Posted December 21 ’11

I go on a lot of trips. I love my home, am blessed with an amazing family and friends, yet the idea of staying put for more than three or four weeks at a time makes me want to pull my hair out and commit unspeakable crimes.  I have to keep moving.  If I hang out in one place for too long things start to go south and my loved ones generally encourage me to “go take a break.”  (Translation: get the hell out of here you unbearable shrew.)

Actual photo of me as a shrew

Sometimes I travel with family or friends but often I’m on my own.  I know that this wanderlust is genetic, part of my physiological make-up, unalterable and fixed.  I was born to adventurous parents, a descendant of migrant cultures from past generations.  (I’m actually jealous of the pioneers; I long to travel unexplored territory in a covered wagon or on horseback or by dugout canoe)


Katie Arnoldi

My need to roam is chronic but manageable.  Sometimes jumping in the car and driving for a day or two will sooth my savage beast and I’ll return home filled with peace and gratitude.  Movement, change of scene, talking to strangers, sleeping under the stars or climbing a mountain peak, always calms me.  My trips don’t have to involve an airplane and a foreign language.  All I have to do is get out in the world, change my perspective, step outside of my life and insert myself into different environments, watch myself react in alien situations, and I am renewed.   Who am I?  Certainly not the person I was two days ago.  (Thank goodness because she was so boring.)


Today I’m feeling a sense of peace and calm because my son and I just returned from a fantastic trip to the Solomon Islands.  It is my new favorite country.  (I often return from traveling to an unfamiliar place and declare it my new favorite.  My most favorite list is extensive.)  It takes a long time to get to there.  For us it was two days of travel and a forced layover in Fiji.   We stepped off the plane into the hot, rich tropical air of Honiara on the island of Guadalcanal, and walked across the tarmac to the terminal.  I was surprised by the excellent paintings that line the walls of the baggage calm area, scene after scene of warriors with thick bone-rings piercing their noses, spears and shields.   Here the headhunting history is celebrated and I was thrilled by the images.  Of course I couldn’t find my camera at the airport so there are no photos of the art.  Trust me, the work is impressive.

With over 1,000 islands, most of them uninhabited and untouched by any sort of development, the Solomon Islands is a country of spectacular beauty.  We spent one night in Honiara then took a tiny plane to Gizo, which is in the Western Province.  From the airstrip we jumped on a boat to Sanbis Resort on the island of Mbabanga.

The resort consists of six basic cabins with solar powered ceiling fans and mosquito nets (malaria is an issue).  They grow a lot of their own food and rely on local fishermen for lunches and dinners.


The place is clean and beautiful, there is running water, and the food is outstanding.

The primary reason for our trip was the scuba diving and we were the only guests for most of our weeklong visit.  It was strange and awesome to be there alone.   The water temperature varied between 86 and 90 degrees and the visibility was outstanding.  The reefs are healthy with a huge variety of corals, tons of fish, and both Japanese and American WWII wrecks.  We did three dives a day and spent surface time either fishing from the boat or lounging on isolated beaches.


Fishermen paddled by in dugout canoes.  I’m enthusiastic and like to wave at all people in boats.  They always wave back.


The market at the nearby town of Gizo was fantastic.  I was so impressed by the abundant array of fruits and vegetables.   The people are friendly and welcoming.  And proud.  I felt honored to walk the streets of Gizo.


We visited a sacred burial site where dozens of skulls and bones were displayed on altars.   It was fantastic.  The Solomon Islands really were the epicenter of headhunters.   Several of my novels have touched on cannibalism and tribal ritual.  Skull imagery is a big part of my visual alphabet (see homepage of my website).   I can’t get enough.

But when I stood in front of the skull altar I realized that while I may play at understanding primal instinct and tribal law, the truth is I have no idea what I’m talking about.   There is a power to that part of the world and I don’t understand it.  But I can feel it and I want to understand.  So I’m going back.

After seven days on Mbabanga we climbed aboard this little plane and headed home.  I’ve got a ticket to Papua New Guinea for February.  I’m going up to the Highlands where the Huli tribes live to see what there is to see.  Maybe I’ll figure something out.  I’m calm and happy.  The next trip is just around the corner.