Welcome to the fifth post in our new series where women who have lived on multiple rocks compare the lifestyles of different islands. If you missed the first four, click here, or here, or here, or here. This site receives so many questions in the realm of “What’s it like to live on *insert island here* compared to *insert another island here*?” that I wanted to start a comparative post series. Please keep in mind that the opinions represented here are simply based on an individual writer’s experience. If you have follow-up questions, pop them into the comments section at the end of the post and the writer will do her best to reply. If you’ve lived on multiple islands and would like to share your perspective, please visit our Write with Us page and join us as a contributor – we’d love to have you!
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My relationship with the islands in my life is like a salacious summer romance, picked up on the sly at the drugstore, adorned with regrettable covers, but filled with unwholesome things you just can’t get enough of.
How else are my island relationships are like mass market romance novels? Well, there are several of them (an island orgy, if you will) and I’ve loved them all in different ways. Let’s call it a love triangle.
But how do you compare great loves as different as these? I’ll make an attempt to do it as fairly as possible.
Like romance novels that feature an exotic, but not-too-foreign-to-relate-to lead, Hawaii was my first island love. The culture in Hawaii can be a juxtaposition of exclusionary and accepting, comfortable and unnerving, but always fascinating.
PBS Hawaii has segments broadcast in native Hawaiian, white people are a minority, the Asian restaurants are some of the best in the world, and the ocean is nothing like the oceans in the Caribbean: it’s more magnificent, more powerful, more awe-inspiring, alluring, vast, and terrifying.
Like the islands of the Caribbean, the nights in Hawaii are the best. Bistro lights strung across eateries set in brick-walled open air courtyards in historic Chinatown, the sounds of ukulele in Waikiki wafting from underneath palm trees lining manicured resort lawns, the clinking of pricey cocktail glasses at a rooftop bar high above the empty streets of downtown Honolulu, vast tracks of moonlight shimmering across the still bays on North Shore during summer nights, friends and family gathering after sunset around food trucks set up on roadside cinderblocks while barefoot kids laugh and play carefree in the adjoining grassy yard.
But then your exotic but no-too-foreign lover does something (or a lot of things) to tick you off like makes roundtrip tickets to the mainland over $900, or forces you to spend a whole paycheck at the grocery store, or charges some of the highest rents in the nation, or jams up your highways so that ONCE A MONTH it takes you over 5 hours to drive 4 miles… you can get a little jaded.
And so you leave Hawaii for…
Saint Lucia is like the ‘broken bird’ trope in romance novels. You know, when you think that undying, unwavering love can heal someone and make them all yours, right? But the hero who needs your love to heal is sometimes a little screwed up.
In Saint Lucia, you find a lot of the things you love about Hawaii: lush green jungles, soaring mountains, deeper seas, and a vibrant culture. You learn to embrace saltfish and bakes, saucy chicken stews, and pan-baked macaroni and cheese. You learn to love Carnival even though it rains on you every year and the feathers on most of the dancers fall off a long time before they get to the stretch of road you and your friends have set up your folding chairs and coolers on.
You look forward to the sounds coming from the cricket field during tournaments and every Friday night, you sit outside on your patio a little longer to make sure that the street party in Gros Islet is sounding as fun as you remember it to be. You get into habits in Saint Lucia. You have cocktails on Monday with so and so. Dinner on Wednesdays with another so and so. Saturdays are for exploring the beautiful beaches, the quirky fishing towns, or another roadside bar with your boyfriend. In Saint Lucia, you put something decent on to go to the grocery store because it’s a small island, a small community, and you’re sure to run into someone you know and have a conversation next to the milk because it’s so much cooler there.
But soon, despite giving the island all the love you can possibly give, all the hopes and prayers for it to be utterly and truly yours, you start finding it harder and harder to forgive it for its wavering wifi, ruinous potholes, interesting postal system, and insanely expensive airfare. You start visiting the one sushi restaurant (the one not tucked away behind the golden gates of an all-inclusive resort) on a weekly basis and remembering how much better it tasted in Hawaii. You start wondering if you deserve big, fat, green avocados year round, and missing Mexican food with a passion that makes you wonder if you have some Latin ancestry.
You start imagining that those comedic YouTube videos your friends send that make you cringe with their “content blocked in your area” messages are actually the best videos ever. When you call for the ninth time about whether you need to get your car inspection first or registration first in order to get car insurance for the pothole problem and get a different answer than all the other times you rang, you start to wonder if Saint Lucia is really for you.
Do you leave St. Lucia to return to the arms of Hawaii where all can be had, but at a price? Or do you follow the boyfriend you’ve truly grown to love to his new job in….
Imagine you’ve just forsaken both of your island loves for a real lover and moved to what, after Honolulu and Saint Lucia, can only be called the sticks of the Caribbean – Abaco. But you have to remember that, like the great romance novel The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks taught us all, there’s a lot of comfort in the countryside.
Abaco is like the romantic fake turned real literary trope: when one person pretends to love another (maybe you’re both in on it!) but then they fall in love for real. I didn’t want to love the Bahamas. It was too flat. Too opinionated. Too close to Florida. It had too many conch fritters fried to disparate degrees of hardness. There was no hope.
Until we went to Hopetown.
We hopped into a zippy little motorboat, using nothing but our eyesight as navigational equipment (a novel experience after Hawaii and St. Lucia) and skipped off to another island. But before we even arrived in Hopetown, I fell in love with the crazily crystal clear water, the stingrays and colorful fish who were just… there, waiting to be swam with, waiting to be loved along with all the harmless reef sharks, turtles, and other aquatic wildlife you could see just by peering over the side rail. I adopted a kitten in the Bahamas. I made a lifelong friend in the Bahamas (Hi, Janie!). We reveled in the sheer ludicrousness of having an entire, pristine white sand beach complete with flawless water to ourselves whenever we felt like boating around one of the hundreds of coves that dot the Abaco Islands.
But then, like star-crossed lovers, our relationship ended, rather abruptly. One of us drank a poison and the other woke up too late. It was a denouement and conclusion all wrapped up in less than a page. Political winds shifted and we were booted from the Bahamas with less than 24 hours notice to pack our belongings and leave. Our work permits were revoked.
Unlike Hawaii, we were exotic and way too foreign to be working there and so, like any scorned lover would do, I ran back to my last. I ran back to what I think (for now) is my true island love: Saint Lucia.
But this would be a really awful drugstore romance novel if I didn’t leave you with a cliffhanger, right? I need to introduce some sort of will they or won’t they? trope. Or perhaps some unresolved sexual tension…
But it’s none of those, it’s a “lovable rogue” that needs to be brought in, because as I write this I’m sitting in….
TURKS AND CAICOS