I suppose most people who grow up in climates of the frozen tundra dream of living on a tropical island. I spent every year I can recall of my adult life saving money to travel to warmer climates to escape the winter months of Minnesota. The destinations began stateside in Florida, then moved further south to Mexico and the Caribbean. Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, San Juan, St Thomas, and Cozumel were all checked off my list.
Somewhere in the scheme of vacation planning, however, I ventured to San Diego, California. It was there I returned eight years in a row before finally taking the plunge, selling my home, downsizing 70 percent, and moving to that warmer climate. I loved the ability to be outdoors every day of the year. My health flourished with access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and I honestly thought I would live out my days in that beautiful city.
Then came my dream trip to Italy in 2015. I had saved for what seemed like forever and I was beyond excited to embrace the culture, cuisine, and wine of the Amalfi Coast. I settled on the island of Capri for 10 glorious days and enjoyed day trips to several areas along the mainland. What I learned from that life-changing adventure was this: I needed to travel more and for longer periods of time. I was determined not to wait another two or three years to take another trip. I had secretly started planning to go to New Zealand before I ever touched down back in the US. I believe what hit me most is that at age 40, I was by far the youngest tourist at almost every port. Italy is not flat. I was fairly fit at the time, and I came home even more so. It made me sad to see the older tourists unable to see what I was able to experience because physically, they were not capable. I was determined not to wait. Life is too short and the world has so much to teach us.
Reality hit hard as I began pricing my next adventure, and I jokingly proclaimed to a friend that I should just move instead of traveling. That idea grew wings faster than the speed of light. Another friend suggested I research a website with cost of living and cultural information of countries worldwide. I spent every night researching. One day at work, I was sharing my findings with a friend and ruling out a few locations. When I mentioned Cape Town, South Africa, she said, “Well, if you’re thinking of going that far, you should just move to the Seychelles!” Where? I thought. That was nearly two years ago. Within two months, I had reduced my belongings 90 percent, stopped to visit family in Minnesota, and flown over 10,000 miles to Mahe, Seychelles.
There have been numerous hysterical lessons along the way as I quickly discovered that Google does not really know that much about small countries. My biggest realization, however, is that acclimating to a tropical climate four degrees south of the equator is no joke. You literally begin sweating the moment you turn off the shower!
Within the first week of arrival, I had to visit Immigration to extend my tourist visa. You could say I was not yet on island time. I power walked everywhere. At the time, I was thinking it was the time change that left me exhausted by noon every day, however, in hindsight I now know the reality was the combination of the heat and my speed. That morning, when I walked into the chilly air-conditioned office of Immigration, my sweat glands opened like a fire hydrant draining. My face, being of fair German decent, went bright red.
When I was called from the queue and sat in front of the agent, she glanced at me with genuine concern. I knew beneath her small tight smile she had to be thinking there was no way I would survive the two month extension I was applying for. I could not help but laugh at myself. The only other option was crying from embarrassment, and I could not bear to lose any more hydration.
Over the next several months, I slowed down. I walked in the shade. I discovered coconut water offers triple the hydration of its plain counterpart. I ate plenty of fresh fruit to maintain my glucose levels. Most importantly, I learned to love my body and wear as little clothing as legally necessary.
Coming from a conservative background where, as a girl, I grew up wearing wool socks and turtlenecks – this is no easy feat. I have always been used to being covered up. It turns out, I am considerably more shy than I ever realized. In my early rock life days, I was overly conscious of how I looked. But here is the reality of island life: You must be willing to learn and adapt easily or you will be miserable. You need to laugh at yourself when a river runs through your cleavage and inner thigh sweat drips to your ankles without warning. You need to let go and love your naked self.
Nearly two years later, I still sweat profusely. In my recent training for a 5k here – which I have run a dozen plus times stateside – I have found it to be an insane experience. My knees sweat. I did not even know that was possible! To be honest, my husband and I only ran the actual 5k the morning of the race. Up until that point, we trained up to 3k and decided we would wing it the morning of the event. Thankfully, Mother Nature came through with a mere 80°F temperature that day and a light drizzle. It saved my life!
Living on a rock has truly been a dream come true for me. A hot, sweaty dream. Survival requires a great sense of humor, multiple cold showers daily, an occasional ocean swim, and very little clothing.