Island Life: A Year in the Making

I got here on a 4th of July. Like many islanders I came here to search for a new light, try to brighten up on some points in my life, try to escape the mold; try to create life experiences; try to build a new chapter of my own.

This whole experience was never planned. It came up randomly as an opportunity. Call it luck or not, it came perfectly in a good time in my life, where my heart was looking for recovery and my soul was searching to hold on to something new.

I never really put any thought before into the Caribbean. I mean it is touristy, easy to travel to, very modern and built with big hotels and amenities. All the opposite of what I am looking for when I travel. But this time was not about backpacking. It was about leaving home, on my own, at an older age and moving into the unknown. I was there to work and step away from my reality to get a better understanding of it. I had no expectations.  Just a work permit, a one-way plane ticket and an open heart and soul.

With hesitation at first, I took courage by the horns and entered in a whole new adventure. The first couple of months were cruel. I missed friends and my puppies growing up. I missed the family that I built in the past 9 years. I missed the mountains, the lifestyle, the fresh air of my homey Canadian West Coast. I missed home. But there were reasons why I was here. I needed to put aside loneliness and the feeling of longing for home and start living this island experience. After 2 months residing in an old hotel room, I found a cozy condo on the beach. And when my co-worker Jo from Whistler came down on the same opportunity, I felt that a part of me found home. Now, it was time to start that island life!

14 months later I am sitting on my balcony drinking my latte overlooking the Caribbean Sea and I remember those days that went by. I remember day one when the taxi dropped me at destination and the humidity attacked my hair permanently; I remember when I first dipped my toes in the ocean and marked (literally) the Caribbean as my new territory. I remember my first kiss with a stingray, my first dive in the clear waters of the Antilles, the first time I went wakeboarding under the sunset light and trying so hard not to fall and be a prey to sharks. I remember jetskiing the angry sea and holding on to my dear life. I remember the crazy parties, theover consumption of Jager and the nights that once were to forget now became nights to remember. I remember the friends I met, the ones that left, the ones that stayed, the ones that inspired me in future projects.

I remember the pride I had to welcome my mother and my friends from home in my paradise. I remember leaving home with no shoes and going for lunch to restaurants on the beach. I remember walking home from work while the sun sets over the horizon. I remember going for a snorkel right in my front yard. I remember meeting up with my mother in Cuba for a weekend. I remember grabbing my mask and fins and going diving in the morning and clocking in at work with a massive mask mark on my forehead. I remember cheering my roommate on the beach between 2 bottles of Riesling after deciding to purchase a Jeep (with 2 months left to our journey). I remember the with great DJ’s, the boat parties, the famous Sunday Fundays. Like a captain stirring his vessel, I drove my island life through memorable experiences, a bottle at hand (eh, no judgements, I live on an island)!

It surely has been a legendary rollercoaster and a hell of good time! No regrets, only great memories that will last.

Cayman Islands, I raise my glass to you today: cheers to you and thanks for the good ride! Ya Man!

When Does It Start to Feel Like Home?

So when does it start to feel like home? Is it by the number of pairs of shoes that you collect in your condo’s entrance? Or with the number of swimwear that accumulates on your towel rack? Or is it by the repetitive salutations of acquaintances that you encounter at the grocery store, local pub or just strolling down the beach at night? Maybe you realize that your skin surprisingly started to toughen up to the daily absorption of tropical UV rays and the bombing of mosquito bites, fire coral burns and jelly fish stings? How much and how long does it take to really consider yourself… at home? 

I recently found a different taste to the island: the adaptation to the constant hot, humid and sunny weather, the homey comfort of my apartment, the growing circle of friends and acquaintances (at the end, you pretty much met the whole island), and the feeling of being ok with living far away… But do I feel like home?

I still miss my friends, my dogs, the mountains and my life back home. It will almost be a year that I landed foot on this rock. It was interesting to see the emotional progress. I came from being scared and lonely, to feeling comfortable and at ease. And as this Caribbean chapter is about to end, I am not sure if I am quite ready to let go of it yet.

The first 5 months of being away, I still starved to go back home. And then a friend told me: ‘’you JUST got here. This is a new habitat for you. It takes time to mark territory, build amenity and create contentment and assurance. Don’t run back to comfort zone and security. Experience and learn about those feelings you have and grow out of it. Be strong, be confident. This island has a lot to offer, be kind and heart open and go forward. Give yourself the time to be completely submerged with the venture that you gave yourself and get out of it enlightened and accomplished. Don’t give up, just not yet’’. He was right. I came back home on vacation for the Holidays and it was hard to come back to the island. But weeks went by and I committed to my ‘’Cayman To Do List’’. I kept myself busy not only with work and social gathering (which literally were 2 full time jobs during my first months) but I started to fill my time off with stimulating activities. I really got into scuba diving and I try to go on the water at least twice a week. I attempt to go to places I haven’t been, try a new restaurant for lunch or drive around the island in search of a Sunday getaway brunch. I want to take advantage of the Cayman Airways’ low airline fares to explore the islands nearby, like I did when I met up with Mom in Cuba for the weekend. I want to do it all and give this island experience a big and sincere ‘’check’’. I am even considering purchasing a car, just for the liberty and the freedom for my last months on the rock. But hold on a minute, wouldn’t this be getting closer to settling down?

So yeah… After those months of serenading loneliness and homesickness, here I am in Grand Cayman, living the Island Life at its fullest. With doubts at first, but no regrets at last, I stuck to the guns and battled through this separation anxiety that followed me all along. I realized that we all moved away from something, and we all felt lonely at first. But I had to remember that we are all lonely together. So there I go on this piece of rock in the middle of the Caribbean, telling myself: this is starting to feel like home…

The Return to the Rock

Coming back to the Cayman Islands wasn’t easy. I missed home as soon as I left the Whistler grounds. It was snowing pure white snow. The village was awaking to another epic day on the mountains. I said farewells to my dear friends and off on a plane. I left with pain and fear of longing for home again. But I had to do this, in order to complete the experience I gave myself in the first place.

Sunday Fundays

A beach break at Royal Palms

A couple of months went by and I am back into the island life. I luckily get Sundays off, which is just awesome. ‘’Sunday Funday’’ is a common drinking event that rewards every person that is lucky enough to have the day off. Although Sundays in Grand Cayman are at the origin dedicated to a visit to the church by the locals, it is celebrated in a very festive way both by expats and Caymanians. Perhaps start the day with a ceasar at Billy Bones Pool Bar, followed by a glass of Moet at the poolside of Royal Palms. The afternoonis commonly spent on the blue waters aboard luxurious yachts and fancy leisure 

motorboats. Perhaps a stop at the Sandbar for a swim with the wild but friendly sting rays, or perhaps a race aboard the jetskiis. Drinking is involved and the use of clothing is optional (don’t worry Mom, I still have my dignity). All embarked partyers meet at Rum Point, on the North Side of the island, where boats are corded together, where music is Kaibo Beach Bar for some deep fried seafood and goodies, which helps to soak up the heavy consumption of alcohol circulating in our bodies. A ride back to shores under the shimmering stars and it is already bedtime for our inebriated ones. Maybe a stop at Aquabeach for a last one 😉

Winter Months in the Tropics

The weather has been pleasant, the breeze refreshing and the water… revitalizing! Mostly warm and sunny, we still get some stormy days bringing crashing waves to our front yard.  I even considered wearing a long pair of jeans one night after feeling a rush of goosebumps!

Not to forget to mention the wear of my toque, perhaps for some kind of comfort, a feeling from home. The tourist season has finally started and the restaurants have been pretty busy which fills our pockets with decent money.  Cruise shippers abound the port of Georgetown, hunting for jewelry and island souvenirs. I got a yoga pass at the studio next door and I really enjoy my teacher and her Jivamaktu class. I also managed to commit to a regular visit to the gym (who knew I would actually enjoy it). Plus, I try to go for a swim, a true long time gone habit. I also started my Advanced Open Water Course, finally. A bit of studying and workout will hopefully keep me out of trouble for a little while (with the exception of Sundays, obviously).

The Return to the Rock  

The return on the rock wasn’t actually so bad. It took a little while to transition my mind from cold white snow and pure mountain air to warm sun, blue waters and tropical atmosphere but I realized that I do really like this place. You pick and choose what you need and make the most out of it. Having Sundays off brought up to me a variety of new opportunities and I meet positive minded and ambitious people that brighten this tropical journey. I am working on focusing my energies on my mind and my body by learning new things and staying active.

No matter where your life brings you in this journey, remember to let loose, get scared, and live on the edge. It is okay to have fun, just find the right balance. Don’t live a boring life otherwise you’ll regret it when you die.

Live young. Live wild. Live free.