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Most people dream of living on an island, sipping margaritas, soaking up the sunshine and gazing across the ocean, thinking ‘Yep, this is the life’. Not many people can say they’ve had the pleasure of having the Great Barrier Reef on their doorstep and the ocean at the bottom of their walkway, but I am one of those fortunate people that’s been lucky enough to experience just that. I have lived, worked, and experienced island life on three islands across the globe. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Hamilton Island, Australia, and Nusa Lembongan, Bali. Three very different experiences. From a small town, welsh girl to laid back ocean life, here are the ups and downs and lesson’s learned to live on an island.
The Peaceful Life
It’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Island time is a real thing and a much slower pace of life. It’s basically the laid back life of not having a set schedule that allows your inner free spirit to truly relax. However, for some, it is a lesson in patience. (especially in Indonesia). But, it’s something you have to accept, embrace, and go along within this kind of environment.
Strong Community Spirit
Islands are very close-knit communities. They have that everyone knows everyone’s vibe where everyone looks out for one and another. Integrating into the community is crucial when moving to a new location. It helps you connect with others, builds relationships, and gives you a sense of belonging. Although, the downside of this is that everyone knows your business. Choose your friends carefully and steer clear of any island gossip as it will be sure to come back and bight you.
Seasonal Island Jobs
Islands can be very seasonal which means many people also come and go especially due to the nature of their jobs. These range from hospitality jobs, beach activities, and water sports instructors, spa therapists to maintenance, and trade positions. But, one of the great things about working on an island is that there’ll be no long commutes to work. However, this also means that during high seasons there will be more tourists around.
Although islands are very dependent on tourism, as a local it can be very frustrating if tourists are not respectful to the island’s culture and heritage. Participating in beach cleanups and being eco friendly will make a big difference in helping protect and preserve the island which the locals will greatly appreciate. Visiting a place as a tourist and living in that place are completely different experiences.
The Perfect Weather
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows in paradise. It’s hot and sweaty ALL THE TIME! You can’t have an island without humidity. Although you will get used to it. Make sure you apply plenty of sunscreens and get that sun-kissed island glow instead of the lobster sunburn. Sun damage is real and too much exposure without protection can not only age you by a couple of years but also cause skin cancer. That being said, the rainy season does exist, sometimes even hurricane season. This is not light rain or drizzle, this is a complete downpour so make sure you have your rain jacket on you.
Get to learn the culture & religion
Islands have many different cultures and religions which is important to acknowledge and accept. Some have special rituals to mark the different stages of life. When living on Nusa Lembongan the main religion was Hindu. It was so interesting to gain a better understanding of their culture and beliefs. From their sweet offerings on the roadsides to their colorful sarongs, the island is known for its religious ceremony’s. Be sure to show respect when these take place as it is a big part of their life.
No commute time
One thing that I found refreshing when living on Hamilton Island and Nusa Lembongan was that the main mode of transport was either by golf buggy on Hamilton Island or by scooter on Nusa Lembongan. There were no long commutes and everything is close by even within walking distance.
There are always plenty of outdoor actives and adventures when it comes to living on an island. From breathtaking viewpoints to beach activities, you’ll never be short of any hobbies. But, if your an indoor person, the chances are that you going to get bored pretty quickly!
Living on an island has its benefits when it comes to fresh tasty seafood. Even though the island may be short on certain supplies, seafood will not be one of them. Some of the best seafood I’ve had has been on the three islands I’ve lived on.
You can take day trips to nearby islands
When working in Australia, day trips to the Great Barrier Reef and White heaven beach were amongst my favorite trips that I felt so lucky to have experienced. Our monthly shopping trips to Savannah and Charleston when working in America. And, whilst on Nusa Lembongan, it’s easy enough to take the ferry over to Bali or Nusa Penida. These trips made me appreciate how much I loved the islands I lived on but also the importance of getting off the islands from time to time. For me, island fever is also a real thing.
You can now make your desktop background a reality. You’re surrounded by palm trees and crystal blue water. One of the best things about living on an island is that there’s always a beach close by, usually with spectacular sea life. You can watch an amazing sunset most nights and appreciate nature in all its glory. However, you sometimes take little things like this for granted when living there. Be sure to set aside time for long beach walks, sunsets, and exploring the island’s gems that only locals know about.
Be ready for bugs
A necessary life skill that you’ll need to learn is how to get rid of bugs. You’ll soon be roomies with gecko’s, mosquitos, maybe even cockroaches. When living in a tropical climate, it’s inevitable for mosquitoes to be around, especially at night! Make sure you always have repellant at hand that is at least 50% Deet and wearing the appropriate clothing. If Deet irritates your skin, essential oils such as tea tree or herbal sprays also help prevent bites.
Most supplies need to be imported from mainland
You need to be prepared that things may be limited. A fully stocked grocery store is a rare sight so you either need to substitute or go without. It’s definitely worth stocking up on your necessities and branded items that you can’t go without when you’re on the mainland. The reality of it is that island amenities are usually more expensive.
Lack of proper healthcare/hospital
A medical emergency can be a big problem on an island especially if its a serious injury or illness as you would need to be transported to the mainland hospital. Travel Insurance is vital in situations like this and is not worth the risk if the worst were to happen. However, most islands are equipped to deal with minor injuries and have professional doctors at hand.
Internet is usually a bit patchy
Using the internet is a lesson in patience. It’s very rare that you’ll find constant hi-speed internet on an island. The internet is usually weather dependant. If there’s a storm outside, chances are your WI-FI and your electric for that matter will certainly be affected. Again, a lesson in patience!
Other things to know about island life
- Being barefoot is totally acceptable
- Hammock lounging is a way of life
- Happy hour is any hour when you live in paradise! You can start drinking at any hour of the day and not be judged!
- Don’t stress over your bikini body
- Maintaining healthy hair when living in the tropics is a struggle, especially with the saltwater and humidity! Conditioner and hair treatments are a girl’s best friend!
- Ditch the make-up! It will just melt down your face.
Going on holiday to an island is one thing, but living on an island is a completely different ball game. It takes a certain kind of person to live the island life. You need flexibility, patience and be able to adapt to new surroundings. Could I live on an island permanently? Seen as I’m practically a part-time mermaid and very accustomed to the hammock lifestyle, I don’t think I’d have any issues. The question is, could you?
Take the QUIZ and find out which tropical island you belong to!