The World Nomads Podcast: Palau

Palau is an archipelago of more than 500 islands teeming with corals and fish. Known for waterfalls, hiking, kayaking and diving, to enter visitors must take a pledge to act responsibly.


Photo © Getty Images/ Ippei Naoi

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The World Nomads Podcast: Palau

Spectacular diving and a pristine environment. Where is Palau? It’s in Micronesia, north of West Papua, and southeast of The Philippines and just a few degrees above the equator. It's the first nation to only issue visas to visitors who sign an eco-pledge, promising to act in an environmentally responsible way.

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What’s in the Episode

01:45 The Pulau Pledge

04:18 Laura Clarke on how the Pulau Pledge came about

07:32 How do the Rolling Stones fit in?

11:11 A kayak, a tent and 5 days worth of food

15:30 The Rock Islands

19:14 Travel News

20:40 Kim's rookie error

21:40 A lucky escape

22:53 A sister's legacy

29:00 Nicole's memory

32:02 What you are not covered for riding a scooter

35:13 Competing with the beaches in Hawaii

40:00 Next week

Quotes from the Episode

"The pledge was actually written by, in conjunction with the children of Palau, so we asked the children of Palau how they wanted visitors to treat and respect their country whilst they were there, and they wrote these beautiful heart-warming letters to the visitors." - Laura Clarke

"The whole idea of doing it was that I wanted to be somewhere a little bit alone, a little bit of solitude. Just me and nature..." - Stephen Lioy

"There was no one who was more worthy of life than Nicole, and it still got taken from her, because of a split-second decision to put safety second, and it just cannot, the concretes just as hard, no matter where you are in the world." - Kate Fitzsimons

"We dived on to a large Japanese tanker that was hit with, I think an aerial bomb, and you could see exactly where it hit, the metal was all bent back in an explosive pattern. It was sitting at about 60 or 70 feet. Amazing." - Sam Wilbur

Who is in the Episode

Laura Clarke is one of the co-founders of the Palau Legacy Project, creating a pledge signed by every visitor who arrives in Palau acknowledging they will act in a responsible way to protect Palau for the country’s children and future generations.

Stephen Lioy is a photographer and travel writer from the United States who is currently based in the Central Asian city of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Read his story on Palau here. Follow Stephen on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Sam Wilbur runs the site Worldwide Wilbur. Its aim is to help people expand their travel horizons, go somewhere new, be bold. Follow Sam on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Kate Fitzsimons is the founder of the Travel Safety Foundation run in honour of her sister Nicole - who was killed in a motorbike accident in Thailand during 2012. Its mission is to bring more travellers home safely, especially from places like South East Asia where relaxed safety standards can tempt people to take risks they wouldn't normally take at home.

The last photo of Nicole before she was killed in an accident in Thailand.

 Resources & Links

Palau is the first nation on earth to change its immigration laws for the cause of environmental protection. Learn more about the Palau Pledge.

Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.

Riots and protests can break out at anytime and anywhere – a frightening reality for all travelers. Here are some tips to help you avoid civil unrest while traveling

Check out the vision of the Spencer Glacier in Alaska that almost killed kayakers.

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About World Nomads & the Podcast

Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.

World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips and specialized travel insurance for independent, volunteer and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world. Our online global travel insurance covers travelers from more than 135 countries and allows you to buy and claim online, 24/7, even while already traveling.

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Speaker 1:  Welcome to the World Nomad's Podcast, delivered by World Nomads. The travel lifestyle and insurance brand. It's not your usual travel podcast, it's everything for the adventurous, independent traveler.

Kim:  Hi, it's Kim and Phil with you delivering our episode on Palau, it's a small country in the Pacific, and in this episode we explore the island with Steven who had a real Robinson and Crusoe adventure. I love this. This is where I like to travel. We'll learn about the Palau pledge, and hear from Kate who has created a pledge of her own after what really is...When anyone dies it's a tragic loss, but this was, this didn't need to be, and you'll hear about that. She was traveling at the time, but tell us more about Palau, Phil.

Phil:  All right, well, it's not just one island, but it's a chain of islands. Many of them are not a lot more than a just lime-stone outcrop, with a bit of jungle vegetation on top. Think in smaller versions of those cast islands off Thailand, where they did the Bond movies.

Kim:  They're beautiful.

Phil:  Like that. The largest island, Koror, is home to 15 thousand people, which is 70% of the entire population of Palau, so it's a not a big place. Where is Palau? It's in Micronesia, so north of west Palau, and south east of the Philippines, and it's just a couple of degrees above the equator, so no we know where we are. Why would a Nomad go there? Mostly for the diving, which is supposed to be absolutely spectacular, and of course and one of its main claims to fame is the pristine environment.

Kim:  Well, let's find out about that now. Given this is the first thing you need to do when you arrive in Palau. Let's start with a story of how four women helped establish a pledge that visitors need to sign in their passport, agreeing to act in an ecologically responsible way on the island, and that's for the sake of future generations of Palauan's.

Speaker 3:  Children of Palau. I take this pledge.

Speaker 4:  To preserve and protect your beautiful and unique island home.

Speaker 5:  I vow to tread lightly, act kindly, and explore mindfully.

Speaker 6:  I shall not take what is not given.

Speaker 7:  I shall not harm was does not harm me.

Speaker 8:  The only footprints I shall leave are those that will wash away.

Kim:  Yeah, that is the Palau Pledge and visitors are required to sign an environmental pledge that is stamped literally into their passports, passing to act, as you heard there, respectfully and without damaging ecosystems. We have with us, Phil, the co-founder of the Palau pledge. Please meet Laura.

Laura:  Hello. Lovely to be here. Thank you for inviting us.

Kim:  Who wrote the pledge?

Laura: The pledge was actually written by, in conjunction with the children of Palau, so we asked the children of Palau how they wanted visitors to treat and respect their country whilst they were there, and they wrote these beautiful heart-warming letters to the visitors, asking them for their help in preserving and protecting their environmental and cultural future. So, we then synthesized those letters and used the words that came out of those letters, and incorporated the sentiment and some of those words in the Palau Pledge Wording.

Phil:  They are beautiful words. So, what was the, you're obviously facing a problem from visitors that were coming?

Laura:  Yes, and for those listeners that don't know, you know Palau is the 16th smallest in the world. It has a population of 20,000 people, and it's in the Pacific, and I came here actually as a visitor in 2015, and a long-term visitor. My husband was posted here by the Royal Australian Navy, and so my observation, just as a visitor, was that other visitors weren't respecting Palau's very ancient culture of conservation, which is actually enshrined into their laws, and so I saw visitors, yeah, not respecting the laws, and not respecting Palau culture, and I as a visitor felt moved to actually try and take action about this.

Laura:  And so joined forces with a group of incredible Palau women, and other expat visitors who wanted to create something that would help visitors understand these really important tenants of environmental stewardship that have been in Palauan culture for centuries, and that's how the Palau pledge idea was first born.

Phil:  Give us an example of some of these cultural tenants, as you say.

Laura:  Well, the modern-day interpretation of these cultural tenants, I'll just talk about them first, is for example, Palau was the first country in the world to have a nuclear-free constitution, and it was the women of Palau that stood up to a much larger governments, and said, "You will not test nuclear weapons in our waters." And at that time it was a very risky move for Palau, because of the amount of subsidies, and aid that is needed in a small developing country.

Laura:  They were the first country in the world to declare their waters a national shark sanctuary. They were the first country in the world to have, well, they've got the largest percentage of protected maritime territory in the world. So, the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, which covers an area that's the size of France, which is the whole exclusive economic zone of Palau. 80% of that zone is actually protected by law, so that was another world first, and I guess this is all based on the Palauan's understanding of you have to survive in nature. Nature is the root of all of your survival. So, it's difficult, I think, sometimes to explain and but basically Palauan's don't separate nature from themselves.

Laura:  Personally, as a non Palau, I think that we all could learn a lot from that.

Phil:  Has anybody every turned up an been surprised that they have to sign in their passport and then got back on the plane and gone home?

Laura:  No, no, nobody's got on the plane and gone home, but I think when the Palau pledge first was launched, I think there people definitely turning up. We've spoken to some of the immigration officers, and people have a lot of questions like, “What is this?” It's the first time for me that I've ever had to sign my passport. It's not actually, you have to question it, because it's a legal document that is issued by your home country's government, so actually to sign my name in my passport, is that's a very official thing that we're asking people to do, but because it is the official arrival stamp of the Republic of Palau, and it is a requirement by law here to do that, people, when they read it, because actually is printed in six different languages.

Laura:  So, people understand it in their own language, and when they read it, they come to understand why it exists, and the purpose of it, and so therefore if they do have questions, they're very easily answered, because this is to preserve and protect the children of Palau's future.

Kim:  Well, people love it. You have one a swag of gongs around the world. You've got support from big names like Leonardo Di Caprio, and even the Rolling Stones are fans of the Palau pledge. How do you become a, I'd love to know that connection between the Stones? Such a huge band, and the Palau Pledge.

Laura:  It's huge. Well, yes, absolutely. A lot of people know Palau because way before the Palau pledge, Palau was already making headlines on the global news for its culture of conservation, the shark sanctuary, the nuclear-free constitution, Palau National Marine Sanctuary. All of these things mark Palau out as very, very special in the world. So, when it came to the Palau pledge, the specific story about the Stones is that Ronny Wood's son, Ty Wood, is an ocean activist himself, and he came to know of Palau and what we're doing, and it was natural, because the Stones are involved in a lot of environmental activism through various causes that they support.

Laura:  So, it was a natural alignment between the Palau Pledge, and people like the Rolling Stones, but even with Leonard Di Caprio, Dane Allen McAllister, John Kerry, Queen Nor of Jordan, all of these people, some of whom have actually never set foot in Palau, they all understand this is about Palau's future, and Palauan children's future, but actually it's a wider message for the world, because if we don't protect our environment, like Palau has always done, then our children world-wide are going to be suffering some severe consequences, and we're already seeing that.

Laura:  So, if you take that message, and they wanted to take that message and amplify it through their own profiles, that's what Palau is giving them a voice to do. It's actually not just about the children of Palau, but it's about the children of the world.

Kim:  Well, I hope they enjoy the podcast, and we do it justice. So-

Phil:  -That's right.

Kim:  So, once it's finished, Laura, we'll send it along, and please share it with all 20 thousand.

Laura:  I'm sure everyone will be listening avidly, but one thing I just wanted to add is that what is, I guess a great source of pride for Palau, is that Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Philippines, and hopefully soon Bhutan are all adopting versions of the Palau Pledge, based on their own culture of conservation, and they're asking visitors to sign these versions, and I think we're going to see a lot more of this around the world, because this is an idea that Palau created, but that resonates with people across the planet.

Laura:  So, yeah, we're really hoping that more and more countries and destinations take on what Palau has led the world in.

Phil:  Yeah, well, hear, hear, and congratulations and good work, and I think we should finish this off by playing the Palau Pledge once more.

Speaker 3:  The children of Palau, I take this pledge.

Speaker 4:  To preserve and protect your beautiful and unique island home.

Speaker 5:  I vow to tread lightly, act kindly, and explore mindfully.

Speaker 6:  I shall not take what is not given.

Speaker 7:  I shall not harm what does not harm me.

Speaker 8:  The only footprints I shall leave are those that will wash away.

Kim:  Phil, we've signed the pledge. We're ready to go. Are you ready to go?

Phil:  Yeah, ready, signed it.

Kim:  Let's begin our experience, like Steven, this is exactly how I would like to do Palau. He went kayaking, right? But just with the trusty kayak, a tent, five days of food.

Steven:  Yeah, man, they're just one of those places that tourists aren't going a lot to, but when you start to see pictures of them, and you start to read about them, it's just this really amazing landscape that just invites that adventure, and invites you to spend some real-time, instead of just doing that one day boat trip from Koror into Jelly Fish Lake and back, and so that's I really thought, “How can I spend as much time as possible in this area?” And the obvious area seemed to be to get a tent, a kayak, and some food and just hang out for a few days.

Phil:  A tiddly remote, on your own, five days.

Steven:  Yeah, look, there's some tourism there, right? It's fairly easy for Korean, and I think now Chinese and Japanese to get there as well. So, you do have these one day boat trips that are going in speed boats from the capital city Koror down to Jelly Fish Lake, doing the snorkeling, going back. There's a little bit of scuba diving. So, I think if there had been a real crazy emergency, if I had waited long enough, somebody would have driven past and I would have signaled to them, you know?

Steven:  But the whole idea of doing it was that I wanted to be somewhere a little bit alone, a little bit of solitude. Just me and nature, and so for that it was perfect. I put up a tent a beach, and used that as my home base for the whole time, and just every day hopped into the kayak, paddled somewhere beautiful. Went swimming and snorkeling, and all of these things, and then went back at night and slept in the tent.

Kim:  How pristine was the environment?

Steven:  There's a couple of islands that are the obvious tour boat stopping off points, and for these there's a little bit of infrastructure built up. A little bit of trash, but as soon as you get away from those there's just nothing. There's nothing man-made. There's even one island the TV show Survivor was filmed on, it must have been eight years ago now or ten years ago or something, but even to go on that island, there's some ruins of the communities that once lived, ages and ages ago, and that's all you can see.

Steven:  And this is a place that has seen a lot of human impact, but it's just so remote that there's not anybody visiting now, and most of the time people really care about the environment and taking are of it.

Phil:  Now, listen you've mentioned Jelly Fish Lake a couple of times, and I know it's an obvious thing that people go for. I really hate Jelly Fish, so why would you go there?

Steven:  Well, but why do you hate jelly fish? It's because you're afraid that they're going to sting you right?

Phil:  Well-

Steven:  -That's what's so-

Phil:  -I'm from Australia, mate. They really do sting you here when you do. No, I understand that there are plenty that don't, but they're just rubbery.

Steven:  Yeah, I tell you what, it's a really weird feeling, because they move throughout the lake throughout the day back and forth, right? They follow the sun across the lake, and harvest the nutrients, and so you start swimming, and you swim and there's none, and then there's five and ten and twenty, but then suddenly there's hundreds and thousands, and it's really, frankly, pretty peculiar, because logically you understand that these particular jellyfish, in this particular lake, are not going to sting you, right? Because they've lost the ability to really do so, and so logically you realize you're not in any danger, but when you're swimming, and you're surrounded by thousands of these little golden jellyfish every way that you look, they're blocking out the sun from the top, and you can see them all the way down to the depths of your vision at the bottom.

Steven:  It is a peculiar and somewhat frightening feeling, but at the same time it's just so other worldly that how could you not do it, and get a kick out of it.

Kim:  So, they weren't jelly fish that sting you, obviously?

Steven:  So, they are a type that normally will sting you. It's a Golden Jellyfish, is what they're called, but they've, this lake has been cut off from the sea for so long, it's not actually cut off, there's a small bit of flow in and out every day, but enough for predators to come in, which is the important part.

Steven:  So, just through generations and generations and generations of this species living in this lake, they've eventually lost the ability to really sting, and so some people who have really sensitive skin, say that if you get in they'll feel a little bit of tingling when they get really close to a lot of them, but from most people you won't notice anything, because they just don't have the ability physically to do that anymore, because it's evolved out of them.

Phil:  All right, some other parts that you went to, as well, apart from the isolation, lots of mangrove swats, but what else is there, you did a fair bit of snorkeling. The thing, and I want to talk to you about scuba diving as well, because I know there are some World War Two wrecks around there as right?

Steven:  Palau is really quite large, just in terms of how spread out it is, and the Rock Islands is just one part of very spread out country, and even in the Rock Islands, the whole of Palau is a protected, there's an outer reef that protects a lot of the reef inside, and so to be inside, there's a couple of places where's this just these massive drop-offs, these huge coral gardens.

Steven:  There's a few places where you can see, you'll be anchored to the reef, and as you watch, there's sharks swimming past beyond the drop off. There's the huge fish that are in massive, massive communities, massive schools. So, the wildlife itself is incredible, and then yeah, there was a lot fighting during World War Two, and so there's a couple of boats, there's a Japanese Zero, I think it's called, fighter plane. That is within snorkeling distance. I paddled out to it one day, and just snorkeled around it for a while. Anywhere that you go in the country you can find this. Any of the groups of islands, even nearby the capital city, you can go for a couple hours, and scuba one of these, and then get back to the city.

Phil:  And what about the people themselves there as well? Obviously, they don't have massive amounts of interaction with the outside world, as you say tourism's pretty low level there.

Steven:  Yeah, there isn't a ton of tourism, but also it was after World War Two it became a US Trust Territory, and so Palauan's are allowed to go work in the US, and quite a few people have done so, have family that have done so, and so despite it being so remote, it's really not uncommon for these guys to go to Guam, to go to the US to do whatever. So, it's really convenient as a tourist, right? Because everybody speaks native English. There's a lot of cultural touch points. I, every time I was in Koror, I use Koror as a base, and every time that I was in Koror, met just the weirdest parts of society. I met a couple of missionaries, local missionaries that were traveling out to the islands to try to convert people, and obviously there's internationals that live and work there in the scuba sector.

Steven:  I was at dinner with a couple of people I met at one time, and the Queen of Palau happened to come into the restaurant, so introduced me to the Queen of Palau. So, it's very accessible society, and everybody's really friendly, and as a native English speaker, you can talk to legitimately anybody, because it's just so international in that sense.

Phil:  Hey, when you get introduced to the Queen, did you call Your Majesty or what was the protocol?

Steven:  Nobody really explained that to me, and it was a little bit awkward, because I'm an American, we don't have these ideas, and so I just tried to be as polite as possible, and friendly, and, "Oh, wow. It's so nice to meet you." And she sat and talk to us, or she stood beside the table and talked to us for a minute or two, and then had something better to do.

Steven:  It's wait, what just happened?

Kim:  This is another place we have to put on the list Phil, but for those people that aren't feeling as adventurous as you were, and take food, kayaks, snorkel, don't be put off by that, there are places that you can go that has infrastructure.

Steven:  Yeah, well, so, Koror is a fairly modern city. There's plenty of tourist-oriented hotels. There are plenty of restaurants you can get Indian food or fresh fish or American burgers or whatever. So, it's certainly not a place you have to go and suffer the whole time, and really put yourself through hardship, but if you're going to go all the way to the middle of the Pacific, it seems like the place that you should be pushing that little bit further, and having a proper adventure, too, while you're there.

Kim:  A great way to experience Palau. Absolutely perfect. We'll have a link to his story and show night's spots and travel news, Phil.

Phil:  Great news from Will Vametz first. Our illustrious leader, the general manager Chris Noble has been appointed to the board of adventure travel conservation fund. The ATCF is a non profit that provides funding to highlight projects that protect the cultural and natural resources which underpin the adventure tourism industry. Their mission is to directly fund local projects engaged in the conservation of unique, natural, and cultural resources of adventure travel destinations. Congratulations, Chris.

Kim:  Well done.

Phil:  And bring it on, that's a really worthy thing to be involved in. Look at the time of recording this episode there was trouble in Hong Kong. Big trouble for the 11th weekend in a row, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to defend their democracy, and democratic rights. Tourism to Hong Kong has fallen off a cliff, it's collapsed.

Kim:  No surprise.

Phil:  No surprise, yeah, but there are still some people visiting. So, is it safe? Obviously stay away from any protest. In fact, you will void your insurance cover if you deliberately join in, or stay near a protest, and you're injured. So, don't go and watch. Get well away from the area. Check with your airline about their plans if the airport is closed again, because it has been a couple of time. Missed connections, delays, and cancellations are unlikely to be covered now that the process are a known event, unless of course you bought your insurance cover before the un risk began, and does that include you? Because you're going through Hong Kong.

Kim:  Well, I am an idiot. I booked a ticket. I'm going to London through Hong Kong, but I haven't got my travel insurance yet. So, if my flight's canceled-

Phil:  -Now you're on your own.

Kim:  Flip. Don't laugh. I could be stranded. I'll not make it.

Phil:  But look, the good thing is, as I understand it, I mean if you stay air side, you're not going tog get involved in the protest, because obviously they can't get through the security screening, so they're all in the arrival's hall-

Kim:  -But you said they'll close the airport?

Phil:  Well, that's true, but it hasn't been closed for a while.

Kim:  Watch this space.

Phil:  All right, let's moving on. A couple of adventurous types who were kayaking in waters around Alaska have had a lucky escape when a glacier they were near suddenly broke off a huge chunk, a carving as it's known. This huge block of glacier hit the water, and sprayed the kayak er's with tons of water and chunks of ice, and created a big wave that could have swamped them. Let's just have a quick listen.

Speaker 11:  We keep hearing calving happening, and big splashes, and it sounds like a gun shot going off. We're going to try to get over to where we think it's happening. Man, when that whole thing goes, oh, here we go. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. We're lucky to be alive right now.

Kim:  They were lucky tog be alive, that footage is in Show Notes, and it is incredible.

Phil:  I know. That is a massive wave that goes over the top of it. Anyway yeah-

Kim:  You finished?

Phil:  I'm done.

Kim:  I didn't mean that negatively. Now, we've started this episode with the Palau Pledge, what is it, and how it began. Well Kate has created a pledge of her own that she wants travelers to take before heading overseas, and riding scooters without helmets. Now, this is specifically, I guess, in South East Asia. She was inspired to do so after the death of her sister Nicole, who was involved in a crash in Thailand.

Kate:  Ah, Nicole. She was one of a kind. That's one way of putting it. So vibrant and bubbly. You'd always hear Nicole before you could see her. She had a very loud voice, and she wanted to put that voice to good use, she was studying to become a sport's journalist. Her dream was to be on channel nine reading the sports, and most especially rugby league. Her passion for that was beyond measure, but she did grow up as the most wonderful, talented dancer, especially in ballet, so she danced over in the New Zealand Ballet, and over in Tokyo Disney, she was a character.

Kate:  Disneyland over there, and just lived a really full rich life that she certainly showed up everyday living it to the fullest, and loved, loved traveling. So, she'd been around America and did six weeks to Europe on her own, just probably when she was about 22 years old, and after she worked on the channel 9 footy show, and they finally got a break at the end of the year, so she got her lovely partner Jamie, I think she got a kudo voucher or something for a few nights away, and cost a million in Thailand, so they booked themselves off there, and off she went. So, that was October 2012.

Kim:  And how cool that she had this really soft delicate dancer side to her, and then the grunt.

Kate:  Yeah, it would be hilarious. Nicole would be, so she would when she was younger, and sometimes she'd be at a dance stead fed up on stage, with her dainty little feet, doing a ballet dance. Winning and blowing everyone away like, "Oh, isn't she lovely?" And then that night would be the football, and she'd be there in a jersey standing on her state screaming her lungs out and getting right into it, and just one of the boys. That was why I think she left such an imprint on so many people that she met, because she was so unique and so talented, and if she didn't like something, she wouldn't effort towards it. I can't say school was her favorite thing in the world.

Kate:  But she did work really hard with her studies, and once she found her groove with something like journalism, and she was the type that Adil Cooper, the labradoodle, we had this gorgeous 13 year old labradoodle, and her and him had this most incredible bond, and she cried once over his haircut. It wasn't good enough, and she wrote the woman a letter next time saying, "If you cut his hair like that again, I will sue you." That was my sister.

Kim:  I love it.

Kate:  She didn't mince her words. Put it that way.

Kim:  Yeah, I love her, and so did Jamie. So, she went to Thailand with Jamie, and obviously there was a lifelong commitment there, they'd been discussing getting married, and who they would have in their bridal party, and then within hours of that discussion, his world changed, and certainly your world. What happened to Nic?

Kate:  Yeah, so, they were just having a really nice quiet dinner. I think it was in their last night in Koh Samui. So, just a quiet dinner and thought, “Oh, we'll make our way back to the hotel” Which was a kilometer down the road. They jump on a bike moped kind of thing, like so many people do when they're over in these Asian countries, and yeah, didn't think to put a helmet on. I mean why do you need to do that? No one else has a helmet on that I really see. So, they were turning into the driveway at their hotels just minutes from safety, and Jamie went to turn round, and then a local rider on the wrong side of the road tried to cut them off.

Kate:  Nicole pretty much took the full impact of that crash. So, the first I heard of it was about 3.30in the  morning. I was at my boyfriend's at the time's place, and mom like, “You hear your phone vibrate?” And at that hour I just remember thinking, “I want to ignore this. This is a just friend being a pest at this hour.” Because it was a Friday night, Saturday morning, I'm thinking someone's had too big of a night, and then when I fumbled for it and saw it was mom, immediately my stomach dropped, because I just knew. Like why is mom calling me at 3.30 in the morning?

Kate:  And the first words she said, “Your sister's been in a serious accident in Thailand. She's being rushed into surgery with serious head injuries.” And immediately actually the first thing she said, I think she was trying to play it cool and trying to stay positive and not stress out too much, she was like, “Just find her travel insurance. Get her details, we need those.” But then right at the end she was like, “Just pray to God she survives.” And those words were like when I was this is serious, and my world just completely spun, and then it was a few hours later I was like, “Farah, I better go back to be with mom and dad.” I went to watch the sunrise, I prayed my little heart out that Nicole would be okay. Came back, and I went to drive home to mom and dad, and I remember my phone started ringing again, and I thought, “It's probably mom just saying they need something to take to Thailand with them.” Because mom and dad immediately booked flights to be at Nicole's side, but I picked up the phone, and thank god I wasn't driving at the time.

Kate:  I was just about to be. Mom just, yeah, screamed, “She's dead.” I pretty much fell out of the car, and that was my world shattering in that moment in a way that I never saw coming, and it was just so hard to comprehend never again would I see her, and instantly all those sister moments, I was just a few months away from turning 21, and I'd always looked forward to hearing her 21st speech, because she was so funny and so good at talking and all that. She would have just tore me to shreds in the most loving way in that speech, or just the wedding being my bridesmaid on my wedding day, all those little moments that you reserve especially for a sister, to have them stolen from me, and trying to process that was, and it still is, I still get swept away in moments where it's like, “Wow, I can't turn back time and bring Nicole back home safely.” B

Kate:  ut with an Australian tourist dying over in South East Asia, every 17 hours on average there is something I've got to do, because I can't sit back and have a family waking up or receiving that same phone call that my family did every 17 hours.

Kim:  So, to honor your sister, what did you set up?

Kate:  So, we did establish a Nicole Fitzsimmons's Foundation quite soon after her death. We wanted her memorial in November 2012, because she did pass in October 2012, and yeah, from there the main focus is a travel safety campaign. As I began researching into how many other poor families had suffered what we'd been through, and discovered these alarming statistics, I looked at this video footage that we have of Nicole's accident, and I'm like, "This can save a life."

Kate:  To see such a young, vibrant, beautiful life taken before your eyes in a split second, it is an image that stays with you, and I now with over, I've reached over a hundred thousand, eleven, and twelve high school students with this footage. Their faces say it all. I left a corporate job to pursue this full time in March 2013, and so many people thought I was crazy for doing so, and the only thing more crazy to me was to sit back and not try to do something to save another family from this, and I knew that through being Nicole's little sister, and being willing to be vulnerable enough to share what it's like to lose someone so young and so suddenly, these kids, yeah, they've got their tough exterior, and they think they're cool, and they're all trying to impress each other but at the end of the day they're human beings with hearts, and families, and loved ones of their own.

Kate:  And if you are able, and I really believe people hear you on a level that you speak to them. So, I was like, "If I can speak to them from my heart, and share some of this footage." And as well as just some practical tips of what they can do to better prepare for that trip, and to be more mindful overseas, and to at least protect themselves financially, with travel insurance, which was a God send for my family. I couldn't go and change Thailand, nor do I have no right to, but I can change the mentality that we are taking overseas.

Kate:  So, I did start a helmet pledge campaign, and the pledge is that I will always wear a helmet when riding a scooter, no matter where I am in the world. If I'm getting on a motorbike I'm wearing a helmet, and now after the kids have watched my talk and presentation, they can go on this site, Nicole Fitsimon' forwardslash pledge, and take that pledge to lead by example, and to take their safety seriously. No matter where they are in the world, but most especially when they're on the roads overseas, and most especially Southeast Asia.

Kate:  There was no one who was more worthy of life than Nicole, and it still got taken from her, because of a split-second decision to put safety second, and it just cannot, the concretes just as hard, no matter where you are in the world.

Kim:  We'll have a link to the Nicole Fitzsimmons's Foundation, which includes details on the pledge, and a link to Kate herself in Show Note. She's quite the woman. She not only speaks to students here in Australia, but here in the US sharing her journey alongside stress and anxiety reduction techniques.

Phil:  Yeah, and can I just tell you something about motorcycle claims that come out of South East Asia, and not the World Nomad's brand, but another brand under our group, I did some investigations, this would be about a year, 18 months ago now, and they reject 66% of motorcycle-related claims out of Bali for four reasons. One of them is, you're not wearing a helmet, major one. Second is one, is you're not licensed. You do need a license to ride a motorbike, and the third one is you're under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The fourth one, the unhappy trifecta, all the above.

Kim:  Yeah, right.

Phil:  So, you know.

Kim:  All right, back to Palau, and Sam who runs the site World Wide Wilbur, which is about what, Sam?

Sam:  World Wide Wilbur is a travel blog that is documenting my mission to visit every country in the world.

Phil:  Ah, that's a more common mission than you would believe. Lots of people are trying to do that, and how hard is it?

Kim:  Good on you, Phil.

Phil:  No, no, no-

Kim:  -Sorry Sam. It's not you.

Phil:  No, that's not what I mean.

Sam:  You know what, I'm canceling the whole thing.

Kim:  Great chat, Sam. We'll put a link to Show Notes.

Phil:  I'm sorry, that's not what I mean. I meant that it's a worthy ambition to try and do, and lots of people have that ambition, but it's not easy to do.

Sam:  I think it's easier today than at any time in the history of the world. Travel is becoming easier and borders are opening up more so than every before. There's always going to be a few countries that are going to be extremely difficult, but there's less and less of those each year.

Phil:  Which one have you had the most trouble getting into?

Sam:  Yeah, I don't think I've, I haven't had trouble getting into any yet, but to be honest, I'm at 108 right now, and there's a 196 countries in the world. So, as you can imagine, people tend to want to go to the nice places first. So, I've been doing that. I haven't gone out of my way to get to Libya or the Central African Republic or Somalia, or any other places where there's a chance of getting shot. So, I haven't had any problems yet, but I know there are a few countries that will be difficult.

Kim:  Yeah, that's going to be tough, well, Phil, just before we chatted to you, Phil said that he really enjoys your site, it's full of lots of factual information.

Phil:  And I like the way you write, too, it's very easy to read.

Sam:  Thank you.

Kim:  Back on track.

Phil:  Yeah, we're back on track. Nice save cue.

Kim:  Yeah, I've got your back, I've got your back, and yours, too, Sam. Now, you have been, as part of this quest to visit all the countries in the world, you've been to Palau, how did you find it?

Sam:  Yes. I thought it was lovely. I live in Hawaii, so I'm pretty used to living in tropical paradises, and I'm probably a pretty harsh judge of tropical island countries. I often go on trips, and I go to countries where I've been recommended a beach destination. I hear all this beach is amazing, you've got to go see it, and I get there, and I think, "This beach is crap. I got five beaches down the street from my house better than this."

Sam:  So, I'm often disappointed when I go to these tropical beach destinations, but I was not disappointed with Palau. Palau is absolutely gorgeous. It's...They've really done a good job of protecting nature there, and the diving and snorkeling and kayaking is just fantastic.

Kim:  Well, Palau has a lot in common with Hawaii or vise versa, because I think Hawaii is about to take the same or make the create the same kind if pledge that Palau does to make sure that people visit and travel sustainably and look after the environment.

Sam:  Yes, that would be wonderful if they did that. I think they've taken the step of adding, I think a short video is now played when people fly into Hawaii from the government that just goes over some really basic tourist safety, and how to protect the environment type things, and I know that Hawaii's also banned non reef safe sunscreen.

Kim:  Oh yes.

Sam:  Starting next year, I think.

Kim:  You would recommend Palau then to anyone that's grown up around the areas of pristine beaches, white sands, blue seas?

Sam:  Yeah, and to be specific, Palau actually, the main island of Palau, where you'd be staying when you go there, doesn't actually have any beaches. It has mangroves, but you can easily get a boat ride out to one of the little rock islands that has a beach, and those beaches are, and those little tiny islands all around the main island in Palau are uninhabited, and when you come into go snorkeling or diving or kayaking, you have to buy a permit, and that permit allows you access to all those islands, and you can even spend the night on one if you get one of the dive companies to drop you off and leave you there. You can throw up your tent and spend the night on a gorgeous pristine beach all to yourself.

Kim:  During your diving did you come across any of the World War Two history?

Sam:  Yes, we did. We dived on to a large Japanese tanker that was hit with, I think an aerial bomb, and you could see exactly where it hit, the metal was all bent back in an explosive pattern. It was sitting at about 60 or 70 feet. Amazing. Huge, huge ship, I can't remember how many feet long, but really big, and really interesting to see that, and there's so many of those ships all around Palau.

Kim:  We will share your link in Show Notes to the things that can do in Palau, and also to World Wide Wilbur, but what would your advice be to somebody?

Sam:  Go because it is a...Well, they bill themselves as the Pristine Paradise of Palau, and it's exactly correct. It's no exaggeration. It's got the best scuba diving in the Pacific, possibly. I think the only other place that would really rival it is maybe Fiji. The dive companies are first rate and professional. There's nicer resort hotels. The people are friendly. It's a small town atmosphere. You feel very safe walking around. Every thing is really enjoyable there, and no negatives to detract from going.

Phil:  What's the feel like there though? Is it Fiji and village feel or is it because of where it's placed it's not that far from the Philippines, and the original Palauan's came from South East Asia. Does it have an Asian feel or a Pacific feel?

Sam:  I felt like it had more of an Asian feel than a Pacific feel. The restaurants, the bright lights of downtown, everything had an Asian feel to it, but of course the people are Pacific Islanders, but there area lot of Asian folks living there. There are a lot of guest workers from the Philippines working there. In fact, almost all of the waiters and waitresses and people that you work with in the hospitality industry are from the Philippines, so yeah, there's definitely an Asian feel there.

Kim:  Thank you, and link to the site in Show Notes. By the way, we now have our own Facebook group. Search for the World Nomad's Podcast. We'd love you to join us in sharing the stories of travel, and there's extra info there on the podcasts and our guests and destinations.

Phil:  Yeah, it's right behind the scenes stuff. We're getting ready to getting some of that on there as well, but you can reach out to us on the Facebook group or email us as, and so you don't miss out on an episode, subscribe wherever you get your favorite podcast, and we'd appreciate if you could also tell your friends about us, too.

Kim:  Yeah, remember this, rate, share, subscribe. Next week our amazing nomad is Nomadic Matt.

Phil:  Aye, Nomadic Matt.

Kim:  Yep, sharing, or not sharing, well, yeah, he's sharing and chatting about his book release, and his organization Flight. Working with students in underserved communities to promote the benefits of travel, education, and cultural awareness by funding overseas educational programs. So, we'll see you then.

Phil:  Okay, bye.

Kim:  Bye.

Speaker 1:  The World Nomad's Podcast. Explore Your Boundaries.


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