Sometimes I feel like my lifestyle has a mind of its own taking me to places I never could have imagined. Before the Caribbean, and before coming to the U.K, I considered myself well traveled, well enough to say the least. I’ve been to 3 of Canada’s provinces, 4 US states, 2 Mexican States, 2 Islands in the Caribbean, and parts of Europe from the Netherlands, Austria, Slovakia, Greece, Spain and Italy, Not bad for someone under the age of 30.
Perhaps I haven’t been in the most exotic parts of the world but after what I’ve been through I’m sure life might throw me a few more travel-related surprises. While most of my trips were vacations, I ended up making the island of Sint Marteen my home for an entire year, as my Fiancé’s Medical School Journey led us there. This, was my first time away from home for longer than the 1 month I had spent while touring Europe when I was 21. Some family members considered me brave for going somewhere without any clue about what to expect. Others thought I as going on a permanent vacation trading in Vancouver’s rain for the Caribbean’s sunshine, and beaches. It isn’t an easy choice to pick up and move far from your family, but at the time the choices we both made were necessary. And, although I knew no one on the island, I made friends along the way making that unfamiliar feeling disappear to be replaced by one of familiarity.
There are days when you feel like this was your life all along, it’s easy to be drawn into the familiar European charms that Sint Marteen offered whether it was a cheap bottle of wine, to it’s gourmet French pastries and that unforgettable and sometimes intoxicating atmosphere (if you knew the right places to be on the island). When we had first went down to Sint Marteen I packed my luggage with more necessity items rather than stylish clothing, I packed mosquito nets, soaps, sponges, and even a vacuum cleaner made the trip with us. I remember planning ahead for an apartment that would probably be needing a good cleaning before it could become truly habitable, and well my instincts proved me correct. I’ll never forget that 16-hour journey, plus spending my immediate arrival with cleaning. That’s the one thing I missed when traveling as opposed to abroad living, the hotels maid service! Now, I’m sometimes a little bit of a chicken and moving to the Caribbean was out of my comfort zone, but as I got settled into my surroundings, and making friendships along the way, to walking Bear (and making pup play dates), I got over that fear of leaving our apartment, and would spend the majority of my days outside, downing a lot of coffees and beignets along the way.
I also remember being vaguely concerned about the Zika outbreak or contracting Chikungunya or the various strains of Dengue fever and my morning routines would always include spraying my entire body with what felt like a gallon of off bug spray. That’s one of the drawbacks of living somewhere humid! The mosquito’s, and how if you were unlucky enough to be out during sunset when a swarm of Mosquito’s pop up. (My friend from Holland once suffered hundreds of bites from a mosquito swarm). I even made friends with a fellow Medical School Spouse who took me on car rides with her, one of the very first car rides with her ended up with her car breaking down on the mountain overlooking the water, and having to be helped by the locals, one who even jumped into the car to have it coast down the hill and get us to a mechanic shop. I mean, I’m actually a truly cautious person so this is something I wouldn’t advise, I’m glad it was just a case of island friendliness and nothing sinister. I have so many stories and memories from living abroad, in fact I’m still in that living abroad state… but that time is quickly coming to a close, so I will enjoy it for all the time I have left before returning to our home.
Life abroad can be tough in the first few weeks until you start to sink into a new routine that becomes your new daily life, and for any of you who are wanting to take the plunge, to venture off far from home, to explore and live life before you settle down, always follow/ trust your instincts, research your area well, and prepare for unexpected moments.
M & Bear