I'll start with the Cook Islands, a little-known (at least to most Americans) island chain with 15 don't-blink-or-you'll-miss them blips of land spread out over 756,000-square-miles of the South Pacific, most of which is protected as a marine park.
After a particularly non-formal process of getting my passport stamped, I walked the approximately 100 feet to my hotel, ready to explore this little slice of geological, geographical wonder that is known as Tuvalu.
The U.S. Government must recognize that the size of its diplomatic contingents provide little more than talking points at Beltway think tanks. The region is really looking for the U.S. to back its diplomatic posturing with serious on-the-ground investments.
It seems like a small story -- local politics in an island nation at the edge of the map. But it is typical of the sort of dynamics that are seriously undermining western security in a critical period.
Led by a military leader who views himself as a savior but who is condemned by Australia as a despot, Fiji remains a country with an uncertain future. Barring some major policy shift, democracy will not return to Fiji without Commodore Frank Bainimarama's acquiescence.
When I travel, I want to be Marco Polo, a pioneer encountering little-known people and places. I want to feel the exuberance of newness rather than the comfort of well-trodden paths. I just found it all in Vanuatu.