Women who live on rocks are, by nature, ramblin’ folks, and more often than not, adventure junkies. Take the risk, jump over the pond, love the new digs, get bored…and take the risk, jump over the…you get the idea. Craving different scenes, varieties of food, and yes, new faces, most expats continue the cycle of displacement for years. A few do stay and root down in the mangroves, and they rise up as the go-to peeps for local info and cautions. But, the majority flow in and out mimicking the perpetual tides of the sea. Building lasting relationships is possible, though rare, so don’t expect to share coffee every morning for the rest of your life with your new buddy. Sometimes you keep in touch; more often it’s just a goodbye to one rambler and hello to the next rock newbie. Begin process all over again.
Having been stuck on the mainland for too many years, this phenomenon of recycling friends escaped my radar as I accepted the job opportunity that landed me on this rock. Little did I know that this shared trait of rambling would become a source of unease for me. Being a member of the love-to-travel gang, you’d think I’d empathize with the sojourner, wishing her well and all that. So, why the discontent as folks began to drift away? After all, I’ll likely join the revolving door of friends someday. And, not all who depart do so out of pure wanderlust. Most rock governments restrict expat stays from a few months to several years issuing permits that can be cancelled or terminated for a variety of reasons. So, our stay is tenuous at best. Out of necessity, we stay prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. If one happened upon the ideal rock, seemingly endless hurdles must be cleared in efforts to become a permanent resident.
So, I am empathetic and I can certainly muster a bit of compassion when folks announce their soon come departure. However, swaying in the wake of jet fumes, what I’m left with is this continuous loop of searching for that new dive buddy, that music enthusiast of the laid-back variety; in other words, a new friend. An interesting paradox, this loving of new places and faces while desiring deeper connections and lasting relationships. It’s a dilemma that I must come to terms with if I continue to embrace this vagabond lifestyle. An occasional lifelong connection may be created, but long-term relationships will not be the norm.
Ever the optimist, there is an upside to this dilemma! In exchange for our losses, we receive the gift of fascinating people from every part of the world. We get to experience the thrill of interpreting accents from 8 different countries – all at the same dinner table. My first such gathering simultaneously exhilarated and intimidated me – like being dropped down a rabbit hole! The true gift behind all of those accents is the discovery of interesting, exciting, and beautiful souls who share at least one common factor – a love of the journey. So, stories are shared and friendships spring up. And all is well, until…a more exciting job opportunity pops up or a work permit runs out. It’s then that, sadly, we say our good-byes.
As if summoned by the island gods, news of a lovely couple leaving island crashed over this rock a mere 8 hours after I began this article. And the ramblin’ continues. Whether set in motion by their own longings or the local officials, they will go sailing (or flying) off into the sunset. Promises will be made to keep in touch, return for visits, etc, but even deep-rooted mainland homebodies understand that rarely does this scenario play out as scripted. The exceptions that withstand multiple moves and the passing of time, are the exception. And they are highly treasured. For most, though, the old adage becomes so clear: “some friends are here for a season…” The next plane arrives with fresh faces and stories. The flow of the tides continues. And we value each moment and each very special person who crosses our ocean.
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