How Island Living Changes You

We did not move to an island on a mission to become different people. On the contrary, we changed our environment to better suit our personalities. That does not mean we haven’t seen some unexpected changes in ourselves though. Very unexpected changes…

The down and dirty.

When I was a very wee one, my favorite toy was a wash cloth. My favorite game was Wash Everything. My mother attributed this to the large quantity of time I had spent with my grandmother who was, well… a bit OCD. Whatever the cause, a speck of dirt would send my toddler-self into a frenzy. My mother, determined to get past this minor hiccup in her child’s personality, made backyard mud puddles in which we would both sit and play. The lesson being, mud is fun! Though I grew beyond the screaming fits, I still have an intrinsic need for cleanliness. Messy is fine, as long as messy is clean. Here on my rock, wearing a bit of mud or sand is the norm. At first, I was constantly busting out a wash cloth for my feet, trying to get every bit of sand out of the car after visiting the beach. I’d even shower before a beach visit.

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That is, until I realized the fruitlessness of my efforts. Every other islander’s feet bear the marks of a morning downpour. Sand is a natural result of a lovely afternoon by the shore. When the outside merges with the inside, dirt is just going to happen. If you can’t learn to live with dirt, island living is probably not for you. Scour as much as you like, it’s just a part of life. Consider my inner child screaming, DIRTY! effectively squashed.

It’s all fun and games until you squish a centipede the size of an earthworm when trying to make a pot of morning coffee.

The outside is just going to welcome itself into your home whether you like it or not. Recently, after one particularly long day of beach play, we pulled ourselves into bed spent and ready to welcome Mr. Sandman with open arms. Within seconds, Husband was sawing his praises to the bringer of sleep. I, on the other hand, was just dozing off when I felt a pinch on my toe. I hopped out of bed and threw back the covers. I say hopped, but it was more of a butt scoot. You see, our bed is shoved into a tiny loft big enough only for a double bed. There is just enough space on either side to shuffle from the death ladder and flop onto the bed. (The death ladder being a literal boat ladder that is the only means of reaching the aforementioned loft.)

What I found under my covers was the tiniest of geckos scrambling for safety. I don’t have a problem with lizards – unless they decide to bite my toe, so I shooed him away to nibble another day. The giant flying cockroaches and earthworm-sized centipedes are another story. Outside, I pay them no mind. Inside, I rain down death amidst frantic screams of terror. (Word to the wise: never leave your drink unattended on the lanai. Should you do so, you risk a mouth full of nightmares.)



Mainland Me would have been calling every exterminator known to man to remove these unwanted guests. I would have authorized the use of all the chemicals, environment be damned. This kind of creepiness in my home would not have been acceptable. Here, however, it’s a different story. Our tiny yard is full of a variety of beautiful, delicious, very edible fruit. The ecosystem is in your face, and the interactivity of all parts apparent. Not to mention the culture of nature preservation that is a part of daily life. I find myself granting even the tiniest biting bastards more reprieve then Mainland Me ever would.

My island perfume is a mix of sunscreen and insect repellent.

There is no point in applying real perfume except on special occasions. My daily dab has been replaced by an enormous amount of pain prevention. Cortisone cream supplements my sunscreen regimen to treat those areas where the super strength biting demons have penetrated my defenses. And then there’s the sweat. After all these treatments have been applied to my skin, it isn’t long before reapplication is required. Because of the sweat. Sound not so appealing? Fortunately for me, this rock always smells like flowers. Husband tells me I still smell great, and he’s a brutally honest type of fellow, so I believe him. Then again, it could just be the love.

Time is weird.

The sense of time passing immediately changed its pace when we landed. My beloved calendar keeps me on deadline for work, but I frequently find myself unable to answer any question about what day it is. I’m living more in the moment, seeing more of what the world has to offer, noticing hummingbirds, throwing the dog’s slobbery ball more often, and sipping fruity adult beverages that somehow taste so much better when mixed with sun and surf. Those suckers may cost $12 a pop, but it only takes one. It’s hard to deny their effect on one’s sense of time passing, for sure.

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The downside to this is managing the time difference with friends and family. When I wake up, most of them are thinking about lunch. By the time my day gets rolling, they’re rolling into bed. This means extra special care needs to be taken for things like calling moms. Moms don’t care if the hummingbirds were extra active while you are throwing dog slobber covered balls. They care that their kids call. No matter what rock you are on, that guilt trip will find you. Never neglect the moms.

Things loathed and things loved trade places.

I used to hate rain. We had a very finite amount of beautiful sunny days in our previous part of the earth. When rain came, it felt like a thief stealing a most prized possession. Now, it feels like a refreshing lull in the day.

The grocery store was my sanctuary on the mainland. A bit of quiet me time in familiar surroundings I could navigate with my eyes closed. Now, trips to the grocery store are conducted with military precision. A divide and conquer plan decided before entering in hopes of quickly navigating the sea of lost tourists. The discount store shopping is worse. We hunker near the cart as if it were our only means of protection for a coming battle. By all means, do. not. get. separated. This will result in aimless, panicked wandering looking for your party. Your cell phone will not work. You have only your senses to guide you. I hope the force is with you.

–   –   –

So, apparently the island has transformed me into a person who is dirty, plays with bugs, smells a little despite frolicking in the rain, has no sense of time, and hates grocery stores? Not exactly. But I’m definitely no longer the office rat that scurries from one obligation to another without noticing the beauty of the world around me.

I’m liking this me much better.

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Carie Williams

About Carie Williams

Caught in the mundane of landlocked life, Carie and Husband made the decision to sell it all and see what island life may have to offer. They sought many things including the rejection of death by beige office walls and a focus on life outside the rat race. A mere 120 days later, they landed in Maui with their two pups, Old Dog and Miss Monster.

Carie is now in pursuit of a career as a wordsmith and a life less expected. Husband is exploring the pleasures of working with the land. The pups are just loving life. None of them know whether this is the first or the last stop in this adventure, but they all know that the future is sure to hold a wealth of surprises and the mundane has been left in the dust.

When they aren't out exploring this brave new world, Carie and Husband can be found untangling dog-related shenanigans, feeding their news junky additions, or whipping up some new, creative miracle in the kitchen. Actually, Husband would be the one creating those kitchen miracles while Carie stands in awe, if we're being honest. You can follow Carie's daily debacles on her blog,

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2 thoughts on “How Island Living Changes You

  1. Since you are on Maui see if you can run across a native to Maui named Ivan takatani…I worked with him in Torrence California ….at the time he was art director….this was in the early 60s ….as you can see i am really an old fart not giving up in life….I think his parents had a soda bottling company and a macadamia nut company…….if you mention my name I am sure he will remember me……thanks

  2. Shoots! I live on the Big Island (hi neighbor!) and the bugs drove me crazy when I first moved. I still rain death down on the roaches and centipedes if they get in my home, but I’m better with the millipedes and assorted other small kine buggahs. Nothing will ever be truly clean (especially your floors because you’re always barefoot), and I stopped wearing a watch when I moved. Aloha wahine! You write good kine stuff!

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