Tropical Travel Tips: Half a Year in the Caribbean
It's actually been close to nine months since I hauled myself to a tropical island, but time here passes in a way that's different to any other place I've been. Standing on a beach picking up shells and cutting down palm leaves with a machete as sweat drips down my back it sometimes feels like a lifetime of peace. Other times, like when I'm sitting outside on my steps watching the sunset listening to all the different birdsong, it feels like weeks at most.
I've learned a lot since I came here, though, and for anyone thinking of relocating to paradise I have a few wise thoughts to share (and a few not so wise ones).
Island Time is Real:
When somebody first tells you about the mysterious lack of time in the Caribbean, any person's first thought is normally, "well, yeah but not really right? like, that's not practical..." and that's a very logical reaction but it's also very wrong. When I tell somebody I'm on my way somewhere, the truth is I probably haven't even left yet. When a friend tells me they'll meet me at 3, we'll both show up at 3:45 and mysteriously just not talk about how late we are because time is an illusion.
Fashion is Not So Real:
Sure, it's nice to have the latest sunglasses now and then, and you'll compliment anyone wearing super cool ones, but a combination of a lack of shops, and even a lack of need for clothes (it's hot), somehow means that there's no need to really follow trends out here. When you're only going to be taking clothes off when you get in the ocean things become pretty relaxed and people become relaxed too. And now I've sat outside of fashion for a while it's odd looking back into it and seeing what people are wearing.
You Car is Always Almost Broken:
A combination of the searing heat (literally, melting plastic dashboards), the salty air, and the humidity essentially kills cars out here. It's never a question of whether there's something wrong with your car, there always is, but of how far you can go until it stops working. I find the rust, faulty electronics, and random noises of my car, charming but it's definitely something you have to ease yourself into. If you don't like being handy, cable tying your bumper back on, and having to open up your bonnet on a semi-regular basis then this life maybe isn't for you.
If you're having a bad day you will literally run into everyone you have ever met at the supermarket:
And it will be awful but it will also help cheer you up because you'll have seen all your friends while contemplating which fruit you want to splurge and spend most of your salary on this week.
You're not alone:
Living in the Caribbean when you're not super rich isn't for everyone, but what makes it so special is that almost everyone is in the same boat as you and there's a real community of people because of that fact. You have no money again because pay day has been delayed? That's okay, just meet everyone on the beach for a day of completely free fun. Your car has taken all your savings and its broken? That's cool, there are a hundred people who will offer you their car when they're not using it because we've all been there.
For the not so rich among us living in the Caribbean does come at a price — your flip flops will fall apart and your car is inevitably always almost broken — but the rewards are huge if you're willing to pay the cost. I see beautiful, truly stunning, sunsets on beautiful beaches every day. I swim in an ocean that's crystal clear and full of life and I am thankful.