The snake was a sinister black, roughly 7ft in length, and coiled in the corner of our hotel room’s foyer. As I ambled half-asleep towards the bathroom, I spotted it first peripherally, then in full, horrifying focus. Looking back, I admit that the three blood-curdling screams I released in rapid succession, the ones David would later describe as of the “There’s-a-Mass-Murderer-with-a-Chainsaw-in-our-Room” variety, were a tad dramatic. But at the time, all I could think was that when we selected this “luxury boutique hotel” in the “Mexican jungle” I had failed to consider that jungles aren’t solely populated by cheeky monkeys that run on your roof, but more ominous creatures as well. Now here we were. In the jungle. Shit was getting real.
On the precipice of hysteria, I made a non-negotiable demand for David not to go near it, citing poison concerns, and made a breathless SOS call to the front desk. The ever professional Oscar, who had just checked in what he had thought to be a chill, normal couple only yesterday, assured this now-crazed woman with the grave calm of an emergency responder, promising to send a crew over to remove the creature immediately.
Within minutes, a trio of no-nonsense Mexican men came trouping into our room, armed with garden tools to corral the intruder. David and I watched in our robes as they nudged it out the door, he, standing like a normal human, and me, curled into a ball on the bathroom countertop like a child who thinks the floor is lava. And in that moment, with the perceived danger removed, I let out a spasm of relieved, embarrassed laughter as I saw us at once through their eyes, reduced to a ridiculous tourist stereotype specific to their locale, Pampered Gringos Who Can’t Hack It in the Jungle. I immediately knew that we would be the subject of scorn at their respective homes over dinner conversation that evening.
Sometimes we’re the locals and sometimes we’re the tourists. And we all know there is nothing quite like the unearned, false sense of superiority that comes with being a local in a sea of tourists. Oh, how we love to mock their unfamiliarity of local customs and foolish, foreign attire. Yet when the tables are turned… oh, how we hope to be seen as the shining individuals of inherent coolness we consider ourselves.
Because it is here that I am a local and because our tourists arrive in such entertaining droves, I’m excusing myself for a moment from the worthy adult goal of refraining from judgment to instead, engage in a little adolescent tourist mockery. Let’s poke some fun from our glass house, shall we?
Allow me to introduce you to The 5 Tourists You Will Meet in the Caribbean…
THE ISLAND GROUPIE
After vacationing in the islands a handful of times, these tourists now consider themselves more local than tourist – the fact that they don’t actually live here (and never have) is a moot point. They spend their lives counting down the days until their next island escape, stalking restaurants and resorts via Facebook. During their visits, they greet the staff of local businesses like long-lost family members, rather than the people who may have served them conch fritters 3 years ago. They make a show of wearing t-shirts from island businesses that have long since bit the dust as irrefutable proof of their past visits, passive-aggressively reminding us all that “they remember when…”
Why We Love Them:
- They think they know everything, so they don’t ask you as many stupid questions as the tourist newbies.
- They are die-hard loyalists and if they like you/your business, they’re the best advertising you didn’t have to buy.
Why We Love to Hate Them:
- They think they know everything.
- They shorten your name to display a false sense of familiarity, insisting on calling you Chrissy or Chris, even though no one close to you has called you that before. Ever.
- “I used to come here when this place was owned by a pirate!”
- “Only 243 days, 4 hours, and 23 seconds until I’m back in that hammock again!” (posted to your resort’s Facebook wall – every. damn. day.)
THE TOMMY BAHAMA POSTER PEOPLE
When planning their Caribbean vacation, this genre of tourists appear to have focused less on the activities they look forward to doing and more on the outfits they look forward to wearing. With Tommy Bahama and his wasp-y cousin Ralph Lauren as their muse, the efforts they have put into looking relaxed are almost poetic in their irony. Think white linen pants, pastels, tropical floral patterns, and popped collars. And pink plaid shorts. On men.
Why We Love Them:
- They tend to be good tippers, because they are wealthy. Don’t their loafers make this obvious? Duh.
- A high percentage of them are honeymooners. And honeymooners are ebulliently happy as a species and therefore forgiving of island mishaps, of which there are always many.
Why We Love to Hate Them:
- Popped collars are obnoxious and it takes a great deal of restraint to not engage in aggressive behaviors when in their presence (ie. punching faces).
- When they ask you to take “a picture” for them, it inevitably turns into a photo shoot, with them hugging a palm tree and you, grimacing through multiple poses.
- “What’s the dress code for dinner? Would you say it’s Caribbean casual or is it more Caribbean elegant?”
THE DRUNKEN PARTIERS
Having escaped from the shackles of their suffocating existence in the real world, these people use this annual Caribbean holiday as a balls-to-the-wall excuse to party like it’s 1999 (or, you know, college). They tend to travel in packs and behave like barely recognizable versions of their otherwise responsible selves; if you get them talking, you’ll discover that most have high-stress, high-profile jobs such as lawyers, politicians, doctors, and the like. They came to the Caribbean to fly off the radar – and party like they can never quite get away with back at home.
Why We Love Them:
- They can be fun as hell to play with, if you’re in the mood.
- They run up exorbitant bar bills. Cha-ching!
Why We Love to Hate Them:
- They can be aggravating as hell to be around, if you’re not in the mood.
- Things get sloppy fast. And kind of cringe-worthy to watch as the hours pass.
- “WOOOOOOOOOO!!!! SHOTS!!!!!!”
- “Let’s get NAKED!!!!!”
THE OBSESSIVE SAILOR
Sailing for these people has gone beyond basic hobby and become an almost neurotic fixation in which NO ONE is as passionate about as they are. It’s typically one member of a group chartering a sailboat who you can spot wearing a shirt with some variation of “I’m the Captain” emblazoned across the front, tucked into pleated shorts, and fused with a belt covered in naval navigation flags. His/her insistence of using solely nautical terminology with their crew of friends and family who have no idea what they are referring to is clearly getting on everyone’s nerves.
Why We Love Them:
- To prove their sailing prowess, they will go out of their way to assist other tourists out on charter, most of whom have no clue what they’re doing because all that was required to rent their boat was a credit card.
- They are professional and competent on VHF radio.
Why We Love to Hate Them:
- They can be extremely arrogant, misogynistic, and demanding – basically every unflattering term you’ve ever heard people use to describe an insufferable Captain.
- They wage a war against people who powerboat instead of sail, as though the ocean belongs to them alone because they are “greener”, managing to leave out the fact that they’re the ones pumping their waste water into the sea.
- “The SE trade winds are projected to be favorable for our crossing in 0500 hours. We cast off at daybreak, at which point I will require all hands on deck.”
THE PATAGONIA ADVENTURER
Unfortunately for this traveler, our islands are more drinking challenge than fitness challenge. Where they had pictured mountains to climb and raw, wild nature to trek, they are instead met with beach bars to drink at and hammocks to lounge in. Where everyone else is wearing swimsuits and flip flops, you will spot them in overly practical footwear (the current trend being those disturbingly ape-like neoprene socks that have individual toe slots and grippy soles), camel backpacks of water to stay hydrated, and those zippy pants that turn into shorts (or as we all know them, “shants”).
Why We Love Them:
- They are ecologically responsible travelers and treat our landscape kindly.
- They tend to be the most easy-going guests, striving to prove how Zen they are in their adaptability.
Why We Love to Hate Them:
- They’re often highly critical of how un-eco they deem our islands to be and are full of magical “solutions” to all of our problems after being here for a mere 3 days.
- They bring their own snacks and “picnic” at the local beach resorts, as though they are national parks, not restaurants.
- “Why don’t you have any recycling here? Don’t you people know how easy it is?”
- “This humidity doesn’t bother me at all. My shirt wicks moisture. And it is made of SPF 100 fabric. It may as well be winter to me.”
– – –
Thanks for humoring me and for letting me get that out of my system. Feel free to mock me mercilessly when the tables turn and I am a tourist in your part of the world. I’ll be the one wearing impractical footwear, doing yoga poses in front of your monuments, and, most likely, butchering your language.
Well, okay, not really bahn here (island speak for “born here”), but she’s been here on St. John since she was 2 months old. Her mother – me – is a controlling Virgo and first-time mom. I must say that after watching so many pregnancy/new mother/chick-flick movies, my ideas of what it means to be a mom are a bit on the commercial side. I have idealized motherhood and child-rearing in the context of a city – not an island – and there have been some rude awakenings. I’ll discuss (bitch about) a few…
I see that there are other infants on St. John. There has actually been a bit of a baby boom of recent with little boys and girls popping out of island gyal’s canals all last year. Unfortunately, regardless of demand, there are no practicing pediatricians on island. BOOO! There are health care providers wandering under the domain of the all-encompassing Myrah Keaton Clinic, but I was frightened off at our last visit when the friendly nurse wanted to give my 3 month old daughter a vaccine made for 6 month olds.
So, being city-minded, I went to the internet and Googled “pediatrician in the US Virgin Islands”. After a few clicks and phone calls to the St. John health care providers listed, I was informed that while the doctors on staff do see children, they are not pediatricians and that I should instead contact the neighboring island of St. Thomas. This was not good news – St. Thomas is huge and it is either expensive to pay the $50 to barge your car over or a pain to take the “dollar safari taxi” over with an infant and mandatory stroller/diaper bag. Fortunately, I found a pretty feasible option (as if there were many) near the ferry terminal in Red Hook that would do, only to find out a few months later that the doctor we were seeing had started her own practice way in town and the distance necessitated further transportation than just a walk across the street from the ferry dock. I guess this means we should stop feeling so special and just go see the general doctor at the St. John clinic.
Childcare and Babysitters
Unfortunately, the nearest blood relative to my daughter and me is about 2,000 miles away, give or take a few hundred miles. So what’s a girl to do when she wants a little rendezvous with her he-for-me, you ask? Wait for the baby to fall asleep and speak sweet nothings very softly in the living room for the 30-60 minutes she’s out.
Fortunately, I am staying at home with my daughter and her father is supporting us which means we don’t need a regular childcare provider. But out of curiosity, I’ve asked around anyway. Back in Wisconsin, there is a childcare provider on every corner along with a church, liquor store, and bar. I am used to knowing there are many places to bring your kids when you’ve got to play or work. Here in the islands, it is a different story. After several inquiries to neighbors and women I’ve run across holding infants, I have only been told of TWO places on island that provide childcare, both of which close at 5pm sharp. There are a few other loose arrangements I’ve heard of where woman are watching folks’ infants while the mothers work their 9-5. The only babysitting service I’ve seen costs somewhere around $20 an hour and is geared more towards villa services for the tourists here on vacation. I guess three’s not a crowd when there are no other options. “Me time” and a solo shower are overrated indulgences anyway, right?
While motherhood on a rock comes with its adjustments, there have been some major positives. There is nothing more breathtaking or serene than playing in the ocean that surrounds us, watching my baby laugh and taste the salt of the earth. Living here is beautiful and while we may not have a lot of conveniences and the pleasures of material wealth, we are surrounded by beautiful spirits both in the flesh and not. And that is priceless to both mother and child – pediatrician or not.
For the last 5 years, I’ve been living in a hotel. My boyfriend, David, manages the resort, which is why we’ve lived on-property in one of the rooms all these years. It’s a very small island resort with only 8 guest rooms, a restaurant/bar, and a marina downstairs. And while it’s a lovely spot and the two-bedroom villa we reside in is quite cozy, it’s not as flashy as it sounds.
Most people become visibly envious when they hear I live at a resort. I can see in their widening eyes exactly what they’re picturing – a never-ending, luxurious tropical vacation which is somehow fortuitously my everyday life. This assumption is not entirely untrue (I can get room service whenever I don’t want to cook, which is often), but there are plenty of undesirable quirks to deal with as well that people don’t really realize when they’ve never called a hotel “home”.
My main grievance is the lack of privacy. When we step outside our door, we are in a public space (even worse for David – he is at his work). I’m not a very social person, so this has been particularly challenging for me. Sometimes I just really need some peace and quiet, but when you’re surrounded by drunken vacationers and unsupervised, shrieking children, peace is rare to come by. We try to regard our villa as our small patch of privacy, but the tourists have other ideas.
Much like their stubborn, water-rejecting equine counterparts, you can post a sign for a tourist but you can’t make them obey it. The “Hotel Guests Only” plaques in front of our rooms seem to be interpreted as more of a suggestion rather than a rule. Tourists visiting our restaurant/bar frequently wander into our hotel rooms, usually whenever a door is open while the housekeeper is cleaning. I used to enjoy having my own door open to allow in some breeze while I worked, but after too many instances of intruding tourists on their own self-led tour, I’ve had to forgo the breeze.
This seems to be just another case of the Paradise Induced Mental Relapse I have referenced in earlier posts. Nowhere else in the world have I experienced random people strolling into my hotel room. But here, I’ll be sitting at my desk and in come three couples, cocktails in-hand, flinging open my door and marching into my living room, saying all sing-songy, “Don’t mind us, we just want to see what the rooms look like.” Actually you fools, I DO mind. Even if this was just my hotel room and not my private residence, I still don’t give a shit if you want to see what the rooms look like. Ask to see a VACANT room. This one is occupied.
After the most recent obnoxious invasion of my privacy just yesterday, I figured I’d share a couple of examples of the less-than-charming side of island hotel room living:
I am working on the computer when I hear loud Spanish chattering and the banging of keys trying to be forced into my door’s keyhole. I get up to open the door and am faced with two 30-something Puerto Rican women who do not say, “Oops, excuse us” but rather, immediately become red with anger and shout, “What are you doing in OUR room?!”
I swallow my own rising aggravation and inform them as politely as I can muster that it is 100% impossible that this is their room. I ask which room they were assigned at Registration but instead of replying, the larger of the two ladies attempts to move past me, body-checking me with her over-sized bedazzled beach bag. Now they are storming into my home, telling me it is, in fact, their room (how could I be so stupid?). I have now officially moved past asking and demand to see their room key. Sure enough (I’m not that stupid!), it is for the room named “Bequia” and not my room, which is named “St. Barths”. I coerce them back out the door, point out the name discrepancy between the room placard and their engraved room key, speculate that perhaps this was why their key wasn’t fitting into my door’s lock, and point them in the direction of their (yes, THEIR) guest room. They mutter something in Spanish I am certain is not an apology.
Our bedroom wall is shared with the guest room beside us. There is a group of 6 adults who have weaseled their way into sharing a room whose max occupancy is 4. It is 2 am and they have returned from the bar, sloppy drunk, and are playing loud country music and arguing with each other in slurred Southern drawls. While I am typically a deep sleeper, I am unable to ignore the ruckus and lay fuming in bed, making futile attempts to calm myself with breathing exercises.
Suddenly, the screaming and crying is on our patio and the sliding glass door to our bedroom is flung open. A naked woman is now entering our room, apparently thinking it is her room. This is where I lose it.
I am yelling (because it is the only way to reason with drunk people and it is 2 am), “This is not your room, GET OUT!” The buck-naked woman and her half-naked friend remain on our patio arguing. While this drunk ass woman somehow managed to crawl across the roof from her patio to ours, like a cat up a tree, she cannot get herself back where she belongs. We are forced to walk the nude women through our bedroom, across our living room and kitchen, out our front door, and lead them back to their room.
For some reason, David is not as upset about this as I am.
Just yesterday, I am taking a midday nap on the couch and am awakened by crinkling sounds. I look up to find a woman in my room, rifling through my purse on the kitchen table. Still foggy from sleep, all I can muster is a stunned, “What the HELL are you doing?!”
She is old, leathery, and British. She looks at me, continues to fumble through my belongings, and says, “I’m just looking at the rooms.” I am forced to get up, physically remove her hands from my bag, and lead her out of my home. This bat-shit crazy woman had not only opened my closed door to enter my room, but had closed it behind her, presumably, for privacy. I explain to her that: a) my purse is not a part of “the room”; b) she better not have stolen anything and I’m calling the manager now; and c) if she ever wants to tour the rooms at ANY hotel in the future, she needs to do so with a hotel employee.
I have got to start locking my door. Or, you know, move.
I appreciate a thorough investigation. A good ‘ole fashioned puzzler requiring some research and critical analysis is even sorta fun for me. This has been helpful while managing ten condos built in the late 1960’s on a small, secondary island. I’m often required to balance my Sherlock Holmes cap atop all the other hats I don to get the job done. And while I’ve rarely shied away from a challenge attached to a paycheck, solving mechanical and maintenance issues will never be one of my many talents.
Mystery: Why is the water pump running without guests in the building? Answer: Because a leak has gone undetected in a storage closet for weeks.
Mystery: Why did the utility bill triple despite less use of the AC? Answer: Because the water pump ran continually to keep up with the leak.
Mystery: Why do I smell mildew in the entryway of one particular condo? Answer: Because there’s a hole in the roof, and it’s raining on the ceiling tiles.
Last week brought two mysteries. I suspected a common link, but couldn’t be sure.
A strange noise presented itself on a few different occasions. A splatter splat splat pitter pat of liquid hitting my roof, deck, and sometimes the ground behind my cottage. It sounded like Sally, the housekeeper, dumping the mop bucket onto my roof. But she hadn’t done this for several months, ever since I finally got around to telling her that my bedroom ceiling leaked in the exact place she dumped the water. She wouldn’t have been mopping at the time of the splatters anyway.
I hoped it was just the guests above my cottage dumping cooler water from their veranda onto my roof, which then ran onto the deck and behind the cottage.This made the most sense.
It made the most sense, that is, except for my worst fear as property manager: the dreaded sewer backup.
Which brings me to the second mystery of the week.
I had also started to notice, when walking across the deck toward my cottage door, a pissy smell. So there was also a sneaking suspicion that raw sewage was spilling under my deck after every flush due to a burst pipe or something equally unfortunate. This could explain the sporadic splatter splat splat pitter pat that I’d heard on the deck. Maybe it only sounded like it was on the roof. A ventriloquist sound effect. But if it was raw sewage, wouldn’t I be smelling #2 in addition to #1?
It worried me enough to put the mystery sound/smell combo at the top of the next day’s maintenance list. The handyman validated my concern the following morning when, upon reaching the top deck stair, did not offer salutation, but rather asked through my kitchen window, “Why I smellin’ piss?”
He determined that it was cat piss— a tom must be spraying. It wasn’t possible, he assured, for a pipe to have broken in the place I smelled urine. So it must be a cat.
click for photo credit
Since I had definitely caught more than one acrid whiff of cat piss, and since this is not a rare thing to smell on the property, I let it go at that. Although, I must admit that part of me knew I’d also smelled the separate and distinct odor of human piss in the area directly outside my kitchen window. But having many other things to fret over, I de-esclated the sound/smell mystery for the day.
Fortunately, the truth, as it often does, emerged quite organically later that evening. Or, should I say rather, very early the next morning.
I woke up at 2:30 am to splatter splat splat pitter pat on the deck outside my kitchen window. While checking my phone for the time, I saw a text sent just 15 minutes earlier from my across-the-street neighbor. She apologized for bothering me so late, but said there was a guest locked out of his condo making quite a racket trying to get back in. Yelling for Mom and throwing rocks at windows for upwards of 30 minutes, I would later discover.
This didn’t click immediately; the condo she mentioned was currently vacant.
But then I remembered another text received earlier that evening from the guests staying two stories above my cottage. One of the parents asked, on behalf of their 19-year-old son, which bars in Cruz Bay I recommend for a younger crowd. Being a helpful host, I suggested four, and passed along the message to have fun and be safe.
It occurred to me that the teenager must be confused as to which condo is his. While he harassed the empty condo at the top of the stairs in the lower building, his family slept at the top of the stairs in the upper building. I pulled on some clothes and went outside prepared to guide his drunk ass home. Stepping onto my deck, I noticed some fresh puddles on the otherwise dry wood directly below my kitchen window where I’d heard the splatter splat splat that woke me. I bent down and sniffed. Sure enough. Piss.
So then it further occurred to me that the kid must have made it home, seeing as that he had just pissed off of his veranda and onto my deck. Right between my kitchen window and front door, that is. Not only did he just do this while trashed in the middle of the night, he’s been doing it all week during the day. Presumably, in his parents’ presence. Even waving the stream about, it seems, if I’m to trust my ears as regards variety in splatter locale.
This is the splatter splat splat pitter pat noise! This is the piss smell!
Although he’d clearly made it home, I thought to check for good measure. No sooner had I reached the deck stairs when I heard from the kid’s veranda,
I spun around, looking up. He smiled at me and swayed a bit. Involuntarily. Like a skyscraper.
“Yeah, a neighbor just texted me complaining about someone banging on a door.”
“Oh, I had the wrong door at first. I’m sorry. Ashley, I’m really really sorry.”
I pointed my index finger at him in classic scolding fashion.
“Go to bed.”
“I’m so so sorry…”
“Go to bed… Go to bed and stop pissing off of the veranda.”
“I’m so so sorry…”
I walked back to my door, returning every apology with the directive for bed, accenting it with the finger scold.
“Ashley, I’m so so sorry.”
“Go to bed.”
“And stop pissing off of the veranda.”
The following may sound ungrateful. Harsh, even. But what I am about to describe is an island reality, a prevailing attitude among many in the hospitality industry. Namely, that working in tourism on a tropical island is far from a permanent vacation. At times, it’s downright draining.
Somewhere between six months to a year of working with the tourist public, you’ve become so weary of telling your island story that you must exert not a small bit of effort to keep from sighing and rolling your eyes when asked for the 378th time,
“So, how did you end up here?”
Or the keen, “You’re not from around here.”
Or the stupefying, “Do you live here?”
During my honeymoon period, I was thrilled to share. Starry-eyed and naive, I gladly recounted my tale of “getting bit by the tropical crazy bug” to anyone who’d listen. This lasted maybe six months – interspersed, I might add, with periods of despair and regret. Certainly, 10 months into my VI residency, after a series of Murphy’s Law life events occurred in rapid succession, I silently groaned every time a well-meaning tourist asked, “How did you get so lucky to live here?”
Some people start to invent backgrounds. I get why they do it. After being asked all day every day the where’s and why’s of your life, you get so tired of repeating your story that rewriting is necessary simply to preserve sanity. Otherwise, it’s akin to spending your days with a dementia patient – you just keep having the same mundane conversation over and over again. Not to mention, we’re often really busy concentrating on our jobs during this impromptu interview. Plus, it’s really nobody’s business. My story includes info that needn’t be shared with every curious visitor. While I don’t make things up, the version I share depends on my time and mood, and their personality.
I’ve watched the honeymoon phase peter out in others too, sometimes with a bit of schadenfreude on my part. I am reminded of a young woman who briefly worked at a bar I frequent. Upon arrival, she was full of pep and sparkle and light. A fresh-faced, all-American girl on a post-collegiate adventure. Smartly dressed, hair swept into a perky pony, she exuded enthusiasm for her new life. On a weekday afternoon not long after she landed, I was venting to another local about some island inconvenience when she piped in,
“But look, honey, you have this to enjoy every day, ” while doing a Vanna White toward the (admittedly) gorgeous turquoise water and white sand mere paces away.
Since I hadn’t been to the beach in several weeks and had spent my recent vacation plugged into work correspondence, I couldn’t help but feel slightly annoyed with this Pollyanna business.
Fast forward a few months. I see the same girl at a neighboring bar, smoking cigarettes, sipping lunch wine from a plastic cup, baseball cap pulled down over her eyes, and well, not looking quite so sparkly.
Hmm. What can I say? Island life catches up with the best of us.
When I’m especially depleted from a lack of true free time in several days, weeks, months, even years, depending on your perspective, I can be downright indignant. But, I do my best to keep a lid on any resentment at work. And at home too, since, ya know…I live at my job. It may not surprise you that I don’t always succeed at this particular endeavor.
Not long ago, a guest offered what he surely felt was a compliment.
“You have my dream retirement job, you know,” he told me, a friendly smile on his broad white face.
“Well, you better expect to work really hard in retirement, then.” I did my best to match his smile.
Fortunately, my mom was visiting so I could bitch immediately to a sympathetic ear about his well-meaning but rather offensive comment. I hear a version of this all the time. That my reaction is so inwardly vitriolic, which I try to outwardly disguise, makes me feel even worse.
Because in reality, I do have a beautiful life. I live on an acre of lush tropical gardens with daily views that astound. I have no commute. Unless, that is, you count the 15 paces from cottage to office during which I watch hummingbirds and butterflies suck nectar from colorful flowers. I understand why my situation appears romantic. In some ways, it is. And in many more ways than I’ll burden you with, it’s not.
Speaking of romance, I’ll give you just one example. I’ve given up all attempts at discretion regarding what little dating life I enjoy. Every guest or owner on-site bears witness to all who leave and enter my cottage. You needn’t even look; footsteps are easily heard on the gravel pathways. Believe me, I know. Part of my job is to be intimate with the property’s noises. I can’t even have a private conversation unless I close the windows and turn on the A/C. So, as you might imagine, this ritual is essential if I’m lucky enough to get laid and want to ensure that my guests won’t hear me. And by my guests, I mean my customers.
Would I trade it for a 9-5 with a 30 minute commute in the city? No.
Would I trade it for a bartending gig on the beach? No.
But do I have a dream job living the easy life? Hell fucking no!
The reality is that those who are not independently wealthy and want to do more than just survive in the VI have to work their asses off. Especially if they have designs on raising a family and providing their children with a quality education. Living in the Virgin Islands is anything BUT a permanent vacation.
The annoying part isn’t so much that island life doesn’t equal a perma-vacay. What irritates is the constant perception that it does. When well-intentioned tourists constantly inquire as to your personal story and insist that you’re “living the dream” (WTF does that mean anyway?!) when you’re actually working harder than ever before, and for less money, and you can’t even recall your last beach day, sometimes it’s hard not to tell them to go fuck themselves. This is especially true if you were under the same impression as them before your big move. Then you want to tell yourself to fuck off too.
When people are unsatisfied and bored with their own lives, they idealize what they see on the outside lives of others. It’s obvious in the way we worship celebrities, even though their lives are just as difficult as ours often seem. But people are so hungry for something more. Something different. Something other than icy commutes, mundane routines, mortgage payments, and asshole bosses…that they’re quick to place more value on the daily experience of others than their own.
It’s just as easy for me to idealize the lives of my married friends back in the states. They’re all so clearly in love with the babies they’re making. Facebook photos show cozy, family-filled scenes. Children filling lives with joy. Had I not moved to an island, this would be me. The solitary posts I offer of tropical vistas and my dog can feel rather lonely in comparison. But I’m not seeing photos of marital strife and honeymoon stitches, intrusive in-laws, and kid puke in the bed.
Celeb mags are photoshopped to the hilt. Reality TV is rife with scripting and manipulative edits.
And paradise does not exist.
Or, perhaps more accurately, paradise is what you make it. Because when you finally bring your fantasy into reality, the inevitable cosmic dog shit of real life will make its way there too.
Where you live matters. What you do matters. But what matters more is the lens through which you view your circumstances.
A lesson it would clearly behoove me to take from myself.