I’ve written a lot about rock fever – that inevitable affliction that hits most (all?) Island Girls at some point. The one that has you lamenting your relocation to a floating oasis of endless sunshine surrounded by sparkling turquoise water.
The affliction that has you leaving your rock temporarily in search of salvation. Often times, it is back to see friends or family. To the place where things are familiar. Where you feel at home. And as the wheels of your plane touch down in this magical place, your visit home officially begins. At which point the life cycle of going home commences.
Everything Is So Different
Face it. Life on a tropical island can be like living in a time warp. An occasionally frustrating, often sweat-filled vacuum where newfangled inventions tend to pass you by. But you don’t mind and might not even notice.
After all, you choose to drive a beat up 10 year old truck for a number of valid reasons, including (a) potholes and (b) your surf gear would trash a shiny new SUV. Plus, do you really need built-in GPS on an island that has seven main roads? If you can’t find your way around an island, maybe you just shouldn’t be driving.
And, most importantly, you moved to the islands for a simpler lifestyle, didn’t you? And you got that, in spades.
But then you head back to civilization. And suddenly, all bets are off.
It begins when the rental car agent asks you if you’re familiar with a push start car. Why yes, you think to yourself, my truck needs to be pushed to start occasionally. It helps if I am parked pointing down hill.
But of course that’s not what he means. And he doesn’t find your joke along those lines all that amusing. Instead he looks a little alarmed and asks if you’d like to add the collision coverage to your rental. You do.
And as he hands you a key fob suspiciously devoid of anything resembling a car key, you realise things might have changed in the years you’ve been away. It gets worse when you find yourself pressing the damn button with nothing happening a half hour later in the grocery store parking lot. You grow increasingly panicked until you realise you have to put your foot on the brake first. Right.
Of course, your crash course in modern road driving doesn’t end there. More than once you’ll find yourself awkwardly attempting to put on your seatbelt while hurtling down a busy road. Something that once was as natural as hitting up the Starbucks drive-thru is now a foreign concept. Remembering your seatbelt, that is. Probably because your truck back home is missing (for reasons unknown to you) such basic items as seatbelt. Ok, so this is what driving in the States is like these days. Got it.
Now that you’ve mastered safely driving a fancy, modern vehicle, it’s time to hit the road and do what comes naturally. Let’s go shopping!
Everything Is So Shiny
If you’re lucky, you’ll be staying with friends or family during your visit. They will likely have many modern technologies in their home. Things they take for granted, but which you find quite fascinating. And mildly confusing. Of course, you can be forgiven for not initially understanding the merits of exciting advances in modern living like Alexa or Google Home. After all, what would such devices tell you on an island?
If you asked Alexa what the weather will be like today, her stock answer, every damn day, would likely be “The weather today will be 85F and sunny.” Likewise, any inquiry about traffic for your morning ‘commute’ would likely be met with silence. Or laughter. You’ll also never need to ask her to adjust your thermostat, since your home in the tropics doesn’t have one.
Likewise, the Fitbit that your friends are all wearing seem a little lost on you. After all, you don’t need a device to tell you how many steps you’ve taken each day, do you? It is fairly easy to calculate in your head how far it is from your beach chair to the beach bar. Just multiply that by the day’s round trips and voila. That was easy.
Yet as you stroll the aisles of your favorite stores, you are instantly attracted to all the bright, shiny displays offering every conceivable item promising to make your life easier. Or prettier. Or more stylish. And it is all so tempting, because island life is hard sometimes isn’t it? Maybe an expensive piece of technology is exactly what you need. That or a cute palm tree door mat. (Damn you to hell, Target!)
You want to buy it all, don’t you? You start thinking you definitely should have brought a bigger suitcase.
Everything Is So Convenient
Can’t find what you’re looking for at Target? No problem, just whip out your phone and ask Google or Siri. They will happily tell you where to find the object of your desire AND give you a handy-dandy map to get you there fast. Because, after all, you’re in the land of plenty, and virtually anything you need or desire can be readily found – either in person or via the magic of Amazon same-day delivery.
All this shopping got you hungry? No problem. Just stop at any of the gazillion fast food options you’ll find on every corner and grab a quick bite. One that won’t be cringingly expensive, either. It doesn’t matter what you’re craving, either. You can find it all spread out before you. And if you can’t find it, Siri will help you.
This is amazing, and you start wondering why you ever left. But then…
Everything Is So Overwhelming
Eventually a few things will happen. Your bank account will run low, you will feel a sickening sense of overindulgence or both. The novelty of roaming the aisles of your favorite shops will wear off.
You will grow tired of everyone around you seeming to be in a near-constant state of hurry and stress. Nobody has any patience. People seem angry all the time. They tailgate. They impatiently huff and puff while waiting in any sort of line. They are rude to each other. You start to think to yourself that these folks need to chill out. Maybe take a vacation to the islands.
And that’s when it hits you. You are no longer one of these people. You used to be, but then you moved to the tropics. And despite all of its perceived hardships, the lack of resources, the nonsensical bureaucracy, the heat, the bugs, the potholes and all the rest, it is a pretty great place – and way – to live.
The ocean is always there for you. The people always have a smile on their face. The pace of life is slow by design. Your daily routine focuses more on being naturally happy than keeping yourself artificially entertained with meaningless distractions like buying stuff you don’t need or chasing the next “it” thing.
And you love that non-material way of life, by the way, frustrating as it may be at times. In fact, you are really starting to miss the simplicity of it all.
While you may have a suitcase full of fresh necessities that will make your island life a little easier, a little nicer and a little more fashionable, you are really looking forward to sending it (and you) back to the islands.
You realize you can easily get by without a car that starts by just pushing a button. That you’ll be just fine even if you’re not exactly sure how many steps you took today. That making a snack at home is a lot healthier (and cheaper) than hitting up a drive-thru whenever hunger strikes.
It’s at this point, my friends, when you can rest assured that your most recent case of rock fever has been thoroughly cured. At least until next time. So hop back on that plane and get ready to resume your Island Girl status. And hope your overstuffed suitcase zippers hold for the entire flight.