Islanders From Iowa: Two Years In Paradise

I got up this morning at 5:45 am (thanks, foster puppy). But as I was walking with her on our road, watching our little slice of the north side wake up to a new day, I remembered that today we’ve been islanders for two whole years. I think to commemorate this day we should take a quick look at this hilarious video of our first hours on island. We’ve come a long way 🙂

It was fun to look back on my posts from six months of island living, and then again at one year, to see what we had learned about ourselves, about our marriage, and about what it means to be surrounded by such a diverse group of people.  It’s safe to say that the things we learned in our first six months still ring very true at two years:

1. The small stuff doesn’t matter.

I think back on some of the things I got really anxious about and I have to laugh. It’s so hard not to get wrapped up in the “me, Me, ME” thought pattern. But when you actually take a step back and realize that everything works itself out – I mean EVERYTHING – life gets so much easier if you trust the process.

I know a lot of people (including some of my own former tendencies) that think that letting go of some of the control would be “flying by the seat of your pants” and feel too unplanned. But that element of chaos is there no matter what. Even if you planned every last detail, you can’t control how the day will go. So plan your best, give your best effort and let the coconuts fall where they may. You can fret about how something didn’t go the way you thought it would or you can move on. I promise that you’re the only one you’re hurting by worrying.

2. Sometimes laughter is the only thing that will keep you from crying.

‘Nuff said. Finding the humor in even the worst situations will keep you smiling and your soul alive. And if you end up crying anyway, no big deal. Life’s about balance. Without a low, there isn’t a high.

3. Be thankful for any little thing that makes your day great.

This gets more and more profound for me every day. I had a little crappy attitude time a couple of weeks ago, but I was still able to see bright spots throughout my days. Enjoying an iced coffee with a warm Caribbean breeze blowing through the palm trees is SO enjoyable, and I need to remember what that feels like. Seeing a friend realize a little more of her huge potential and surrender to taking a big risk is really cool and inspiring. The tiniest thing – yesterday it was finding a roll of fruity Mentos (yes, THAT tiny of  a thing) – can make your day great. It’s never too late to start the day over.

4. Even when you try your hardest, you still may not get it right. And that’s ok.

Our best efforts to be kind and courteous island folk have been met with mixed results. We are so used to greeting everyone with a “good morning”, “good afternoon” or “good night” that we do it stateside now as well and I find it charming. But even on our best days, it’s hard to sometimes not feel wanted here. That being said, we still get to do everything we want, we just have to remember that you can’t please everyone. We’ve met some really amazing people here and that is one thing I will miss.  The community here is very diverse and we’ve got the most eclectic group of friends. For that, I’m grateful.

5. Go outside. It’s amazing out there.

I’m still pinching myself at the beautiful scenery of my daily drive. I try to take a deep breath and try to burn the images into my memory so I can take them with me when we go. Having never lived anywhere but within two hours of where I grew up, it sometimes feels crazy to have picked up our lives and moved to a tiny island. But I’ve done more hiking, swimming, kayaking and other outdoor “adventures” here than I ever had in the midwest. I think that has more to do with an attitude shift than the locale (though the views don’t hurt!). I’d love to be more active outside when we return to Iowa. We’ve talked about being excited to travel more now that we’ve seen a tiny slice of the big planet we live on.

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6. You’re capable of doing much more than you realize.

If you had told me two years ago that I would be writing this post right now, I would have said you were crazy. This island has taught me that there is more in all of us that we just have to trust enough to tap into. For example…
Midwest Sara:

  • Hated getting dirty
  • Had to shower every day to have a good hair day
  • Had to have a plan  – and got flustered when things didn’t go accordingly
  • Wasn’t great at parking
  • Wasn’t great at going with the flow

Island Sara:

  • Can go all day with sandy feet and salty hair
  • Can get a text from a friend and be at a beach 20 minutes later
  • Still loves a plan, but knows that sometimes the best adventures require a little spontaneity
  • Can drive on the left like a pro. Can swerve around potholes the size of manhole covers (or bigger!). Can park a Jeep – with no review mirror – between trees on a sandy beach or between two other island cars like nobody’s business. Can back onto a giant car barge with zero direction from the crew like a badass.
  • Knows that the island has its own time and that everything is ALL GOOD.

7. Sometimes people just won’t understand. Ever.

Island family is a unique little group. We share a special bond that can only be experienced by people who have lived the island life. I’m SO thankful for the friends that have become family. It will be a little strange to talk about “that one time on Sandy Spit” and have none of our Midwest friends know what we’re talking bout. That’s ok. That’s what island reunion trips will be for 😉

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8. If it isn’t a little scary, you’re probably not getting much out of the experience.

Climbing the rocks above the Bubbly Pools on Jost van Dyke was a little intimidating, but the view was worth it. Doing a headstand on a boat in front of a beach full of people was scary, but I’m glad I did it. I’ve jumped off the Willy T more than once and have a blast every time. One of our island mantras is about not wanting to have any regrets. Having the opportunity to do something amazing and not taking it feels like a waste of our island time!

9. Remember where you came from, but be open to taking on some new traditions of a different place.

Seeing the world is one of the greatest teachers.  I’m so grateful to have been exposed to this part of the world and the culture. I will say that I’m excited to return to Iowa to begin the next chapter of our lives. But I am also sad to leave the Caribbean. Once an island girl, always an island girl!

Do something today that your future self will thank you for.

10. The small stuff doesn’t matter.

It really doesn’t. At the end of your life will you say “Man, I’m so glad I didn’t take that day off”? Or would you rather say “What an adventure!”?

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May 3, 2016. Two years into our Caribbean adventure.

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