I’m not gonna lie. Living on an island can be tough.
Which may surprise some of you, right? I mean, hell…I live on a tropical effin’ island. I’m surrounded on the daily by palm trees and turquoise seas. The stuff vacation dreams are made of. A place some people pay a shit ton of money and endure long flights to get to once a year. They soak it all up and head home. Tan, fat, and happy. Then start saving to do it all again next year.
But living here and vacationing here are two different things. Obviously.
And while new arrivals may be granted a brief period of delusional ecstasy, wherein they find all the eccentricities of island life to be cute and charming, that will wear off. It always does.
Of course, until it does, these folks will be the mildly insufferable ones bouncing around like ponytailed cheerleaders, singing the you-rah-rah chant about how damn amazing living in paradise is, all while gazing at your beleaguered, mildly frayed appearance with unmistakable disdain. To them, I say (with as much faux patience in my voice as I can muster), “Come see me when you have a few years under your belt. Then we’ll talk.”
But the funny thing about the Island Beatdown Cycle is that it doesn’t happen all at once. No bolts of lightning, no sudden epiphanies. Nothing like that. You don’t actually realize it is happening. Sort of like the boiling frog syndrome. It all happens so gradually you don’t even notice. Until it is too late. You wake up one morning feeling anything but overjoyed that you live on your own tiny Alcatraz, replete with salty water and sharks in every direction.
Of course, it is all a mad cycle that you eventually learn to work through. Or not. Some folks only make it through partway then bail, blaming the island for all their woes.
To avoid becoming that person, I’ve identified some signs to watch for. Because the key to surviving here long-term rather than throwing in the towel at the first sign of drama is vigilance, people! It starts with knowing the signs.
Obviously, I’m not talking about fully stocked grocery store shelves or speedy internet connections. Any islander worth his or her salt knows full well that when such things happen, it is cause for immediate celebration, followed by the immediate sending of thanks into the universe. Or a full-on happy dance in the middle of the grocery store. Your choice.
No, those kind of essentials are not ever taken lightly by an islander, no matter how many years they’ve chalked up in the land of endless summer. Rather, what I’m talking about is something a little scarier.
You begin to forget what lured you here in the first place. The glow begins to fade. Fast.
Then you start to find yourself thinking things, like:
If you’ve recently moved to an island, you might not recognize any of these. In which case, keep basking in the bliss of the newly arrived. If, however, you have caught yourself uttering a variation on any of these, you may be on the path to becoming a beaten-down island soul. A condition which, if left untreated, sometimes leads to this…
Newsflash. Moving to the tropics won’t solve your problems. Unless frostbite was your problem. Then, yes, technically the climate here will fix that up faster than island girls stampeding a buffet offering free mimosas.
But if your problems tend to be slightly more in-depth – dissatisfaction with your work, being stuck in a shitty relationship or not being able to maintain one, being a terrible money manager, hating something about yourself, whatever – no island is going to cure that. Ever. Much like plastic surgery doesn’t solve negative body perception issues.
Yet, over and over again people flock to rocks between the 30s hoping that a change in latitude will bring a permanent change in attitude. While Jimmy Buffet may have made a fortune on that idea, it’s only partially true. Yes, a change of scenery can do wonders to improve your immediate feelings toward any number of things (and if you need an extra boost, there are always umbrella drinks). I mean, with enough rum even the significant other you loathe starts to look better under Caribbean moonlight.
But an island can only do so much for so long. Eventually, the shiny distraction of island newness will wear off and you’ll find yourself alone, facing your old demons. Strangely, they know exactly how to get to your secret island escape, too. Damn it.
And since it is human nature to deflect blame rather than solve hard issue(s), the path of least resistance is to turn on the island itself. After all, every day has the potential to frustrate, shock and irritate you here. The bureaucracy. The interminable lines for everything. The financial setbacks. The unreliability of people and things. The general slowness of it all. These are all part of an island’s, uh, charm. Yet at the end of the day, after one battle too many, these frustrations make a rock a pretty delectable target for your ire, rage, or resentment.
And letting these feelings flourish has the capacity to turn a cheerful island transplant into a bitter, complaining, ugly person. One who starts thinking that going back home or moving someplace else is going to solve all the current problems. But it won’t. Not really.
Because the island isn’t the issue. The island is just doing what it’s always done. Ebbing and flowing with the currents that surround it. Existing and moving to its own rhythm. Truth be told, the island really pays you no mind whatsoever. It didn’t really notice when you arrived. And, sorry to burst your bubble cupcake, it won’t miss you once you’re gone. It certainly isn’t out to get you (although it may feel like that some days).
No, my friend, the problem is not the island. It is you. Ouch.
And running nonstop will never be the answer. You might delay your day of reckoning, distracting yourself with new experiences and new faces, but that will never be a permanent solution. Because…dum da dum…
Your problems are going to follow you wherever you go – whether that is back to the mainland, another patch of foreign soil halfway around the globe, or even a new sunny rock in the Caribbean. It may take a while for your problems to catch up with you. Island time and all. But they will get there eventually, unlike your suitcase from your last trip. And then you have a choice.
Go ahead and blame the rock, book a ticket, pack up your things and head off into the wild blue yonder. On to the next adventure with your fingers crossed that the new place will be the solution to all that plagues you.
Put your big girl panties on, identify the root of your issue(s), work on a solution and thank fucking God you can do all this in a balmy climate where day-drinking is not frowned upon. Life is too short to keep running. At some point, you have to deal with it. May as well do it surrounded by palm trees and a balmy breeze, don’t you think?
And for fuck’s sake, get back to appreciating the little (and free!) things that an island delivers. You know, like spectacular sunsets, dolphins jumping in the water, early morning beach walks. Stop blaming and start appreciating. Working past your issues may be difficult and painful, but damn if there isn’t a better place to do it than the islands.
Got questions? Want to know more about island life? Thinking about making a big life change (whether that includes an island or not)? I’d love to hear from you. Check out this post or send your thoughts to email@example.com and let’s connect.