When my husband and I moved to The Bahamas, I had many instances of expectations butting up against reality, plenty of which are outlined in various posts on this website. What I wasn’t expecting is how living on my rock would change the way I saw my hometown.
Admittedly, I’m new to expat life. We only moved from our snowy Calgary home last March. I’m still learning and discovering new tips and tricks to my new life, but I like to think that the biggest lessons are out of the way already. That said, one of my best lessons for island life came from a surprising source: my hometown.
Recently, we had an opportunity to visit home for a week. It was very convenient, since we only had three weeks notice before our original move to our rock, and there were still errands to do back home, not to mention friends and family to visit. If this little reverse vacation taught me anything, it’s that the grass really is always greener on the other side.
I was so excited to get back to my hometown, even if it was just for a week. It meant seeing my cat again, who was unable to come with me due to the apartment we found not being pet-friendly (a mistake I will never make again). It meant bearable weather, a million more food options, seeing family and friends, and being in the big city again. After seven months of living in Nassau, I was convinced that island life was hard, painful, and without a doubt worse than living back home. Sure, the experience was interesting, and I liked the beach and the view, but home would always be superior, right?
When I arrived to a brisk and dry night at the Calgary airport, I was ecstatic. It’s hard to imagine anyone else being this excited to land in Calgary just for the sake of it being Calgary, but there I was: It cools down at night here! Highway driving! They stay in the lanes! (Mostly!) I was almost even happy to see cowboy hats… almost.
The entire week was scheduled based on visits and restaurants we missed. Poutine? Check. Ramen? Check. I realised how much I used to take for granted. Liquor stores open until two in the morning, everything open on Sundays, smooth roads, a plethora of fast food and coffee options at any block of the city you find yourself in… I had no clue before I moved to an island just how convenient everything was in Calgary, how stock full of amenities my hometown was, and how much I would miss them once I was gone. But this new appreciation of home brought something unexpected: a new appreciation of my island home.
Suddenly I noticed that cocktail menus in Calgary left something to be desired. My hair quickly deflated – these natural curls love the humidity. I remembered that I’m asthmatic. My allergies flared up and my freckles began to fade. I remember looking at my forearm in disbelief – Oh, that’s right, I’m THAT white. Most noticeably, I didn’t take the city as seriously as I used to. I don’t want to say that I felt somewhat “above it all,” but… I did. Everything I used to worry about, like foundation, leg hair, which shoes I’m wearing, and just general social anxiety, had somehow faded away since I’d left. In moving to Nassau, I had faced fears I never even considered fears because they had become habits, a part of daily life that I assumed I would always have to deal with. But that’s not how you survive here. I had to let go of so many worries, and something about the island made it all too easy, to the point that I barely noticed myself getting over so many insecurities that I previously struggled with.
I didn’t fully realize this until we were on our flight back. At first, I stared longingly at the rocky mountains before we took off. But when the bright turquoise waters of the Bahamas came into view later into our flight, I couldn’t resist smiling. I could literally breathe easy again. My hair and skin were happy. Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to head to the beach and jump into the surf! Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
So yes, it can be painful to navigate through the culture shock of moving to a rock, especially while covered in bites, mysterious bumps, sunburns, extra pounds, and sweaty cleavage. Absolutely, it’s hard. But I’ve learned that time spent here in the islands isn’t worth any less than time at home, and amidst the stress and change, the island can smooth over your troubles if you can learn to roll with the punches.