MEET: Tilali Scanlan

MEET: Tilali Scanlan

We all wonder and wander in our own little way. Everybody’s got a story to tell.
If you want to have a chat, I’d love to MEET you!


Competitive swimmer and national athlete representing American Samoa. This Vaitogi girl shares her passion for the ocean, goals, favorite spots, and a dose of inspiration for young Pacific athletes.

Tell me about yourself, where you live, and what do you do?

I was born and raised in Vaitogi, American Samoa as number 7 of 8 kids. I am a national athlete of American Samoa, my main sport is competitive swimming. I was homeschooled until college basically, and now I am in my 3rd year of university studying Marine Science/Biology at USP in Fiji.

How did you get started in swimming competitively?

My mom put my siblings and I into a bunch of sports when we were young to burn off our energy and get us out of the house. I did a lot of sports, but swimming was my favorite. I really got into competitive swimming when I realised the potential I had, and how much fun it was!

Growing up, where were your favorite places to swim?

I swam at the tide pools in Vaitogi almost every day in homeschooling, so that was a favorite spot of mine. I loved going to Maliu Mai, and on rare occasions, beaches on the far ends of the island with the family. Nothing tops swimming in Manu’a though, that’s an all time favorite!

You’re so young and have traveled a lot; where have you been and how did you get to travel so often?

Just for swim comps, I’ve gone to New Caledonia, Samoa, NZ, PNG, Canada, Hawaii, Budapest, Austria, and most recently China (gettin that passport stamped!!)

I come from such a tiny dot on the map, yet have seen so much in my young years, and I’m thankful to sports for that. Swimming has taken me places my bank account could neva.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

Train. School. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Typically a 5 am start to a 9pm rest (depending on if I get my schoolwork done in time). It gets busier when school deadlines get closer, but I always try to set aside Saturday night to chill and do whatever I want.

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Motivated. Curious. Hungry (aaaalwayyys hungry).

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? 10 years?

Back in AS, training young swimmers to pursue the sport, and have opportunities like I have had. 10 years? Somewhere in the islands, doing the same thing, and protecting the oceans! I can definitely see myself somewhere in the water haha.

If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

Toughest question yet. BRB gotta make a comparison chart. Definitely high up on the food chain.

What are your passions?

I’m passionate about the water (big surprise there), and becoming so connected with it, that it feels unnatural to leave its medium. I’m also passionate about encouraging young people from small islands like ours to pursue more options. There’s something for everyone.

Why do you care so much for the environment?

I could write you a thesis paper on why, and a whole lot of other good reasons lol. Bottom line is that life is codependent on the environment, and it pains me to see it suffer.

Favorite kind of music?

A LOT, but I can listen to island songs anytime, anyday. Ben Vai is one of my favorite artists from home.

Favorite food?


What is your life motto?

“Eat pasta swim fasta”

What’s your spirit animal?

Sloths. They avoid so much trouble by taking naps.

What is your all time favorite spot in American Samoa?

The spot right where Ofu and Olosega meet. Just hanging out under the bridge with my nieces and nephews. Nothing beats that.

Any advice for young aspiring pacific athletes?

Never let where you come from determine how far you will go.

Model and interview by Tilali Scanlan. Questions and photos by Nerelle.

Want to follow Tilali into the blue? Check out this arvo surf sesh!

Also follow Tilali’s adventures on instagram: @tilalipops

Meet: Mikah Meyer

Meet: Mikah Meyer

We all wonder and wander in our own little way. Everybody’s got a story to tell.
If you want to have a chat, I’d love to MEET you!

Meet Mikah Meyer.

A double world-record holder for being the youngest person to visit all 417 US national parks in a single continuous journey, started in honor of his late father, and to bring his “Pride Outside”. Mikah came to American Samoa in late February to experience the only US National Park Service system south of the equator, and I had the pleasure of meeting him and asking him a few questions about his travels and his thoughts on American Samoa!

Tell me about yourself, where you’re from, what do you do?

I’m from Nebraska originally, but made a conscious effort to explore the world after growing up in the center of the United States. So have lived in Tennessee, Maine, Wisconsin, Canada, Switzerland, and Washington D.C. since graduating high school.

How did you find yourself in American Samoa?

I’m currently 22 months into a world record, 3-year journey making me the youngest person to visit all 417 U.S. National Park Service sites. The NP of American Samoa was park #293!


I lost my dad to cancer when I was 19. He was 58 at the time and it taught me a lesson about not having the time we think we’ll have to pursue our goals. I’ve taken 1 road trip a year ever since his passing, because he loved road trips.


3-years to the day. I started on the 11th anniversary of my father’s passing, April 29, 2016, and will end the same day 2019.


Our world is becoming increasingly polarized. With the internet and “fake news” allowing people to choose the lens they view the world through, travel is so important because it reminds us that when we think we are “right” and the “good people,” there are others around the world who do things completely different and are still great people who aren’t wrong for doing it that way. Travel helps us be more self-aware and less small-minded.

Describe yourself in 3 words

Dynamic, Ambitious, Ebullient

Describe your experience in 3 words

Exhausting, Life-Affirming, Challenging

What is your favorite spot in American Samoa?

The National Park beach on Ofu!

Favorite kind of music?

Anything you can dance to!

What’s your spirit animal?

I’m gonna go with a lion. When I was a kid and picked on in elementary school, I always fantasized about having a lion I could ride to/from school so none of the bullies would mess with me (and my lion)! 🙂

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Long term goals?

I hope to have my own travel show, sharing corners of the world in an attempt to help bring people together.

If you could give your 10 year old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Figure out a way to go to a Performing Arts High School. It’s one of the things I regret I never got to do.

What’s one thing that you’ve learned from your time in American Samoa?

It is a very distinct, different culture than the mainland. But it’s part of America and should be celebrated and included more in our American awareness.

What is your life motto?

Life’s More Fun When You Talk to Strangers

Follow his journey:
Mikah’s Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Photos by Mikah. Edits by Nerelle.

Meet Aidan King

Meet Aidan King

We all wonder and wander in our own little way. Everybody’s got a story to tell.

If you want to have a chat, I’d love to MEET you!

Meet Aidan King

UH Mānoa college student, intern, big brother, and football fanatic.

Aidan shares his some of his favorites here at home in American Samoa, his passions, his goals, and his definition of the word ‘stretch’.

Tell me about yourself – where you’re from, age, where you live, what you’re doing?

I’m Aidan King, and I’m from here, American Samoa. I just recently moved to the Mānoa Valley in Oahu and I go to school at the University of Hawai`i Mānoa, and I’m studying to be a Communications/ Mass Communications major with an emphasis in multimedia arts. I’m 20, about to turn 21 next month though! Really excited for that.

I came back home this summer to spend some time with my family, and take a break from the semester, and I’m currently finishing up my internship at Bluesky! I interned for the marketing department, and It was beyond a great experience for me, but other than being an intern, I’m a full time student.

Current hobbies? How do you like to fill your time?

Hmm hobbies? I guess it really depends on my mood, but for the most part, I paint and do art. I really like to paint and create things. I use a variety of mediums including acrylic paint, oil pastels, and I’m now getting into watercolor, which is really cool. It’s a bit tricky for me because I’m not good at details when it comes to painting faces or stuff like that, I kind of just throw a bunch of colors together to try to create a picture.

I also really enjoy spending time with my little brother. He’s really entertaining, and it’s never a dull moment with him. Whatever he is interested in, I try to relate to and it all turns into a really great time.

I also really like swimming. Haven’t had many chances to go swimming at the beach this summer, but in Hawai`i I’d go to the beach a lot.

Oh, I also like playing and listening to music. I don’t have a set genre of music I listen to, but I’m very open minded to music.

What inspires you?

When it comes to art, I get my inspiration from things that are off the wall. Things that aren’t mainstream. I like things that may seem odd to most eyes, but I try to look deeper into it, as I try to understand what the art is really about. I enjoy, and pull inspiration from street art, or unconventional art that you see on Instagram, or Pinterest. Even with music, I like to stray away from mainstream music, and I like to find my own. But when it all comes down to it, it really is just anything that I find interesting.

Inspiration pertaining to life, or anything else I get from my little brother, believe it or not! He is only 11, but I tell you, this kid puts life into a whole different perspective, and I use him as a way to look at life differently as well.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about a lot of things, actually. One of them (which is pretty cliché) is football. I really do know football; I can read and call plays before they happen, I know formations, and strengths and weaknesses of teams. Aside from football, I am passionate about creativity. I like being creative, even if I don’t put it down on paper or anything, I like seeing creativity in any form.

What’s on your bucket list?

Oh! I definitely know that going to Japan is at the top of my bucket list. And I don’t mean just Tokyo, I mean I want to experience all of Japan, like Kyoto, Osaka, Yokohama, Nagasaki, etc. I’m part Japanese, and I would love to see that side, and experience the culture. I want to travel around the world, and try different foods from everywhere, even the weird types. I want to be out at sea, to be able to be on a boat, even if it is a cruise.

Describe yourself in 3 words

Hmmm… Adventurous, Hungry, and Lost.

Adventurous in a sense that I want to explore more; to get out of my comfort zone, and try new things. Hungry, not actually hungry hungry, like for food, but hungry for knowledge in every aspect.

Also actually hungry, I want to try new and different types of food from around the world. Last but not least, lost. I admit that I am lost, not physically, but lost in a way which I don’t know exactly where I am with my life, and don’t really know where I want to go, ultimately, but I totally accept that.

I’ve said it before in past interviews and conversations that it is okay to feel lost. It is the best way to find out where you are and where you are going.

Any personal projects you have planned for the rest of 2017?

Hmmm, not any exact, big project, more like smaller projects that I eventually want to piece together at the end of the year and say “This was my 2017”. Whether it be a collection of pictures that I’ve taken, a souvenir from a place I’ve been, artwork that I have done, etc.

Favorite spot to hang out in American Samoa?

Oh Canco Hill. My friends Mana, Nikki, and Tasi live up there, all the way at the top, and they have this killer view, and it doesn’t matter what time of the day, or what the weather is like, the view remains just as thrilling as it was the first time. I also love being near the water. I love hanging out in my cousins, Nick and Chris’ backyard in Vaitogi, which are the cliffs. Being able to see the edge of the island meet the vast ocean is something really special. Also I love hanging out at my family’s beach in Poloa, although I don’t go there as much as I’d like to, it’s still an amazing place.

Favorite place to eat in American Samoa?

I have to be biased on this one, I love eating at home! My dad’s cooking? Nothing beats it in my book. It doesn’t matter, he could be making ramen noodles, and I’ll think it is the absolute greatest out there. My grandpa is always trying new things with food, and can also stick to the basics, and still make it great. My grandma is Filipino, so you already know that her Filipino food is A1!

Goals for the next 5 years? Ten years?

Definitely graduate from UH with my bachelors degree in Communications, and I would like to work in Hawai`i for a bit, gain some off island work experience. Then I eventually would like to continue on to graduate school in the mainland. I would absolute love to go to graduate school at Stanford University, and live there for a while, but we’ll see where life takes me.

What advice would you give your 10 year old self?

There are a lot of things that I would tell my 10 year old self, but if there was one thing I would share it would be “Stretch”. Stretch before and after you practice/work out, when you wake up, before you go to bed – you’ll feel better. Stretch your hand out to those in need; it means a lot more than you think. Be the reason why someone’s day was made better. And stretch beyond said limits. You are greater than you hinder yourself to be. Stretch your mind to learn as much as you can, the mind is a beautiful thing. Use it to the fullest and then some. Stretch to be a better person than you were yesterday, today, and stretch to be a better tomorrow, than you were today.

“Stretch your mind to learn as much as you can, the mind is a beautiful thing. Use it to the fullest and then some. Stretch to be a better person than you were yesterday, today, and stretch to be a better tomorrow, than you were today.”

Follow Aidan King on Instagram and Twitter @AidanKing32

MEET Wayanna Batik

MEET Wayanna Batik

Meet Wayan and Anna, together they make Wayanna Batik! I met this wonderful pair in Ubud, Bali. Wayan is the batik artist who creates beautiful batik paintings inspired by nature, and Anna is the project manager who is building the brand.

Tell me about yourself: your name, age, where you’re from, what do you do?

My name is Wayan. I am 33 years old from Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. I am the batik painter.

I am Anna. I’m 33 years old, living in Bali. I am the project manager.

What is Batik art? History of batik? Process?

Indonesia is the home country to batik, it is ancient technology. Balinese people have kept this art from generation to generation.

The batik art involves drawing on a fabric with hot wax. This wax separates the drawing from the dyes that are painted over it. The batik artist then paints over the drawings, removes the wax by heating, then dries and sews the fabric, and prepares it for the shop.

How did you get into Batik painting? What did you do before you started Batik?

I have been painting since my childhood: by pencils, by acrylics on on t-shirts. I was working with my cousin on his fabric work. Then as my family’s homestay business grew, I took care of the homes we rented out. And then 2 years ago, I started to help my cousin with his batik. Now I have my own batik project with Anna.

 What inspires you? Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Nature is the main thing which gives me inspiration. And most of my paintings depict nature.

Favorite spot to eat in Bali?

I like to eat at Made’s Warung (my uncle’s warung😊)

Tell me something I probably didn’t know about Bali.

Did you know about the *ceremony of cutting teeth of all 13 years old boys and girls?
We do it for sign that a person is now an adult.

*The mesangih or mepandes, is the ceremony wherein the Balinese smooth away the fang-like qualities of human teeth and, in doing so, smooth away the savage aspects of the soul.


What is your favorite quote?

Akuadalahkamu, kamuadalahaku (I am you, you are I).

So all people are the same and what you do for people, people will do for you.

The main idea is to live in peace and love.

Three words to describe your art?

Amazing, unique, beautiful. 😊

Hard handmade work, with magical colors and unlimited ideas.

 Any goals you want to accomplish before the year ends?
How about in the next 5 years?

I want to have regular monthly orders before the year ends.
I hope my batik project will grow more popular and will develop the brand – Wayanna Batik brand!
I want to have my own house in the next 5 years.

 Advice you would give to your 10-year old self?

Be honest. Follow your heart always.

Check out more of their work on their Facebook page @ Wayanna Batik

MEET Amélie

MEET Amélie

We all wonder and wander in our own little way. Everybody’s got a story to tell. If you want to have a chat, I’d love to MEET you!

Meet Amélie

A curious French girl with a passion for the sea. Amelié lived in American Samoa for the last 5 months, and she shares some of her #islandlife experience, and her favorite parts of living in American Samoa.

Tell me about yourself, where you’re from, what do you do?

I’m Amélie Tagliaferro. I come from Marseille, a city in the south of France. I just turned 22 years old. I’m still in school, studying at an agriculture and environment engineering school. I picked this internship [with the National Park of American Samoa], which was awesome because I wanted to specialize in marine biology. I also want to work in the national park but in France. I love fish, and that’s about it!

How did you find yourself in American Samoa?

I knew about [this internship] through Lydia Begue who was a previous student with my school, and she interned here also. I was looking for marine biology programs in a national park, and asked Tim Clark (the former NPS Marine Ecologist), and he was like “Ok! Come!” and then he left. And I’m still here.

Describe yourself in 3 words

Funny. Respectful. Curious.

Describe your experience in 3 words

Peaceful/Relax/Chill. I’m less stressed than before.

Adventure. I found myself here. I know I want to work in this kind of ambiance, because I was in the ocean all the time! Which I loved.

Amazing. It’s the sum up of all my experiences.

What is your favorite spot in American Samoa?

Tafeu Cove!

The coral and the fish there! It’s a nice beach with a little waterfall. And the coral is just really really cool! They have giant clams, they have fish… And you can only get there with a boat because it’s pretty isolated and remote so that’s all very cool.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Long term goals?

I wanna live on an island. In the Pacific Ocean – that’s my first choice.

I don’t know if it will be in 10 years. I may be back in France, but near the ocean or near the sea, but not like a lake. Only in an ocean or sea. And tropical, or at least temperate.

Favorite kind of music?

I like chill music. The Good Vibes playlist on Spotify. Indie music… It’s totally the mood here.

Favorite beach?

So many! Fagatele Marine Sanctuary. Sailele beach. Larson’s Cove.

Favorite place to eat in American Samoa?

I love the Turkey Deluxe from Yahweh Cafe. Maybe I was really hungry… that could explain why. But it was really really good!

What’s your spirit animal?

I love all of them! It’s pretty difficult to find just one. I mean here, with my name, they called me Malie at first… so I could say sharks. But I also love turtles, and octopus, and dolphins, and whales, and moray eels, and clown fish, pipe fish, sting rays! Basically everything.

But I don’t like barracuda! I don’t know, they have a strange angry face. I don’t like those.

Speaking of sharks, how many times have you seen a shark while swimming?

Three times while snorkeling, and two baby sharks like 2 days ago.

Name one thing that you’ve learned from your time in American Samoa

Don’t drink the water!! Haha… Don’t drink the water from the sink! I did it a bunch of times, and it’s really bad. I just keep forgetting like, when I’m showering.

Yeah, it’s really bad. I got sick. It’s not usual because in France you can totally drink [the water]. Like, you’re in the shower and you can drink all the water. You can ask for a glass of water in any restaurant and they just give it to you and it’s free because it’s just from the tap.

What is your life motto?

It’s not a slogan but I think this one is so funny… it goes: I whale always love you.

But my real answer would be:

Enjoy every moment. No regrets! Follow your feelings.

Follow Amelié’s adventures on Instagram: @ameliemelofish


Meet more cool people

MEET: Beard and Curly

MEET: Beard and Curly



We all wander and wonder in our own little way. Everybody’s got a story to tell. If you want to have a chat, I’d love to MEET you!

MEET travel bloggers Beard and Curly, or if you were their parents, you’d know them as Timon and Yana.

These wanderers quit their 9 to 5 jobs and have visited over 100 countries! When I found out they would be visiting American Samoa and needed a place to stay,  I was really excited to welcome them into my home—namely because I had so many questions!

Tell me about yourselves, where do you live, what you do?

T: I’m Timon Peskin, also known as “Beard”. I grew up in New Jersey, then went to school in Boston, at Northeastern University—that’s where Yana and I met. I studied business, then moved to Arkansas for work for a couple of years, and following that moved to San Francisco. I worked in consumer products, always in sales, but lately in the food industry, specifically organic food.

Y: I’m Yana Kogan Peskin, I was born in Ukraine and then immigrated when I was 4 years old to New York, and grew up mostly in New Jersey. I met Timon in Boston at Northeastern University, then we moved to Arkansas together, and then to San Francisco where we’ve been for 6 years before we started traveling. I’m a pharmacist by trade.

How did you decide to become travel bloggers?

Y: I always traveled. I started traveling with my family, then I went on my first solo trip when I was 18 to Paris, and I was like Ok I need to be doing more of this. And so I made a goal – I decided I was going to go to 100 countries before I turned 30. And that kind of changed how I did things. I took trips every chance I got during school breaks, usually on my own.

Then when Timon and I got together, we kept traveling, but just vacations here and there for a couple of weeks. It’s really hard in the US because it’s just 2 weeks. So right before we decided to quit our jobs, I took a 3 month sabbatical, and thought I’d travel and then settle down and buy a house – it’s gonna be good. But as soon as we came back, we were like Ok we need to quit our jobs. We need to travel.

T: So not long after that, we quit our jobs haha. I mean obviously there were some things at play. The company I worked for got bought out by a much bigger company so there was a buyout, and for me I had some incentive to stay but I didn’t really want to stay – so at the right time it just made sense to part ways with that company. Then Yana quit and we just found that right timing, and we started traveling.

I kind of started the blogging idea, more just to keep track of what we were doing and keep in touch with friends and family. I mean, originally it was never supposed to be a big travel blog. But it kind of just morphed into that. We saw our followers grow, especially while we were in Africa, so we got more serious and changed our direction to add more focus and we decided to do this – let’s start a travel blog.

Beard and Curly

You have 18k Instagram followers right now. How did you build that following?

T: We gradually gained traction even before leaving Africa. So we traveled for three months in the U.S. and Canada and were doing a road trip and that’s kind of when we actually started getting serious on social media. Like, more focusing on the photography aspect. That’s probably what drove a lot of the followers.

The first six months of the blog itself saw very little traffic. It was just friends and family. And then I realized we were getting a lot of followers from Instagram and social media, and the images were working but the blog wasn’t. So we relaunched the blog. We learned search engine optimization, we learned all of those tools to try and make it grow. And then that’s kind of where we’re at today. We’re still working on our growth.

Beard and Curly
Beard and Curly

How long have you guys been traveling so far?

Y: 1 year and 8 months. We started in December 2015.

Beard and Curly

Favorite destination?

T: There’s a lot of countries to consider. But I would say something about Namibia grabbed me. I love the rawness of it. Like there’s no desert that I’ve seen that’s the same as what you see in Namibia, and just – it’s just rough. It’s a rough place but it’s beautiful and the photography is amazing and it’s a really amazing place. So I would go with Namibia.

Y: We went to the Coron islands in Nicaragua together, and it’s this tiny tiny island. There’s no cars and like, we got met by a man with a wheelbarrow that that took all our stuff to this little bungalow. And this was when Timon and I were just getting serious, but it was this trip that made me realize that Timon was the guy for me.

Least favorite travel experience?

Y: Well, we had a hard time in China. It’s a really difficult place. I never had been to a place where I felt so unwelcome. I mean we were on a budget, but it was just a place that didn’t resonate with me. I would go back to China. There’s so much history and it’s a beautiful country. I think there’s just a lot of people. And you know, with the big cultural revolution and with communism – it makes for an interesting dynamic. We will go back eventually.

Beard and Curly
Beard and Curly

How do you make money while you’re traveling?

T: We saved a lot of money. We’re not actively working outside of any blog activities. We haven’t yet stopped for intermediate jobs or short term temporary jobs which is quite common with travelers. We haven’t done that yet. We saved a lot of money and you know we’re hoping that the blogging will eventually help. It’s definitely not paying for travel. At this point it can offset some costs. We’re just hoping that it can start paying for some of our travel.

How much did you guys save?

Y: We travel really expensively. We probably spend like $2,000 a month, flights and everything included. In our first year of traveling we spent about $24,000 for the year. Mostly activities and national parks and stuff. Otherwise living, logistics, food, and tent camping saved us money. And when the company I worked for got bought out, so there were some cash from that. I’d rather go out and experience new things but I could sleep anywhere.

Beard and Curly

What are your top 3 traveling essentials?

T: For me, camera equipment: Canon 70D, 4 lenses, drone and GoPro. A very large backpack for electronics. And laptop. And buzzers – I got this amazing steel buzzer from Kenya for $8 and still have them to this day. And these shorts that I’m wearing right now. Because it’s not cold so these are the only pair I have haha.

Y: Mine would be definitely coconut oil. It’s everything you need – hair, skin, face, everything. Just lather it!
A good comfortable dress, probably a red one. And my bathing suit.

T: I would add one in there as well. They call it different things everywhere we go, like a shawl or a sarong or here, a lavalava. I think it’s huge – everywhere we went, whether it was the middle east for covering shoulders when it was appropriate, or covering your knees in villages, or for laying on the beach. I mean it’s so multi use.

Y: Oh and flip flops! We don’t have a whole lot of stuff, so it’s not that essential haha. We’re so low maintenance. I literally brought a bar of soap. That’s it.

Beard and Curly
Beard and Curly

Why “Beard and Curly”?

T: Beard and Curly naturally occurred. But the name is actually a good story. We were living in San Francisco, and there was a Walgreens a couple of blocks from us that was our go-to Walgreens for anything we needed. And there was this homeless guy who would always every day be in front of the Walgreens.
He’s a really nice really nice guy. He’d watch our dog when we went into the store, and was always greeting people. And usually in humorous ways like kind of nicknames. So he finds something like you’re wearing whether it was a color or stripes if you were wearing stripes, he would call you stripes.
And one day we were walking down the street, and he calls out to us “Hey Beard and Curly”, and we thought hah. That’s interesting. We thought it was cute, it was catchy. And this was before we started traveling. So when we started to travel, we made a list of like 40 items, and we narrowed it down to this – it was our favorite.

What’s this homeless man’s name?

Y: Oh crap, I don’t know.

T: I think it was Steve.

N: Shout out to Steve, in front of Walgreens. On the corner of Polk and Broadway.

Beard and Curly
Beard and Curly

How long do you guys plan to be on the road?

T: It keeps extending. It started off as 1 year. Yana knew it was never going to be just 1 year. And so maybe one more year, but Yana’s trying to push it for as long as she can.

Y: So we’ll see. We’ll see. Definitely another year. And then we’ll go from there.

What’s next for Beard and Curly?

T: We’re still here in the South Pacific. We’re thinking of traveling around Australia and Hawaii, and from there we’re undecided. But we’re thinking Southeast Asia.

Y: Our goal would be to fund our travels, and to be independent travelers.

T: It would be great to sustain majority of our travels from blog revenues. But it takes time. It’s only been a little over a year, so hopefully it’ll work out. And if it doesn’t, it was a really cool way to capture memories and meet new people.

Beard and Curly

What do you guys think of American Samoa?

Y: We haven’t done a whole lot. We really like it! It’s different than Samoa, there’s different things. We’ve only been here for 4 days, but there are a lot of things that remind me of home. I really liked Pola island, it’s so beautiful.

T: It’s an interesting island, in terms of natural beauty. It reminds me of southeast Asia. It’s very mountainous and very steep so it reminds me of Hawaii or Thailand. I don’t know why.
I think there’s a lot of hospitality here, We’ve been hitchhiking everywhere, so it’s really cool. I wish we were staying longer so we could see the other islands.

Beard and Curly

Last question. Any advice for people who want to travel but don’t have time or money to travel right now?

T: Not having time to travel is just an excuse, in my opinion.
Hear me out, we saved up money and decided to travel, so that’s one way you could do it. But we’re all different travelers. You can get working visas in other countries, so you can still get the same experience and work your way through it. If it’s really that important – if it’s what you want in life, you just gotta make it happen.

Y: Optimize it. Go somewhere and try to immerse yourself in the place. See as much as you can, but also give yourself time to chill out a bit. And as far as advice goes – just do it. When I was younger, people told me I was crazy.
There’s so much the world has to offer, so go out there and experience it. And don’t listen to people who say you shouldn’t or that you can’t. Push your boundaries. You can learn a lot about yourself in uncomfortable situations.

Beard and Curly

MEET: Manufanua Thomas

MEET: Manufanua Thomas


JULY 2017

We all wander and wonder in our own little way. Everybody’s got a story to tell. If you want to have a chat, I’d love to MEET you!

MEET Manufanua Thomas. Malaeloa native, WSU educated. Collaborator on Humans of American Samoa, and self trained artist.


Tell me about yourself, where you’re from, where you live, what do you do?

My name is Manufanua Thomas. I’m from Malaeloa, American Samoa. When I’m not here, I live in Pullman, Washington where I go to school at Washington State University. I am a landscape architect major, and I kind of want to double major or minor in something… I’m not sure. Maybe comparative ethnic studies, or something more in my main field of architecture – which would probably be floriculture. My hobbies include drawing and painting mainstream type of art. I like to take pictures in my down time, mostly of scenic landscapes or people, when I get inspired. I like to swim a lot when I get the chance, which is hard because I live on the border of Washington.

MEET: Manufanua Thomas

So you like photography! What was your first camera, and why did you get into photography?

I got my first camera in seventh grade. It was a really faint pink metallic one that my auntie had passed down to me. And my first “real” camera was a Canon T6i. I got it on October 2015. I was always trying to save up for a camera and every time I had even a little bit of savings, it ended up getting spent. So as soon as I got my financial aid, I bought my first camera.

I know you named it…

Dillard! I sort of came up with that name years ago when I was first starting to think about buying a professional camera. But yeah, Dillard’s it’s name… Her name.

MEET: Manufanua Thomas

What inspires you?

A lot of random stuff sort of inspires me. Like if I’m walking down the street, and I see something that looks really cool, I’ll stop and keep a picture of it in my mind. Ooh, I really love sunsets and sunrises. I take it for granted – the sunrises and sunsets here. When I’m in Washington, that’s sort of the closest thing that brings me back home. It’s not really lush green mountains in Washington, it’s more brown hills and that always reminds me of back home. People think I’m really weird for it because every time I see a pretty sunrise, I’ll stop and take 10 pictures.

MEET: Manufanua Thomas
MEET: Manufanua Thomas

What are you passionate about?

Art. I think that a lot of people don’t appreciate what I see or consider art. Like all forms of art. Another thing I’m passionate about is equal rights for men and woman, and all the genders in between. Especially here [in American Samoa], I feel like religion plays a huge role in gender equality, and it’s not really talked about I guess.

Interesting! So even though, for example, the fa’afafine is very much accepted in the Samoan culture… would you accept that as welcoming of other genders?

I just feel like the LGBTQ spectrum should be wider than it is now. I feel like people try to fit into a label but there’s more than that. For some people who identify as gay, I feel like some of them are forced to become a mala when they could be anywhere else in between. And I feel like there’s not much support for it.

How did you get so passionate about these things?

So when I was a senior, I started to think more about this type of stuff. My group of friends sort of shifted, and that’s the kind of thing we would talk about. And my friends Marcie and Allie–they’re majoring in women’s gender studies–and I became so interested in how society thinks about it and how it differs between countries and stuff like that. I guess that’s what sort of inspired me to take on comparative ethnic studies because we talk a lot about like gender and culture and race, ethnicity, sexuality, and stuff like that.

MEET: Manufanua Thomas

So tell me about your style. Because I’ve known you as like always wearing basketball shorts and t-shirts. So your style now is pretty obvious, like I can look at Instagram and be like that’s Manu’s style.

Haha um I get a lot of my style inspiration from YouTubers like Connor Franta, That’s So Jack, Lauren Elizabeth. I’d say my style is sometimes minimalistic, sometimes unique and complicated. A lot of people think I shop at Levi’s or Gap but I literally buy my clothes at Goodwill. Except for shoes. That’s the only thing that I’m like – I need to buy a new pair of shoes. I bought these ones online from the Nike store. I also really like Kanye West. And Vetements. They make regular clothing but it’s luxury. And they collaborate with a bunch of brands. I like how they make simple clothing really unique.

MEET: Manufanua Thomas

Tell me about Humans of American Samoa. What’s the background story?

So last summer I wanted to start a photography page or something different from other Facebook pages on island. And my friends Marcie and Allie, they were really into Humans of New York, and they wanted to start something here on island too, so we collaborated on it. I took the pictures while they did the interviews. We wanted to get different stories and backgrounds of different people on island. And we wanted to see how people would react to it. We’ve gotten a little hate, but more love about it. Some people are really opinionated and will get offended. But I think it’s good for the island, so you can see what really goes on and how people really feel. And actually, a lot of people have asked us to take things down, they say it’s too offensive. But this is not us. This is the people of American Samoa, you know. We’re not bending the truth or anything. This is it.

Favorite travel destination and why?

My favorite place to travel to was Savai’i. When I left I took for granted the simple things that we have here, like being able to swim anytime of the day and seeing all these lush green mountains. Being surrounded by a unique culture, that’s one thing. And going to Savai’i was really fun because we didn’t stay in a fancy hotel, we stayed at Tanu’s beach fales and lived outside on the beach and got bitten by mosquitoes. But it was so worth it because you wake up in the morning and there’s a Samoan breakfast, you can see the sunset, and you can buy niu almost everywhere. Yeah it was a real eye opener.

What’s the next place you want to visit?

I’m really trying to go for a study abroad trip and a lot of people are telling me to go to New Zealand. I kind of want to go out of the islands. Right now the top of my list is Greece or Paris. I might actually go to Paris next summer for a study tour. It’s great because when I was at ASCC I majored in visual arts and I got to learn a lot about our history and a lot of Renaissance art which can be found at the Louvre in Paris. And this study tour is for design students like myself but it’s more geared towards art which would still benefit me in terms of credits but will be more beneficial towards like my hobbies. Because we would be doing stuff like sketching the Eiffel Tower and visiting museums.

MEET: Manufanua Thomas
MEET: Manufanua Thomas

Favorite app for editing photos?

VSCOcam preset C1 and A5. Or I’ll edit in the Photos app on my iPhone, and change highlights and brilliance.

Goals for the next year?

I want to become an RA. And to become part of an honor society or fraternity—be more involved.

Advice for people from the island who have difficulty finding their identity when they go to college?

Don’t be intimidated. Be yourself and everything will fall into place and will get better over time. Get out of your comfort zone every once in a while, and do what makes you happy!

MEET: Manufanua Thomas