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What It Takes...
To Be an Expat Employed in Paradise
Frank Murphy, 45, 12-year resident of Moorea, French Polynesia
As told to McKenzie Funk


Photo: Frank Murphy with Moorea in the background
ISLAND PATROL: Twelve-year expat Frank Murphy pilots the Gump Research Station's boat through a lagoon with Moorea in the background

One thing about being an expat on a tropical island nowadays is that, because of the Internet, even living on a small island in the middle of the Pacific ocean isn't that remote anymore. On Tahiti we can get DSL, and soon it will be available on Moorea as well. One breakthrough is that I can videochat with friends back in the U.S.—it's almost like they're sitting right in our living room. I'm as in-touch now as I would be living in Berkeley.

I'd never thought much at all about Tahiti until a job opened up to manage the University of California-Berkeley's Gump Research Station. Having managed a field station in Baja and been a nature-reserve caretaker in Big Sur for a year, I had decent experience for the job—I guess I was just lucky that the station happened to be in such a great place.

Some people come here with the dream of moving to paradise, but after a while they just burn out—all they can do is complain about what they can't do because of the limited infrastructure. Whiny old expats... don't know why the dream sours for them. Because I deal with tourists and scientists visiting the research station, I feed off their sense of awe, and it reminds me of how beautiful this place is.

In my day-to-day life, I don't really miss the States that much. I guess most people would say they miss the hustle and bustle, and the culture. They get attached to bookstores, the theater, their Starbucks coffee. But I've never been a big-city kind of guy. Of course, I miss friends and family, and the American landscapes—especially the desert and the mountains. Without a doubt, it's beautiful out here, abounding with spectacular peaks, ridges, and bays. I've heard a few people swear that Moorea is the most beautiful island in the world. There's so much hiking; it's easy to get out on the water in a kayak.

I'm married to a Tahitian and have become part of her huge family, so it's not like I'm flitting between worlds. When I think of our friends, they include a whole spectrum of locals, expats, visitors, and folks back in the U.S. People laugh when I say something to my kids in English and they answer in French. It's great. Just like I didn't plan to move here, we don't plan to move away, either. I can see myself living here the rest of my life.


Photograph courtesy of Frank Murphy

Do you have what it takes to reach your adventure goals? Pick up the October print issue to find out.


Additional Excerpts
From the print edition, October 2004

What It Takes: The best dream adventures you can make happen—today
- To be an expat in paradise
Welcome to the Neighborhood: Can mountain lions and mountain bikers get along?
Secrets of the Black Hills: Granite towers, sunken caves, and singletrack abound
Pelton's World: Five things travel guidebooks never tell you


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October 2004



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