa.

    1. Hi Elizabeth, I know, the results from the primary election were a surprise to me too. He did make the effort to erect campaign signs around the island, whereas most of the other candidates did not.
      We love living in American Samoa. The people here are very friendly and generous. They’re open and welcoming. They believe in keeping their traditions alive and value family, God, and culture above all else.
      I don’t know that we’ll be here forever, but we’re in no hurry to leave. We can’t imagine a place that is more in sync with our personalities than here. Our island home definitely a special place. If you’re interested in learning more about our life here in American Samoa, you should check out our YouTube channel, AmSamFam, and our other blog at https://amsamfam.com.

  10. We are seniors….70 and 73 and would like to live in Samoa. Agree with melclayville….not a good time for the mainlanders who are living through this political hell. My main question is: What’s the health care system like there? We don’t want to live forever although we are “healthy” so far but would like to have some idea about the resources there for us. Can you send a link? So happy you are enjoying your Samoa adventure and your kids will never regret it.

    1. Thank you, we think American Samoa would be a beautiful place to retire for healthy, older folks. The health care system is adequate for most people. That being said, many of the older generation have opted to live on the Mainland, to have medical care easily available for any and all concerns or complications. There are some specialties that aren’t provided here, for which some people travel off-island to get those services and some just go without. For emergency services that are not provided on-island, special medical evacs can be arranged, but you’re talking about traveling hours away from the nearest medical providers in either Hawaii or New Zealand, during a medical emergency.
      I wish I could give you a simple yes or no, but I think it depends on the individual and their unique needs. Here’s a link to the Territorial Department of Health website, where you can get a better idea of what services are provided locally and what could be done in an emergency.
      Thanks for reaching out. Stay safe and good luck finding a place where you can live happily, in peace.

  11. Great article to find while researching American
    Samoa! Thank you so much for the insight! My wife and I have many questions and some of them have been answered here. We would like to know more! Eagerly awaiting your response 🙂

    1. I would love to answer any questions you and your wife have! You can also check out our YouTube channel and associated blog, both under the name AmSamFam. We love our island home and are always happy to answer any questions others might have.

  12. Talofa Melclayville,
    I left AM Samoa in 1980 to join the military and retired May 2001, currently I am working for DoD and getting ready to retire from that too. I’m fascinated with your experiences and I also appreciate you and family appreciating my Island. I live in the village of Iliili on the top of the village, there’s a small place call Asuemu, there are two mango trees and across from it are my family. I think it’s about time for me to get back home, due to retire on July 20. I’ve had enough of the main land and the world. The thing about my island is that I can take my watch off and not worry about anything, slow life and relaxing, really missed that!.. Humidity, it’s like riding a bicycle, I enjoyed reading about your time there with your family and again thank for appreciating my island. Call me “T”, please don’t post my last name.

    1. T, thanks for writing. That’s a long time since you’ve been home, thank you for all your years of serving our country. We often say that this would be a great place to retire. As you said, take off our watches and just enjoy the island rhythm of life. Stay safe and we hope you can make it back soon.

  13. I am most interested in the availability of healthcare. As a retiree with Medicare I’m curious about its acceptance on American Samoa. If you could share some light on that it would be most appreciated.

    1. The healthcare system here, in American Samoa, is essentially universal health care. I know for sure that they accept Medicaid and I’m pretty sure they accept Medicare, as well. Even without either, it’s all very affordable. A trip to the ER will generally cost $20-$30. Most prescriptions cost $10-$20. Many office visits are free, or at most $20.
      There are some services that we lack here, namely an MRI machine. The doctors and nurses are well-trained and do the best they can with what they have to work with. They can handle most medical things and for anything else, individuals can be taken to either Hawaii or New Zealand by medivac.

  14. are there any covid infections in american samoa and are they actually allowing any incoming flights from america?

    Thanks
    aloha
    Thomas

    1. Thomas, there are no cases here and our borders have been closed since mid-March. As of now, the border closure has been pushed out through the end of August as well. When the borders first closed, we also had quite a few restrictions to businesses and gatherings, but most of those have been lifted. For now, we’re grateful to be in our safe bubble, where we can still get out and enjoy our island home.

  15. Loved reading about your experience . Thx for your blog . Are there Ob/Gyn doctors there or just family practice ? I’m a very busy ob/gyn doc and am in my late 50’s but plan on practicing as long as I can but want a change of scenery . Are doctors needed there?

    1. We do have at least one Ob/Gyn’s (but there may be multiple). Although, I know we could always use quality health care professionals in any specialty. The pay would probably be less than you’re used to, but you can also live very simply and inexpensively here. Please let me know if you have any other questions about life here and if you’re seriously considering looking into moving and working here, you should definitely reach out to our Department of Health, who could answer any questions you might have about the job side of moving here.

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