Departing our rock is a rare occurrence. Though we’d love to embark on more frequent escapes, our beloved cay has a relationship with my husband somewhat akin to the Stephen King novel, Christine. But rather than preying mercilessly on the victims standing between her and her beloved, The Island takes a slightly less sinister approach by simply sabotaging one operating system after another every time he leaves her. As a result, when the subject of vacation time comes up, he sways in uncertainty between the angst of island catastrophe as soon as he departs, and the primal need to see something different than the exact same shoreline he has walked every day for the last year. I am happy to provide the shove out of this painful limbo by tearfully presenting him with my last pair of flip flops that have finally flipped their last flop and wailing, “I NEED TO BE A WOMAN AGAIN! TAKE ME SHOPPING!”

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Beyond that, it can be challenging to find a willing cay sitter. Our menagerie of rescue pups, dogs, chickens, and curly tails can be quite the handful – and that’s without adding the reluctant admission that the running water and electricity might (probably will) fail.

But with a stroke of luck (and slightly amplified promises of balmy afternoons spent lounging on paddle boards, perfect sunny days of beach-combing, and daily dolphin sightings), we recently found ourselves a tenacious set of gals willing to take on our cay and zoo duties. Before they changed their minds, my husband and I made plans for finally getting OFF the rock!

And with that, I launched myself into The 8 Stages of Traveling off the Rock:

1. Sudden appearance awareness and subsequent panic

Instead of the normal sprint past the only mirror in our island abode, a full halt and careful examination of my appearance is required before re-entering civilization. It is only then that I notice with some dismay that my eyebrows have managed to claim most of the real estate on my eyelids. I am quite sure this look is not “all the rage” in the big city. In addition, my grooming practice of a daily hurried pass with the brush over the top of my head has resulted in a dreadlocked mass within my sensitive neck hairs that any self-respecting Rastafarian would be proud of. This initial personal landscaping session requires wine, scissors, and more wine.

2. Patch-working and getting presentable(ish)

Next comes the unfamiliar application of makeup. I wipe the dust and grime off my forgotten tools and try to forget the horrible things I’ve read about why you shouldn’t use beauty products long past their expiry dates for fear of… what was it again? Flesh-eating bacteria, or something even more ominous? Oh, well. After many muttered curses (and more wine), the resulting reflection would certainly qualify me for any viral photo post of a Walmartian. I give up, wipe it all off, and settle for a more natural look. Big hat and sunglasses. No more mirrors. Moving on…

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3. Island girl shame against the sheen of the real world

Upon re-immersing oneself into the land where you can do and buy EVERYTHING, the plethora of options are immediately overwhelming to the point of partial paralysis. But upon climbing into the shiny (sand-free!) rental car, a quick glance at my hands and feet make my first decision clear: FIX THIS. I find the nearest mani and pedi spa. As I settle into the comfy massage chair, the beaming face of the spa attendant falls as she lifts my feet for her initial examination. With a heavy sigh, she puts down her delicate shaping tools and marches to the back of the room for a more suitable arsenal. As I blabber my apologies with explanations of months of barefoot living and the benefits of having thick protective pads for crossing a rocky shore, she begins her Herculean task with mute resignation and a sweaty brow. Perhaps I should have booked into the local farrier instead.

4. The insatiable food frenzy commences!

This part of the vacation is scheduled with the utmost seriousness. Any preferences the friends we are visiting have are dismissed without guilt or hesitation (they live in the Land of Plenty after all and can eat whatever they want, whenever they want!). Our prerequisites are simple: we must consume as many ethnic varieties as we can find as often as humanly possible. One dining experience after another is targeted with the concentration of a game hunter on a cuisine safari. Within 24 hours, a remarkable array of sushi, curry, burritos, eggs Benedict, peel and eat shrimp, and shucked oysters are deposited for our digestive systems to sort through as best they can. Calories and fat content are not to be spoken of.

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5. The sleeping shopaholic within rises again

For this event, we seek out the closest superstore and comfortable shoes. Upon entry of the massive retail mecca, panoramic vision becomes my new superpower. Without moving my head, I can view the store in its entirety and instantly memorize all the goodies on display. As my husband heads off to sit in a defeated lump in the nearest chair, I start through the multi-coloured aisles with the measured clip of a marathon walker prepared for a long day. Trying on clothes is an interruption in the process of Obtaining, so fittings are done by holding the items at arm’s length and assessing with a practiced squint. If it looks good, it goes in the cart. When the cart is finally piled up like The Grinch’s sleigh, I head for check-out only to have my rusty credit card declined. The frantic phone calls to the credit card company, who is suspicious of all the sudden spending, provide a slight interruption in the day’s momentum while I sit on the sidelines for about an hour on hold.

6. The questioning of real world decision-making skills

As the trip winds down and it’s time to head home, I gleefully toss the bleach-stained clothing peppered with puppy teeth holes that I had been forced to travel in on the way here into the trash. I begin to try on my new purchases to select one for the flight home. As I pull on one outfit after another, it becomes obvious that I should have paid more attention to the store’s aisle signs. It turns out my shopping skills, much like my credit card, are a bit rusty too. In my quest for sporty, stylish, and comfy, I have apparently shopped exclusively in Sleep Wear. All my outfits are pajamas. Hmm… Well, my flight is at night and past my bedtime, so pajamas for the flight it is.

7. Hating it all again

The necessary evil of getting off and back on The Rock is commercial air travel. When you’re heading out from your island life, you’ve been away from the fray for so long and are so excited to leave, you are overstimulated for the trip and somehow barely notice the inconvenience of it all. But on your way home? After you’ve sucked all the pleasure you can muster out of The Land of Plenty? Well, a three hour flight delay, minor, barely contained anxiety attacks from being in a crowd of hundreds instead of the normal, comfortable dispersal of two persons per 14 acres, and then being stuffed into an airbourne canister that you cannot escape for hours… well, that about kills me. I am done. Even the in-flight wine service does not help.

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8. Ready for HOME on the ROCK

I am grateful for the trip, but am now ready for this vacation to be over. Get me back to my rock, please! Forget everything I said about wanting to leave there for the Land of Plenty! I want simple! I want secluded! Now hurry – take me back!

Written By:

Ange Dovel

Current Rock of Residence:

Abaco, Bahamas

Island Girl Since:

1969

Originally Hails From:

Nassau, Bahamas

Ange grew up in Nassau and has lived most of her life in the mostly sunny Bahamas, with a short, somewhat bewildering detour to a Canada as a teenager. As soon as she reached an age of autonomy, she skipped out of that winter wonderland and headed back to her island home.

Swimsuit fashion shows and mixing cocktails led to some memorable adventures on the rock as a young adult. Maturing into a slightly more responsible woman, she started working with dolphins as a trainer, then a medley of critters such as meerkats, lemurs, boas, and flamingos at the local zoo.

Somehow, The Fates led her Texan husband and her to care-taking a small, private island in the Abacos. Moving from a rock to a pebble was actually a bigger adjustment than she expected. Social interaction, such as wining and dining and getting together with the girls, had been a vital element of island life in Nassau. This has since wound down to a quiet glass of wine (or three) on the porch for sunsets, just she and her husband. Dining is a daily struggle to achieve creative culinary genius when every meal, every day, three times a day has to be made by one of the two of them. Since hubby doesn’t speak Girl Talk, one way chit chats with her potcakes, chickens, and the tame curly tails on her porch has become a tepid replacement for time with her gal pals.

But the life of a hermit is one she loves and although their human visitors are few and far between, their home is Grand Central Station for pelicans, pilchers, lemon sharks, and the occasional mama turtle, looking for a safe place to stash her eggs. Even an orphaned raccoon by the name of Wally spent some unforgettable months with them (thankfully not at the same time as the turtle eggs). Currently, their fur/feathered family on the rock consists of three potcakes, seventeen chickens, and a revolving door of foster puppies rescued from the little fishing towns of Abaco.

Between cay duties, she spends her free time on a rescue organization they started called, North Abaco Potcake Rescue. She is currently co-producing a documentary highlighting these rescues called, “It’s a Potcake Life!” with Vaccaro Creative Productions. The rest of her free time is spent traversing the cay from one end to the other, from chicken coop to puppy pen, as bearer of meals, love, and the aforementioned riveting island sip sip.

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