My Life on a Post-Apocalyptic Island

Closing time. Time for you to go out to the places you will be from. 

Move it to the exits. I hope you have found a friend. 

– Semisonic

It’s that time of the year again. The end of human civilization as we know it. For the next three months, prepare to sweat in crevices of your body you once thought impermeable to sweating. It is The End of Days. Everyone is leaving, every place is closing. Hurricane season is upon us.

While hurricane season is officially June 1st – November 30th, the height of it (read: the most likely time we’ll be hit by a big ‘un) is the months of August, September, and October. Because the majority of our tourism in the BVI is sailing charters and because most intelligent beings intuit that staying on a strange boat in the middle of an unfamiliar chain of islands during a violent storm is not a wise way to spend one’s vacation, tourism takes a dramatic plunge into the non-existent and hence most businesses in the territory close to ensure their survival mid-August through mid-October.

When people ask what it’s like here this time of year, the best way I can ever manage to describe it is post-apocalyptic. It is all at once awesome/depressing/rejuvenating/excruciatingly boring/ disconcerting. While we aren’t quite lucky enough to have the pizzazz of zombies or extra-terrestrials, the decimation of life as we know it is the notable loss. The other members of your species desert you, your resources are depleted, and Mother Nature shows herself for the spiteful bitch she revels in being when no one is looking.

Most days, the wind ceases to blow and gives you the impression of being locked inside a tropical snow globe that the puppet master beyond the glass can’t be bothered to shake. The trees stand frozen, their branches and leaves locked stiffly, as though they’re a mere Polaroid of their live selves. The absence of breeze intensifies the heat while the ever-present humidity has reached its apex and coats you in its balmy blanket, giving your skin the inscrutable combination of being both sticky and slippery at the same time.

With fewer people to feast on and no wind to impede their flight, the mosquitoes flock to any warm body in biblical swarms, convincing you there is no explanation other than God is smiting you. Are you being punished for your drunkenness, your disregard for authority, the profanities you yelp in toe jams? Or was it the coveting of thy neighbor’s panoramic view and mirage-like array of Belgian beers? One can’t be sure. But one is keenly aware of the plague of red, itchy bumps covering one’s body with no relief in sight. You’re forced to dress for time spent outdoors in attire better suited for colder locales, wishing instead that you had one of those beekeeper suits to cover your face and suspend the incessant buzzing in your ears that is 10 seconds away from reducing you to screaming aloud, a primal jungle cry that is a mix of exasperation and the crushing of your soul.

bee suit

Your relative attractiveness peters. You forgo the make-up, which manages to melt mid-application and besides – your dripping face must be wiped down every 5 minutes with the sweat rag you have taken to keeping close at hand in the string of your bikini bottoms (because seriously, who can be bothered to wear actual clothes anymore).

The bright side is the respite from the tourists, imperative for everyone to recharge and build back up their ability to smile again at people who keep asking you, “So, tell us, what’s your story?” The seagulls also make their exit, taking the shortage of French fries to pilfer as their cue to hit the skies. Because there is little work to be done, most people use this time of year for their extended vacations, leaving only those of us with high-maintenance pets that they can’t find a sitter for to loaf around on their own. There are times when you can go stretches of days without seeing another human, which can be freeing for those with nudist tendencies and melancholic for the more social of butterflies among us.

With most of the restaurants and bars closed, you’re left with few options for dining out. The few and far between that do stay open cut down their menus significantly, with even those items subject to change based on availability of ingredients. Last season, I ordered the nachos (the only vegetarian option) and was presented with a plate of stale chips topped with canned salsa and sliced olives. The waitress shrugged, saying by way of explanation that no one could find any cheese, sour cream, onions, beans, let alone, guacamole. And you of course believe her, as you’ve been to the grocery store and witnessed the vacant produce trays with your own eyes, the moldy tomatoes and bruised apples mirroring your defeated gaze.

At times when the imminent threat of storms become actual storms, you huddle indoors while the weather wages a war outside your shutters. You drink margaritas in excess as a form of entertainment in and of itself, not varying much in comparison to how you’re spending your days the rest of hurricane season.

Last year, due in large scale to boredom and a desire to remain prostrate inside the screened-in world with the A/C blasting, we decided to take on all 6 seasons of Lost. It was a valiant undertaking – 121 episodes worth to be exact – that I can’t say we didn’t regret at times and it produced unforeseen side effects including but not limited to: every vague rustle of bush taking on new life as sounds of “them” whispering and/or polar bears; startling yourself with imagined sightings of apparitions of people you once knew; a morbidly selfish desire for a plane of intriguing people (fingers crossed, sans children) to crash on your island for your own amusement; and an overall sense of drama and secrecy to everything you say, setting the stage for misplaced conversational resentment on the home front. All in all, it kept us entertained through the month and that is more than I can say for the reef out back that I’m ashamed to admit became rather commonplace after our 18th snorkel.

This year, we now have a pool, so our outlook is decidedly more optimistic. The fresh food shortages will be the toughest cross to bear, but with the right mix of gin, lingering friends, and a communal collection of board games, I think we might just make it through once more.

Either way, don’t worry about me. If all else fails, I’ll just be over here painting volleyballs with my own blood.

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Chrissann Nickel

About Chrissann Nickel

Chrissann’s home rock in the British Virgin Islands feels bigger to her than it actually is. Though after spending five years on a teensy one acre island, the current 13-mile long rock she’s residing on now IS ginormous, at least by comparison. As with everything in the tropics, it’s all about perspective.

Once upon a time she used to care about things like matching her purse to her pumps but these days, any activities that require a bra and shoes go under careful, is-this-even-worth-it consideration. If island life has taught her anything at all, it’s that few things are more rewarding than time spent in the pool with a cocktail in hand.

As the Editor in Chief of this site, she spends her days working from home with her blue-eyed sidekick, Island Dog Diego, writing, editing, and cultivating content in the hopes of bringing some laughter and lightness to her fellow island souls. She recently published her first children’s book, When You’re a Baby Who Lives on a Rock, and is pretty pumped to share it with all of the island mamas out there. Her days off are typically spent boating, hiking, and meeting up with the neighborhood's imperious roadside goats, who she shamelessly bribes into friendship. While normalcy was never listed as one of her special skills, Caribbean life may indeed be responsible for new levels of madness. She attributes at least a smidge of her insanity to the amount of time she spends talking to drunk people.

If you’re somehow still reading this and feel inclined to find out more about this “Chrissann” of which we speak, you can also take a gander at her eponymous website, www.chrissannnickel.com, or follow her daily escapades on Instagram @womanonarock.

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12 thoughts on “My Life on a Post-Apocalyptic Island

  1. Too funny Chrissan! I’m reading this to my significant other while he makes breakfast on our boat moored at Great Harbour on Jost. He’s cracking up over your metaphors! We’re coming back in early September. Note to self to pack a gallon of bug spray!

    • Thanks for the note, Christine, glad you both enjoyed it and could relate! Enjoy your time away and yes – you will definitely need the bug spray if you’re to survive in Bugtember. 😉

  2. Great post! With Independence Day on the 21st bring a close to September celebrations, I’m dreading what comes after. Long bouts of boredom watching the hummingbird feeder behind closed windows with air conditioning blasting, trying to figure out why no one has invented an ingestible, non-toxic mosquito repellent and likely get-rich-quick schemes to pay for all this air conditioning.

  3. As an island expat who has to put on business clothes every day I still relate. I ask myself every August/Sept “why am I here”. Really enjoyed your writing.

  4. Last September when STJ was notably empty, the local gathering place in Coral Bay was sparsely populated with the same faces every afternoon. We all stared at each other with nothing much to say because we’d said it all yesterday, or the day before. At one point a small group of tourists walked in and they were briefly visited by almost every local present, offering tips on where to snorkel, what to do, what restaurants were open. It was wicked funny to watch a bunch of bored, socially deprived locals cozy up willingly to the “fresh meat”. The tourists went away with the misconception that this was the friendliest island they’d ever visited, and that they could expect to be treated the same when they arrived next April with their offspring. Hahaha!

  5. This.Is.My.Life.Right.Now! Freaking hilarious!! From the snow globe to the bee suit (we have one! Down side it has the ventilation qualities of donning a potato sack and wrapping duck tape around one’s neck) the face mopping and Netflix marathons ,so spot on!! Laughed out loud during this brilliant post!! Going to go peel my boongie off this chair now and go find a cool cloth to drape over my face… thank you for the guffaws! 🙂

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