Life in the tropics is really quite grand. (Does that even need to be said? No, probably not.)
However, there is one pitfall anyone aspiring to don the Island Girl tiara needs to know about.
I’m not sure if it is the always-balmy temperatures, the alluring azure sea, the ever-flowing umbrella drinks, or all of these combined, but the days/weeks/months pass by quickly on a rock. And all too often you find yourself another year (or several) older and feeling like you have nothing to show for it. Well, other than a great tan and questionably healthy, sun-bleached hair.
Now for some, like retirees, maybe that’s the plan. I mean, by a certain age perhaps you just don’t want to have a list of goals (at least professional ones) to work towards. I’m not sure, since I’m still a few decades from my golden years. So if I’ve offended any of my older readers with this assumption, it wasn’t my intention and I’m sorry. I just don’t have a point of reference.
But for someone like me, an American who still wants to achieve something professionally, living on a Dutch rock in the middle of the ocean can feel, to be honest, limiting.
Don’t get me wrong. For the first five or so years, NOT having a professional, mentally stimulating, and rewarding job was exactly what I sought. After all, I had quite enough of the stressed out, rat race and being a lawyer. Riding my bike to my dive instructor job each day was just fine, thank you very much.
But at some point you get a wake-up call that reminds you that your Type A personality never disappeared, it just went dormant. For a really long time. Once an over-achiever, always an over-achiever, it seems. You can run but you can’t hide from who you truly are.
And when that reckoning strikes, you are left in a bit of a quandry. You still love your island life, but also realize it isn’t quite enough anymore. You want to stay, but also feel the urge to leave. At least part of the time.
Likewise, what I’ve recently discovered, courtesy of a return pilgrimage to my old stomping grounds of the Pacific Northwest, is that self-exile on a Caribbean Island also puts you at some disadvantages.
Like the fact that life moves on back in civilization, and you run the risk of being left behind when you stay away too long.
Or the striking reality that your bank account is not nearly where it should be, at least not if you plan to ever actually retire.
Or that you sometimes miss first-world life. Not the shitty parts, like long commutes or bad weather. But other, more mundane things, like Lyft rides, keeping up with technology (hello, Alexa, and all you can do for me!) or having a variety of options (movies! museums! a proper Sunday brunch!) – and friends – with which to fill your free time.
To be fair, there are plenty of great things about living on an island. Great weather. Fun activities. Being able to drink before noon without judgment.
But what I am coming to realize is that swinging the pendulum to the extreme in either direction is an eventual recipe for dissatisfaction. Take heed, island dreamers.
It may take years or even decades (and the catalyst might be something – or someone – totally unexpected), but at some point reckoning day arrives. With no fanfare or warning, either. One day you’re living your best beach bum life, the next you are trying to remember your password for LinkedIn.
So what is an island-loving girl to do? I think the answer is finding a balance between the two worlds, impossible as that may seem. But a balance, nonetheless. One that works for you. Whatever that looks like.
You ultimately have to determine your yin and yang.
For me, it starts with admitting I want to spend some of my time living back in the US. Not all of my time. That’s crazy talk! But enough to make me feel like my career is heading in some positive, successful direction. Or that I have a career at all. To feel like I’m engaging and connecting with left-behind family and friends more than just once a year or so.
I envision a situation where I have the opportunity to maintain a life both here and there. To simultaneously nurture relationships on this rock and back on the mainland. The latter through more than just WhatsApp, because all that typing is exhausting, to be totally honest.
I’m not sure how the details of this plan will work out. That is up to the universe. The most I can do right now is put these desires, hopes, and visions out there and trust things will happen the way they’re supposed to.
In the meantime, I’ll be updating my résumé while I sip a glass of rosé. Before noon. Gotta keep living my best island life.
And if you know of anyone looking for a kick-ass writer/marketing pro/event manager, you know where to find me!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s connect.