Someone is asking you to describe island life – what words do you use?

Free-spirited? Laid-back? Unfussy? Luxurious?

I lost you on that last one, didn’t I?

Unless you’re a fancy pants tourist looking to book a stay in a private island resort complete with personal butler, luxury doesn’t usually pop up in this little word association game.

Life on a rock can often be the antithesis of luxury. It is but a beautiful mess, front row seats to the shit show that is paradise. You share your home with roaches, like it or not. Your basic resources that precariously tie you to “civilization” are cruelly stripped away on the regular for indeterminate periods of time. Bye, bye water! See ya, electricity. Wifi? Ha-ha, nope! And on top of it all, you’re generally sweaty AF, perpetually glistening in less of a daintily-dewey way and more in a back-of-a-cop-car-after-being-caught-bank-robbering sort of way.

In this past year while displaced post-Hurricane Irma, I hopped around the US quite a bit, then set-up temporary camp for the past few months in Miami Beach. And as a long time island girl who has now spent 5+ months on the other side, I’m here to report that island life is indeed luxurious.

 

empty island beach white sand

 

Hear me out.

Sure, up here in the Land of Convenience, opulence for opulence’s sake is on full display. Anything you could want or need is within credit card’s reach. I literally got wine and liquor delivered to my apartment and it felt every bit as luxurious as it sounds. I may have even thrown a hand in the air and belted out a quick, “Baller!” simply because it blew my island girl brain right out the window. You can order things to your door here as though you’re dialing Room Service at the Four Seasons. Hermione Granger had a wand; statesiders have the App Store.

However, there are plenty o’ aspects of island life that I miss dearly – things that I consider true luxuries now that I’m up here in the US. These are luxuries that I can’t wait to get back to once me and my next island (still to be determined) are united. They may not be luxuries in the Diamonds + Dom + Ducati sense, but they most certainly are lifestyle indulgences that are tough to find elsewhere.

 

Here are My 13 Most Prized Luxuries of Island Living:

 

– 1 –

The Luxury of Not Having to Carry Keys

On my last island, we never locked our house and left the doors wide open (with screens, obvi) 24/7. When we left every year for our extended vacation, it was truly challenging to determine A) the location of the keys and B) which keys did, in fact, lock the house doors. Ditto for the cars, where we’d just leave the keys in the ignition whenever we weren’t actually driving them.

 

– 2 –

The Luxury of Driving a P.O.S. Car

Cars don’t have to run that well or be anywhere close to new/presentable on an island. Not only do your fellow islanders not give a flying fish what type of car you drive, they’re often just impressed if you actually own a car. Another added luxury of piece of shit island car ownership? You can park that sucker anywhere and don’t have to worry about what might happen to it. (There’s nothing a little duct tape can’t fix, am I right?)

 

island goat on Jeep Virgin Gorda BVI

Goats will use your car as a stepping stool. Best to not be too precious about your paint job.

 

 

– 3 –

The Luxury of Limited Temptations

Sometimes (okay, a lot of the time), we islanders bitch about not having easy access to the variety of foods we crave, not realizing it’s actually a hidden benefit of island life. Without decadent bakery sections in your grocery stores, an array of restaurants who serve obnoxious portions of your favorite indulgences, and donut shops on every corner, you’re simply not tempted and usually make better choices by default. Off island, where there are irresistible treats everywhere you turn, steeling your willpower is a daily battle.

 

– 4 –

The Luxury of Easy Friendships

Proximity is often times the main qualifier for welcoming a newbie into your island circle of friends. You’re here, I’m here, let’s happy hour! Not only are people far more receptive to making new friends on a rock, they’re also far less flakey, in my experience. In other places where there are a plethora of people and seemingly endless social activities at the ready, people tend to be choosier and experience FOMO to an extreme degree, saying yes to everything, then blowing off plans without a second thought at the mere mention of a “better” option. Perhaps it’s that there are fewer options when it comes to things to do, but on a rock, if people say they’re going to be there, they generally always show up. And that’s something to be appreciated.

 

island girlfriends beach cheers Oil Nut Bay BVI

Island friendships make life on a rock truly luxurious

 

 

– 5 –

The Luxury of Fashion Obliviousness

Not having to be in style or even know what is currently in style is your prerogative on an island. You’re not made to feel like you should care or if your not caring is anything anyone else around you even notices. Forget high fashion if it’s not your jam. The only thing you need to worry about on a rock is whether or not the holes in your clothes are too numerous for continued wear. Or perhaps you’re not even concerned about that. And that’s quite a luxury.

 

– 6 –

The Luxury of Making Your Own Adult Choices

Getting to make grown-up decisions for yourself without the law dictating them for you is truly a luxury in the less regulated space that is island living. Things like whether or not you can drink on the beach, where you can walk your dog, what mountains you can hike, and where you can park are generally left up to your own discretion on an island. Elsewhere, in the more litigious countries, we adults are protected from harm like baby lambs, which feels decidedly un-luxurious.

 

– 7 –

The Luxury of Not Involving Yourself in Pop Culture

When you’re not on an island, it’s surprising how many of the conversations you find yourself in that seem to revolve around TV shows, new movies, celebrity gossip, politics, and the like. When living on an island, at least in my experience, many people don’t even have TVs or if they do, they certainly don’t have satellite or cable. Plus, we islanders tend to spend far more time outdoors rather than at home, glued to our screens. Not having to be on top of or conversant in pop culture on a rock is a goddamn relief.

 

wide open Caribbean blue sea view behind Saba Rock BVI

Never have the Kardashians been more irrelevant.

 

 

– 8 –

The Luxury of Doing Whatever You Damn Well Please for Work

You can do just about anything on an island to make money and not feel like you’re failing at adulting. On a rock, a “real job” is one that makes you the money you need to support yourself. Plain and simple. No one cares if you have a grand title on your business card or if you’re on track to make partner next year. People at island social gatherings don’t ask, “So, what do you do?” five seconds after they’re introduced to you. It’s a luxury to live somewhere where your worth is not judged by what rung of the career ladder you’re currently hanging from and even more luxurious to live somewhere where many people write off the corporate career ladder entirely.

 

– 9 –

The Luxury of Cheap Liquor & Judgement Free Imbibing

Cheap drinks and a judgement-free space to drink them whenever the fuck you want to is a luxury of luxuries. Never, in over a decade in the Caribbean, have I heard anyone remark on whether or not it’s “too early” or “too late” to have an adult beverage. Yet in the US, God help you if you’re caught even sipping a mimosa before 11am on a Sunday. Oh my, is it brunch time already? inquires Judgy McJudgerson. Every bartender in the states has suddenly become a “mixologist” if only to enable their bar to charge you $17 for a cocktail that’s not only weaker than its island counterpart, but it also has a mysterious smoke emanating off it.

 

iced coffee beach table in the water Cooper Island BVI

Spiked coffee for breakfast? Don’t mind if we do.

 

 

– 10 –

The Luxury of the Barefoot Lifestyle

Not having to spend much time thinking about the ramifications of your choices in footwear is a gift. Up in the states, when preparing to head out and about, the mental weighing begins. Will we be walking a long distance? Will it rain? Will it be too cold for sandals? Do these shoes look appropriate for the situation? Do these shoes go with my outfit? And on and on. On a rock, few occasions call for anything but the humble flip flop. And even those rarer times when I did attend an island event wearing actual shoes/heels, I always ended up flinging them off to dance in the sand shortly after arriving anyway. Whether at a bar, getting into a boat, or doing errands, your choice in shoes doesn’t require much consideration on a rock, if any at all.

 

– 11 –

The Luxury of Limited Access to All the Things

When you don’t have access to much and shipping is prohibitively expensive and/or not at all possible, you basically stop thinking about all the random things you want and mentally move on. You’re not tempted to buy all the things or immediately replace things in your life that are broken. In the islands, you jury-rig, you make do. In the US, it’s all at your fingertips – and that’s scary. Missing or broken items can be replaced instantly, delivered to your door in hours with the wonder that is Amazon Prime. You’re marketed to constantly, given never-ending reminders of everything you “need.” It’s incredibly hard to resist not bringing yourself into financial ruin, hence the reason so many people in the states are buried 6 feet deep in debt.

 

– 12 –

The Luxury of Safety

With far fewer people on a rock in general, there are naturally far fewer creepy people to be creeped out by. That’s just basic math. Add to that, the cloak of anonymity that tends to allow creepy people to commit nefarious acts isn’t quite so covering on an island. Everyone tends to know each other. If people don’t know you personally, they usually do know someone in your family or your employer or some other tangential relation to you. It’s my belief that this overall sense of familiarity holds people accountable and results in fewer random, scary crimes. I’ve felt far safer on the islands I’ve lived on than in the cities I’ve lived in. Being able to move about your life and feel secure is something I’ve always valued immensely on a rock.

 

Caribbean island sunset Nail Bay Virgin Gorda BVI

 

– 13 –

The Luxury of Being Known

Sometimes you wanna go, where everybody knows your name… You’d have to be a true recluse on an island to not have the majority of the people that surround you not know who you are, know your general story, and be aware of your basic routines. On a rock, you tend to connect with your neighbors and those who work in businesses you frequent simply because you see each other constantly. This is far less common elsewhere, where everyone is pretty adamant about staying in their own lane and averting their eyes for fear of – gasp! – someone wanting to talk to them. Here in the US, my neighbors don’t even know my name, the servers at my fav restaurants don’t comment on my change in eye shadow for the day, and the checkout clerk doesn’t inquire as to why I wasn’t grocery shopping on Thursday at 11am as per usual. If I went missing, no one here would notice. We islanders sometimes wish for days to just be anonymous, but take it from me – being anonymous gets lonely.

 

–   –   –

 

What do you consider luxuries / lifestyle indulgences in your island life?

Written By:

Chrissann Nickel

Current Rock of Residence:

Virgin Gorda, BVI

Island Girl Since:

2006

Originally Hails From:

California

Chrissann’s home rock in the British Virgin Islands feels bigger to her than it actually is. Though after spending five years on a teensy one acre island, the current 13-mile long rock she’s residing on now IS ginormous, at least by comparison. As with everything in the tropics, it’s all about perspective. Once upon a time she used to care about things like matching her purse to her pumps but these days, any activities that require a bra and shoes go under careful, is-this-even-worth-it consideration. If island life has taught her anything at all, it’s that few things are more rewarding than time spent in the pool with a cocktail in hand. As the Editor in Chief of this site, she spends her days working from home with her blue-eyed sidekick, Island Dog Diego, writing, editing, and cultivating content in the hopes of bringing some laughter and lightness to her fellow island souls. She recently published her first children’s book, When You’re a Baby Who Lives on a Rock, and is pretty pumped to share it with all of the island mamas out there. Her days off are typically spent boating, hiking, and meeting up with the neighborhood's imperious roadside goats, who she shamelessly bribes into friendship. While normalcy was never listed as one of her special skills, Caribbean life may indeed be responsible for new levels of madness. She attributes at least a smidge of her insanity to the amount of time she spends talking to drunk people. If you’re somehow still reading this and feel inclined to find out more about this “Chrissann” of which we speak, you can also take a gander at her eponymous website or follow her daily escapades on Instagram @womanonarock.

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