Not Quite a Tourist, Not Quite a Local

I didn’t plan on being an island girl.

It all started on a business trip to Barbados. Who would complain about that – especially a real Canadian girl like me, eh? As it happened, I met a guy. Not just any guy, but The One! Try explaining to your ultra conservative parents that after only one week of knowing a guy, you are now going to move to an island and give it a try. But explain it I did (somehow) and a week later I moved – lock, stock, and suitcase to the rock that would become my home, Barbados.

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I got engaged, got married, had some children, and made a home on our little island. I have four dogs. I have two part-time jobs as a photographer and a Rum Ambassador. I belong to clubs. I am on boards and committees. I volunteer and rescue stray animals. And yet, I still do not consider myself a local.

My husband’s family has been living on the island for over 150 years. To me, they are the true locals. Everyone knows them. And though they are my family too, for some reason, I am still that Canadian girl (not that I see that as a negative). I have tried so hard to assimilate myself and become more local over the years. I have my own paddle board and spend as much time as I can out on the water. I live in shorts and flip flops (“homeless person chic,” as my daughter describes me with disdain). I drive a small, Jeep-style car as you always have to be prepared for deep puddles during hurricane season. I would even like to take it a step further and have a snorkel-only car but the husband says, “Nope.”

I know all of the little tricks of living on a island. I know who the good tailors are, as island clothes can be a little limited. I know who makes the best cakes on the island, which is important as I am not a fan of hard crumbly cakes. I know when to shop at the grocery stores to avoid lines. I know how important candles and batteries are during a hurricane. I also know the value in having a battery-operated radio to keep up to date with what’s going on during a hurricane-induced power outage. I know who the kindest vet is – also very important.

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I know the history of the island. I know the school’s, church’s, and government office’s hours (though that’s another story). I know that you need to bring snacks, a book, and water to any government office or doctor’s appointment as you will always need them to pass the time. I know how to run the local Blossom and Boy Scout troops. I know how to be the best assistant to the amazing girl who runs the kid’s school fair. I know how to cook breadfruit, flying fish, and macaroni pie (which is not the same as KD). I know how to read the tides for swimming and surfing. How blue soap makes your whites whiter. To never go to the bank at lunch time (trust me on this one). How very important sunblock is (skin cancer sucks and so does looking like leather when you are in your 40s).

I know where to find the best gluten free items on the island. I know where to Christmas shop. I know where to find really cool locally made gifts. I know the best places to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner – from cheap, to cheerful, to super elegant. I know who can fix my bathing suit when the elastic goes (and it will go out). I know that antihistamine works for jelly fish stings (and that you don’t have to pee on yourself). I know how to Bop a centipede to death, and I know how important it is to have BNT powder in your first aid box.

I could go on and on… and on. I know a lot of island girl stuff. Over the years, I have accumulated a wealth of local knowledge, but it somehow just doesn’t seem to amount to the right stuff to make me a local. There’s something intangible that I just can’t put my finger on.

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But I’m not giving up. No longer a tourist, not yet a local. For now I’m content to live in limbo, though I do believe one day I will achieve it, perhaps when I least expect. And just like that, I’ll be a local.

Any ideas on how to get there in the meantime are welcome.

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Gayle Seale

About Gayle Seale

Former city girl Gayle arrived on her rock via a business trip in Dec 1990 to set-up a squash tournament on the beach. The squash event never happened - but she met a boy! Fell in love (as you do) and never left. A few years later, she married the boy and quickly had two amazing children. The children have since left home and have been replaced by a four pack of wild Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and three tortoises.

Now she's a full-time ambassador for her husband's little rum distillery and a part-time anything-but-weddings photographer. She spends her time between work (which really isn't like work as it's so much fun), playing with her lovely dogs, and hanging on the beach paddleboarding whenever she has the time. Gotta take advantage of the perks of island life! She also travels a lot - the secret to a long and happy island life. Oh, and also the mantra: IT NEVER SNOWS HERE!!

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8 thoughts on “Not Quite a Tourist, Not Quite a Local

  1. Hi Gayle, you express so well what many of us feel. You’re accepted, included, recognized as NOT a tourist, yet never quite one of the “girls”. Like you, I’m patient, flexible & feel lucky to live on my beautiful rock.

  2. I always find it interesting that in the USVI, our kids have more “street cred” than we do because they “be bahn der.”

    • I’ve lived in the Bahamas for 34 yrs. now. They say “if ya born der ya born der”. I think I’m a local because my Bahamian husband and I ran a small restaurant for 15 yrs…..just the 2 of us and I became “excepted”. Love my island life. Can’t imagine living back in the States.

  3. Perhaps you embody, as many of us do, the best of both worlds but you ( and possibly others, maybe even some who are jealous ) do not give yourself enough credit for who you most specially are!

  4. Wonderful post Gayle.
    If you wish we have a tourist water / land bus you could obtain from here .. Ogden Point Vancouver Island 🙂
    In my case my claim to the Rock is I married a Bajan and yes they go back hundreds of years. Actually if you asked all the Bajans around the world to come home for the 50th year of Independence , the Island population might 3 times as much / lol Anybody who can cook Macaroni pie and flying fish is a friend for life. On my honeymoon I just about stepped on a centipede , not knowing. Thankfully my new love rescued me… STOP was the yell or such. Living in Canada we are both immigrants England / Barbados) Yet when we go home to see family , I just follow the non tourist line as a man married to a Bajan , a small perk. We eat only Island food , East Coast is our relax place.. I know I am not a Bajan but being married to one means my soul is such.. My only problem is for some reason as I have a soft voice 🙂 on arrival my accent defaults to I am told a Trini singsong.. The expression and song I love is ‘ no ring , no ting’ or as the Merrymen said Keep on blogging

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