Island living is not all sunsets and cocktails. You need a few survival tips to stop you fashioning a friend out of an old football and calling it “Wilson”. These tips are not the ship wrecked survival guide but are for those of us who lived in larger countries and cities before setting up home on an island.
Your first move to an island will seem like a holiday at first. You enjoy the sunsets, sip cocktails and annoy everyone you know by posting the bluest sea photos on social media. For a brief moment, it’s a delicious break from the rat race.
Living on an island is very different to holidaying on one. Tourists breeze in, cram as much sight-seeing or beach days as they can and think that this is it for island life. They don’t have the challenges of dealing with utility companies, general shopping and domestic life. That lovely slow pace of life you enjoy on your holiday as a break from the real world is in fact our “real world”.
You begin to look on that telecommunications company back in your home country with whom you spent an angry hour on the phone many times, wistfully. They WERE in fact efficient and fast moving! Having to find out who to turn to when things go wrong around the house is another initial challenge as finding a decent handyman is usually by word of mouth. The local yellow pages should be used cautiously. Not all decent companies advertise as much as they would back home because of the word of mouth reputation. Great for them. Not great for us trying to find them!
Social media will become a double-edged sword. Although it’s a great way of staying in touch it can also become a window into the life you left behind. Whilst your friends and family may be looking at your beach sunset photos with holiday envy you are looking at their photos with equal envy. Even the office ones. It’s a reminder that you once used to frighten Human Resources as you strolled down the corridors waving budget papers about. Those enjoyable after work drinks, that impromptu trip to the theatre or the museum are no longer part of your new world. You new world will hold other pleasures though.
Setting up your island home will keep you busy initially and it will seem fun at first. Remember those sick days you used to take, laying on the sofa, watching day time television and wishing you could do that all the time? Be careful what you wish for. Playing “house” is all well and good until it becomes a daily routine. You will suddenly think to yourself, is this it? And start wondering whether you can start drinking rum at 10am. The danger of becoming a Stepford Wife flashes in your mind.
Step away from that morning glass of rum and peruse my tips of island survival to help you enjoy your time.
1 – Organise your day – It’s important to have a form of structure to your day to stop you feeling listless. Organise your domestic routine so it does not creep in to take over your life too. If you just drift from day to day you will lose structure and purpose.
2 – Join clubs – If you are a sporting person you should be lucky enough to find various clubs on the island. Check to see if there is anything of interest to you on the island and perhaps use your time to learn a new skill or sport too.
3 – Volunteer – There will be many charities on your island. Have a look to see what is available and volunteer. Perhaps at an animal shelter or an orphanage? Help clean up the beach
4 – Enjoy the beach hair look – Get used to living without makeup and having cavewoman hair. Learn to love the natural you. It makes putting on a full face an event! Blow drying your hair can be futile at times, so let the island wind dry it and embrace a more natural look.
5 – Make a list – List what you love about the island and what you hate about it. Be grateful for the items that you love and accept those that you do not. Try to find a little island joy to add to the love list, however small it may be.
6 – Take a beach day – You live in a tropical island, why not just spend a day enjoying the beauty of the beaches. Take a book, find a bed, relax and listen to the gentle sound of the ocean. My tip for enjoying a hotel beach pool is to see what colour towels they have. Take the same with you and slip in amongst the tourists!
7 – Count to 10 when frustrated – Deep breath and count to 10 when faced with an island frustration. Whether it be bad customer service, people yakking at tills or tradesmen turning up whenever they feel like it. You may be used to shouting, stomping feet and demanding to talk to the manager but this will not work on an island. Go with the flow. Look at that sunset and breath.
8 – Learn to find your happy place – Yes, you may live on a beautiful tropical island but you need to find your happy place on the island that you enjoy. It could be a particular part of a beach, a hidden cove, a viewpoint or simply where they serve the best pancakes. Ironically, your happy place used to be a tropical island when you lived back in your home country, crammed on that morning train, nose to armpit with a stranger who only showered at weekends.
9 – Don’t avoid the tourists – They are usually in a great mood as they are on holiday. Their enthusiasm can be a great boost and it’s great to share some island tips that they may not be aware of. As you become an ambassador for your island, it makes you more aware of what you love about it.
10 – Read local papers – A lot of the island news is still reported in print, although there will be a small selection on line. Put reading the local paper as part of your daily routine and become informed to what is going on.
11 – Find your purpose – This can be a difficult one at first as when you were in your home country you had a clearer purpose, whether it was your career or raising a child. On a remote tropical island your purpose changes. Suddenly doing the weekly shop at the vegetable market seems like it’s your only purpose and can make you wonder what you have let yourself in for. It’s not. Find your purpose in other things. Use this time to change the direction of your life.
12 – Relish “Me” time – This is finally time for yourself so embrace it. Being comfortable with yourself can be rewarding. Take some time to enjoy your own company.
13 – Learn new skills – Use the time you now have to learn via a local class or even online. There are lots of different courses out there now. Try something you’ve wanted to do but never previously had the time.
14 – Learn a new language – If your tropical island has a different native language then sign up to learn it. Buy the local paper in this language too as a way of getting used to reading it. Learning a language is also great for keeping the mind active as well.
15 – Get crafty – Tune into the arty side of you, however small it will be. Join a painting or craft class. Perhaps try to make crafts from items found on the beach. You can always look online for inspiration and ideas of things to make out of driftwood.
16 – Get exploring – Take a drive around the island with no map and see where you end up. Even if you get lost, you will still find your way eventually to a familiar place. It’s an island. You are not going to end up 300 miles away from home. You may find a new beach or restaurant too.
17 – Go watch a local sport – All islands will have local matches so pop along to enjoy them and soak in the atmosphere. You might find a new sport that you enjoy too.
18 – Chat to locals – Have no shame in chatting to strangers in shops and your neighbours. Who cares if they think you are a bit forward or crazy. You can get away with it being “an outsider”. Relish that you are an individual and no longer part of the rat race.
19 – Organise an activity – Sometimes you have to make your own entertainment on the island. Arrange a picnic on the beach, even if it means a few bottles of wine and a case of Pringles. Perhaps a painting or crafting party. Karaoke? High tea with bubbles? Game night? Take the initiative and organise a night with others.
20- Balance your online time – Social media is great for keeping in contact but don’t let it suck you in and keep you online all day. Try to find a balance with your online time and get outside.