The 8 Stages of Traveling off the Rock

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!

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Ange Dovel

About Ange Dovel

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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41 thoughts on “The 8 Stages of Traveling off the Rock

  1. I love you Ange. I lived on a the deserted beach of South Bimini for over a year before jumping on the 54 foot ketch, Compass Rose, for another year of chartering out of Nassau. This was back in the early seventies when you could do this. Some of the best years of my life. Met my wife in Boulder in 76 and spent five years in Key West until moving to Montserrat in 1980. You know the rest and captured it beautifully in this wonderful story. Our “rock,” used to be 39 square miles, but the volcano has reduced that to 18. If you ever want to experience another rock we would love to have you as our guests at : Thanks again for your brilliant piece. I will be sure to check out the rest of your blog over the next few days. Blessings to you and yours, David, Clover and all the Fami-Lea

    • Ha! That sounds like the Life! I would have been in Nassau then, my parents had the time of their lives there at that time! My dad used to manage some of the old hotels on Cable Beach maybe you went there? Emerald Beach, Nassau Beach and Ambassador Beach.. I have heard wonderful things about Montserrat! Would love to meet fellow Rocksters if we ever make it that way! Your place is beautiful and so are your chickens!! 🙂

      • Thanks for the reply Ange. We chartered out of The Mermaid Yacht Basin and used to anchor off Paradise Island when nothing was there. Love your blog……

        • I used to hang out for summers on the Keewatin when I was a young kid, don’t know if you ever saw it, a 72ft classic old wooden schooner moored on the harbour side of PI.. and do you remember Club Med? So many cool places then.. happy memories! 🙂

  2. Great post, keep ’em coming! Right now I am between a raft and a rock, building a home on a pebble in Abaco, living on a boat as we build. And I’m not full time in Abaco, yet still find myself overwhelmed when I return to “The Land of Easy.” My first stop is a soak in a bathtub full of hot water! Then my favorite wine store… Ah, glorious selection! Unlimited, never-goes-out supply of power, water and internet! Crazy luxury, right?!

    Keep up the posts, I’ll try to tracktrack you down this fall.

    • Hey you might be our neighbour! You must be south? We are North Abaco! You might have sailed right by our cay! Love the living between raft and rock.. and hehe I SO hear you on the bathtub soak.. (with wine). We had no tub here when we moved so I sulked for years until my hubby built me a Japanese soaking tub! It sits out on my porch overlooking the direction of the sunsets! When my water hoarding obsession allows (after days of monsoons) and I am confident enough in tank levels I will fill that sucker to the brim and sit there for hours! Oh I miss the wine store selections in Big City.. I hope we meet one day for wine sipping!!

  3. I really enjoyed this article. My relatives in the USA cannot understand why I have not been there for over 20 years. I was born on the island and while I worked I visited the USA . Since retiring I have been on a permanent vacation. I go to the beach every day and hardly go shopping for clothes. Sandals and vests are what I wear daily. I have told them that they will have to visit me if they really want to see me.No matter what problems I have, I would rather be on my rock, than anywhere else.

    • Thank you! Yup my Texan hubby has not been home for years and he says the same thing! Shouldn’t be too hard to convince them to visit here! And I seriously have some of the same clothes I have had for a decade.. boy shorts and some sunscreen when I remember, are pretty much my daily uniform. And though I can enjoy short stints off the cay, I am always always eager to get back to my pebble..

  4. I laughed like a howler monkey re all the “becoming presentable to society” descriptions. The lowered expectations of island living is totally true and when you realize that actual people will have to look at your untamed eyebrows, scarred legs and crazy bangs is when the shakes start setting in. Excellent observations!

    I was just down in Abaco and narrowly missed the Hope Town showing of your movie. I’m so sorry I did, but I hope to check it out soon. Nothing like a good potcake story!

    • Love that yay! Love Howlers! 🙂 Hehe I wear my hair in the same old fashioned banana clip every day for months, no one wants to look at that frazzled birds nest, not even hubby. And when it is time for a trip I have a serious check list to tick of, shaving SO imminent, where the hell are my toe nail clippers, I wonder if candle wax and kitchen wax paper will work on these eyebrows, I can’t be here all day! Hey that is so cool you were in Hope Town, sorry you missed it too but hope you get to see it, you are so right, potcakes rock!!

  5. This is hysterical! I just lived this… literally… step by step in the past 3 weeks. Living on a boat in various countries for the last 8 years I’ve acquired some of the same quirks and superpowers when visiting family in the States. Thanks for the laugh.

    • So glad you enjoyed it and can relate! Living on a boat for eight years, how wonderful! Hats off as this is the true test of economizing lifestyles! I can imagine your superpowers also include how to fit all the utter necessities into small places! 🙂 We lived on our 41ft Morgan for only a few months and I have a healthy respect for truly living and loving the simple life as a live aboard.. 🙂

  6. Really enjoyed this and your writing style. You will be a great addition to this blog! I am only a Snowbird Rocker, but returning home each Spring feels exactly like this. Thanks for the laugh this morning! Much luck with the blog.

    • Thank you!! I love this blog site and have for a long time!! 🙂 A Snowbird Rocker is a good system. Spring is a lovely time in the islands! We are being to feel (and smell) like Summer Swelter.. You are so welcome thank you for taking the time to read my schtuff!

  7. I live on Grand Cayman. This made me laugh. I can really relate to #3. I will be traveling to LA next week and all I can say is this is so ‘Spot On’. I’ve got all the best salons staked out already!

    • HA! Before I left, I googled every restaurant and spa within a mile of where we were staying! Have fun on your trip and enjoy your spa day(s)! I still have the same polish on my toes as the last trip hehe, though the band of blue has migrated up to the end of my digits since it has been a while.. just couldn’t bear to erase all memory of civilization! 🙂

  8. A link for this blog popped up through another blog so I just stumbled across it. I love it. You’re so engaging with your writing. It reminds me of when Mark and I were living in the Exumas. I miss the Exumas, but I have to say that I’m really enjoying Nassau and all the socializing. I’m sorry we missed It’s a Potcake Life, I bought tickets, but we had too many things going on! Is there a way to see it somehow?

    • Hi Mariah!! And thank you!! I love you writing too so this is a lovely compliment! 🙂 Yes when I get away to Nassau too I love seeing everyone and EATING everything I can get to! Oh that is too bad we would have loved to see you there, it was such a beautiful screening! 🙂 Yes! It is still for rent on Vimeo here ($10 goes towards helping Abaco Potcakes!)

  9. Loving your writing, laughing out loud and reading it to my husband. I am a California girl who married a Bahamian about 14 years ago. Love it here in Nassau. Most of the time. But regular trips to Florida are definitely a necessity! And there is no time to waste trying anything on! Keep on rescuing the potcakes!!!!

    • Thank you so much!! Hehe I so hear you on Nassau.. I grew up there. It has changed a lot but I still love to visit! Florida for sure is a must do get away on a regular basis for feeding frenzy especially! We will keep on keeping on for sure! 🙂

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