If there’s one thing you learn after any time spent living on an island, it’s that things are best not left up to chance. Murphy’s is law of the land here. If something can go wrong, it will go wrong – often in frustratingly bizarre, comical (usually only in retrospect) ways.

Island women are among the most pragmatic, resourceful people I know. A few arrive that way and the rest grow into their badassery courtesy of an array of rock life mishaps. With each ridiculous setback they encounter, their inner pioneer woman rises up. She will not be fucked with again. At least not to the degree that she has any control over.

Rather than try to avoid disappointment, we island women simply prepare for it. We see the potential letdowns coming (and oh, they are coming) and do our diligence to get ourselves ready to change tacks in a heartbeat.

Here are just a few of the ways our contributors prepare for the worst on their islands:

 

ISLANDERS PREPARE TO BE LEFT OUT OF CIVILIZATION

 

“We purchased a VPN to be able to binge watch Netflix and other things dependent on a US location. There’s nothing as disappointing as clicking on a video your friends back home insist is the ‘most hilarious thing ever’ and it won’t play because it’s ‘restricted in your area.’ – Sara Lynn, St. Lucia

“Do not even think of buying some newfangled thing like a car with internet capabilities – it’s just going to break and no one will ever be able to fix it. Buy a basic washer/dryer because the fancy ones with the electronics will fail and to get the part to fix it will cost as much as a new appliance. Always choose the plain version. No need salivating over the hottest, newest, latest… the basic version can always be fixed or jerry-rigged when it inevitably breaks on island, but the fancy bells and whistles one? ‘Miss, we don’t got no parts for dat.'” – Patty, The Bahamas

 

ISLANDERS PREPARE FOR BROKEN THINGS

 

“I drove a car for years that was held together by duct tape, no lie! I always had rolls stashed inside for backup. Once a month, I’d take off the old stuff and reapply a new layer around the rear windows to prevent leaking and fully around the hatchback to keep it on. The rust was so bad that the latches and hinges on the hatchback disintegrated. I couldn’t afford a new car at the time, but I could afford duct tape! (Full disclosure: it also had a clear shower curtain in place of a passenger side window.)” – Christine, St. Croix, USVI

“Leatherman tools (multi tools in one), super glue, and creativity are good to have on hand. If what you need is broken or not available, you can always improvise.” – Donna, The Bahamas

“If I need to plan on sticking to any sort of recipe, I always buy double the ingredients (from different stores, if possible) if they’re things I can’t tell are still good from the outside. More often than not, things like onions, melons, apples, etc. will appear ok on the outside but will be rotten and unusable once you cut into them.” – Chrissann, Virgin Gorda, BVI

“I keep a cigarette lighter-powered tire pump in the car – always.” – Magnolia, St. Thomas, USVI

“Breaks happen, have a back-up: a scuba tank in case a tire goes flat; a grill in case the meat in the freezer starts to thaw; 3 vehicles in case 2 are broken; a laundry tub in case the washer won’t work; a clothes line in case the dryer breaks down; and a cell phone in case I break down while exploring in the bush.”  – Kay, The Bahamas

“I always make sure I have propane and Pampers wipes – for cooking, cleaning, and coffee! All else soon come.” – Kathleen, Grand Cayman

 

 

“I pretty much I assume that everything will break or stop working, so I have two or more of everything. The life of your electronics is over. My poor laptop gave up all will to live after 1 year in the tropics, while my trusty electric toothbrush (I know, what was I thinking) lasted almost 2 years before the charging base finally corroded. We keep our printer locked away in a ‘clean room’ to protect the delicate parts from excess humidity and sea breeze. Stainless steel is no match for our salty air and I find new and interesting places for rust all the time. The metal corner bits around the window? Yup, they rust through the layers of paint.” – Jennifer, Puerto Rico

“Duct tape can fix basically everything, but is especially useful when the hose in my washer shoots out of the wall every now and then and floods the laundry room. Despite having paid several people to fix it, it’s always duct tape that saves me.” – Sara Lynn, St. Lucia

“We refrigerate our batteries, as well as our printer ink cartridges and a few other ‘usually non-perishable anywhere other than an island’ goods. They won’t last long here, but refrigerating them helps extend their short life.” – Liz, Bonaire

“Gotta have lots of tools and batteries and chargers for them – things like a Dremel tool, good cordless drill, masonry bits, a socket set, and more. If you’ve never used these things, get lessons. You can’t even imagine all their possibilities – especially on a remote island. When something quits working, don’t just toss it. Take it apart, clean it, look for loose wires or anything weird, and then put it back together. Sometimes it works again and even if it doesn’t, you have learned something. My philosophy is ‘If it moves, and it shouldn’t, use duct tape (and by the way, Gorilla duct tape is better). If it doesn’t move, and it should, use WD40.'” – Val, Nevis

 

ISLANDERS PREPARE FOR INFESTATIONS

 

“Anything that can possibly go in the fridge, is in the fridge. I sent a snapchat back home and was confused by the responses until I forgot how weird it is for Canadians to see cereal, sugar, cookies, bread, bananas, oatmeal, rice, etc. all stored in the fridge. But it beats sharing your kitchen with ants all the time! I haven’t seen them for months and still store everything in the fridge… just in case.” – Juls, The Bahamas

“I always have peppermint essential oils and apple cider vinegar on hand, as they help keep the ants and bugs away.” – Megan, Bermuda

 

ISLANDERS PREPARE BY HOARDING

 

“I once bought all 4 cases – approximately 98 cans – of dog food. I got quite the look from cashier. Same goes if I find the nice gluten free crackers, pancake mix, or cookies on the shelves. I snatch them up because they only bring them once and never again.” – Gayle, Barbados

“I always want to have at least one extra pair of flip flops on hand. I always ask friends to get them for me when they go abroad, as I do not want to have one bust and be without!” – Rhiannon, Saba

“My policy? Buy all the things. Don’t think twice. When you see something that is sometimes sold out, buy it in unreasonable quantities.” – Jennifer, Dominican Republic

“We have two fridges, plus a wine cooler. The wine cooler has an extra stock of wine, soda, and drink mixes in it like tonic. In the main refrigerator we keep regular food, then use the extra refrigerator for plenty of nuts, berries, flour, oils, grains, tea, and more. If I like something, I always buy multiples because you never know when it will come back in stock again, if ever. The key is having places to store it all.” – Candi, Grenada

“Your preferred pet food brands can be hard to come by. Don’t be afraid to be the crazy lady with a trolley full of 40 – 50 tins of cat food – and nothing else. Raised eyebrows from those around you be damned.” – Angela, St. Lucia

“Much to my shock and dismay, I (the former queen of Marie Kondo minimalism) have become a hoarder. Not just as in ‘I better buy two of those’ type of practical island dweller, but a ‘holy crap, I better buy every single one of these available – at every shop on the island – in case of Armageddon’ type of shopper. Some things are good to hoard. Like batteries. Practical and with a long shelf life, right? Others… not so much. Like bananas. Turns out, buying five bunches of ripe bananas *might* be considered excessive unless you A) run a beach bar or B) really like eating 5-6 bananas every day. (But in my defense, once you survive a weeks’ long island banana shortage, you start to view them as more valuable than rum. Or airco.) And I don’t just limit my hoarding to my own shopping excursions. Someone once emailed me to ask if there was anything I needed from the states, because they would happily sherpa it down for me. I’m pretty sure they regretted that offer when I actually asked them to bring me a case of my favorite brand of dental floss.” – Liz, Bonaire

 

 

ISLANDERS PREPARE FOR OUTAGES AND MORE OUTAGES

 

“Always have cash on hand. There are 2 ATMs on the north island (I live on the south and have to take the water taxi). More often than not, the ATM is out of order and/or out of money. The other ATM is 6 miles past the first ATM and requires a bike ride or a taxi. Most places only take cash, so we always keep a small emergency stash.” – Jillian, Bimini

“The internet service providers cannot be relied upon. I paid for two different carriers’ wifi because one was inevitably out at any given time. It could be for a few minutes, a few hours, or a few days. Once, one was out for weeks. As someone who requires the internet for work, it was a non-negotiable – but it still made me mad to be paying double bills every month because of their ineptitude.” – Chrissann, Virgin Gorda, BVI

“I am all about redundant systems and back-ups: Generator in case the power goes out; cisterns in case the municipal water goes out; propane in case the power goes out in the oven; old wind-up clocks in case the power goes out and we’re due to go to the airport; oil lanterns and flashlights in case the lights go out – you get the picture.” – Kay, The Bahamas

“We built our home very close to a hotel with a generator and satellite internet for… well, you all know why. It has served me well. After Hurricane Earl and 4 days without power, I finally took everything out of my freezer and took it by wheelbarrow to the hotel, where they had fridge freezers in some of their suites.” – Colette, Ambergris Caye, Belize

“I’ve got an APU (big battery backup) under my desk so when everything goes down, I don’t loose everything I’m working on.” – Belinda, Fiji

“My Luci lights are always next to the sliders, charged and ready for the next power outage.” – Magnolia, St. Thomas, VI

“I always make sure my cell phones don’t get under 40% charge and that my battery backups are charged in case the power goes out for longer than usual.” – Tori, Roatan

“I have a corner in the ‘kitchen’ filled with water jugs for both power outages and storms. Having lived with cisterns on St Croix in the 80s AND having lived thru Hurricane Hugo while there – my prep was for both.” – Mary, Cayman Islands

 

 

Middle of cooking a gourmet dinner with my trusty electric stove, when the power inevitably goes out. Is it just a temporary glitch? Power company doing a quick fix? This could either be a 20-minute ordeal, or a 12-hour fiasco. For these times, I went out and purchased a small grill because I was so sick of the power going out and not having anything to cook on. It’s amazing what you can cook on a grill. I baked Christmas shortbread cookies on the grill once. You can wrap your ribs, chicken, or fish in foil and cook them on the grill. And if the power went out mid-cooking, you can just switch your pots over to the grill top if need be. I also invested in one of those metal fry pans with a bunch of holes in it so you can cook your veggies and they don’t fall through the slots. Otherwise if I am having a meltdown, then yes, I know which establishments have generators and can prepare my dinner for me. Most have generators, if not, they all have gas grills and fryers so they are still fully functional.” – Mariah, The Bahamas

“I have a nifty collection of walkie talkies for when the phone service is completely down.” – Jennifer, Puerto Rico

“We keep plenty of games on hand that you can play without electricity or internet. Things like playing cards, Cribbage board, etc. It is especially nice to have magnetic cards, so you can play in the breeze without losing them.” – Val, Nevis

 

ISLANDERS PREPARE FOR THE WEATHER TO CHANGE ON A DIME

 

“I prepare for the weather – you never know when it’ll go from hot and sunny to windy and rainy, so in my purse you can generally find both a raincoat and a bikini.” – Carrie, Ambergris Caye, Belize

“Prepare to be disappointed when your sheets and towels that were almost dry are the target if a fast-moving, unseen cloud burst… forcing you to use a dehumidifier in a closed room as a ‘walk in dryer’ so you can eventually make the bed.” – Rene, Dominican Republic

 

ISLANDERS PREPARE TO LIVE WITHOUT

 

“We collect the condensation runoff water from the air conditioners. The municipality has a habit of sparsing out water to every 2-3 days in peak summer, so ‘fresh’ water is liquid gold. We keep 5 liter jugs of condensation water in our garage for those (ahem) rainy days.” – Claudia, Cyprus

“That pre-done pizza crust you loved last week and want to use to make more pizza this week? Prepare to find the shelf empty and perhaps never see the crust on island again. Savor the memory of last week’s pizza and move on.” – Rebecca, Grand Cayman

“A friend asked a store manager when are they going to get the liquid Tide with Downy restocked because everyone wants it and they’ve been out for months. Answer: It sells out so fast and they have to keep ordering it, so they’re going to stop carrying it. Time for us to switch brands.” – Patty, The Bahamas

” I make multiple shopping lists in case the only main supermarket doesn’t have what I need for what I had planned for dinner. I have also learnt to cook EVERYTHING from scratch because I can probably source all the spices required for a Thai red curry paste but likely won’t be able to find an actual jar of the paste. It was worse after Hurricane Irma. We get ALL our food from St Maarten so there was an island wide shortage of things like eggs. Facebook was lit up by people in search of an egg and others posting that ‘so and so had 3 boxes of eggs, quick – run!’ They were also rationed. No one in the main shop was allowed to buy more than 1 box! This all came at a time when my daughter was turning 4 and I needed to bake a chocolate birthday cake. It was bad enough that she coudn’t have the pool party she wanted because the pool was ‘mashed up’ so… how to make a cake with no eggs? Thank the lord for Google and applesauce!” – Claire, St. Eustatius

 

 

“I don’t have a car, so I have to walk everywhere. Because of this, I always make sure I leave for work a bit early, just in case I don’t get picked up along the way.” – Carrie, Ambergris Caye, Belize

“After this past hurricane season, I now keep cleansing wipes and dry shampoo on hand to get through all those no water days/weeks.” – Jennifer, Puerto Rico

 

ISLANDERS PREPARE FOR SHIT TO HIT THE FAN

 

“We have two different evacuation insurance policies in case we have to leave the island for a medical emergency, an EpiPen in case a guest has a severe allergic reaction, and I know where in the ocean my husband wants his ashes scattered in case he croaks!” – Kay, The Bahamas

“Always have extra meds and first aid supplies on hand for minor accidents. Things like painkillers, tweezers to remove splinters, needles to carefully let the liquid out of a blister, polysporin, BNT powder, handy salt in case of heat exhaustion, anti-itch meds, artificial tears, and more. Naturally, extra quantities of your regular prescriptions are essential too.” – Val, Nevis

 

–   –   –

 

How do you prepare for letdowns – and save yourself headaches – on your island?

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.

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

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