Ah, summer. That most wonderful of seasons. The time when people enthusiastically embrace the onset of warmer, sunnier, cheerier months. They head outdoors and partake in nature. They go to concerts on the green. They enjoy leisurely al fresco lunches. They camp. They roast s’mores over fire pits. They carry a light sweater to ward off the inevitable evening chill. It is a dreamy, quaint, magical time.
Unless you live in the Caribbean. (Cue foreboding music here…)
You see, what travel companies don’t mention on their slick websites and what the bartenders serving you daiquiris in January at your favorite island beach bar fail to tell you, is that paradise is anything but once August rolls around. In fact, nary an island girl would ever use the words dreamy or magical to describe late summer in the tropics. Not. Even. Kidding.
So if you are pondering a more permanent escape to your rock of choice – but you haven’t actually experienced said rock between August through October – then the following information is for you, dear reader. Consider this an “I’ve Got Your Back” heads up, designed to help you avoid what seasoned (and sweaty) Island Gals like to call “summer sticker shock.”
BUZZ, BUZZ – While bugs exist year-round on all Caribbean rocks, the summer months bring a special sort of flying insect horror. You know those amazing trade winds you enjoy during a Caribbean winter? Yeah, turns out they do more than keep you feeling refreshed. They also happen to keep the annoying flying insects from alighting on you too, too much. Especially the tiny little gnats that thrive here. The mozzies and tiny no-see-ums are still there, of course. But in the interest of self-preservation, they are hunkered down to avoid being blown out to sea. Good for us, undoubtedly frustrating for them.
But as soon as the trade winds take their vacation (August, September, October), the swarms get their buzz on – on you. In your eyes. Up your nose. Around your ears. It is, to be perfectly blunt, fucking disgusting. (Note: I don’t swear much in my blogs, but this particular affliction merits the saltiest word I know.) It also makes spending any time outdoors a challenge bordering on the impossible. And even being indoors offers little respite. Have you ever tried to prepare dinner while simultaneously swatting invisible tiny flying teeth from your eyes, face and body? No? Consider yourself lucky.
And, of course, this is the time of year when you begin playing Russian Roulette with the mosquitos who are infected with dengue, chikungunya or zika. You suddenly find yourself an expert on mosquito remediation. I have all manner of mosquito-repellent technologies at my disposal – a thing called a Vaposect in my office that shoots out toxic spray at timed intervals (can’t be good for me), a giant electronic mosquito trap on our terrace that lures unsuspecting mozzies in with some irresistible-to-them pherome (sort of a mosquito Hotel California…they can check out anytime they like, but can never leave), and of course tried and true cans of bug spray (non-aerosol, of course!) strategically located around the house and terrace (the higher the DEET content, the better). If I were in my 20s or 30s, I would be worried that all these toxic chemicals would kill me. But at this point, I figure I’ll take my chances.
IS IT HOT IN HERE? OR IS IT JUST ME? – Those aforementioned trade winds? They also do wonders to make paradise feel like actual paradise. Without them, we are all reduced to soggy, heaping piles of grumpiness. With boob sweat and frizzy hair. If you don’t fancy toting an absorbent cloth with you everywhere you go (and using it religiously to dab moisture from places on your body you never even knew could exude water), then island summers may not be for you. Trust me when I say this…summer does not make for attractive island girls. This is a sad but true fact, people.
Of course, if you are lucky enough to surround yourself with air conditioning 24/7, then you might be saved. (If you do have that privilege, you are probably working in an office, in which case, it will feel exactly like your old life on the mainland, so what’s the point of moving, really?)
And if, to date, you’ve only experienced island life as a vacationer, be forewarned! Vacationing here for a week or two and cranking up your hotel room’s airco to high – even when you’re not in your room (guaranteed to get you some serious side eye from the housekeeping staff) – is vastly, vastly different than living here full-time and reckoning with a monthly utility bill. There’s a reason island residents (other than the uber-wealthy ones, who don’t actually live here in the summer anyway), don’t have centralized air conditioning in their homes. Or airco anywhere other than their bedroom, if they’re lucky enough to have even that.
The truth is island electricity is astronomically expensive. In fact, some of my rock sisters pay more each month for power than they would for a luxury car payment! Crazy, right? The reality is the majority of mere financial mortals among us suffer through the long, sweltering days without benefit of cool, dry, manufactured air. Or, if we do have access to it and have to pay for it ourselves (moi), we plan to eat ramen noodles and boxed mac and cheese so we can pay the utility bill for all that low humidity comfort.
HASTA LUEGO, SUCKERS! – This varies from rock to rock, but generally local business owners take advantage of the low season to finally get in a little R&R of their own. (Because they sure as heck ain’t going anywhere during high season.) So, they hang up the “on vacation” signs and check-out until November rolls around. Which means if you are an island girl who is left behind, your options for dining, shopping and entertainment just got even more limited than before. If that is even possible. No bueno.
Of course, you may choose to escape during this time, too. An excellent idea, by the way. But most full-time islanders have jobs and homes and pets which keep them tethered to their rocks year-round. So you have to learn to settle for a few weeks of vacay, strategically taken during the hottest summer months. But during those joyful weeks away, you will still have that gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach, knowing you will eventually return to boob sweat and bugs. Welcome home.
Now I realize I am not painting a very pretty picture of island life during August, September and October. But finding the positive side of island summers can be really hard. (There are some, of course…fewer tourists and warmer ocean water come to mind.) And since I am writing this on a hot, sticky morning in August after being chased from my terrace by a buzzing horde of biting marauders while I tried to enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee, I am a wee bit cranky. (Yes, Island Girls get cranky, too.)
But then again, we have a beach party planned for later today, so for a few hours at least, we can all forget about the misery of enduring another island summer (until the mozzies come out of hiding just before sunset…at which point we will all run to our cars for safety. Really, really fast.).
And, of course, summer will be over at some point, thankfully. (Growing up in the midwest, I never thought I’d be uttering that phrase. The irony.) And then we will all forget about these temporary afflictions. We will resume filling our Instagram feeds and Facebook pages with humble-brag photos of gratuitous island sunsets and us sipping umbrella drinks, playing in the sea or riding on boats while the rest of the world digs out from the latest snowstorm. Again.
So I guess island life, while not perfect, is pretty idyllic nine months out of the year. You should just know what you’re in for the other three, so you can plan accordingly. And don’t forget your sweat rag.
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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