How I Forgot I Live on an Epic Island

Before I got to this point – the point where I somehow forgot that I live on an epic island  – life was just slower, more social.

I never got carried away with the day to day grind just because there was something I had to do. It was more important to take a moment to talk to someone I knew, to really understand how they were doing. Conversations could last a half hour or longer, but it would end up with feeling good… being there for someone, or there would be some great insight/opportunity uncovered, good advice given or received, or a planned social event to look forward to. The bill I was going to pay could be paid later or, for that matter, next week.

The natural beauty of a normal day was mesmerizing.

Surprising, surreal sunrises, birds floating in the backdrop of unbelievable baby blue skies and puffy white cotton clouds that showed themselves after amazing sunrises which gave way to unforgettable sunsets. These moments were a daily stop; I allowed myself to watch and linger. To watch the clear blue Caribbean sky turn into a rainbow of colors, from vibrant yellows and oranges to crazy pinks and deep purples that I had never seen before… colors so difficult to describe except to say they are an indescribable palate of color… an artist’s muse.

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“Long Chill Limes” were the norm.

That lonely beach where it was just me… where I could look back and see only my foot prints in the sand, or that impromptu relaxed lime at a small shack on the beach where they knew my name and the lull of reggae music played. My own personal radio station with no commercials and an empty road to traverse home on.

Animal crossings and tractors were the only traffic.

The stops for a goat herd or a pack of pigs to cross was the only traffic. So much so that saying you were late due to a goat crossing, a tractor on the road, or a donkey eating mangos in the middle of the road (during mango season of course) was acceptable.

Sounds of nature were heard.  

I listened to the ocean waves crashing onto the yellow, white, and black sands. I heard the monkeys chatting, the sand pipers cheeping, and the doves cooing. The sounds of the tree frogs chirping at night were my lullaby.

The beach was my special place.

My office, the one place I called my “safe haven”, my special place, my calming effect. It was so special and beautiful, a canvas built by sweat, sweet creative ideas and love. It was just us, the restaurant serving delicious local fare, sailing with children, animals scampering about, minimal tourists visiting the beach. Time to chat about the small beautiful things in life, like the slower life, the more social life, the mesmerizing skies, long “limes” how much fun it was to explain to a visitor what a lime was. The discussion of animal crossings… it was idyllic, dreamlike, perfect.

Then came the in-between of what was and what is

Suddenly, I ran into the brick wall called “progress” and it shattered me, my reality of this amazing life I had found on this epic island I called home. It was changing at a fast pace, a pace I was no longer longing for or expecting, or more importantly, that I was prepared for.

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I had to ask myself some serious questions and make some major changes in the process. What exactly is progress on a rock? What should it be? How should it show itself? What are the best practices?

Ultimately, life had changed drastically for me. The beach that was my office was no longer my safe haven or somewhere I wanted to spend my time. I came to hate it for all it stood for and all that surrounded it.

But then something happened… I changed my mindset. I began to embrace the change by asking myself some hard questions:

Why did I have an issue with change? 

The beach had changed. It had become busier and there were more opportunities for everyone – including myself – but it had just become something that was not what I wanted. It was, however, still that haven for a lot of people – a great place with lots of opportunity.

Did I want to move to a less developed island?

Why would I stay on this island, you might ask, if so much had changed to make it so different than what I had loved about it? Well, all places and spaces you may live in can do that to you or with you. The question always is, “Is it enough of a change to change your mind?” Somehow, I have come to the conclusion that I still very much think the island I am on is my home and still very epic.

I found some answers within:

Life can still be slower and more social.

Somewhere along the way, I had stopped taking time to do the most important thing: have that conversation, visit with that friend, reprioritize the everyday tasks in favor of connection.

The natural beauty of a normal day will always be mesmerizing.

Though those indescribable rainbow sky moments came in glimpses while driving from work (flash moments) or became a non-event, unseen sitting in front of a computer screen or cooktop, I realized this was a self-inflicted ridiculousness. They still exist – it’s up to me to make the effort to notice and cherish that beauty.

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“Long Chill Limes” maybe aren’t meant to be my norm anymore.

It is harder to find that lonely beach, but it still possible to walk a beach with fresh footprints of yours alone. I just need to look a bit harder. That longer lime that turns from morning to night though might just not be for me anymore and if it is, it will be fewer and far between because otherwise, my 40 year old body will hate me. I am an early lime now, at home so I don’t have to drive kind of girl these days (unless pre-planned and all taken care of knowing I have a day of complete rest the following day and a safe drive home). The recovery of rum nights are more difficult and there are too many cars on the road to mess with driving a bit rummed up.

There may be more traffic, but the animals I miss seeing are safer. 

These days, cars are zooming by. Yes, I miss the animal crossings as my only island traffic, but I also don’t in certain ways. There were lots of animal deaths before they moved the pigs, goats, and cows to larger, less trafficked areas where they can be observed and cared for in areas that are less likely to cause issue for disease, cause angst when there is drought, and definitely less likely to get hit by an oncoming car. Instead, the stops are for a cue of cars to turn or traffic not at all brought on by pigs, goats or cows, but by the sheer amount of cars on the road. What is it they call it? Congestion? I just do my best to avoid high traffic times. I work from home, so I can make my schedule accordingly.

Sounds of nature can still be heard…

Heavy equipment beeping and screeching drowns out the crashing waves of the sea. Tourist buses with loud speakers blaring out chatter of island information infests the air. The sounds of engines and air-conditioners and loud music blares out of passing cars. In many ways, they have all replaced the sounds of the wind whistling, the sea crashing on the sand. The sounds of nature have all but disappeared. Sometimes, I still get to hear the sounds of nature and I treasure them. The rest of the time, I put my headphones on and listen to chill music that inspires me. I try to wake up before 7:30am when the constructions sounds start. I wish I had two days a week without the noise, but then again, it would take much longer if they did not work weekends.

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I’ve learned to come to terms with most of the changes I was lamenting. The one thing I don’t like and can’t come to grips with are businesses being open on Sundays. It was one thing that I absolutely loved about St. Kitts. Sunday was a lime. It was family time, church time, it was a day to just be… I miss that. There are places in Europe that still hold those ideals and do not for ANYTHING open on a Sunday. That is the one thing I wish SKN would hold on to. Give the people one day! Make it mandatory, detour ships… make it as it should be: a day of rest.

The bustle and hustle of mass tourism took over and it was there I forgot – forgot why I was here. Expectations rose, staff stayed the same. Animals were placed in cages. Sailors watched their sailing areas taken over by beach bars and tourist swimming zones. What was once a dream was displaced and slowly squeezed dry. And yet, at that same time, other dreams were dreamt, other doors were opened, other mindsets were made.

I thought I was soooo beached out. And then it hit me:

Wait – what?! Who gets beached out?!

I had forgotten. Forgotten that I live on an epic island. Yes, things have changed, but the epic part? Still true. And that’s why I’m here.

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Heidi Fagerberg

About Heidi Fagerberg

Unbeknownst to Heidi, her heart was stolen in 2001 while visiting her sister at Veterinarian University on the rock of St. Kitts. The sick to her stomach feeling when getting on a plane to leave the rock was not yet enough for her to understand her heart's true desire. She set off to revamp her life, leading her to a Master's program to teach English as a second language which she hoped would allow her to travel more.

But the conch shell kept on blowing and was impossible to ignore after she moved to teach English in Costa Rica. Heidi found herself stealing away from her new home in paradise back to the rock of St. Kitts. A long distance love affair usually ends in heartache and her whole person was in constant pain - she missed her love, St. Kitts. Finally, she succumbed, moving there in 2007.

Now her days are spent living out her burning love affair with St. Kitts and Nevis - capturing the scenic beauty of the islands through photography, keeping company with the animal characters in her books (www.livingthebeachlifeskn.com), and developing youth sailing programming in the Federation. To add a bit of flare to her "crazy life", she joined her husband in restoring gems. She refers to it as wrenching on cars while liming with her best friend. They are not just any cars, but her beloved mellow yellow Jeep and his four fantastic, historic Land Rovers.

Each and every day she wakes up and thinks, "Wake me up from this dream and demon of a life. I am alive and happy." WOOP WOOP! For more about Heidi, check out her website, www.missheidisworld.com

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8 thoughts on “How I Forgot I Live on an Epic Island

  1. Thus was one if the mist insightful of the “Rock” posts I read since I subscribed. No thinly disguised sebse if superiority or sarcasm parading as an attempt at wit. Thank you helping me feel what it is like to live there. I am about to move to a rock for a two year posting. I already know it will be with a heavy heart that I leave in two years.

  2. Oh I do so understand and sympathise! I was living in the BVI when the first cruise ship passed through (they couldn’t stop there then!) within a few short years everything changed. I’ve just published a book about life on Tortola before cruise ships and it was just how you’ve described St.Kitts.
    I also lived on Montserrat (when the volcano was erupting) and remember the ‘old’ St Kitts so well – together with Nevis it offered us much needed respite from the drama of the volcano! A lovely island, lovely people! Change is inevitable, progress brings prosperity but some things are lost forever.
    If you still want an island with that slow, gentle, everybody waves to you feeling might I suggest St Helena in the South Atlantic? It may not be the Caribbean but living there I felt I’d stopped the clock and stepped back in time.
    Stay happy!

    • Thank you Lally. St. Helena hmmm would love to visit it! I have never heard of it before.
      I remember when Montserrat was erupting. We got a lot of ash here at times from it. I am glad you were able to visit SKN.

  3. I have also watched progress hit the island…sad really . it’s not the island it was when we decided to escape Minnesota winters.I just hope some of the money coming in filters it’s way to more than the big investors. I miss the pig that laid in the watery pothole on the way into town…the chickens still run in town though..nice.

    • It is still a beautiful place Mary and I love the chickens in town and elsewhere. I am traveling a lot more now outside of the town and Frigate Bay areas and there is so much beauty, quiet peaceful places.

  4. I appreciate your self-awareness and your attitudinal realism and flexibility. Thanks for being vulnerable with all of us “unknowns”. You also spoke of an outer situation that probably affects people, especially people who have the money and skills which enable them to move from one place to another if they want to ( rather than if they are forced to because of war…famine etc.). The population of the world continually increases , and in conjunction with climate change also impinging on land, leaves less land for each of us. In my neighborhood in each place I live 6 months a year, this island and a small city in Oregon, I am lucky that nothing nearby has changed so that I can be on our street and nearby ones and it looks the same as many years ago. But surrounding this little oasis of no change ( which some might even call stagnation!) obvious differences intrude. And –even the words “stagnation” or “intrude” are part of one’s perspective and general emotional attitudes toward life. So, thanks again for offering more than one perspective and being open to internal change.

  5. Thanks for noting the vulnerability aspect. I hemmed and hawed over submitting it at all, but then thought why not. I am grateful that I do have the ability to make decisions on where I live. It is a wonderful feeling of freedom. Very good point.

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