I’m a hard-core rock woman. I love the island life. I love it so much that it takes work-related travel or family visits for me to leave my base in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

I don’t know if it’s the humidity that seeps into my pores, my cozy Colonial City neighborhood, or the merengue echoing in the streets, but when I finally settled here as a full-time islander — almost four years ago — I started embracing the mellow Dominican pace of life.

I don’t have that FOMO feeling when I’m on my rock (who would miss all that stress up north?).



But I’ll be honest: I do look forward to a whole bunch of basic conveniences when I’m traveling away from my island. Next week, for example, I’m flying back to Maryland to visit family. I’m already thinking about what I’ll get to enjoy for a while.

Here are a few of the things I do look forward to enjoying on trips away from my rock:


Food variety – but especially: Ethiopian food

Dominican cuisine is tasty – and fattening, if you’re not careful. Aside from the classic plate of rice and beans with stewed chicken, there’s mofongo, mangu, and a host of other Creole-influenced dishes and snacks, including empanadas and quipes. It’s a long list. We’re also lucky to have a large international community, from French to Italian, Japanese, and Chinese.

But after a while, I crave things I simply can’t find cheaply on the regular, like really good cheese or hummus, or delicious breads. Most of all though, I miss my Ethiopian food! I’m originally from Ethiopia and my constant dilemma in the Caribbean is not having access to my country’s spicy, deliciously seasoned dishes. I have one spice in my freezer for the occasional dish I feel like making, but it’s nowhere near enough. I’m salivating thinking that in just a few days, I’ll be pigging out at my mom’s and eating at our favorite Ethiopian restaurant.


Peace and quiet

For someone who likes her quiet writing time, I’m amazed that I picked the Dominican Republic as my home. It’s the loudest country and rock I’ve ever experienced in my life. Lively, but loud nonetheless. It’s why I fell in love with it, in hindsight. Dominicans are so full of energy and love of life.

These days it’s quieter because I moved into a loft that’s five floors up. I’m farther from the road. But as I type this on a weekend night, car alarms are going off because of the loud music from a nearby venue.

So when I’m back in the US, I do appreciate the quiet in my Maryland neighborhood – though not for long.


Long, hot showers

At home, I have to turn on the water heater to warm up the shower before I jump in. It’s on demand. Turn on the switch, leave it on for about 15 minutes then turn it off and go shower.  If you forget to turn it off, prepare for a sweet surprise on your monthly electricity bill! Water is also a precious resource on the islands, so I do my best to use it responsibly.

In the US, I relish the nonstop, automatic, available-all-day hot water showers I can have, without electric bill surprises.  It’s amazing what we take for granted, isn’t it?


Throwing toilet paper… into the toilet

Since we’re on the topic of bathrooms, here’s another detail I used to never think twice about when I lived in the US: flushing toilet paper in the toilet. In most of the DR, you have to throw it in the trash can, even in Santo Domingo. The sewers just can’t handle it otherwise. The price of paradise.


Lighting-fast Internet

The Internet functions fine on my rock and I can do my work, but it’s still not as lighting fast as in the US. Not to mention, when there’s a rainstorm or the power goes out temporarily, even for a half-hour: no Wi-Fi. Thankfully it hasn’t happened much lately.


Better Netflix

I know, it’s an addiction — Netflix! But seriously, Netflix selections in the DR are not the same as the ones in the US. They fill our library here with drug-related movies (stereotype much?) or foreign language movies from Nigeria, Turkey, and even Sweden. I don’t mind the latter, but can I also have access to US series (like How To Get Away With Murder)? So yes, I’ll be checking when I go home… and enjoying it with my super fast Internet.


Shopping with no extra fees

One of the things I love about living in the DR is that we can order online and receive packages from US stores. All you need is an account with one of the courier services. They even deliver your packages to your home for free. But you do have to pay a fee according to the weight of the packages received, and you also have to pay duties for any order over $200 USD.

So sometimes I have to wait to be in the US to order more expensive or heavy duty orders, like a camera lens or a bunch of heavy books. I’ve already pre-ordered what I need so it’s there when I arrive! Also, I can’t wait to walk into a CVS and get lost in the cosmetics aisle – I don’t know why, but its one of the few things I love to do when I’m back in the States.

You know what always strikes me as ironic though? After about a week of all these conveniences, I’m ready to go right back to my rock life.



What do you look forward to when you take trips away from your rock?

Current Rock of Residence:

Dominican Republic

Island Girl Since:


Originally Hails From:

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning travel writer, photographer, and guidebook author focusing on the Caribbean region. Her work has appeared in major travel publications, including Delta Sky, CNN Travel, Lonely Planet, BBC, Travel Channel, and New York Times Magazine, among others.

Born in Ethiopia, raised in Côte d’Ivoire, and also schooled in the US and England, she fell in love with the Caribbean on her first solo trip to St. Lucia in 2005. Four years later, Lily left behind her prestigious legal career and took a leap into travel photography, followed by writing — focusing on culture, adventure, and sustainable travel.

Thanks to her work, which includes Belize and the DR guidebooks for Moon Guides, she’s made island living a reality since 2011, from Jamaica to Grenada, Belize, and currently, the Dominican Republic.

You can follow her adventures on her travel and photography blog, Sunshine and Stilettos.

Want to read more posts by this writer? Click here.

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