They say that “Island Time” moves slower than regular “Real World Time,” but I think it slips by even faster. Maybe because there’s more idleness. Or maybe time just gains momentum as I get older. I can’t be sure.
I have been looking back through old photos recently in a floundering attempt to organize (and delete) thousands of unnecessary snaps, including accidental photos of my foot, 20 different versions of a sunset, and 18 million photos of my dogs. Perusing through these photos reminds me of events that happened just yesterday, or so it feels. And then I look at the date and I’m reminded that some of my first photos in The Bahamas were from winter and spring of 2009 – over 8 years ago.
I lived in Harbour Island from summer of 2013 until almost exactly one year ago. Harbour Island is a tiny community of about 2,000 people – on a busy day. The 3 mile long by 1/2 mile wide island has a beautiful stretch of pink sandy beach on the ocean side, and a peaceful harbor side protected by “mainland” Eleuthera (just another, bigger island). The island is fairly crowded with houses but everyone moves at a slower pace, driving around in golf buggies and taking in the serene surroundings. No one ever gets too fussed about traffic and it always feels like vacation-land, even when you’re trying to hustle and earn a living.
The island is probably one of the most expensive places I’ve ever lived, but the lifestyle can’t be beat. Because it’s expensive and it’s difficult to just “move there” and find a place to rent for the long term (good luck trying to buy anything unless you have a few extra million laying around), not to mention getting a work permit if you are a foreigner – there’s limited competition for people in my husband’s field of project management and owner’s representation. Homeowners battle with attempting to build and remodel in a difficult environment and professional help can be slim pickings on a small island, so there’s a fairly high demand for good tradesmen. What started out as a 3 month temporary project management stint on the island, steam-rolled into one project after another and lasted 2 1/2 years. We’d probably still be there if we hadn’t taken another job in the Exumas and finally ended up back at our house in Nassau. Anyway, during our time on Harbour Island we’d chip away at construction projects, but we would always find time to sneak out and go fishing on a Wednesday afternoon or go kiteboarding on a Friday morning, knowing we could make it up some other time when the weather wasn’t conducive for either of those activities. It was a pretty good life.
However, it was a small town. Everyone knows everyone’s business. You pass the same people over and over and over again, sometimes saying your hello’s 4-5 times per day. There’s not a lot going on in the way of healthful living; no yoga studios, juice bars, or ethnic dining – it’s cracked conch in styro or a $55 a la carte steak. And best of luck to those attempting to be a vegetarian on an island with limited fresh vegetables or meat alternatives.
I had happily lived on an island with a population of 7 people in the past, but on this island, loneliness plagued me. I felt as though I didn’t fit in. I was an island girl, but this island had a sort of luxurious, refined, and slightly pretentious feel. The kind of vibe that a fashion and lifestyle blogger dreams of. I’m not fashionable, nor do I exude anything even remotely luxurious, and I don’t bother trying. Give me a down-home dive bar with flip-flop wearing, soul-seeking clientele any day. Unfortunately, the “dive bars” on the island charged $10 for a beer and most of the female patrons are decked out in designer resort-wear making me feel somewhat like a hobo in my surfer-girl board shorts.
I became tainted, drained, and disheveled, and I was ready for a change by the time I left in April last year. For the past year, I have held salty memories of the island and have been hesitant to go back. I nearly went once, but my emotions got the best of me and I backed out at the last minute. But then my husband got a phone call that his project management duties were required for several weeks, so he left me and the three dogs in Nassau and went to go work 7 days a week in Harbour Island. It was settled. If I wanted to see my husband at all, I had to go.
I packed my bag and flew over. I had a sick feeling in my stomach. As I got into the golf buggy, I pulled my hat down lower and adjusted my sunglasses. I didn’t want to see anyone. But then I started getting hailed. Familiar faces waved and smiled. The bartender at our old local haunt saw me on the dock and gave me a big hug. Friends stopped in the middle of the road welcoming me back. One friend grabbed me and said, “We NEED to catch up, let’s go get a glass of wine,” so I waved goodbye to my husband and off I went. The next day we found ourselves pumping up our kites with other friends and heading out for a kiteboarding session on what I remember to be my favorite place to kite. Three miles up and down Pink Sands Beach, with an audience of tourists cheering us on. Even when I left, the Pineapple Air agent smiled warmly and said, “I haven’t seen you in awhile!”
It was like nothing had changed. And everything had changed. Time hadn’t blinked, but where was my sour attitude?
I picked up right where I left off. It was like I had traveled through a wormhole. One year had passed, but it might as well have been one day. A few things looked different, a few face-lifts on buildings here and there. But idle conversations carried on just as they had one year ago, and I was caught up on the local sip sip before I knew it.
My husband had to find temporary accommodations while he was working on the project. He ended up renting the first place we lived together during our first three months on Harbour Island; a modest apartment on the quieter southern end of the island, with views of the ocean. AC is hardly needed because the constant ocean breeze refreshes. The linen curtains billow softly. The only sounds are of birds and roosters and the ocean crashing. I was instantly reminded how soundly I slept when we were there. It was my most favorite place we lived on that island.
We were right back where we started. Maybe it was life’s way of giving me a second chance. I don’t have to be miserable. I don’t have to have a tantrum every time the power goes out. I can detach myself from the things that at one time gave me so much grief and angst.
A year ago I had been sinking further and further into the depths of negativity, reaching out in desperation for salvation. When I came out the other side I realize that it wasn’t so bad. I had created it for myself. Sure, it didn’t help that I felt alone, but sometimes being alone is OK. It’s a great time to turn inward. I know that now. I wonder how I could have convinced my then-self that.
Looking back, one of the positive events that occurred during my time there was that I started Out Island Life, my blog and website about life in The Bahamas. I also got involved with writing for Women Who Live on Rocks. Both of those were necessary outlets for the trying times I dealt with on the island. These blogs have since opened doors I didn’t think were possible, and connected me to a world where I’m truly not alone in this crazy island existence. It’s allowed me to delve into cultivating my underlying affinity for writing. It’s always been there, and it’s been exciting to watch it prosper and grow over the past few years.
Sitting in that same apartment from many years ago, I revisited one of my very first blog posts on Out Island Life, Summer Storm. A magical recap of the optimistic mindset I was in at the time (prior to having regular power-outage meltdowns). I have held these words in my heart since re-reading them. I’m not going down that same road again. Life is too short. Time moves too quickly. I’m thankful for a second chance and a new outlook. Even if it’s the same outlook that I’ve held before. Perhaps I’m just looking at it all through wiser lenses.