Friends in the states picture us tanned as roasted almonds, spending our days sunning on the beach, our afternoons napping in hammocks, our twilights sipping rum punches in our beachside gazebo, our dinnertimes grilling fresh fish, and our nighttimes dancing under the stars to Reggae music.
And while that may have been the way we spent many weeklong visits to the Caribbean prior to moving here, we have now come to realize that living on a rock is an entirely different proposition than vacationing on one.
The truth is, despite owning a home on one of the best beaches in the Bahamas, we haven’t laid out in the sun for a full day since moving to Eleuthera more than 15 years ago. Even with Casuarinas shading the sand, we pull out beach chairs only when family and friends visit. We have had up to 5 hammocks hanging between palms, but the pesky skeeters usually nudge us inside to nap there instead.
We built a lovely seaside, thatched-roof gazebo, but we have not had drinks there. Come to think of it, the two of us have never sat in there at the same time.
Fresh fish sounds fine for dinner, but it can be frustratingly hard to find.
And we haven’t danced since we were under the influence of “funny” mushrooms 25 years ago at the Bomba Shack on Tortola.
So what’s wrong with this picture? How did our island life manage to get so far from our island vacations?
As mentioned in my bio below, our living in the Bahamas brings tears to the eyes of my dermatologist. Like many other women “of a certain age,” I had a teenage addiction to slathering iodine and baby oil on my skin and broiling myself like a salmon. A dozen skin-cancer surgeries, including losing 65 percent of my lower lip, have made a sun-shunner of me.
Instead of lounging in a bikini, I usually wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, athletic socks, leather work boots, leather elbow-length gloves, a wide-brimmed hat, a mask over my mouth. All that, plus a layer of sunscreen and bug spray. I even swim in a hat, sunglasses, and long-sleeved rash guard.
And while owning a home anywhere requires upkeep and maintenance, we’ve found that owning one on the Atlantic brings innumerable challenges.
Everything here rusts, fades, rots, or molds. Quickly. Every few months, I bring out heavy gloves, a bucket of bleach water, and a sponge to scrub mildew off porch rafters and supports, even inside doors, walls, and butcher-block islands.
Having windows and five exterior doors open almost 12 months a year is a treat, but it also means that dust, sand, dirt, and bugs accumulate daily. A pergola covered with magenta bougainvillea provides shade and jaw-dropping beauty. But, oh, those dropping blossoms!
While I’m cleaning, hanging laundry on a clothes line (I still prefer it to the dryer!), and weeding and trimming 2 acres with our part-time gardener, Dave (the family chef) spends hours per week foraging for food at the 6 – 7 food and beverage shops from a quarter-mile to 20 miles away.
We do take frequent dips in the ocean, marveling that we see no one on the beach in either direction. But when I walk the beach, I’m often toting a garbage bag to retrieve errant plastic water bottles, Styrofoam food containers, and soda cans tossed aside by less environmentally concerned beach goers.
Dave is usually too busy finishing dinner for us to stop for a leisurely glass of wine. And, isolated as we are, we’ve become addicted to the 6:30pm national news from Miami. It’s sadly ironic that the most beautiful time of day, right before sunset, brings out the feisty no-see-ums, who love feeding on our ankles, and thus keep us indoors.
Soon after moving to the Bahamas, we were eager to immerse ourselves in the active expat community. Yoga on Mondays, library coffee klatch every Tuesday, book club one Tuesday a month, guys’ poker on Wednesday, poker wives’ lunches on Wednesday, meditation on Fridays. Plus, the gardener’s arrival every Tuesday and Saturday.
Then, for 7 years, we rented our guest cottage to vacationers. Dave dealt with their questions about flights, cars, beer, and beaches. I scrubbed the cottage shower and bathroom floors on my hands and knees, vacuumed and mopped, replaced bedding and towels, and put out fresh flowers. I’d brush away wasp nests and occasionally iron sheets.
We’d see our guests sunning contentedly on our beach, reading and napping, napping and reading, sipping drinks in our gazebo.
It didn’t take us long to realize, Hey, that used to be us!
But we’re the ones living the dream of actually living in paradise, right?
I guess we’ll just have to sneak off to another rock for a REAL vacation of our own.