The nation that was once called Western Samoa is now simply Samoa. Sometimes it's also referred to as independent Samoa, a particularly apt name for this Polynesian island group, where people still very much go their own way, as they have for more than three millennia.

Indeed, life in this widely scattered group of islands is deeply rooted in the ways of ancient Polynesian culture. The older residents have struggled hard to preserve the traditional Fa'a Samoa, or Samoan way, which along with beautiful beaches and colorful lagoons makes these islands well worth a visit.

When Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island, arrived in Samoa in the late 1800s, he planned to stay only a few days. But he was so intrigued by the place that he remained there until he died. Samoa has changed since then, but it is far less commercialized than its eastern neighbor, American Samoa. You might not want to live out your life there, but you'll surely be sad to leave.

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