French Polynesia

Moorea, French Polynesia Photo by Lisa Niver
Moorea, French Polynesia Photo by Lisa Niver
Moorea, French Polynesia Photo by Lisa Niver

Ready to be pampered on a five star yacht in Tahiti? You can sail year round with Windstar Cruises in French Polynesia.

CEO Hans Birkholz is a fellow University of Pennsylvania grad from the Wharton School and was telling me about their six yachts that are all less than 300 passengers. A very different experience than my days when I worked onboard at Princess Cruises. When sailing with Windstar Cruises it is all about you, the crew will  learn your name and your preferences and you will enjoy an authentic destination in private yacht style.

I am ready to experience magical moments, private events, and the open bridge. Who wants to go with me? Air Tahiti Nui will make sure your vacation begins the moment you board their flight. Pick a seven or eleven day sailing –or better yet enter the contest to win a 5 cabin prize!

bora window
Flying in French Polynesia. Photo by Lisa Niver

Personally, I would love to return to Bora Bora Lagoon and hike the mountains in Moorea. French Polynesia is so stunning. The shark diving in Bora Bora was memorable and I cannot wait to go back.

Windstar Cruises has special events in all their locations from a night in Cafe de Paris in Monte Carlo, to dining in the library at Ephesus or a swim lesson by Mark Spitz. See more by small ship and dream of Tahiti.

 Starting on June 17 through July 19, Windstar is offering the chance to win a Tahitian cruise for one winner and nine close friends. Enter online and receive a referral link to share with friends. The more friends who use that link to enter, the more entries you receive. The winner of the sweepstakes will be revealed on July 31.
I loved the dancing by Nonosina Polynesia at EP & LP restaurant on the rooftop. Enjoy the video! 

Ready to return to #Tahiti @windstarcruises love the ukulele music! #windstarcruises

A photo posted by Lisa Niver (@wesaidgotravel) on

jonny reviewThank you to Jonny Blair of Don’t Stop Living for the fantastic review of our memoir, Traveling in Sin.

From his review:

Both Lisa and George are members of the Traveler’s Century Club. That means they have both been to over 100 countries!! I’d say they’re travel experts and well versed to give you an insight into their travelling lives. Traveling in Sin is a 286 page e-Book documenting their journey, it takes them through an emphatic range of places like Borneo, French Polynesia, New Zealand, China and Mongolia.

There are a load of twists along the way as they also tell their personal story of how they met, how they shared their love of travel and how, somewhere along the way there’s a marriage proposal…

It’s also an immaculate love story within, including private e-mail messages the couple sent each other to begin with, the decision to take 11 months out to see the world together, the falling in love on the road story…

For me, the best thing about Traveling in Sin is the way it’s written. It’s a passionate, enthusiastic, real-life travel memoir. The joint authorship gives it that gender splitting edge. They are telling their travel story the way it is, the way any traveller should. I write a diary of my journey and always have done, even to this day I make handwritten travel notes and then convert the best of them to this travel blog.

Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker, a high end traveller, a holiday maker or someone who just loves a real life travel and love story, get downloading this book! It will make a great read on your next journey and you may be suitably inspired.



WATCH: The Video Book Trailer for Traveling in Sin

purple clover sabbatical aug 2013Thank you to Purple Clover for publishing my story about Our Sabbatical Adventure.

Five years ago, Apple’s App store opened, Kindle was brand-new, Skype was not yet a verb, and my then-boyfriend/now-husband George and I flew to Tahiti to start a one-year sabbatical adventure.

I chose to leap for love and was unsure how a year on the road would play out. George and I met online and had an instant connection, in no small part due to a mutual passion for exotic travel. George said very early on in an email exchange, “We will at least be friends,” knowing that he had found a kindred spirit of wanderlust.

After several months of dating, we traveled for three weeks to Fiji and Vanuatu during summer holidays. Visiting a local village on Espiritu Santo meant this Princess (yes, I worked for Princess Cruises) had her first bucket bath. I liked it so much, I told George, “I am going to buy a bucket for my shower in Los Angeles. All the soap came right out of my hair.” Later that week, the former Peace Corps worker asked me to join him on this dream to travel for a year in Asia. Thank goodness, I had really liked the bucket!

During the next school year, many of our friends continually asked us, “How can you leave for so long?” Others said, “Just go for the summer and come back to teach in the fall.” They couldn’t imagine being uprooted for a full year. But, I had to ask myself, “If George goes on this year-long adventure without me, how will I feel?” I knew the answer in my heart. I had to go with him.

Under the moonlight in Fiji, when I had first agreed to join George’s dream trip, we had been together for six months. My 40th birthday was fast approaching and I missed the time when I traveled full-time.

Read the full article: Click here.

Westside today traveling around the sinThank you to Amy Sommer at Westside Today for her story, Traveling Around the World…in Sin about our memoir, Traveling in Sin.

“Traveling in Sin” is a love story and travel memoir rolled in to a single, enjoyable book. Written by George Rajna and Lisa Niver Rajna, the travelers who fell in love while traversing the Far East, the inveterate travelers include 80 beautiful photos from their journey in its pages.

The Rajna story starts in 2007 when the duo, after dating for about six months, travel to Fiji where George shares his lifelong dream to travel the globe for a year and urges a reluctant Lisa to join him. a year later, in 2008, the duo took a leap of faith in the universe and each other and embarked on a journey that from French Polynesia to Mongolia. As their adventures unfold, Niver-Rajna whittles her waistline while upping her confidence and Rajna learns to open his heart to the partner he proposes to toward the end of the trip.

Told through humorous anecdotes and populated with unique characters the couple met in their travels, Niver-Rajna and Rajna tell an exciting tale filled with tears of joy and disaster as they share their love story.

Read the article on Westside Today.

Buy the memoir, Traveling in Sin.



Thank you to Nellie Huang for publishing my review of Torre Deroche’s novel, Love with a Chance of Drowning in Wild Junket.

My review begins:

Many people ”lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them” (Henry David Thoreau).Will you say yes when the experience of a lifetime is offered to you?

Torre DeRoche, author of Love with a Chance of Drowning, says: “I don’t know why I’m afraid of the ocean, but I don’t think there’s anything in the world that I’m more scared of. It’s so dark and creepy.” He, of course, turned out to own a boat, named Gracie, and planned to sail around the world.

DeRoche shared her neurotic impulse and great sense of humor with her first impression of Ivan, “He’s a man with wild ambitions. I’ve never met a real-life adventurer before; I’ve only ever seen them on the breaking news report, generally being dragged from catastrophes.” As their love deepened, DeRoche contemplated facing her fears to join Ivan’s sailing voyage, but still there was trepidation.  Ivan encouraged her, “Just don’t forget to live in the moment. Life is about making yourself happy in this moment.”

Eighteen-year-old Tania Aebi who sailed alone, saw new countries, and made new friends inspired DeRoche. But it was Ivan’s response to DeRoche’s fears of dying during the trip that finally convinced Torre, when he said, “Some people die of old age without ever having lived their dreams. Some people die without ever having loved… If something happens on the ocean, we’ll die as two people in love who are living a remarkable adventure.” DeRoche then decided to “take this risk for love.”

Read the full review on Wild Junket.

More books about Travel and Inspiration reviewed by Lisa.

From Iguaçu I travel west over the Andes and beyond, over one of the emptiest stretches of water on the planet, en route to Easter Island, a fine dot on the map of the Pacific. If Iguaçu is full presence, Eastern Island is absence. Fretted by incessant winds, it is surrounded by a million square miles of open sea. And the nearest solid land you can see from here… is the moon.

This tiny rock in the middle of nowhere, on the way to nowhere, has bewildered and beguiled explorers, scientists, artists and visitors for centuries. But only its solitary stone sentries, some standing, some fallen, know the island’s real story.

Wonder is what provokes through opposition of what makes sense, and so little makes sense here. It’s a twisted plot that turns on creation and destruction; a whodunit; a cautionary tale… and one of the greatest unsolved riddles of all time.

Why did an ancient people erect the massive stone figures that haunt this remote island? How did they do it? And why did such an accomplished people nearly vanish into thin air?
Answers are as insubstantial as sand. The footprints of those who once knew have long washed away. Yet we are inexorably drawn to things we don’t understand…compelled, by nature, to wonder.

Easter Island is a place to meditate upon mysteries. Nowhere can such colossal statues be found in such a small place in such great numbers created by so few people. It is the richest, most bewitching open-air museum in existence.

Many are familiar with the outlines of the story: Once blessed with bounty — flocks of native birds, a forest of palm trees and a sea abundant with life — Easter Island was, for a time, Eden-like.

Sometime in a period still uncertain, seafaring Polynesians, masters of wind, stars and current, set sail in outrigger canoes. Defying all odds, they crossed a vast void of ocean, until they bumped into this igneous spit, and then settled here, perhaps because of the fresh water source in its crater lakes. Over time, they carved and erected these great moai, the island’s iconic, brooding statues.

Then suddenly, over the course of a few short hundred years, the society buckled, then collapsed. The population shrank to a shadow, leaving only the mute moai as witness to what had happened.

Anthropologists tell us the people who settled this island were Polynesian. Archaeologists tell us the moai were carved from volcanic stone. But no one can explain why the inhabitants spent so much time fashioning the statues, and moving them around like giant chess pieces… and why they toppled them when they were done.

The island received its cartographic celebrity from the Dutch sea captain Jacob Roggeveen, the first European to visit the island on Easter Sunday, 1722.

One sailor wrote of the huge stone heads they found: “all made with skill, whereat we wondered not a little.”

Up to 13,000 people once inhabited the island, but by the time Captain Cook arrived in 1774, most of the land had been deforested, and only a thousand called it home. Like so many, Cook was amazed by what he found. “It was incomprehensible to me,” he wrote, “how such great masses could be formed by a set of people among whom we saw no tools.”
The extinct volcano Rano Rarku provided the volcanic tuff from which the island’s almost 900 moai were chiseled and carved. Archeologists think it took 5 or 6 men, using hand tools, a full year to complete each statue.

But how did they move these monoliths, some standing thirty feet high and weighing up to twenty tons? Some suggest felled palm trunks acted as rollers as teams of hundreds pushed and pulled the statues into place. Others say they were walked, as movers might walk a large piece of furniture across the room. And there are those who believe there was no human assist at all, that the statues marched themselves across the raw-boned isle.

At Tongariki stands a line of giant Moai, one crowned with a massive stone headdress. The achievement of donning this fellow’s hat might be compared with putting a man on Mars today. How did they do this? The only thing to do in the face of the incomprehensible is to wonder.

Most of the moai were felled for reasons obscured by the long shadows of time. Only recently have several been re-erected to their previous viewpoints, and the restoration work continues
Contact with the outside world was not kind to Rapa Nui, and in time the island seemed to shrink into itself. European ships brought slave traders and disease. Then there was the islanders’ own undoing, still a mystery. But by 1860, just 111 people survived and today’s inhabitants are the descendants.

After missionaries arrived on the island, much of the native culture was suppressed and, in some cases, erased, but since the 1960’s Rapa Nuian culture has undergone a renaissance. The people of Easter Island today are breathing mana, or life spirit, into their native arts, language and culture.

Controversies still rage as hard as the sea into the cliffs on this three-million-year-old volcanic spit. Theories slip past like fish in flight.

Many guesses for Rapa Nui’s early undoing have been hazarded: climate change, overpopulation, volcanic eruption, rat infestations, cannibalism, war. Though we continue to search for answers, it’s the non-answers that needle and keep us wondering. Why is this important? Because knowing begins with not-knowing.

But while we fail to grasp the narratives long vanished, there is a yearning wonder in the attempt. Was what happened here a moment of dizzyingly singularity? Or is it a crystal ball to our own future? What are the costs of our own choices? What can we learn to avoid this fate?
In recent years, tourism has boosted the economy of Easter Island. But the people of Rapa Nui well know that if the number of tourists increases past a certain threshold, the island will once again have insufficient resources to handle the growth. The people of this island are no strangers to overpopulation, and its consequences, so great efforts are being made to keep this address sustainable, in balance, for locals and visitors.

From the moment visitors’ touchdown, these efforts are noticeable. Even the offices of the island’s leading airline are designed to be green and sustainable.

The newly built Hangaroa Eco Village is based on the Polynesian kainga, or village, integrating respect for the fragile lands of Rapa Nui with a laudable cultural sensitivity.

“On the entire surface of the island, there is not a tree that merits being called that,” wrote naturalist George Forster, who accompanied Captain Cook.

No matter how the island’s trees were lost–cutting them down to move the Moai, or for building, firewood and weapons, or from a plague of Polynesian rats arriving with the island’s first settlers — thanks to work from CONAF, The National Forest Corporation of Chile, trees native to Oceania are now being introduced in an effort to re-forest land denuded for centuries.

And so, the guardianship of this once-broken island seems in good hands now, its tonic of wonders intact, and sustaining.

The wind whispers here, like the voices of carvers past. All we are left with is the magnet of mystery, which pulls travelers to this powerful place.

The mysteries lay folded in wonder. The great Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda wrote of this place: “And in this capital without walls made of light, salt, stone and thought, like the rest I looked at and left frightened by the cleanly clarity of mythology, the statues surrounded by blue silence…. Easter Island, where everything is an altar, where everything is an altar of the unknown.”

The blind eyes of Easter Island watch our comings and goings, impassively, as they always have. Most gaze inward, toward the center of this island universe; but a few look out to sea, wondering, perhaps, what lies beyond. Can they as well see across time as space, and know what is coming in the Moai’s future — in our today?

The APT/KQED television special “Richard Bangs’ South America: Quest for Wonder” is airing nationally now on PBS. See this link for air dates and info.

You know that moment immediately after you stub your toe, but before eminent pain ensues when you think to yourself:

“crap, this is going to really hurt in just a few seconds”

With less than two months to go before Vicky and I set out on what is arguably our most important decision to date, that’s a little bit how I feel now.

It’s a loose connection I’ll admit, whereby the act of stubbing your toe is deciding to go on this two year journey, and the pain is a series of “fall flat on your face” moments that are destined to happen from traveling to unfamiliar places.

What is consistent in this metaphor, however, is the overwhelming anxiety that comes from reality setting in.

I feel completely an utterly unprepared.

I can’t help but think back on myself a year ago. It amazes me that for the first 6 months after deciding to travel the world for two years I essentially sat around doing the same thing I always did. I won’t go into great detail but a couch and a TV were the major players.

Didn’t I wonder where I was going to get vaccinated? Where we were going to go? What I was going to pack?

dave lounging on the couch
I guess not

Ignorance was bliss.

And besides – Vicky will figure it out. She’s good at that stuff. What I am good at?

Making The Website

I’ll make the website. I did it once in college and it was no sweat. We’ll be at the top of the search results in no time, promise, just give me two weeks.

website after two weeks
Our website after two weeks of "work"

OK OK a month…tops!

website after one  month
website after one month

CHECK (I mean half the battle is coming up with a catchy title right)?

website search results of the search results

Um…let’s move on.


Vaccinations – I’ll need a few of those huh? Well, there’s probably only like two travel clinics in DC anyways:


Touché travel clinics – touché.

Oh well, I’m sure they all do a fantastic job, and if I miss one vaccination it can’t be that bad right?

Rabies symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety, stress, and tension
  • Drooling
  • Convulsions
  • Exaggerated sensation at the bite site
  • Excitability
  • Loss of feeling in an area of the body
  • Loss of muscle function
  • Low-grade fever (102 degrees F or lower)
  • Muscle spasms
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Pain at the site of the bite
  • Restlessness
  • Swallowing difficulty

Did they say drooling? Am I sure I don’t already HAVE rabies? Maybe we should just table this for a bit and move on to something more fun.

The Route

Let’s plan the route.

Ya, that’ll be fun. Let’s talk about all the cool places where going to go and sites we’re gonna see. Bungee jumping, Everest Base Camp, white water rafting – Great idea!

Asia should be easy – what are the countries again?

asia countries
Asia countries

I guess a few more popped up after the Soviet Union split (or was it the Berlin Wall coming down?). Realistically though, I mean, Myanmar? If I’ve never even heard of it. It’s probably not that cool…

But maybe not.

Maybe Myanmar is the coolest place in Asia?

search results
I didn't realize this was such a heated topic

Thanks Google – a simple Yes or No would have sufficed. I have to be more scientific about this:

Dave Beer Pong
OK babe, if I sink this cup we're going to Myanmar...and it's balls back

Alright, the route’s planned…and I’m a little tipsy.

Don't ask how I came up with it - game got a little crazy when we went into triple overtime

It’ll make sense when we get there…promise.


Last part – packing. Should be pretty simple, let’s start with the must haves:

Maybe if I turn it 90 degrees it'll fit ?

No, I’m not thinking about this right. I have to think smaller.

OK, I just shrunk the picture - the TV still doesn't fit

Alright, alright, I’ll just stick to the bare necessities:

Toilet Paper
Can I watch Sports Center on this?

Well I guess that just about does it then.


You might have guessed that this article was somewhat in jest. In reality, a decent amount of work has gone into our planning. At the end of the day though, there really is only so much one can do. No matter how much planning (or how little), you put in, I think there is an element of uncertainty with travel that does make it feel like I just took a shot in a beer pong game. So yes, I do still feel completely unprepared, and yes, I do think it’s going to “hurt” in a few months time. Inevitably though, plans rarely turn out the way they were intended, but at least they get you moving!

About the authors:

Having spent 2 years in the working world, Dave and Vicky are ready to exchange their briefcases for backpacks, dress shoes for sandals, and beds for sleeping bags. Starting in September they will be embarking on a 2 year journey across Asia and Europe. You can follow along at A Couple Travelers where you’ll find travel reflections, blogging resources and restaurant reviews.

By Lee Abbamonte

Travel opens your eyes and your mind to a whole new world.

Travel enables you to see the world through other peoples eyes and from other points of view.

Travel increases your awareness of other cultures and people.

Travel makes you smarter.

Travel is the best education you can receive.

Travel enables you to speak intelligently on a variety of global topics.

Travel shows you how global policy effects different countries and different types of people.

Travel brings you to places you’ve only dreamed about seeing.

Travel shows you landscapes you never thought were possible.

Travel shows you what real beauty is.

Travel shows you that everything is beautiful in its own way.

Travel makes books and television come to life.

Travel makes adventures happen everyday.

Travel makes dreams come true.

Travel gives you a sense of enormous accomplishment.

Travel gives you something to look forward to to.

Travel gives you options.

Travel is a lifetime journey that is never the same twice.

Travel makes the big world small.

Travel humbles you.

Travel puts things into perspective.

Travel shows you what poor is.

Travel shows you how unfair this world can be.

Travel shows you people overcoming the longest odds to live their life to the fullest.

Travel shows you triumphs of the human spirit.

Travel teaches you how to say “Cheers” in 30 different languages.

Travel teaches you the International language of beer.

Travel teaches you to appreciate wine and the beauty of vineyards.

Travel teaches you to try new things.

Travel makes you yearn to do new things.

Travel teaches you the difference between a traveler and a tourist.

Travel teaches you to become a traveler and not just a tourist.

Lee Abbamonte is the youngest American to visit every country in the world. I am a travel writer, travel expert, global adventurer and have appeared on NBC, CNN, ESPN, GBTV, Fox News, Jetset Social and have been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Bloomberg, Smart Money, Slate, OK! Magazine, Peter Greenberg radio and many others. I’ve visited 306 countries and am one of the world’s most-traveled people.

“I believe in globalization of everything including people. I believe that I am a citizen of Earth. I believe that people around the world are at their core, basically good and the same. I believe that more people should experience the world and the way traveling can open their eyes and minds to different and exciting things. I believe in just being myself. I believe in life.” – Lee Abbamonte

Our year journey in South East Asia started July 2, 2012. When we were gone for eleven months in 2008, one of the common questions was, “How can you spend so much time together?”

We were recently  interviewed about Traveling as a Couple by Travelinksites:

Today we have the fine pair behind the super blog We Said Go Travel.  With well over 100 countries tucked away in Lisa and George’s repetoire, these guys are experts!  Their blog is full of videos, info and tales from far flung places so make sure you check them out. But first, let’s hear how they travel successfully as a married couple…


1.  Could you briefly introduce yourselves and your site?

Hello! We are a traveling couple. I worked for seven years at sea for Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and Renaissance Cruises in the youth program and as cruise staff and went scuba diving and traveling on six continents. My husband George lived in Paraguay as part of the Peace Corps Program and traveled around South America. Both of us had been to nearly 100 countries (by Traveler’s Century Club count) before we met.

2. Tell us the story!  How did you guys meet and what made you choose to write a travel blog?

George found me online—and we started traveling together almost immediately. Our first journey was to Fiji and Vanuatu. In Vanuatu, we went to a village, met a Peace Corps worker and I had my first bucket bath. When we started our first year-long journey, we wrote a newsletter every month. After we got married, we went from our “He Said, She Said” to our website: We said Go Travel.


Thank you to for choosing us as a Traveling Couple for their site! We hope to share more about how we do it while we are gone this year!

Happy Independence Day! We hope you find a way to make all your dreams come true and feel INDEPENDENT this year!


August 2008

Here is the news from French Polynesia!! We went hiking in Moorea

All about the trees–we saw many groves of MAPE trees

The Mape tree was brought to Polynesia from South East Asia. It has a smooth trunk and can get rid of MOLD! The trees were used as drums and made into canoes. Medicine made from the sap of these trees can cure poisonous stonefish stings and stop inflammation. The dye from these trees was also used to decorate clothes and ritual objects. See link on side for our shutterfly album.

Beautiful Bora Bora made by Volcanoes

Flying into Bora Bora –landing on Motu Mute

Bora Bora was formed after many volcanic eruptions that began four million years ago and continued over hundreds of thousands of years. Since then–it has started to slowly SINK! Its lagoon is encircled by a wide coral reef that enclosed several big motus (small islands) and has ONE opening from the lagoon out to the ocean. It is very blue. We stayed at Matira Point the BEST beach on Bora Bora (and really the ONLY beach on Bora Bora)

Bora Bora Lagoon Tour

Swimming with SHARKS

We went on a boat ride around Bora Bora. We stopped to snorkel at the “Aquarium” where we were surrounded by schools of small fish. At the next stop, we were able to touch and even kiss Sting rays. We swam with about 10 sting rays that were about 4 feet across. BUT the best spot was where our guide, Ringo Star, fed black tip reef sharks. There were about 12 of them 5-6 feet long and we watched from the water as they ate. Below us there were 2 lemon sharks (10 ft long). We were able to snorkel after the sharks were done eating. We also stopped at a motu for photos and the beautiful view of the island.


George and I spent Two Weeks in French Polynesia

During our 2 weeks in French Polynesia, we were able to visit 4 islands. We spent our 1st 2 nights in Papeete, Tahiti. We traveled by boat to Moorea where we had 5 days and nights of snorkeling, hiking and biking. Flying to Bora Bora was beautiful. Our 4 days there included many walks, snorkeling and swimming with sharks. Our final 3 days in Huahine, we were able to bike from Fare to Maeva to see the Marae (ancient sacred sites). I was amazed by all the solar powered houses. It was also incredible in Bora Bora–we stayed at Pension Robert and Tina for $100/night. The Intercontinental next door was $1000/night. We saw many local people living right next door with very limited resources. The extremes in all the islands were incredible.
Use this link to see the photos!
We will try to annotate them so you will know which ones are WHERE!
Now we are in New Zealand. And I am finding out even more about volcanoes! My website is almost done and we will have a blog! Happy AUGUST!
Lisa and George