I’m currently sitting on rented furniture in an apartment in West Des Moines, Iowa, staring at my laptop that is propped up with a US Postal Service Flat Rate shipping box. This is the post I’ve dreaded writing – nay, AVOIDED writing – so that our island adventure wouldn’t officially be over. It’s 62 degrees. It’s really sad to know that we don’t live on an island anymore. And it’s even harder to know that winter is coming here and we will have to dig out some warmer clothes from storage. But, such is the nature of life.
We are in such a state of flux right now that it’s hard to imagine why we moved back to Iowa from paradise. And so everyone asks us when we tell them we’ve been living in the Caribbean, “WHY would you move back to IOWA?!” Believe me, there is moment every time someone asks this that I honestly can’t answer them. But then I realize that most people I meet have no idea how island living works. And therein comes the great puzzle – why is it that we always want what we don’t have?
We always knew that our Caribbean adventure would be temporary. We crammed as much as we could into two years of island life and it was – rather simply – nothing short of amazing. Why don’t we cram amazing experiences into our lives, wherever we are? Why do we traipse through our day like it’s not a miracle? Why do we complain when we have a job to go to, a home to come home to, and about the burden of having enough money to buy groceries to feed our families?
Dan is currently working as a traveling therapist while he interviews and waits for an offer in Des Moines. The situation is not ideal, as he lives in another part of the state during the week, but we DO try to cram in some amazing during our weekends together. We have started house hunting, but it’s exhausting and think it’s going to take some time to find where we want to end up. It’s easy for us to slip into a “why me?” way of thinking, as the whole point of moving back stateside was for us to buy a house and start a family. It’s as if everything has been thrown into the air and someone hit the ‘pause’ button, so that all the life things we are juggling are suspended in midair. And yet we move through each day with a roof over our heads, food on our table, and friends and family that love us. Why doesn’t this feel like enough?
We were better at being ok with what we had on St. Thomas. We only ran our air conditioning at night because we knew it was too expensive to run all the time. I learned to kill cockroaches and other creepy crawlies because I was in THEIR habitat most of the time. Yes, we were always sweaty, but so was everyone else, so it was never a vanity issue. I think back about how much simpler life felt there. We learned to live with less and enjoyed every experience just as much. Don’t get me wrong, there were days when I longed for a Starbucks while roaming the aisles in a blissfully cool Target store, but like everything, those feelings passed. Now when I’m in Target, I think about all the things I didn’t have access to on St. Thomas and end up buying less stuff I don’t need. That, at least, is a good tradeoff.
I miss the ocean. I miss being able to get on a boat and island hop. I miss spending afternoons with friends in the sun, laughing and drinking too many cocktails. I miss the charming way everyone greets EVERYONE (“good morning,” “good afternoon,” “good night,”). I miss being around others who know what kind of crazy it is to live on an island. I don’t miss the bugs. I don’t miss the power outages. I don’t miss being 2500 miles away from other friends and family. I don’t miss spending $150 on groceries that would have cost half that stateside. In other words, it’s all about balance.
On our first trip to Peterborg Point, I posted this photo with the caption “bloom where you’re planted.” It’s never been more true than it is today. Our work now is to move through the next temporary phase remembering that is all it is: temporary. We humans tend to cling to things that feel solid, safe, and permanent. We hold so tightly to what we feel is going to last, when there is no such thing. We’re lucky to wake up each day and have the opportunity to experience something, anything. Don’t throw that away. I urge you to breathe deeply a new day, and to take in as much as you can. You aren’t guaranteed tomorrow.
So, from a not-entirely-comfortable state of flux in Iowa, I’m saying farewell to Islanders From Iowa. I may pop in every now and then and post about visits to the Caribbean (hopefully February 2017!) and still plan to update our Island Life Approved section for anyone that may be reading this and planning a visit.
Thank you to anyone who has gone on this journey with us. Thank you to the beautiful people of the Virgin Islands for allowing us to experience your secret paradise, even for two short years. Thank you stateside friends for listening to us yammer on about island living. Thank you, island friends for being who you are. We can’t wait to see you again.
This time is temporary. This moment will pass. Enjoy it NOW. Create memories that no one can take away from you, rather than gathering “stuff” that can be lost.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.
If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
– Oprah Winfrey
If there is something you want to do, DO IT NOW. Let go. Jump in. Soak it up.
Once an islander, always an islander! Until next time… stay sunny.