Like so many people, over the years I had often joked about packing in the pressure of corporate America and moving to a tropical island. Though with three kids and a husband working full time, I figured it would have to remain a dream… or so I thought. A sudden corporate restructuring forced an abrupt decision and I opted to escape and accept a job on a beautiful island.
The transition was easy for me. Bermuda was but a 1.5 hour flight from my home on the east coast of the US. I could work two weeks, fly home for a week, then repeat the cycle with all housing and travel paid for thanks to my employer. My family was able to stay in the US with zero disruption to their lives. I could continue to pay my bills and my family was able to enjoy more treats than ever before. Bermuda was made up of 50% expats, so there were plenty of others around to relate to and bond with. Could anything truly be more perfect than this situation? It was an enviable position to be in, I was aware.
But as the saying goes – nothing lasts forever. Three and a half years later, it was 2010 and a wave of decline in revenue hit the community and forced many expat jobs off the island. At the same time, the US was experiencing the worst recession that anyone could remember. Embarking upon a soul-sucking unsuccessful job hunt at age 52 with two kids in University, one in high school, and a huge mortgage to keep me up at night, things became dire after 10 months with no income.
Eventually, I decided to create a job for myself by convincing a business owner in The Bahamas that his company needed my expertise. This time, however, the distance did not enable a “commute” back and forth. A family meeting confirmed the decision – MOM WOULD GO. I’d take the job, live on the island, and the family would visit often. We told ourselves it would be like we had a second home on the water. It felt like a workable solution and we convinced ourselves that finances and life in general would turn around and it eventually did – at least from a financial perspective.
Nothing prepared me, however, for the loneliness of living away from family and friends full-time. Attempting to connect with locals at my place of employment was difficult. Being the only expat, the only Caucasian, and the only one not particularly religious (so key to life here) proved to be an obstacle in expanding relationships with co-workers beyond the confines of the office. Ever resourceful, I joined expat sites communicating with others relocating to my rock, I reached out with lunch invites, joined clubs, volunteered my time, and even tried a roommate. It took a couple of years for me to find my “tribe” – those that I could rely on, share island life with, and patch together a social life with. Regularly, I am the oldest at the party, often the third wheel at dinner, but I’m making it work. Social media has become my lifeline to those both on and off Nassau.
Now it’s 2018 and my kids are grown adults working full-time jobs of their own. My hubby drifted into his own mid-life crisis and my parents have aged and no longer travel well (I’m an only child). Seven years since arriving on my rock, I still stand with one foot in and one foot out of island life. I enjoy the sunshine, the beaches, the crystal blue sea, and the fluffy cloud sky of this island home. Nothing beats winters of comfortable breezes thru open windows while watching my family shovel snow on Instagram (evil pleasure).
Knowing that one day I will have to return to the US, I travel every 60-90 days working hard to retain connections with friends, family, and my stateside “home.” Money once spent on tuition is now spent on airline tickets. My furnished condo rental in the Bahamas is void of anything personal despite my living there for seven years now. It would be silly to decorate here when it’s not my “real home,” right?
Yet here I am, at age 60, struggling with the question, Now what? What awaits me if I pick up and go back home? My children are adults. A job hunt in the US is even more unlikely to yield results due to my age. The crossroad is here. Is it time to fully embrace this island life or to continue this half-existence?
Daily the dance in my head continues. I put my right foot in, I take my right foot out, I put my right foot in, and I shake it all about. I do the hokey pokey and I turn myself around – that’s what it’s all about.
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Are you a fellow hokey pokey islander? How do you dance between your island home and your home(s) elsewhere?