Sometimes when I’m walking around Cruz Bay, I’ll pass a local West Indian who says, “G’afternoon. Everytin’ good?” or some variation of that greeting, in a thick island accent. This official greeting before any interaction/transaction is an important aspect of the island culture. I really like that friendly aspect of life here and how it forces you to smile and acknowledge your neighbor. Smiles and a stress-free atmosphere are things people expect when they come to the Caribbean. I’ve been thinking about this “island life” vibe lately and the fact that people are so happy here.
I, myself, am very happy here! It’s sunny and 80 every day which makes it pretty easy to wake up in the morning and
sip coffee take on the world, at least compared to winter mornings in the Midwest. It’s not pitch black and below zero when my alarm goes off and I don’t have to warm up a vehicle or shovel snow out of my way. I definitely give a little credit to the effect weather has on my mood, but the changes I made in my life in the past year have had an immeasurable impact (much more than that of some sunshine).
I struggled with anxiety in college, especially my junior and senior years when everyone and everything is forcing you to think about THE FUTURE. I tried to take up meditation and saw a therapist for a while to help with my stress. Looking back, I still think I made the best decision that I could when finding a job before graduation – not exactly a stepping stone to bar tending in the USVI! Patrons are often surprised to discover that it sometimes does require a bachelors degree to graduate to the level of bar tender in the islands. Then they usually ask what my parents think (hi mom and dad!).
When I talk to friends and family on the phone, they usually comment on how much happier I sound today than a year ago. It may be hard to wrap your head around changing your life as dramatically as I have, and I am not saying you should just quit your day job, go buy a tent and throw yourself into the Arkansas River, but find some other way to live a life you love. I am sooooo much happier and honestly, probably earn about the same bar tending down here as I was in the ol’ cubicle (thanks imbibing tourists!).
I suspect that my life is much less stable than that of many of my 2014 graduating peers and I definitely miss the benefits of health insurance and a 401k, but the grass is always greener, isn’t it? Most people are scared to leave their routine and the beaten path or don’t want to/can’t sacrifice those benefits and that salary. Both of which are totally understandable. But let me share some advice from Jojo Moyes, author of Me Before You,
“Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle.”
These are very inspiring words that fall at the perfect spot in aforementioned novel to bring you to tears and fiercely motivate you at the same time. This was the first time I’ve read such inspirational words and been so moved… To do nothing. I 100% believe in Moyes’ words, yet don’t feel the need to change anything about my lifestyle right now because I do feel bold and outside of my comfort zone and very far from settled. It feels SO good to feel right where I’m supposed to be. I feel spontaneously content. 🙂 I am a tourist, local, islander, raft guide, in love, healthy, relaxed, active, college graduate, bartender, and, most importantly, freakin’ happy!
It’s possible that all of the Caribbean sun went to my head, but I can’t believe how much my life has changed since last February when I applied to be a raft guide at American Adventure Expeditions in Colorado (on my work computer #sorrynotsorry). All it took was the courage to send that application, which has somehow landed me in the Caribbean for the winter, living the dream.