Hell in a Handbasket

The Robertsons reflect on the state of the world and offer their perspective.

December 8, 2015
Sunset from Tapana Bay. Michael Robertson

On Thanksgiving, we Skyped family and enjoyed some long chats. It was wonderful to hear everyone’s voices and to anticipate our pending visit, just a month away. But also on the line was fear and a world’s-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket kind of dejection.

I read the news, I know what’s going on in the world, but I don’t feel the same way. The attacks in Paris were horrific, police race relations are troubling, more gunfire in classrooms is agonizing. Yet these events and all the rest of the turmoil do not seem like a departure from the norm.

I was born in 1968. King, riots, Vietnam, Khmer Rouge, Kent State, Manson. I grew up during the Cold War, during the Iran hostage crisis, during bloodshed in Northern Ireland, hatred in South Africa, and Lockerbie. My generation of Salvadorans and Guatemalans and Nicaraguans came of age in a war zone. The Soviets tore up Afghanistan for a decade, the Iraqi oil fields burned like something out of the apocalypse following the first Gulf War, then Columbine, then 9/11, then we tore up Iraq and Afghanistan.

It seems every group of Pacific islanders employs their own local boat. With so much protected waters, this is what the Tongans use. Almost no freeboard and always seeming top-heavy. You’re seeing a sliver of a tiny island and I was captivated by this home–doesn’t show up so well in this pic. Michael Robertson

I’m writing from a country of barely 100K people. I don’t have a phone or television. I have vastly different inputs as a cruiser, fortunate to be living a peaceful daily life so far from it all. It must influence my perspective more than I can appreciate. Maybe it’s like the disparate impressions of the televised debates between Nixon and Kennedy.

I like how Obama put it the other day, about being careful not to overreact, about how the Paris attackers are simply social media savvy murderers wielding guns. Granted they are symptoms of larger social problems, ones we must tackle on our terms.

This is the supremely protected harbor of Neiafu. Most of the cats in this photo belong to the charter company. Most of the other boats in this picture are hauled out or gone now. We literally have Tonga to ourselves. Anyone ever been the only boat in Port Maurelle? It’s our norm. Michael Robertson

There is fear at home and it highlights not just how removed we are from that fear, but how different our perspectives are as a result. Our biggest threat is from Mother Nature, brewing a storm just to the north of us.

We walk by the pretty front yard of this Neiafu home everyday. Michael Robertson

As I write this morning, birds and cicadas are singing loudly ashore. The girls are ashore too, by themselves, buying bread in Neiafu. From this side of the International Dateline, tomorrow has already happened, and I can assure you that it wasn’t as bad as it might seem from today.

In our twenties, we traded our boat for a house and our freedom for careers. In our thirties, we lived the American dream. In our forties, we woke and traded our house for a boat and our careers for freedom. And here we are. Follow along with the Roberston’s onboard Del Viento on their blog at


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