Written by: Chrissann Nickel
Feeling like a castaway? We all do sometimes.
Here are my top Island Survival Strategies to Combat Loneliness on a Rock:
1. Don’t expect all friends to fill every friendship hole.
I have definitely been guilty of this over the years: Either A) meeting someone on island and immediately ruling them out as a friend because we didn’t seem like we’d click as BFFs; or B) pushing a friendship based on proximity alone into a deeper bestie bond too fast and then sadly, watching it end badly as a result.
In all of these situations, these were people I could have been friends with had I not tried to quantify them as something they were not. It’s a small, eclectic mix of people in the islands. Try to appreciate people for who they are and embrace what similarities/connections you have and stop focusing on the rest. There will be some islanders who may not be a perfect fit as an everyday best friend, but perhaps they’re a fabulous happy hour buddy for those Wednesday afternoons you want someone to grab a sundowner with. Perhaps that girl who you think parties too much for your taste could be just right when she’s hungover for a random Sunday spent by the pool. If you stay open to a range of people, you’ll have a variety of friends to accompany you for a range of activities.
2. Create the social opportunities you wish existed.
Wish there was a consistent book club on your island? Missing girl’s nights out? Longing for a neighborhood that feels more social? Hate that you seem to have no one to exercise with?
Do yourself a favor and stop wishing. If you make the effort, you’ll be surprised what you can create yourself. I realize this sounds like something that’s easier said than done, but sometimes stepping outside of your comfort zone is required to solve your own problems. Quite literally, all of the above wishes belonged to me at some point (or repeatedly) over my years on a rock. Yes, it was uncomfortable (and sometimes still continues to be) to invite people who might reject me to my house for girl’s nights or on hikes or other activities. But you know what? Almost every time someone will say to me, “This is exactly what I needed, thank you for organizing this.” And that reminds me that we’re all in the same boat, I’m not alone in my loneliness, and being the one to make the awkward-feeling first step pays off for everyone.
3. Make it your policy to accept the least nefarious explanation.
Was that couple acting strangely towards you when you ran into them in the parking lot? Did that woman say something that rubbed you the wrong way? Did it feel like that group of people at the next table were laughing at you after you walked away?
Remind yourself that other people’s behavior isn’t always about you. In fact, almost 100% of the time, it has nothing to do with you. Maybe that couple was in the middle of a tiff and they were feeling irritable and just trying to get home. Perhaps that woman was simply drunk or stoned when you ran into her (a common occurrence here in the islands) and would never normally say such a thing. Haven’t you ever behaved in a way you regretted the next day? In a small town setting, people seem to find it too easy to make enemies in a hurry over the smallest of things. By giving people the benefit of the doubt, you save yourself from ruling out someone who could become a friend under different circumstances. I’m not advising you to become a doormat, just to give people a couple of opportunities to make an impression before dismissing them. There are limited numbers of people to be friends with on a rock, be judicious in your rejections.
4. Don’t intertwine yourself in other people’s drama. Be Switzerland.
People will connect with other people for different reasons. Just because two of your friends/acquaintances on island can’t stand each other doesn’t mean you need to find out why and choose sides. Take a position of neutrality when things don’t directly concern you. Form your own opinions based on your own interactions with a person and stay out of drama and gossip. My response when someone gossips to me about another islander? “Hmm… I haven’t found that, I’m sorry you feel that way.” *Enter: new subject* Don’t let a misplaced desire to be loyal to one person shrink your already tiny friend pool.
5. Have no shame. Swallow your pride and reach out if you feel like playing.
Social media can sometimes make rock life feel like high school (and, in turn, makes me so grateful that Facebook was not invented when I was in high school – am I right?!). Seeing people out boating, bar-hopping, beaching it, and partaking in other forms of island merriment when you’re down can increase your feelings of left-out-ed-ness. But you know what I’ve found? Sometimes the only reason you’re being left out is simply because people didn’t think of you. So make them.
See something going on on social media that you wish you were apart of? Ask if you can join in. I promise you, 9 times out of 10 (if not 10 out of 10), the answer is going to be yes. People aren’t usually intentionally clique-ish. They’re just swept up in their own world and figure everyone else is too. I hate to think of anyone feeling lonely on my rock and wishing they could join in on something I’m doing, but feeling too ashamed to ask. I will always say yes if someone reaches out asking to be included. I can’t be alone in this. Give it a try – it’s low risk with a potential for high return.
6. Spend money on the hobbies you’re missing. No excuses – ship that shit in.
I enjoy spending time on my own so long as I’m not just sitting around twiddling my thumbs. One of the things I missed most in my early years on a rock was the ability to craft and paint. I was constantly whining about not having a Michaels or a JoAnn store nearby. (Side note: does anyone else like picturing them as star-crossed crafty lovers? No? Just me?) I finally caved and ordered in some paint brushes, paints, and other supplies. It felt frivolous at first – why am I spending money on this, will I even use it? – but it has been worth every penny. And in reality, it wasn’t even that expensive in the scheme of things. I have spent so many happy island days alone at home painting and coloring and not feeling the slightest bit lonely. Stop waiting – get yourself your knitting supplies, that bike you miss so much, or whatever else makes up your long lost hobby. Having something fun to do that you truly enjoy takes away a lot of the loneliness because it allows you to revel in your own company.
7. Allow yourself to feel bummed out.
Giving yourself permission to acknowledge that everything in “paradise” isn’t perfect and that’s ok can be a freeing feeling. It’s a big part of why I created this community in the first place – so we can all get real. Sometimes it can be emotionally exhausting to keep up the facade that island life is The Dream. Just because you live on a drop dead gorgeous island doesn’t mean you have to love everything about it and have lost the right to complain. That’s too much pressure to put on yourself. If you’re having a bad day, remember it’s just that – a bad day. You can feel sad about this tropical trade-off, that island life may always make you feel lonely at times, just don’t wallow in this space too long.
8. Force yourself to swallow a reality check.
For all the time you spend fantasizing about how much better life could be elsewhere, spend equal amounts of time giving yourself reality checks about “elsewhere.” Loneliness exists everywhere, nowhere is perfect all the time. Even if you were living back where you came from where all the friends/fam you’re missing reside doesn’t mean you’d never experience a lonely weekend where everyone else was busy or otherwise unavailable. Remember that when you start to over-glamorize everywhere that’s not your rock.
9. Ask other islanders for advice.
Loneliness is something literally everyone experiences here. I have yet to meet someone on an island who doesn’t feel sad and/or disconnected at times. Talking about it can be a great way to connect and get ideas, whether it’s online (the WWLOR Facebook community is awesome for that!) or in person when the opportunity presents itself. While it can be nerve wracking to get vulnerable with people you don’t know, your honesty often makes way for a deeper connection that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
10. Don’t forget about the tourists as an option.
We all love to joke about how annoying tourists can be and how they want to latch onto you as a local as soon as they find out that, OMG, you really live here! While this may be something you typically avoid at all costs, if you’re having a lonely day and can’t find a fellow islander to provide you with the company you seek, head out and meet some tourists. Whether it’s at a beach, a bar, or some other island attraction, sometimes it can be a mood-booster to strike up a conversation with people who are wowed by the place that’s temporarily bumming you out. Not only will you get the feel good vibes from being a nice little volunteer tour guide, but it can also help you to shake off your funk and appreciate where you live by seeing your world through their fresh perspective.
11. If all else fails, make plans to leave for awhile.
In the same way that moving to your island was a choice, moving off your island is also a choice. Yes, there are things like money, employment, etc. to consider – this isn’t meant to be a rash decision – but if you feel like you just can’t take it anymore, deciding that it’s ok to leave can feel like a tremendous relief. Even if you can’t move immediately, knowing that there’s an end in sight can help. Leaving your island doesn’t have to be as dramatic as it feels either. You can always come back. The difference is that now you know what it takes to live on an island and returning someday will be much easier than it was the first time if you so choose. Perhaps now isn’t the right time for you to be here. And that’s 100% okay.
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Island loneliness happens to the best of us. Even applying all of the above, I still get lonely on my rock from time to time. I’ve come to accept it as just one of those things that falls under the category of “The Price of Paradise.” But being proactive definitely helps minimize the lonely vibes for me – hopefully it will for you too.
Do you experience loneliness at times living on an island? If so, what helps you work through it?