What it Takes to Stay

Much to my surprise, moving to my rock did not equate to an instant vacation for me. Like so many of us before we make our move, I imagined myself lounging the days away on some picturesque beach or chilling at a beach bar with a bottomless beer by my side. Instead, the reality of island life equated to a lot of hard work and determination – the opposite of vacation in so many ways besides the setting.

beach life Heidi_WWLOR

I found myself in the thick of it as soon as I arrived. I was suddenly a foreigner and needed to figure out how to become stamped someway, somehow. And by “stamped”, I mean not being considered illegal for overstaying my temporary visitor status. Island newbie that I was, I stupidly did not renew it and the next thing I knew, I was at the airport being escorted by Customs agents to make sure I got on the plane – the plane I had no desire to be on! Thankfully, I learned another island lesson in that moment of panic: it’s all about who you know. The young girl (me) surrounded by Customs officials – a sure sign of trouble of some sort – grabbed the attention of a respected businessman and friend who, much to my relief, came to my rescue just in time.

He verified with the very nice Customs agent that leaving for two weeks to come back would sort out my standing in the interim, though Customs warned that should I pull a stunt like this again, it would mean no more visits to the rock – ever. I really thought I was going to get the red DEPORTED stamp and be on my way to misery and to be honest, I knew I deserved that. I did not follow the law and even worse, I broke the law of a land that I was not from. I thanked God – and Customs – for the mercy.

Though the business man didn’t actually pull any strings, it was more that he made me feel so at ease in a sticky situation. As one of my first island friends, he even encouraged me to get in touch with him when I returned because he had a plan to make sure I could stay on the island. He believed in my initiatives to make a difference here starting a sailing school that would prepare youth for future careers in the budding tourism industry on our rock. I was humbled and beyond grateful.

heidi road st kitts_WWLOR

Those first five years on my rock, I was constantly reminded of my foreign-ness. I was no longer a tourist that was treated like gold, and was yet to be accepted into the local community. Not family, not guest, but somewhere and nowhere in between. I was tested through and through, and there was a period of time where I thought I might not make it. I worried my dream might go unrealized.

But through the doubt, I worked harder than hard and longer than long, and was belittled and humbled each day in the environment I set myself in to achieve my vision. And one day, I somehow crossed an invisible line: I went from being suspicious to an actual member of the community. And with it came a new me – a stronger me, a grown-up me.

From there on out, I have spent each and every day of my life making damn sure I get to stay on the rock I love, surrounded by the people, culture, and landscape I have grown to adore and could not imagine living without. Because that’s what it takes. It may not be vacation, but you sure can’t beat my office:

Heidi office view_WWLOR

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Heidi Fagerberg

About Heidi Fagerberg

Unbeknownst to Heidi, her heart was stolen in 2001 while visiting her sister at Veterinarian University on the rock of St. Kitts. The sick to her stomach feeling when getting on a plane to leave the rock was not yet enough for her to understand her heart's true desire. She set off to revamp her life, leading her to a Master's program to teach English as a second language which she hoped would allow her to travel more.

But the conch shell kept on blowing and was impossible to ignore after she moved to teach English in Costa Rica. Heidi found herself stealing away from her new home in paradise back to the rock of St. Kitts. A long distance love affair usually ends in heartache and her whole person was in constant pain - she missed her love, St. Kitts. Finally, she succumbed, moving there in 2007.

Now her days are spent living out her burning love affair with St. Kitts and Nevis - capturing the scenic beauty of the islands through photography, keeping company with the animal characters in her books (www.livingthebeachlifeskn.com), and developing youth sailing programming in the Federation. To add a bit of flare to her "crazy life", she joined her husband in restoring gems. She refers to it as wrenching on cars while liming with her best friend. They are not just any cars, but her beloved mellow yellow Jeep and his four fantastic, historic Land Rovers.

Each and every day she wakes up and thinks, "Wake me up from this dream and demon of a life. I am alive and happy." WOOP WOOP! For more about Heidi, check out her website, www.missheidisworld.com

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6 thoughts on “What it Takes to Stay

  1. I completely understood all of what you are saying….eleven years later, doing as much as I am can, all the time, for various projects for the community, I, too have felt “humbled and belittled.” Living in a culture that does not say thank you, is not bad, but it certainly does add to those feelings at times.

    It is soul searching, and we do grow stronger. I never want to leave my rock, Long Island, Bahamas.

    • It is nice to know others are out there having the same feelings and emotions. Thanks Susan. I have never been to the Bahamas. Would love to one of these days.

  2. After a “bad island week,” it is comforting to know that we all experience many of the same costs of living in paradise. Folks back in the States laugh it off and think we’re exaggerating about that the difficult parts!

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