“I wouldn’t want to stay and work here, island life is nice for a little while but not long-term. It’s just like a small town feel. Lame.”
That’s part of the email I wrote to my brother just after arriving in Roatan, Honduras. Lame, huh? But that’s what you get when you take a girl who’s used to living in a city and drop her onto a small island in a town with only one road. Alas, here I am 19 months after writing that email thinking, “Island life is incredible. It’s such a small town feel. Amazing!”
I moved to the little island of Roatan accidentally, thinking it would only be a stop on my travels around Honduras and Guatemala. A five-day vacation turned into an entirely different plan after I met my Irish-Colombian on the beach my first day here. When the five days were up and it was supposed to be time to move on, I opted to stay.
My criticisms of the island transformed into smile-inducing observations of intricately painted sunsets, the natural melodies of a jungle-meets-beach setting, and the incredibly quick connections people make here without hesitation or trepidation. What seemed such an overly simplistic way of life ended up surprising me by drawing me in. Its simplicity became endearing, enticing, and even entertaining.
My former city life had taught me to put blinders on, keep my eyes down and my headphones in. I learned to walk quickly and efficiently. I filled my calendar with talks, performances, happy hours, baseball games, work, exercise, girls’ nights, game nights, wine nights, and more. Every minute had a plan – even if that plan was to rest. It was accounted for to ensure not a single moment was wasted. Because that’s the whole point, right?
Don’t waste a single minute of your time because you’ll never get it back. Don’t wait to be happy – go out and seek it yourself.
And that’s what I was doing: seeking happiness. All those social events and educational experiences did make me happy. I loved taking advantage of living in the city with so many amazing opportunities presenting themselves to me daily. It was exciting and invigorating. But what I never realized is that I kept running so much I never paused to breathe or to absorb all that I was experiencing.
Moving to Roatan has taught me to be. It has taught me to embrace a moment and enjoy every sense it stimulates without occupying my mind with future thoughts and plans. It has taught me to walk with my head up to say hello to the next friend coming down the street toward me. It has taught me to leave time for whatever might need it – whether it’s an unexpected night out with friends or simply the fact that things run on island time and therefore need space to expand in the schedule.
Island life has enhanced my senses beyond the basic look, hear, touch, taste, and smell. Living on a small island has instead taught me to actually see the silent breeze blow through the palm trees, to listen to the jungle awaken each morning with the first rays of sunlight, to feel the tiniest bits of coral wash up on the beach over my bare feet, to savor an icy cold beer while the sun dips into the sea and the day begins to cool, and to inhale until my lungs are bursting with salt air and mangoes.
No, I don’t regret my city life for a second. It was wonderful and enlightening. But island life has granted me the time and space to be. That is an incredible gift. It took me moving to an island to find that capability, but it can be done anywhere. You just need to embrace simplicity, encourage the senses, and be.