I’ve always felt a strong connection to the beach and tropical climates, having been born and raised in Tampa, Florida. But to be honest, Tampa was too city-like for me, and far too cold in the winter months. So in the pursuit of the island dream, I moved to Hawaii, then to Grand Cayman, then to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. It was there that I met my husband Scott, who brought me right back to the US to give birth to our son, Rocco. But the upside is that Scott owns a home in Tortola, so we get to go back and forth, thankfully skipping Maryland’s icy winters entirely. Truth be told, if Scott hadn’t snatched me up, I would have lived through the worst hurricane in history that destroyed our island in 2017. (But that’s another story…)

Living back in the US was a major transition for me. I hadn’t lived in the states for almost a decade, though did acclimate quickly to all of the conveniences available. Amazon became my new best friend; I ordered our meals from Blue Apron; I ordered the rest of our groceries online; and I became a regular with Hub Grub, the service that miraculously delivers from a wide variety of local restaurants. And yet, it was the overall vibe in the US that proved challenging for this island soul. I found that everyone in the city seemed to be miserable and moving about in a great hurry. I suddenly found myself avoiding people, feeling grumpy and keeping my head down, always eager to get back to the comfort of my home computer, especially once it started getting cold.

But once the holidays were over, we were fortunate to be able to escape the miserable cold and head back to Tortola for two glorious months. To my surprise, I found this transition a bit more challenging than I’d expected. On island, it was back to driving on the left, slathering ourselves in sunscreen daily, no more ordering from Amazon, and the slow pace of island time.

 

BVI beach Tortola Virgin Islands white sand Nature's Little Secrets

 

One day back on island, I found myself rushing through the grocery store even though Rocco was at home safely with Scott and I had nowhere else to be. My fellow shoppers were walking slowly, taking up the aisles, and my inner city girl was livid. I wanted to scream, “Hurry up, or get the hell out of my way!”

When it was finally my turn to check out, the sweet girl at the register saw a pineapple on my collar, put down the groceries she was scanning, and began telling me about the massive amounts of pineapples she had in her neighborhood. I mumbled that I didn’t know where she was referring to, in hopes that my lack of interest would get her back to scanning. But no – she proceeded to grab a map of the area to help show me the location. Then, she asked the cashier next to her to confirm how plentiful the pineapples were. The other girl stopped what she was doing too and the next thing I knew, the two cashiers were engaged in a 5 minute conversation that ended with mapping out the exact location of Tito’s party next weekend.

I finally got into my Jeep, huffing over how LONG my shopping had taken me. But then as I drove home, the tension started to slowly release. I couldn’t help but notice the sparking turquoise ocean sprinkled with all the other islands surrounding me. I began thinking, Isn’t this exactly what I’d wanted? I had spent the last decade moving from island to island, always looking for somewhere slightly more remote in search of this small town island feel. Had I forgotten that island girl that I used to be? I looked with adoration at the beauty surrounding me. What was my hurry, anyway?

Over the next few weeks, I slowed down. I stopped to smell the ocean, so to speak. I found my inner island girl who smiles and greets everyone with, “good morning” and “good afternoon.” I stopped getting upset by typical island life situations like when after waiting for an hour to eat (and already 10 minutes passed my Rocco’s bedtime), the waitress told me she forgot to put our order in.

A month has flown by and I’m 100% back to that island girl I know and love. I’m so happy that I get to spend another month in paradise where we’ll celebrate our son’s first birthday and Valentine’s Day a week later. Leaving this beautiful island, appropriately promoted as “Nature’s Little Secret,” is going to be difficult.

I imagine I’ll have some challenges in acclimating to city life once again. But maybe I’m like those creatures who changes with each new environment they’re placed in. Maybe there are two sides to me – a city girl and an island girl. Though let’s face it – I’m almost certain I’m a better person with a tan.

 

sparkling sea ocean Caribbean BVI Tortola Virgin Islands

 

–   –   –

 

Are you a fellow part-time island girl? How do you handle the transitions between your homes?

Written By:

Marisa Gillis

Current Rock of Residence:

Tortola, BVI

Island Girl Since:

2014

Originally Hails From:

Tampa, Florida

Marisa was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. She had a normal 9-5 job wearing a suit and heels everyday doing everything from real estate to negotiating contracts for an electrical firm under the umbrella of her degree in Mass Communications. She was bit rather early by the travel bug and has been trying to quench her wanderlust ever since

She spent two years working directly with the military on Oahu, HI where she got her first taste of island living. From there, she moved to Rome, but she couldn’t deny the ocean seductively calling her name. Marisa was living on Tortola, BVI when she met her husband, Scott, who lives in the US part time. Marisa currently resides in Tortola, BVI in the winter & Maryland, USA the remainder of the year with their year old son, Rocco. But she’ll always be an island girl at heart.

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