There are a lot of things you can fall in love with on an island.
Island dogs? Goes without saying.
Caribbean food? Heap that plate up, bikinis be damned!
Tropical cocktails? It’s a scientific fact that Mai Tais, daiquiries & piña coladas just taste better when you’re surrounded by turquoise waves.
Other people? Yep. All the time. Something about the warm breezes and starry nights brings out the amorous in all of us.
Other people’s people? Yeah, that happens sometimes. A bit messier and best avoided whenever possible. (Sometimes it is not. Avoidable, that is. It is ALWAYS messy.)
But you enter a whole different league when you fall in love with an island itself.
I’m not talking about the typical tourist exclamations of “I could live here!” or “This place is paradise. I never want to leave!” hastily proclaimed and then forgotten once they get back on the plane. No, I’m talking about the head-over-heels feelings that reverberate through your entire being when you find a place that really speaks to your spirit.
Most of the time when those feelings hit you are not expecting them. They come out of nowhere and leave you reeling.
In many cases, you are also pretty damn confused. After all, 10 minutes earlier, you were grabbing your bag from the overhead bin and jostling to be first off the plane. Maybe visions of lazy hours in a hammock under a palm tree were dancing in your head. But you certainly weren’t expecting a life-changing experience to occur with that first step into the warm, tropical air.
But it happens. (In fact, it is exactly like developing a crush on somebody. It usually makes no sense, is a bit thrilling and, depending on whether one or both of you are coupled to someone else, can wreak havoc all around.)
When you fall in love with an island, your whole world can change. And that is both exciting and terrifying. I should know. I’ve “been there, done that” as they say.
But how do you know when an island has claimed your soul? It is surprisingly easy to recognize the symptoms.
You might be in love with an island if you:
- Think of nothing else.
- Talk about nothing else.
- Lose interest in mainland people, places and things you once enjoyed.
- Try to make as many island friends as possible (either in person or via mildly creepy friend requests you send to relative strangers from afar).
- Start researching island immigration rules.
- Actually go to the island immigration office (just to see, of course).
- Obtain the necessary paperwork from the island immigration office (just so you can leisurely review it later).
- Start filling out the necessary paperwork you obtained from the island immigration office (well, it doesn’t hurt just to see what the process involves, right?).
- Start collecting the required documents to submit with your completed paperwork to the island immigration office (like a Girl Scout, you’re always prepared for any possibility).
- Submit your completed application, in triplicate with apostilled documents, to the island immigration office (yes, this required an additional visit to the island, but who’s complaining?).
- Return to the mainland and quit your boring job.
- Break up with your significant other (optional, of course, maybe you still like him/her enough to want to share the adventure).
- Sell all your belongings, keeping only bikinis, board shorts and flip flops.
- Pack a small bag filled with those bikinis, board shorts & flip flops, plus the things you deem “essential” for your new island life (the definition of “essential” will evolve over time as you live on a rock, and one day you will laugh at what you once thought indispensible).
- Buy a one-way plane ticket back to the island you just returned from.
- Get on the plane, order a cocktail and toast your new life in paradise.
Now, I’m not suggesting that any or all of the above will be easy. Truth be told, every step involved in nurturing your budding island relationship will be filled with highs and lows that defy imagination. It isn’t for the faint of heart. Or those who crave certainty or security.
But following your heart rarely takes you to places you’ve already been. Those familiar places that offer comfort and continuity. Whether you’re moving to an island or just another city or state, change is hard!
But when you follow your heart and embrace the good, the bad and the scary head-on, the rewards are immeasurable. And you’ll never go to your grave asking “what if?”
And that, my friends, is worth every tear and feeling of self-doubt along the way.
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I’m a writer living on the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire. Originally from the U.S., I followed my heart to the tropics in 2011 at the wizened age of 43. Since then, I’ve been blogging to inspire and entertain. I love kitesurfing, a good gin & tonic, and corgis.
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