Real talk: Island life is not for everyone

Hey remember that time I made a list of 7 reasons why people stay in Roatan? Well, because I’m a libra I believe in balance. Here’s an alternative Top 7. So before you go and book your one-way ticket to Roatan (or any island for that matter), listen up for a few minutes. Island life is not for everyone. Here’s a short list of reasons why you might not like living here:

1. Bugs – there are tons of them. They bite, they burrow, they infest, and they never go away. Mosquitoes are our constant companions, sand fleas will absolutely assault your legs, and all varieties of ants will at some point invade your home. You will itch and twitch your way through every day on an island. Also, we’re all fairly convinced our skin will one day just slide off from all the anti-bug, anti-itch, pro-deet crap we throw all over ourselves in fits of rage. Alas, bugs indicate warm weather and lush jungle so if that’s what you’re looking for then be prepared for the side effects!

2. Heat and humidity and all that entails. So you like your hair all straight and under control, huh? Yeah, that won’t happen here. You will sweat and pant and refuse to move once you locate a solid breeze. You will honestly weigh the options before walking outside: do I really need to eat today or can I wait another few days for the humidity to die down? Your hair will frizz out of control and/or be plastered to your neck and face in a sweaty matted mess. Your sweat will sweat. But here’s the flip-side: you’re not sweating because you have 5 layers of clothes on so you can shovel snow off your driveway. You’re sweating because the sun is shining and the air is thick. So hop in the ocean and cool off you big baby!

3. Power outages – they occur. Frequently. And sometimes when they do, they last for hours and hours. You’ll throw away food you just bought because it went bad when the fridge went out for 2 days straight. You’ll sweat (see #2) without a fan, or air conditioning, or anything resembling air movement. You’ll be right in the middle of some important work Facebook post and it will cut out, leaving your participle dangling and your many fans drooling in anticipation of what you were going to say. But you want to know what else happens when the power goes out? The candles get lit. The sound of the waves on the beach seem closer and more melodic. The noises in the jungle sing and hum through the still air. You suddenly become more aware of your own breathing. The power goes out but a lightbulb turns on. We don’t really need all those things buzzing all the time! It’s nice to have that realization, because even if it happens often, it’s not often enough that you actually remember it and as soon as the power comes back on everything runs full tilt again. The buzzing of electronics continues until the next strong breeze blows a power line down somewhere. Just give it another day or two.

4. Inaccessibility – to movie theaters, to malls, to just about anything you might consider vital for survival. We are somewhat isolated and also completely dependent upon deliveries and shipments from elsewhere. When a bad storm hits and stays, the ships don’t come in. You might not find much at the grocery store and the bank might run out of money. But on average, if you want something you can get it. You might just have to wait until the next friend or friend of a friend is flying in from home, but you’ll get it eventually. We learn the art of patience and making do with lesser alternatives. FYI, duct tape really does fix just about everything.

5. Rainy season – it rains. A lot. For months. It rains at night and it rains in the middle of the day and it pours buckets and washes out roads and it just keeps coming. But then it stops. It stops for hours so you have a perfect sunset. It stops for days so you have time to lay on the beach. It stops just in time for you to get out of the house and head to the bar to hang out with all your friends. And you know what? Unless you’re a wicked witch you’re not going to melt. Buy a pair of rain boots and a jacket and consider it an Earthly cleanse.

6. Poor infrastructure – the roads have potholes, there is no recycling system, and the trash is eaten and dragged around by stray dogs. No, an island is not perfect. Especially an island in a developing country where the high murder rate is of much greater concern than the proper disposal of the plastic bags we insist upon using for some reason. The infrastructure could use some work, clearly. But if you do your part to properly dispose of your own trash and to not drive like a maniac and to show concern for the state of your home, then others will, too. It’s a ripple effect. Show others how much you care about your environment and they’ll start throwing their trash away in the bin rather than tossing it out the window of their speeding car. Explain the importance of protecting the reef and others will know not to stand on it or remove things from it. You can do something individually that will create a larger impact. Yes, the infrastructure needs some TLC. But, no, small efforts to fix the situation are not futile.

7. Hard work to just spin your wheels – living on an island won’t make you rich. Period. Things cost more than they should because they’re all imported, and you won’t make much working whatever job you find in an area where tourism determines your pay. You will work holidays, nights, weekends, mornings, multiple jobs, and you still won’t get anywhere. So don’t move to an island in the hopes of making it big and retiring early. You will work 6 or 7 days a week and you will still not save anything. But as long as you enjoy the work you’re doing, you’re putting life into your years. You might not have a day off for weeks and you might not be capable of sleeping in past 7am anymore, but you’re living and working in paradise. Is it really that bad? Take a moment to look around you, jump into the ocean, sit in the sunshine on the beach, and breathe it all in. That’s nature. It’s a lot better for you than the fake office air you could have back home.

And, damn, doesn’t that sunshine feel good?

4 thoughts on “Real talk: Island life is not for everyone

  1. I love your stories, have a place in Sandy bay and only get there a couple weeks a year until we retire. You bring me a little closer to home and I love your humor. Keep it up, thank you

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  2. Hey girl, we are planning to move to Roatan next year. My husband’s work involves being online for live video conferences. How often does the power go out? I know we could get a generator in the worst case. Also, what options do we have for the internet? And are they fast enough to support an application like Skype video? I know when we were down last you had to be a resident to purchase a Sim card for our phone (in ceiba anyway), will the same be true for internet access?

    Thanks!!!! Love your blog

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    • Hey Kat! If he is really dependent upon the internet then I do recommend a generator. The power goes out often enough that he would have trouble managing, especially during rainy season. If he’s able to just use a smart phone instead then he’d be fine using 3G – that’s what I do when the power goes out (the key is to remember to charge it when bad weather is coming and you know the power will go out!). There are great internet options so you can certainly do video calls. We only pay for 1MB and it’s usually decent. 2MB would make it easier to have perfect video quality and the prices are really very fair. You don’t have to be a resident to get internet, cable, or phone services so no worries there! Our wi-fi/cable package costs $65/month and we have 3 movie channels. Not too shabby! Hope this info helps 🙂 thanks for reading!

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