10 Reasons Why Island Life Suits Me Perfectly

10 Reasons Why Island Life Suits Me Perfectly

We all have our reasons for moving to an island, most of us sharing similar motives. Slower pace. Escaping some life situation we’ve grown tired of (insert: bad job, bad weather, bad relationship here). An undeniable attraction to the color turquoise. A propensity to consume as many rum drinks as possible sans judgement. I’m sure at least a couple of these were on your “Reasons Why I’m Moving to a Rock” list, am I right?

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But after a decade on a rock, I’ve come to realize there were other factors I wasn’t quite aware of initially that drew me to this place. Hidden benefits of island living that I’d be loathe to give up now after all these years. These are the kind of things that catch-all phrase “everything happens for a reason” is all about. The Universe (yes, I just threw down that hippy dippy Universe shit, but it just feels right, roll with it) helped pick this path for me, because it knew, in its infinite coconut-oiled wisdom, what was best for me. Me and this island were destined to be together alright…

10 Reasons Why Island Life Suits Me Perfectly (And I Can Likely Never Return to Where I Came From):

1. I am a terrible driver.

As a small child, I was known for losing focus on the road (ok, fine, the sidewalk) and repeatedly crashing my Pow-Pow-Power Wheels Jeep into bushes and trees all while giggling at the silliness of the whole driving endeavor. Not much has changed since then. Living in a place where I rarely encounter more than a car or two on the two-lane road en route to my destination and where I cannot exceed 40 MPH is truly a match made in heaven.

2. Related: I have an even worse sense of direction.

Not only are my driving skills up for debate, but my ability to find my way around unfamiliar territory is questionable, at best. The fact that my island is a mere 13 square miles and I still manage to get turned around on a couple of roads in town from time to time after 8 years here should be all that needs to be said. Better to keep me contained on this little rock rather than unleash me in a cityscape only to get lost down all the wrong sides of all the tracks.

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3. I do not like being confined within the status quo.

I love that you meet all kinds of people living on an island from all kinds of backgrounds living all different versions of this thing we call Life. In the states, if you don’t have a typical, easily explainable career and life path, people look upon you with pity or, at the very least, judgement under the guise of “concern.” On an island, I can have my own version of a long term relationship that doesn’t have to include marriage. I can forgo having children without being constantly barraged with questions as to why I’m not. I can remain a renter without people obtrusively “educating” me on the financial benefits of home ownership. Suck it, picket fences!

4. Crowds and excess noise overwhelm me.

One thing I’m reminded of the second that I step back into the stateside world I left behind is that lots of noise and lots of people make an angry nerve pinch in my neck. Where many people find it exhilarating, all the activity coursing through their veins like Red Bull spiked with Monster, so much audible chaos makes me want to shack up with Travolta in the plastic bubble. Island life – at least mine – is all about wide open spaces and days filled with blissful silence where the only noises are the birds chirping and the waves crashing when the swell is up. The quiet environs set my soul right and keep me balanced.

5. I don’t like feeling anonymous.

While there are certain types of people who like to blend into the crowd, I am not one of them. I want special treatment as a local and not to have to follow the rules set in place for every rando schmo. I want to go where everybody knows my name (and my dog’s name). I love that restaurant employees on my rock remember my specific hodge podge of preferences that I order off their menus to comprise my makeshift vegetarian meals. I love that on our small island, the bank teller often calls people up to her line by name. And as much as the feminist in me hates being referred to as “David wife,” I have to admit that it gives me privileges I would not otherwise enjoy if I was just another face in the crowd.

6. I am highly susceptible to S.A.D.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is no joking matter (even though the acronym is the cutest). Dark days depress me and a long string of them (known alias: Winter) makes me want to wail on the daily. When I used to live in the states and the clock would “fall back” each October making it so I was going to work in the dark and not coming back home until after dark Monday through Friday, my inner beach girl would despair. The only thing that would pull me through were bouquets of unseasonable flowers delivered to my office weekly, which is not sustainable for the environment or my wallet. Better to just live where it’s (almost) always sunny and the flowers flourish naturally.

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7. Pervasive technology during social time irks me.

Spending time with people who mindlessly check their phones or text with others at frequent intervals while they’re with you is a part of modern life I hope to never fully accept. This behavior seems normal in other places when I travel but, much like your 80 year old grandma, I still find it incredibly rude. Island people tend to do this much less. I find people to be more present socially down here. Perhaps it’s because we have fewer apps that work in this latitude or perhaps it’s just because we’re enjoying our time together more or perhaps we’ve learned our lessons in the dangers of drunk texting over the years. Whatever it is, it’s better.

8. I am an advanced planner by nature.

While I’ve had my impetuous moments over the years (moving to an unknown island being the most notable), in general, I like to organize my life for future success as best I can. This bodes well for living on a rock because you simply can’t get anything here in a hurry and planning ahead is a necessity if you don’t want to find yourself stuck. You know what advanced planners excel at? Hoarding. And hoarding is the sport of the islands.

9. I like having fun and being around people who like having fun.

Do you ever feel like people around you are taking life too seriously? Then move to an island! Yes, we work hard here, but we also tend to have more fun when we’re off. As someone recently said when they were visiting me, “Wow, every Sunday here is like college spring break!” Why, yes, friend – it is. Only with a bit more expendable income, slightly less svelte bodies, and better booze.

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10. I am an overbuying shopaholic who needs limits.

When you’re up in the great big world, it’s so easy to feel like you need, need, NEED all the things. Why not buy a new umbrella? A new coffee mug? A new cell phone case? A new car? It’s all right there at your fingertips, ripe for the buying. And I love stocking myself up on all the things I may potentially need in the future (see #8 above). Being in a place where the majority of your shopping takes place online and you have that extra second of reckoning when you can look at the high dollar figure in your cart and really think about what you “need” is a lifesaver for someone like me with a tendency to purchase in excess.

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So tell me, islanders – in what ways does rock livin’ suit you that you may not have initially expected? Were you also destined to be on your island?

My Tiny Rock in the Sea, How Do I Love Thee …

My Tiny Rock in the Sea, How Do I Love Thee …

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for love. If mushy, lovey-dovey proclamations aren’t your thing, you might want to stop reading. Because today is one of those days when I’m bursting with gratitude and feeling so fortunate to have built a life on this rock, and I want to tell you why…

Natural beauty

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This hits first on my list because because natural beauty is often what initially draws people to the Caribbean, and I must admit, it’s part of what I still find so dazzling. People scrimp and save for months, sometimes years, to vacation on the beaches where my children learned to swim, the pristine stretches of white sand where they go on school field trips, and where we spend nearly every Sunday as a family. During the winter, one percenters drop anchor in the dreamy blue waters that I glimpse from my desk. And I absolutely understand why. When we take our weekly Sunday sojourns to the north shore and come around the bend that reveals the incredible palette of blues in Hawksnest Bay, my heart still jumps into my throat the way it did on my very first tour of the island.

Island residents are in touch with nature

bananaquit Andrea STJ_WWLOR

Here, the landscape isn’t beaten back and controlled for the benefit of human residents the way it was in my childhood suburb. Chickens, donkeys, deer, cats, and iguanas show up in our yard. Bananaquits eat sugar out of my children’s hands each morning. We make do without air conditioning in favor of power bills that aren’t heart attack-inducing, so we live an open-air lifestyle among the trees. Hearing the breeze rush down the hillside through the leaves, the anticipation of knowing that breeze will soon invite itself inside by way of our sliding glass doors, is the ultimate luxury on a hot August day. Even those residents who do sculpt their landscaping, chase the chickens from their yard, and close up and air-condition their homes can’t get around having a close and personal relationship with one aspect of nature: rain. Rain fills our cisterns, and we live by the rhythm of the raindrops hitting our roofs. This method of water supply teaches us that water is precious; we understand that lengthy showers, leaving the water running during teeth-brushing, and even flushing every time is inconceivably wasteful. We look to the skies for water, and all residents learn quickly that this resource isn’t something that can be taken for granted.

Waste not, want not

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My island has no big box stores, no car dealerships, no Starbucks (gasp!), in fact, no chain stores or restaurants of any kind. New residents learn quickly that what they thought were “needs” were actually “wants,” and the number of conveniences that fall into your “needs” category directly correlates to how long you’ll last on island. Though not having a Target within a five minute drive from home is surely some people’s idea of hell, I adore the lack of materialism and consumerism that seems to run more and more rampant in the U.S. with every visit I make. Cars here are lovingly patched together with garbage bags, duct tape, and twine, driven until they simply can’t go anymore. Clothing and toys are handed down and passed on. Electronics are opened up and repaired again and again. A fridge that’s marred with rust on the outside yet perfectly cold on the inside will be kept in service rather than being discarded for its unsightly appearance. Here, we don’t have the option of being wasteful, and this inspires a special kind of resourcefulness and creativity among residents that never ceases to amaze me.

We are out of touch

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Forgive me for briefly introducing politics into this article, but the fact that cable service simply isn’t available to residents on my road because the cable company hasn’t yet run the necessary lines has been a blessing in disguise. We get out of being bombarded by the news, commercials, attacks, and straight up hate that are all a part of this year’s election (according to my Facebook feed). On another positive note, my kids know nothing of pop culture or the advertisements that teach them from a young age that they aren’t good enough without certain products or beautiful enough if they don’t meet certain beauty standards. These things just aren’t important here. Before I moved in 2005, I knew an embarrassing amount of celebrity gossip. Now, I have no idea who’s famous or who the lead singer of that one band is sleeping with or what movies are breaking box office records. And you know what? I couldn’t care less. There’s so much more to life than what the media tells us is important. (Stepping down off my soapbox now).

The small island community

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The mixture of native St. Johnians, down islanders who moved here from their own Caribbean home, and continentals who moved here from the U.S. has resulted in a truly special community. Many continentals here are far away from extended family, so we become one another’s family. We share thoughts of gratitude over turkey at Thanksgiving, we go on vacations together, we welcome one another into our homes on Christmas Day. When an island resident is in need, from meal deliveries after the birth of a baby to fundraisers for someone facing a health crisis to grief support, this community steps up like none other. We recognize each other’s faces and we know each other’s stories. When my son won the St. Thomas-St. John district spelling bee (proud mom moment!), he was showered with congratulations by grocery store workers, bank tellers, and the random passersby we encountered on daily errands. When I go grocery shopping solo, the cashier asks how my kids are doing and remembers how excited they were to devour the donuts I purchased during my last trip to the store. On St. John, housekeepers are friends with multi-millionaires are friends with restaurant workers are friends with business professionals. The pretentiousness and “keeping-up-with-the-Joneses” that pervades American culture is notably absent. Here, we look past your appearance and profession to see what really matters: who you are as a person.

Culture

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I save this one for last because above all else, it’s the culture that brought me to this rock. During an August 2002 trip to Barbados, I found myself ‘pon de road, decked out in a blue sequined Kadooment costume that was every bit as shiny as it was skimpy. The music! The dancing! The sheer joy among the band of revelers who welcomed everyone to partake in this important cultural ritual! That day changed me. Two years later, I chipped down the road in the capital of Caribbean carnival culture, Trinidad, in a costume even more brilliantly decadent with a tall feathered headpiece to match. A year after that, I couldn’t ignore the call of the Caribbean any longer, and I made the move to St. John. The very culture that brought me here is something I still revere today, and it’s something I hope that visitors and transient residents learn about and respect too. When you’re out and about on St. John, greet those you encounter with a friendly “good morning,” “good afternoon,” or “good night.” Eat some kallaloo (I like it best with a thick layer of fungi at the bottom). Wash it down with soursop juice. Don’t be afraid to tek a little wine to some soca music. And remember that St. John is more than just a pretty face. This island has warmth, community, and culture in spades. And I get to call it home!

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What things are you grateful for on your island today?

Keep in touch with the tropics!

 

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