“It was love at first sight.”
“We are meant to be together.”
“We’re soul mates.”
“We’ve had a torrid love affair.”
“We’re not getting along right now.”
“We need a break.”
These are all phrases I have heard islanders use in reference to their relationships with their rocks. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but there’s something about living on a tropical island that stirs up feelings reminiscent of romantic entanglements with our fellow humans. We find ourselves waxing poetic about how in love we are with our islands and get equally as dramatic with the anger we direct at our rocks when things aren’t going well. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned by what she believed was paradise.
It’s a part of why I believe this site is as large as it is in terms of both contributors and readership. Whether we were born on an island or moved to one, we want to write about it. We want to talk about it with others in similar relationships. We want to understand our feelings towards our islands and if we’re truly meant to be together or not.
My relationships with the islands I’ve lived on thus far are no exception.
When I moved to my first island, St. Thomas, it was an impetuous leap into a long term relationship – on a blind date. It was before the ubiquity of Google searching and I knew practically nothing about the island before hopping on the plane with no return ticket. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were actual grocery stores and sadly disappointed that there weren’t any mischievous monkeys in the trees. St. Thomas and I stayed together for nearly 3 years and broke up not because I had fallen out of love with her, but because a new island was tempting me with its offerings.
My move to my next island, Saba Rock, was one precipitated by a human relationship. My new boyfriend managed the resort (the entire island is a privately owned hotel / restaurant / marina) and so we lived as the sole residents – Population 2 – on the itsy bitsy one acre rock for over 5 years. My relationship with Saba Rock definitely falls under the “mercurial romance” umbrella – my feelings for her were never neutral. I loved her fiercely at times, couldn’t believe my luck that we were an item, and eventually grew to hate her, felt smothered and trapped by her towards the end of our time together.
To be fair, it was never the physical island I was resentful of, but the life situation that came with her – her baggage, if you will. Every year I lived there, she got busier and busier and dating Miss Popularity who welcomed hundreds of tourists to join us each day nearly broke my sanity. I needed space and so I did what was necessary to separate from her. (I am relieved to say that with years distance, I have been able to appreciate her once again for her true beauty and I imagine I’ll always think of myself as privileged to have spent those years with her.)
The relationship that followed was with the island of Virgin Gorda. We had a joyful courtship and I reveled in the ways in which she felt both familiar and refreshingly new. I had so much fun getting to know her ins and outs (not to mention the ability to drive a car again). She was the not-too-hot, not-too-cold porridge to my island Goldilocks – less chaotic than the bustling St. Thomas, but larger with more to offer in terms of lifestyle than the diminutive Saba Rock. We had a couple of mostly great years together but once again, I soon began to feel the limitations of our union and my eyes began to stray. I had weekend flings with other rocks, then dreamed of them for weeks after my return, blaming Virgin Gorda for all the ways she was falling short.
It felt like time to move on before the bitterness set in, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to cut the cord. My human relationship ultimately kept me stuck where I was for longer than I wanted. My boyfriend was not in a position to leave the area just yet due to his job and so in the meantime, I quietly pined for other islands and kept up my research, hoping the day to say sayonara would come within the next year or so.
Then, Hurricane Irma hit.
Away on our annual vacation during slow season, we watched in horror as that monster ripped through our home, destroying Saba Rock (my boyfriend’s job) and most of the house we lived in. Life exploded and we scrambled to pick up the pieces, unsure of how best to proceed. Without a full time income and place to live, we made the decision to rent a short term unit in Miami Beach for the interim to give us the time to regroup.
Ever since then, everyone keeps asking when me and Virgin Gorda will be reunited. But as the months have passed, one thing has become clear to me – we’re not getting back together.
Contrary to some of the less kind insinuations that have been made post-hurricane, I’m not giving up on Virgin Gorda simply because 185+ mph winds marred her visage. The fact is, I’d been mentally preparing for our breakup over the past year or more; I just hadn’t been able to make it official. Irma ripped the bandaid off for me.
It had been my plan to mindfully choose a new island to date, then embark on a conscious uncoupling with VG. But if this past hurricane season has taught me anything, it’s that life can sometimes mock your best laid plans and proceed to shit all over them. Me and Virgin Gorda got the Titanic of breakup goodbyes – and that will just have to do for now.
I have found that some islanders are settlers. Once they find their paradise, they put down their roots under their favorite coconut palm and commit to their island through thick and thin. Perhaps you’re a monogamous island person who cannot picture ever choosing another rock over your beloved, no matter how she may come to disappoint you. You’re life partners. Until death do you part.
Then there are those who aren’t quite sure they believe in island monogamy. It’s a great big world and there are many islands in the sea. Perhaps you don’t really have a “type” other than the basics of a body of land surrounded by a body of water. Maybe you want to see many paradises in your lifetime and appreciate them for all they have to offer in their own unique ways.
I am an island soul of the latter. I feel like you learn so much about yourself and grow as a person in ways you wouldn’t have when you’re thrown into a new place, a new culture, a new community. You meet people you would never have crossed paths with had you not explored new oceans.
I certainly don’t judge the monogamists among us and know there is value as well in staying committed for the long haul – it’s just not for me. I want to date other islands. I’m ready to fall, ready for my next amour.
And so my personal ad goes:
“Seasoned island girl currently without island, seeking fresh start with a new rock love. Must be tropical with a sunny disposition most days. A generous endowment of palm trees is vital, as well as an inclination towards excessive happy hour-ing. Voluptuous hills for hiking preferred, though flat islands will also be considered. In possession of a high concentration of roadside goats a definite plus. Must love mermaids and be open to welcoming a new one into the pod.”
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Do you consider yourself an island monogamist or are you, too, interested in dating other islands?