My husband and I are 25 months into our adventure in island living. The first year in Anguilla, we found it challenging to stay in touch with friends and family given their busy lives. Then COVID hit and “stay at home” orders provided a great opportunity for Zoom happy hours to reconnect with friends and family.
On one of our calls, my friend of 28+ years mentioned she’d never seen me not wearing a watch. That got me thinking about other things I’ve stopped doing since moving to an island and, perhaps more importantly, the things I’ve started doing.
As part of our move, I stepped away from a job I enjoyed and shifted to a part-time role. So high on the list, I’ve stopped sitting at a desk 10+ hours a day. I’ve stopped waking up to an alarm clock and rushing to get out the door before traffic turned a 9-mile commute into an hour journey each way.
I’ve stopped wearing close-toed shoes except the occasional pair of sneakers. I’ve pretty much stopped donning business attire or even business casual for that matter. Most days I’ve stopped wearing make-up and avoid a hairdryer at all costs (who needs more heat in the Caribbean?), choosing instead to embrace the beach, sun, and surf look.
Perhaps the starkest “stop” was the loss of access to the “on-demand economy” I had come to embrace. Many days, breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner were ordered through a mobile app. My favorite salad place in the U.S. stopped taking cash all together. A variety of dinner options could be delivered to our door in less than an hour. Groceries, pet supplies, clothes, flowers, gifts, and more were available, often within hours, through a particular prime membership. I used on-demand car services ranging from carpools to luxury vehicles several times a week. Our busy lives fed these on-demand services and they, quite literally, fed us back.
In Anguilla, we’ve stopped expecting much of anything to happen quickly. Whether it’s trying to retrieve a package from the post office, conduct a bank transaction, or navigate getting a driver’s license, we have learned to set aside half a day to accomplish the task at hand. It took a while to adjust to “island time” but we’re learning to slow down, have a laugh at whatever’s gone awry and enjoy another rum punch while we wait.
I’ve stopped panicking at the sight of huge spiders and instead try to appreciate the wildlife around us. There are lizards, hermit crabs, turtles, frogs, and chickens that visit our yard. And while I admittedly didn’t love the recent scorpion I found in the kitchen, our rescue cat thought it was great fun.
While I sometimes miss the things I’ve stopped doing, the “starts” have more than made up for any perceived loss. I’ve started waking up with the sun and enjoying a leisurely breakfast. I’ve started gardening and gained huge respect for those who excel at this work. I see the beauty around us every day in the flowers in the garden and island wildlife.
I’ve started making more things at home. Things I used to think you could only buy – ice cream, yogurt, pizza, baked goods, and more – are quite easy to create with the luxury of time. In the last 25 months, my husband and I have probably prepared and eaten more meals together at home than we did over the previous 25 years.
Alongside my husband, we’ve started watching the sunsets each evening and stargazing at night. I’ve started reading more and joined my first book club.
I’ve learned to appreciate the power of the sun and the sea. I’ve started applying sunscreen every day and planning outdoor activities to avoid the hottest times of the day. We’ve kayaked on the sea, fought the currents, and taken advantage of the winds.
I’ve started looking for more balance in my life. While this is still a work in progress, time on the yoga mat, daily walks, and stand-up paddleboard are a good start.
Given what’s happened in the world over the past year, I think we picked a good time to move to an island. While I no longer wear a watch, I’ve actually improved my relationship with time. Waking with the sun, moving at a slower pace, and cultivating a deeper appreciation for the world around me are a strong antidote for the hectic lifestyle we left behind. It didn’t happen overnight, but we’ve come to embrace the starts and stops of island living and look forward to new adventures on the horizon.