By the time I finally made my official move to Antigua back in October of last year, I felt confident that I was ready for it. I had spent the past 3 1/2 years getting to know the island and the people (both locals and expats), so yeah – I was ready. Damn, was I ready.
Three weeks as a rock resident, and I was just taking it all in, getting into my groove with work, and settling into my hobbit home on the hill. A friend of mine suggested going out to English Harbour on the other side of the island to meet up with friends for a lazy afternoon by the sea and dinner out afterwards. It sounded like a great idea to me. After all my moving efforts, I was ready for some relaxation and chill time.
I made the drive out by myself, as I was going over a bit later than my friend. The drive across the island is one that I love, no matter how many times I make it. It’s a truly magical journey through the lush rainforest – just breathtaking.
We had an afternoon of fun and girly chatting; the others were all drinking, while I stayed on the soft stuff, being the lightweight that I am. One of the conversations of the day was about being independent women on the island, the communities we live in, etc. As a result, we ended up discussing the drive home to the other side of the island – the side two of us (my friend and I) live on. The talk took a serious turn as the others warned us that if we’re ever staying out late at night, we should not take the rainforest route home but should instead take the other way back (the way that I find to be much longer, and that actually feels less safe to me when driving late at night or in the early morning). We defended our preferred drive, standing our ground in our belief that it’s silly to worry and how unlikely it is that anything bad would ever happen. The naysayers cited the chances of flat tires, the lack of cellular signal, and all the other fears that, if you believed them all, you would never go anywhere or do a damn thing. I was even offered a bed to sleep over in should I want to skip the late night drive altogether.
Eventually, the mood lightened back up, and we wandered off to a nice restaurant overlooking the harbour and then to a local bar to play – of all things – Wii bowling. Don’t ever say we island girls don’t know how to party! The others were well on their way to being quite pissed by then, while I remained in my typical sober state. Just take a look at the photo below of me dancing on the tables without the aid of alcohol… maybe that is why I don’t drink: Can you imagine what I would be like if I did?
At about 1:45am, I decided to call it a night. I said my goodbyes and headed off, feeling safe in my little bubble. I did the first part of the journey through the villages, then turned off onto Fig Tree Drive (the rainforest route) without any worries. The first couple of miles went by with ease and then… I’m sure you can guess what happened next:
I got a flat.
Can you even believe this shit? What are the odds?!
Feeling slightly panicked, I drove as far as I could until I was riding on the metal. And then there I was: stuck in the pitch black rainforest, no street lights, no houses nearby, all alone in the middle of nowhere at 2am.
I pondered my options for a bit, then finally worked up the courage to get out the car and take a look in the trunk for reinforcements. Sure enough, there was everything in there to change a flat – except a JACK. WTF.
I got back in the car and had several conversations with myself: Well, even if there was a jack, do you really think you’re going to be changing the tire here, on your own, with no lights? Are you just going to sit tight in the car, hoping and praying no one comes past? Are you going to get out and walk? Where would you even walk to?
Then, in the rearview mirror, I spotted lights headed my way. The approaching car came to a stop a fair way back. Shit, I thought. This is it. What are you going to do now?
I made a choice and got out the car, raising my hands in the air as a peace offering as if to say, “It’s just me, nothing to worry about, no one else here but Little Old Me.” I don’t remember deciding much other than to walk towards the car. I do remember anxious thoughts flashing through my mind, one after another in quick succession: This is a game changer now. You might be attacked, robbed, raped, murdered – the whole lot. And then, as reassurance, Shut the fuck up, Janis. It will be cool.
As I got to the car, the driver’s window slowly rolled down. I peered inside and said, “You have no idea how vulnerable I feel right now.” (Subtext: Please don’t hurt me.)
The driver beamed a great big smile at me, said his name was Hector, and let me know that he is a police and fire officer. Whatever my problem was, he was here to help. Check that smiley face out – talk about disarming!
Relief washed over me, and I launched into a happy dance in the middle of the road while Hector looked at me like I was definitely a crazy lady. He got out, came over to my car, and chatted with me like an absolute gentleman while he changed my tire.
Though I don’t believe in the white-bearded creator version of God, I do believe in my own version of a higher power – whatever you want to call it. That night, God sent me a beautiful human being, an angel in the form of Hector to look out for me and to prove the naysayers wrong. I was safe here – even with a flat, I would be okay. Hector even made sure I made it all the way home.
That night/morning, I learned that I can trust my instincts, that I can trust that there are awesome people about this island, that I should always check and know where the jack is, and maybe – just maybe – if I am ever offered a bed to sleep in on late nights out, perhaps I should just accept it.
I trust that whatever I put out into the world will come back to me, yet I also have to remind myself that I am in a different space now and should maybe be a little more cautious than when I am in the Shires of the UK (although, shit certainly happens there too).
It is ultimately all about the journey and the learning that comes with it, isn’t it? On this new island life adventure, I plan on continuing to trust in myself, always staying open to trusting others, and sending that vibe out into the universe. Thus far, it has served me well.