There is a chicken in my shower. It’s 8:30 a.m., I’ve just sat down on the rest room to pee. I casually glance around and there it’s , drinking a number of the residual water puddled on my shower floor. this is often not the primary creature to form an appearance in my bathroom. Since I moved to the Caribbean, I’ve had spirited encounters with tarantulas, scorpions, and untold lizards. But the chicken got me thinking.
“How did you get here?” I ask the bird. It blinks unhelpfully back at me.Perhaps a far better question is, how did i buy here? How did I come to measure on a small , rustic island of 4,100 people sharing a toilet with poultry?
It all began four years ago. some time past i used to be living in Manhattan, a 31-year-old journalist making $95,000 a year. I lived during a lovely(wildlife-free) apartment within the East Village, a bustling neighborhood with every imaginable convenience then much to entertain. But ny may be a competitive city; you’ve got to spend most of some time working to afford to measure there. And a downside of living among numerous ambitious people is they’re often overscheduled. Sometimes I didn’t see my closest friends for months at a time. Trying to barter a time to satisfy a lover for drinks was harder than stepping into college (and the cocktails about as expensive).
It’s ironic to feel lonely on an island of 4 million people, but it seemed I spent my life watching screens: laptop, telephone , iPad — hell, even the taxis and elevators had televisions in them. I felt stressed, uninspired, and disconnected.
“I need a vacation.” This was a continuing refrain in my head. i used to be n’t living within the moment; I was living for a few indeterminate moment within the future when I’d saved enough money and vacation days to require a visit somewhere. If you’re constantly thinking you would like a vacation, maybe what you actually need may be a new life.But i used to be complacent. My life wasn’t satisfying, but it had been comfortable.
One day i used to be performing on my laptop, finishing some edits on a book i would just written. i used to be distracted, wondering what i might do now that the manuscript was finished. While I had several job offers, none of them excited me. I let my hands idle too long and therefore the screensaver, a stock photo of a tropical scene, popped up. Here was something to urge excited about. What I wanted — something I’d fantasized about for years, actually — was to prevent living ahead of a screen and sleep in that screen, within the photo on my computer. And why couldn’t I? With no professional obligations or boyfriend, i used to be completely untethered for the primary time in my life.
Feeling slightly ridiculous, I posted a message on Facebook saying that I wanted to maneuver to the Caribbean, and posing for suggestions on where I should go. A friend’s sister recommended St. John, the littlest of the U.S. Virgin Islands . Nicknamed “Love City” for its famously friendly locals, it had been home to a number of the foremost stunning beaches within the world. I glanced out my window where punishing, chest-high snow drifts were forming on the bottom at an alarming rate. On the sidewalks impatient and preoccupied New Yorkers saw one another without apology. I immediately began expediting my passport.
It was startlingly simple to dismantle the life I’d spent a decade building: I broke the lease on my apartment, sold my belongings, and purchased a one-way airplane ticket . the toughest part was convincing myself it had been okay to do something for no other reason than to vary the narrative of my life.
“You can’t just move to an area you’ve never even visited!” my mom protested.
“Sometimes you only need to leap and therefore the net will appear,” I said with more confidence than I felt.
Six weeks later, I stepped off the ferry in St. John. I had no plan, no friends, and no clue how ridiculous I looked, festively ensembled in boat shoes and a dress celebrating the palm . Yet I had a wierd feeling that everything would unfold because it was alleged to .
My parents didn’t share this viewpoint. I come from a conservative Southern family with a healthy respect for the American Dream: You worked hard in class , chose an upper-middle-class job with a 401(k) and an honest matching plan. in order that they were pretty stunned when, upon arriving in St. John, I took employment at the local frozen dessert parlor.
“But, but … you visited Yale,” they sputtered. “And you’re 31 years old!”
Perhaps there was something indulgent and Peter Pan-ish about this new lifestyle. But the reality is, i used to be happier scooping mint chocolate chip for $10 an hour than i used to be making almost six figures at my previous corporate job. it had been calming to figure with my hands. I met new people constantly, talking face-to-face rather than communicating via email and instant messaging. once I closed the patronize the top of the shift, my work was done and my time my very own . Besides, I found that not everyone shared my parents’ concern. “When I moved here 25 years ago, my dad insisted i used to be ruining my life,” said one among my regular customers once we need to chatting about our lives at some point . “Recently he visited and told me, ‘You had it right right along . I’m toward the top of my life and searching to retire to someplace like this, and now I’m too old to enjoy it.'”
Cruz Bay, the island’s main town, consists of a couple of winding roads and a couple of open-air bars and restaurants. There are not any stoplights on St. John (though we often need to stop for the wild donkeys and iguanas and chickens that roam the streets). No chain stores. Limited WiFi. Shoes optional. We drive beat-up Jeeps because nobody cares what quite car you drive. For those without cars, hitchhiking is common; in any case , we all know almost everyone who lives here. We shower in filtered rainwater collected in cisterns attached to the house. There are not any addresses. (Typical directions to someone’s house are along the lines of, “If you’re taking a left at the dumpster, I sleep in the white house at the top of the road with a broken-down dinghy within the yard.”) People gather on the beaches at dusk to observe the sunsets together. I see my friends a day . On our days off, we hike the local ruins, dive, or go boating to the nearby British Virgin Islands .
These days, I work as a bartender, employment I pursued just because it’s something I always wanted to undertake . Sometimes i feel back to the question I wont to be asked in job interviews: “Where does one see yourself in five years?” That always seemed a depressing notion, to already know what you would be doing five years within the future. Here it isn’t unusual for somebody to figure as a cook on St. John, then move to Thailand for 6 months to figure as a dive instructor, then they’re going to leave to Alaska and work on a fishing smack . Living abroad has exposed me to a special approach to life, one during which you are not expected to settle in one place and do one quite job. Perhaps a number of us are meant to maneuver around every few years, change jobs and live many various micro lives.
That’s to not say doubts don’t sneak in once in a while . Seeing old colleagues and acquaintances building successful careers can make me second-guess my choices. one among my friends from college started a touch website called Pinterest. Another just won an Emmy for successful television program she created.
But I even have an island. I sleep in a charmingly ramshackle one-bedroom apartment on a hillside overlooking the ocean .
Which brings us back to the chicken in my shower watching me pee. How did it get there? My best guess: it had been tottering round the woods outside, accidentally flew onto my second-story balcony, and wandered into my apartment through the sliding-glass door, which I usually leave hospitable enjoy the breeze.
Smiling, I shoo out the wayward bird. Then I pause for a flash , transfixed by the view framed by my open sliding glass door. Sunlight sparkles on the water. Sailboats bob companionably within the distance. The scene is remarkably almost like the stock photo that was my screensaver four years ago. How different my life was then.
There’s a quote by author J.R.R. Tolkien that pops up tons on T-shirts and bumper stickers sold around town: “Not all those that wander are lost.”
Lately i have been mulling moving somewhere entirely opposite of here. Europe, perhaps? There are numerous places to go! It fills me with a kind of untamed happiness. Who knows where I’ll end up? And what a wonderful thing that’s — not knowing.
Waiting For A Big SCOOP