Living on an island in the Caribbean, surrounded by jungle-covered hills and picture-perfect beaches sounds like a dream. Wake up, enjoy a cup of coffee and fresh fruit picked from the trees around your house, walk along the beach and maybe go for a swim to cool off from the sun's warmth. This is paradise. This is a dream come true.
But this might not really be the dream life for everyone. Here are 9 reasons why you shouldn't pick up and move to a Caribbean island.
1. The heat can be unbearable.
Of course, you realize that the temperatures in the Caribbean stay high year-round. But have you accounted for the humidity? The mold never ends. Your hair will be a constant disaster. Your sweat will sweat. There truly is no way to adequately prepare your body for the onslaught of late summer heat in the Caribbean.
2. The bugs. Oh, the bugs!
The bugs in the Caribbean are literally everywhere. You can kill millions of mosquitos, and you know what? There are still millions more. There are sand fleas and cockroaches, spiders and ants. Mind your step outside so you don't end up crossing paths with leaf-cutter ants. They'll cover your foot so quickly you won't even notice. And damn do those bites hurt!
3. The infrastructure may be lacking.
Potholes as big as canyons, constant power outages, slow internet when the power is actually on...the list goes on. Let's not even discuss the red tape you'll encounter for legal, judicial and financial matters! There's a reason everything runs on "island time" in the Caribbean: You need an excuse for what seems like purely insane waiting and running around for such simple tasks as cashing a check.
4. Island life is like small-town living. Everyone knows everyone and everything.
If you haven't lived in a small town before, beware. Islands are small communities and in small communities there are no secrets. The only reliably efficient system on an island is the rumor mill, constantly feeding through fabricated lies and gossip.
5. Acquiring things can be difficult on an island.
Sometimes boats get delayed so the grocery store looks post-apocalyptic. Sometimes you pay an exorbitant fee to ship large items from the States, yet they still don't arrive for months on end.
This letter was sent in February 2013, arrived at my local post office on the island on March 6, 2013, and was "lost" until October 22...of the next YEAR.
6. There are stray dogs and cats everywhere.
The islands have a serious problem with stray animals -- there is no denying that. They will be in the road, they will beg for food at the restaurants and they will relieve themselves wherever the mood strikes. Sometimes they're aggressive, other times they're skittish, but you can't really tell until you're up close and personal.
7. Tourists. Tourists everywhere!
They come in droves, they take over your beautiful beaches and your favorite bars. They ask inane questions and you will become convinced that they actually check their intelligence at the door when they leave home. You cannot escape them.
8. Storms happen, and they can be gravely serious.
Hurricane season is no joke in the Caribbean, with many home-owners and business-owners holding their breath for months each summer. If you move to an island prone to being hit by hurricanes and tropical storms, don't try to pretend you're smarter than the local construction workers who are building your home to withstand those storms.
9. Island life can be isolating.
You Americans and Canadians are used to space. Sprawling space. You can drive for hours and days and still never run out of road. Islands are small and your options become much more limited. You might feel trapped and separated from the rest of the world. You certainly won't know what's happening in the news because nobody watches it. You won't have the latest gadgets everyone back home is talking about. You won't see the newest films in theaters, nor catch the new TV series as it actually airs. You will be behind in everything. And you will look out into the never-ending sea and realize how small you truly are.
If you've read all these reasons and think that island life sounds horrible, you most certainly should not move to the Caribbean. Take a vacation and then go back.
If, however, you've read these reasons and found a positive aspect to each and every one of them, then you do truly belong here. After all...
- Humidity is great for your skin and it sure beats sweating while shoveling snow!
- Geckos eat bugs, and they also make for adorable little companions running around your front porch and windows.
- "Island time" forces you to reflect and relax, an idea that could benefit many North Americans these days.
- Small town life means you stop and chat with everyone on the street, everyone is looking out for each other, and sometimes, you do just want to go where everybody knows your name.
- Making things difficult to acquire means you question how much you really need them. And usually the answer is that you simply don't.
- You can take in a stray animal and honor Bob Barker's request to spay and neuter your pets. This helps to end the cycle of more strays on the streets while also making your life richer. I can attest to that with my own former street dog, Lina.
- Tourists bring income into the local economy. And besides, they provide constant entertainment!
- Stormy island weather is incredible to watch, as long as you're safe.
- Isolation can be liberating. You have time and space to reconnect with yourself and loved ones.
If you -- like me -- can see the positives hidden in challenges and difficulties, then you will absolutely love life in the Caribbean. If you can laugh at yourself and embrace change, you will find paradise. Just be honest with yourself before taking the leap!
Amanda Walkins is a freelance writer currently based in Roatan, Honduras. She blogs about her accidental expat life at www.awalkontherun.com.