Written by: Maura
For the last three months, I’ve been on hiatus from my life in the British Virgin Islands and have swapped my tropical rock of Tortola for my home rock of Ireland. I had been away from my home rock for a year and a half and wasn’t sure how I was going to feel being back home. Would I miss the BVI? Or would I want to stay in Ireland and give up on island life? And how on Earth would I cope with the cold?
The first few weeks back were fantastic and I soaked up all of the things that were missing from my life in Tortola. I spent time with old friends, went shopping, and more than abused the very much missed takeout and delivery services available. I have to say that after almost twelve weeks back home, that particular novelty hasn’t worn off. More than anything, I’m enjoying eating out and have been on an unofficial restaurant tour of the country. The menus are varied with lots of healthy options (not just burgers and chicken wings – rejoice!) and the service is prompt and friendly. Eating out has been transformed to a source of joy rather than annoyance.
But then there are times that I long for the BVI – and not just when I’m hiding from the cold. It’s usually when I’m on Facebook or Instagram and my News Feed is dominated by breathtaking beach pics I had become used to being in. I loved feeling the sun on my skin while soaking in the warm sea and these pics give me a case of serious geographic envy. I find myself wishing that the BVI and Ireland at least shared a continent and weekend trips were possible. These are the moments that make me mull over the pros and cons of life on my two very different rocks.
IRELAND – THE PROS
- Convenience: Ample public transport and a range of shops and restaurants make life on this rainy island much easier, especially when you don’t own a car – no hitchhiking or walking down steep mountainous roads here. Not to mention the delight of going into ONE market and being able to get EVERYTHING on your list!
- Fun: I’m never bored here. There are so many places to go, whether you are looking to enjoy a meal out, a traditional pub, or if you want to go dancing/clubbing with girlfriends. Besides having a variety of social haunts to choose from, I love the anonymity of a night out in Dublin and the fact that there is no chance of any drunken moments being broadcast across the island the very next day.
- Shopping: I’m not one for retail therapy, but it’s nice to have the option to browse and pick up something that’s both high-quality and not grossly overpriced. So instead of heading to the beach for a few hours after work, I now hit the shops. I know this is just a novelty and once the allure of updating my wardrobe has passed I’ll be fantasizing about the beach days yet again, but I’m definitely not missing what the shops of Tortola have to offer (or should I say, don’t have to offer).
IRELAND – THE CONS
- $$$: Luckily I have been staying with friends and family while on hiatus from the BVI. But if I had to fork out rent, I would be looking at spending almost $1,300 on a one-bedroom apartment in Dublin. In the BVI, I was paying $1,900 for a three-bedroom apartment. Beyond that, I also miss the cheap price of alcohol – it costs almost $7 for a pint here compared to $2 for a bottle of beer in most bars in the BVI.
- Potential Vitamin D Deficiency: My best friend just had a baby and I was surprised to learn that her newborn was prescribed Vitamin D because of the lack of sunlight in this country. In the BVI, life is spent outdoors with an abundant supply of Vitamin D – here requires a lot more time indoors due to weather-induced hibernation.
- Taxi Drivers: I don’t have a car so I rely a lot on taxi drivers and the public bus. I’ve never encountered a more nosy breed than the Irish taxi driver. Without fail, I have been asked by every single taxi where I’m from. This is a pretty homogeneous country and anyone without blue eyes and fair skin is apparently fair game for questioning. The conversation usually begins with the taxi driver asking me if I speak English or if I’m Irish.Then I’m usually asked if my family has Roma Gypsy connections. When I say no, I’m then told a story about how the taxi driver has a cousin or childhood friend who has sallow skin who also tans well.
BVI – THE PROS
- The People: I have made so many best friends for life in the BVI. Living on a 12-mile long island, you get to know people well in a short timeframe. It’s been an adjustment from seeing the same faces every day to not at all. Being so far from home, friends take on the role of family and really look out for one another. Expats, in particular, are always up for making the most of living in paradise so it’s great to have a network of people on tap who are not only nice, but willing to try something new and make the most of the non-working hours.
- The Weather: The sun is nature’s happy pill. A blue sky and warm weather definitely keeps the blues away and brings out the best in everyone. I can’t wait for my next dose of sunshine – I’m planning on going to the beach with a gallon of sun tan lotion and gluing myself to a sunchair for an entire day.
- The Water: To me, a day on the water is a day well spent. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a boat trip that I didn’t enjoy. If I had my way and the money, I’d buy a boat and get out on the water every single day. The water in Ireland doesn’t have the same allure. If I took a dip in the Atlantic this time of year, there is no doubt I would come down with a severe case of hypothermia.
BVI – THE CONS
- Driving: I actually cried the first time I drove my car up the mountain on Tortola. I was used to driving a tiny stick-shift car that looked like a clown car and truly did not understand how my monster-sized automatic jeep would not fall backwards when trying to go uphill. I felt as if I was defying gravity. It was terrifying and it took me an embarrassingly long time to stop being afraid of driving up and down Tortola’s many hills. I must say, I find it reassuring to know that most people on the roads over here are sober and actually understand and obey traffic rules.
- Food Shopping: I was pretty unsatisfied food-wise for most of my two years in Tortola. The food and I just didn’t mix. I resented going to Rite Way and spending a fortune on a few bits and pieces that I didn’t even really like. Even if I barely filled the small shopping cart, it somehow always came to a minimum of $70. I was able to buy kale once and only once in Tortola, and now I’ve been on a green food binge now that I’m back on a more vegetarian-friendly rock.
- The Distance: The BVI is painfully hard to get to. I love that Tortola is rustic and deemed as Nature’s Little Secret, but a bigger runway at the Beef Island Airport would make travelling much more convenient. The quickest I was able to get to Ireland from Tortola was 17 hours and this took 3 flights. It’s tiring and really puts a damper on making trips home. It also discouraged a lot of my friends and family from visiting. I also had notions that I would be island hopping during my time in Tortola, and then I discovered how expensive it is to travel from island to island by plane. I’m now holding out to book an off-peak cruise so I can start working on my island hit list.
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So bearing all of this in mind, do I have a favourite rock? Not really. I find myself love/hating them both at different times and for very different reasons. If you asked me this question yesterday when I was stuck in the rain, I could have given you a very firm answer. But for now, I’m towing the line and enjoying the perks of first world living while also living vicariously through other people’s Instagram accounts and fantasizing about the next time I’ll feel the warm sun against my skin. Everything’s a trade-off, right?