I pick up trash. Not for a living, but just because it’s there. And because I can. Because I want to. Because I have to. Let me explain.

I live on this beautiful tropical island in the Caribbean, Little Corn Island, off the coast of Nicaragua. It’s tiny, so everything (and everybody) is right in your face. You cannot avoid walking past trash, because there are only a few paths that take you around the island. And there is trash everywhere. 

I bet your first thought is: why do people throw their trash around in such a beautiful place? Well, there are many reasons. First of all, this is a developing country, with a lack of funds, logistics and poor education. Basically, here we have no system in place that takes care of our trash the way you are used to have your trash taken care of. All you have to do is put it at the curb, and a truck will come and pick it up. Out of sight, out of mind. You pay for the service, they take care of it. Not here. We have no municipal facility or officer here. We have no roads, no cars, so no garbage trucks. We have no central dump or incinerator. Apart from a handful of recycling bins, we have no general garbage bins along our walkways, because emptying them causes a problem: where to take it? So better not have the bins, head in the sand-strategy. Basically, we’re on our own, when it comes to trash. We DO have trash, lots of it. 

 

A lot of the people living on this island have not grown up with the same concepts about trash in nature as you and I have. It’s a cultural thing: I have learned that trash does not belong in nature, and I have learned why it is bad that it is there. So I know. I cannot walk past trash sitting in nature without feeling bad about it. A lot of the people here have not learned that (yet). And let’s be honest, our developed countries took ages to establish this attitude towards trash. I remember I was tiny, when we had only one black and white channel on TV, seeing a government campaign about taking care of the environment. So it was barely 1970 when they started educating us about the environment in the Netherlands. It took us well into the 90’s before there was a firmly established system of recycling and diminishing our trash, which now has become second nature to most Dutch people. So if a well-developed, rich country with a good education system, municipal services and government campaigns needs a whole generation to get this environmental attitude in place, we cannot expect that a poor country without all that is going to get on top of their trash problem in a couple of years. I let go of that dream a while ago.

Here reality is that a lot of people throw their trash wherever they go. Because they don’t know any better. And because there is no real option to put it anywhere anyway, apart from plastic bottles and aluminium cans that are collected and shipped off the island for recycling. At their own homes they may burn their trash, but when it rains (and this is the tropics), that is not an option either. So then it is the bush. Where the chickens will scratch through it, and neatly distribute it all over the place. Dogs will scrounge and find the edibles (including disposable diapers). So what’s left is plastic, loads of it, and cans, everywhere.

Then I walk by. I see the trash. I used to get angry at the people for throwing it there, even though I didn’t know who had done it, a pretty senseless waste of my emotional energy. When I started to understand the complexity of this problem better I managed to stop blaming them, and I also tried to stop thinking that the local government should do something about it. Because they won’t, because they can’t. The person who throws plastic in nature is guilty of a crime against Mother Earth, and in a way that is a crime against every organism on this planet, which includes me. So that could give me a good reason to be angry and upset. But when I walk by and I see that trash sitting there, KNOWING THAT IT IS HARMFUL TO MOTHER EARTH and then not picking it up, I become as guilty of a crime against nature as that person who threw it there in the first place. I should be mad at myself then too! Once you know, you cannot leave it there, can you? That is the most important reason to pick it up: I do not want to be guilty of leaving it there, passively condoning these crimes against nature, which are also crimes against me. So I pick it up, and take it to the recycling bins. I throw the non-recyclables in there too, that is my silent protest to the municipality  and government for not providing some kind of trash-bins and a system to take care of that street trash.

Last week I posted a list of 17 things that could be potential deal breakers in your life on a little tropical island. If you started laughing hard at some of my descriptions, you are made for island life. If most of the points made you cringe or gave you the shivers, you may reconsider relocating to a tropical island paradise. 

Today I am giving you the exact same list, but this time I will tell you why most of them are the BEST reasons to come and live on Little Corn Island:

1.The Heat: I love the heat, because I love the sun! I always feel a lot of affinity with the iguanas we have here. They only come out when the sun shines. They first have to warm up, before they can become active. I’m just like that. Inactive in the cold, active in the heat. Although you won’t find me sunbathing on the beach, I always say I was born in the wrong location. In the Netherlands I was often cold, and very miserable in wintertime, when blankets of cold grey dampness do anything but make you feel comfortable or lift your mood. The sun is hidden by that ominous dark layer, sometimes for weeks at a time. The landscape looks grey and brown and dead, without any colour to brighten up your day. Only in my thirties I learned there was a name for my yearly depression: Seasonal Affection Disorder. Living on a little tropical island, seeing the sun almost every day and feeling warm most of the time has totally fixed that problem. Temperatures never drop below 20 Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) and are usually up around 25 in the shade (high seventies). The climate forces you to be outside in the fresh air all the time, instead of being locked up in air-conditioned or centrally heated sealed spaces. Having your house all open and being outside all the time also makes the whole island community more welcoming and open. No huddling behind closed curtains to keep the cold out. And thanks to that year-round warmth, Mother nature is always showing herself in her brightest greens and colourful flowers, against the backdrop of turquoise seas and blue skies. Nothing more uplifting for your mood than a dash of bright colour! Oh, and the sweat? Just see it as if you’re working out all the time: a major boost for self esteem and feeling accomplished. 

2. The Rain: OK, I confess, sometimes I have to force myself to love the rain. But imagine the first rains after months of dry hot weather. It is the most refreshing thing ever. I will take rain-showers, literally just standing outside washing myself in the downpour. It’s a most invigorating and super fun experience, and both my skin and hair love it! The rain saves you work, because you don’t have to water all your plants, and you can catch the water running down from the roof to water those that are not exposed, and to wash your laundry. Your clothes just feel and smell different when they have been washed with rainwater. As annoying as rainy season can be, with days of intermittent showers and squalls or 24 hours continuous downpours, we have to be grateful for all that water. It replenishes our aquifer and allows us to live on this little rock. We are totally dependent on the rains for all our daily water use. And after all the heat and sweat and always being outside, sometimes it is nice to be forced by the rains to go inside and do something indoors, without having sweat running down your spine. You have to love the rain!

3. The Wind: ahh, the wind! Here it is called a “sweet breeze”, and what better name for that cooling breeze coming from the sea, to keep you from coming to a full boil around midday. The breeze dries all your laundry in no time, and also keeps the mosquitoes at bay, that’s why you want to live on the windy side of the island. Those of you familiar with Ayurveda will understand when I say that for Vatas the windy season may be a little aggravating, but with the right foods, a thin wrap around your shoulders and some extra stretching it is still ten times better than winter up north.

4. The Transport: oh well, there’s a lot to be said that is not in favour of our transportation system to and from the island. But on all the good days, a ride in that open panga is the best way to come home to our little island. You make friends on the way, see a beautiful sunset over your shoulder, while craning your neck to catch a glimpse of your destination. On an early morning ride out to the Big Island, I meditate under the rays of the sun, not yet too hot, feeling the rhythm of the boat against the waves resonate with my own heart beat. The wind blowing your hair out of your face, the spray from the bow making beautiful shimmering arches. Ahh, I love those panga rides!

5. The Erosion: well, there is nothing to be loved about that. It is horrific and makes us all very sad and scared. Businesses are close to falling into the sea in some places, people are losing part of their properties, the island is getting smaller with every storm. On the opposite side of all that material loss is the impressive power of Mother Nature. You gotta give it to her: maybe we humans are bad to her, but she is a badass herself, throwing right back at us all that we have done wrong. When a good high sea backed by a strong wind washes the sea water over the vegetation into the beach trail, leaving us with ankle deep water full of trash and debris to wade through, I cannot help but think: right on, girl, thanks for rubbing it in. 

6. The Bugs: they are beautiful! At least, quite a few of them. Colourful butterflies, amazing moths, bright red dragonflies, bright green grasshoppers, the most amazing beetles, caterpillars and (tiny) praying mantises, and have you ever taken a good look at a cockroach? It’s actually quite a beautiful creature. So is a tarantula. We have banana spiders here who have a miniature skull face painted on their backs. Ants have intricate ways of communicating and working together, never giving up their tasks. Watching a mosquito from close by, seeing how it lifts its hind legs, is quite interesting. But then you just smack them on the head. Mosquitoes and sand flies offer excellent training in letting go. Letting go of wanting to be in control, because you can’t. Letting go of being annoyed by their high pitched buzz, because you can’t stop them. Letting go of the need to scratch an itchy bite, because you will cause it to get infected (you can stop yourself). Thank you bugs, for providing us with multiple reminders to let go and relax.

7. The Dogs: they are so much fun! Most island dogs run around free, and choose whom they want to hang out with for the day. They may be your best friend for a couple of days, until they run into someone else that all of a sudden becomes their preferred company (probably a better bite from a hamburger). Most dogs have names, and we all know them by their name. So we greet all dogs just like we greet each other. They are an integral part of the island community, are allowed in most restaurants, feature in lots of tourist’s pictures, get their own Facebook pages and are missed by many when they pass away. I’m a cat person, but I love the simplicity of dogs too.

 

8. The Aquifer: Not much to rejoice about an aquifer in itself, but the fact that it is limited makes you very aware of the amount of water that you use every day. Once you become aware of the possibility that the aquifer gets depleted, every drop of water plays a trick on your conscience. You learn to conserve water, recycle it, catch it. It definitely contributes to mindfulness and conscious and creative living!

9. The Trash: another one that is hard to be liked. Trash everywhere. Always washing up more on the beach, from all around the world. Always a stinking, burning pile of household trash somewhere close to you, unless you live smack on the beach, upwind from everyone. Always trash lying around everywhere, since a lack of education has not taught a good part of the local population that trash does not belong in nature. Besides: we have nowhere to go with it. Still, there are good things to be said about trash and little tropical islands: for a lot of us living here and being responsible for our own trash has made us very conscious of it. Some of us have started to shop more consciously, looking for things in bulk, creating less trash. I personally have let go of most processed foods, to avoid trash. So in a way I can thank trash for a healthier diet with mostly whole foods. It also makes us more resourceful, finding creative ways to recycle it, like stuffing soft plastics in cushions for the beach, or reusing PVC-pipes used for pouring cement posts to organise T-shirts in the gift shop. I have made a lot of fun things out of beach trash, and it is my way of not getting totally sad and upset about all that rubbish sitting on the beach. Watching the giant Karma Shack mobile made of beach trash slowly doing its never-ending choreography makes a lot of people feel good. 

10. The Limited Availability of Basic Things: love that one! The lack of choice is so liberating. When you need new shorts, and the store has only two pairs of cotton shorts that are not jeans and full of bling, you don’t mind that one is a size too big, and the other not really a colour that you’d normally wear. You just buy them! When you start to think about it, modern life is a daily struggle of choices, taking up a lot of your time. All day long. A lot of them are choices about stuff that you buy to wear, to use, to eat or drink. On a little tropical island there is not a whole lot to choose from, and it leaves you with lots of time and energy to do other things, or think about other things. The realisation that you won’t die when you don’t get your favourite coffee, your preferred sweet rolls or flip-flops that match your bathing suit, means that you are growing away from a highly materialist life of having, and start to get more into the mode of just being (I even have a pair of non-matching rubber boots). If you can handle the limited availability of basic things, you have passed one of the main rites of passage for life on a tropical island (in my Christmas 2016 post I wrote about ‘being vs having’ as an essential characteristic of island life).

11. Lack of Proper Healthcare: this is an interesting one. When you know there is not really a reliable medical service, you become more resourceful in finding out on your own what could be wrong with you, and then finding natural treatments for it, instead of pharmaceutical remedies that are sometimes not available anyway. But you also let things just take their course more often. When you get sick, well, you just wait till you get better, instead of running to the doctor for some pills. You start to rely less on someone else taking care of your health, and become more responsible yourself.  In all these years on the island I have visited the clinic once. Living a proper stress free island life also makes you less prone to disease. 

12. Lack of Communication: the lack of reliable telephone and internet signals has made me very independent of my phone, and of my need to stay connected with people in other parts of the world. When I can, I will, when I can’t I won’t cry over it. As I write this it is noon, and I just realised that I have forgotten to turn on my phone this morning! (and I am still alive!). When I am in the middle of posting a blog and the internet blacks out, I just go rake the garden or walk along the beach. Having unreliable communication can also be a great excuse to not stay in touch, or not get any work done! I sometimes dream of making our little island a digital detox destination. DDD, I’d love to offer that in the Karma Shack! 

13. Limited things to do: bullshit. I never have enough time to read all the books I want to read, study all the topics I want to study, write all the posts I have in my head, make my garden look perfect, finish all those arts&crafts-projects, and make all those home-cooked goodies that I’d like to eat, just because I am too busy with island-life as it is, and I don’t mean work. Boredom is a choice, and it’s not mine.

14. Temptations: that can be a tough one for some. But it can also be your real challenge. Staying true to your choice to live a life free of addictive substances that are toxic for you in many ways, is a very empowering experience. Especially when you are surrounded by people who are daily users of one for more of them. 

15. The Tourists: Love them or leave the island! So many wonderful people from all over the world come to our little island. And they are all here to have a good time, so as soon as you contribute to that, they are your best friend forever! I have met so many interesting people through my work in the Karma Shack, from submarine engineers to drummers in famous bands, ayurveda specialists and acupuncturists, young families travelling with 3 little kids, and double breast cancer survivor 85-year olds still swimming everyday. A guy that made a living of carving wooden spoons and teaching people how to do that, with a raw vegan chef as his girlfriend, whom he asked to marry here on the island. A woman who teaches yoga to children with special needs. War veterans, relief workers, missionaries. Wonderful musicians share their talents, artists leave their paintings, and many a tourist will spend a couple of hours leaving our beaches cleaner than before. Some of the tourists come back and become part of our community for a few weeks or months every year. These people become our favourite pack-horses to lug special requests from the US and Canada down here for us. Tourists! So grateful they come here!

16. The Local Community: a local island community is always a fun mix of many. Because even the locals come from all over the place, and add to that your mix of foreigners settling here after they have arrived as tourists. Once tourism starts to offer a good amount of jobs you see the local and foreign community mix more and more. Living in a place like this you get to have friends from all over the world. Apart from Nicaraguans both from the island and from the mainland, we have French, Italian, British, Irish, Portuguese, German, Austrian, Swiss, Spanish, Norwegian, Israeli, Argentinian, Australian, Kiwi, US, Canadian, Salvadoran, Colombian and Syrian people living on our little island. To this day I am still the only Dutch resident here, phew! 

The local community provides a never ending course of life-lessons. More than anything you learn that the way they do things in your country, is not the way they do things in any other country, and especially not on your little island. You learn to open your mind to different ways, and accept that things cannot always go your way, simply because you’re not at home. 

17. The confrontation with self: a great point if you’re into personal and spiritual growth! Being in unfamiliar surroundings with a lot of common things missing, out of your comfort zone, not surrounded by your closest family and friends that are always there for you and put up with your quirks or moods when necessary, you get to face yourself in the mirrors that random strangers will hold up for you, not knowing you so well. What you see in that mirror might not be your most favourite you, but then you can start working on it, and grow into a better version of yourself. Enjoy the ride!

So here we have the exact same list that I presented last week as 17 good reasons why you DON’T want to live on a little tropical is
land. Today I turned them around and made them perfect reasons why you DO want to live here. Last week’s list was based on all sorts of fears, keeping us in our comfort zones, today’s list is based on love, challenging us to step out of that comfort zone and learn new things and have different and magical experiences. That is always your choice in life: do I think, speak, act and live from a place of fear based on discomfort, uncertainties and the unknown, or do I live from a place of love, based on a willingness to learn and grow? Take that thought with you when you pack your bag to come and visit us and check out our little island for yourselves!

 

Living on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua for years now, I have often been told by people that I am ‘living the dream’. It’s funny, but I never dreamed of living on a tropical island, it just happened to me. So I usually tell the person that I am happy to live their dream, but that it never had been mine. In the mean time, I do think I have a pretty good life here, don’t get me wrong.

Living on a tropical island is one of those utopian dreams that many people nurture during their whole lives, but only few will actually manifest it. I think it is typical example of something that you learn to wish for, through advertising. Since it is a pretty difficult dream to fulfil (at least that is the common opinion), it is one of the most longed for and most idealised. Life on a tropical island is usually rated as living in paradise, which, according to some old book, is pretty awesome, if you play by the rules. Well, let me burst your bubble. Life in paradise is less than perfect, or, using a recently learned expression: sometimes even less than stellar. If you can’t let go of the idea of paradise’s perfection I can rephrase it for you: life on a tropical island is not to be compared with living in paradise, since it is far from perfect. Let me give you the list:

  1. The Heat: the tropics are hot! Here we have an average of 26 degrees Celsius (79 Fahrenheit) in the shade, running much higher in the sun, especially when there’s no breeze. Depending on your activity, physical condition and acclimatisation, you may sweat from a few hours a day up to 24/7  year round. Especially doing some work indoors like cooking or cleaning, your clothes will be soaked in no time. You will either have to take multiple showers and change clothes often, which is environmentally unacceptable or you go around sticky and maybe smelly and get used to it. You have to drink tons of water not to get dehydrated. You may get severe sunburn, or a farmer’s tan.
  2. The Rain: it’s not only hot, it’s also very wet in the tropics. Rainy season is officially 8-9 months long. Our Christmas dinner was nearly cancelled due to the pouring rains, and I have declined an invitation to a New Year’s Eve dinner because it would involve slip-sliding through the mud in the dark(we have only limited paved walkways). I am very happy to live on the beach, where I only bring wet sand into my house, but friends who live inland never stop mopping and cleaning their floors and sheets in rainy season, because there is MUD EVERYWHERE! For a good part of the year their utopian dream is to have clean feet:-)
  3. The Wind: being surrounded by seas the winds can be quite extreme on our little island. Hard winds will lash the shore, eroding it, churning up the sea weed and dumping it with all its trash onto the beaches. The wind will whip up the sand from the beach and make it fly at eye level, blinding you and covering all vegetation and your whole house (inside and out) with a fine but sticky layer. The saltiness of the winds will burn your vegetables and flowers on a sunny day, and the multiple almond trees that can produce new leaves within a few days will keep dropping them in your yard, so you are raking all day. Ah, and any winds above 20 knots will cancel passenger transportation. Which gets me to the next point
  4. The Transport: small tropical islands are typically reached in small, open boats. In perfect weather conditions that is a wonderful experience. Alas, usually the weather is far from perfect….the boat ride can be very bumpy, very wet, downright scary or just cancelled. In that case you are stuck. Tourists always say, when they hear about that possibility, that there are worse things than getting stuck on a tropical island. Another utopian bubble to burst: when the boats are cancelled and you get stuck here, the weather sucks, there’s no diving, no snorkelling, no kayaking, no sunbathing, and often no internet-signal too. It’s not that much fun to get stuck here, I tell you. At best you make a lot of new friends sitting for hours on the dock waiting to find out if a boat will go later that day.
  5. The Erosion, another weather-related point: due to climate changes there are higher seas and stronger winds and depending on the wind direction, the currents can carry off tons of sand overnight, leaving your beach front property a size or two smaller. This sometimes continues for a fortnight. The government is not extremely interested in saving foreigner’s properties, so you will have to invest in your own costly shore protection if you want to keep your house from falling in the sea (I have no information about home insurance).
  6. The Bugs: a big one: yes, we have mosquitoes, sand flies, nasty ants, big spiders, wasps, lots of cockroaches and a gazillion termites. Mosquitoes and sandflies give you very itchy bites, which drives some people mad. There are a lot of theories why some people get  bitten so much more than others, but in the end we all get some bites. Mosquito repellent is not a 100% guarantee to stay bite-free, and the poison that you put on your skin to avoid some itchy bites can actually cause cancer and all sorts of other horrible internal damage to your body. Long sleeves and long pants work relatively well, but are hot to wear in this climate. Mosquitoes may give you Dengue, Chikungunya or Zika, none of them very pleasant diseases, but you will survive. Bugs are part of tropical island life. Ants can get annoying too. They may invade your house, get into your delicious coconut bread that you saved as an after-party-snack, or just bite you while you stand around minding your own business. Spiders come in all sorts and sizes, and surprisingly it is one of the smallest ones that bites, while the big tarantulas and wolf spiders don’t really bother us. Still, if you are scared of spiders, you may regularly go through some difficult moments running into them, since you’re living in their territories on our tropical island. And the termites…well, they just eat your house, that’s all.
  7. The Dogs: they are everywhere. They go around without a leash or even a collar. Most of them are friendly, up to a point where they will follow you everywhere, which can get you in trouble when you want to walk into a store or a restaurant or into your own house. They will bark at night, pull over your trash can, and dig gigantic holes in your yard, searching for crabs. Some of them are mean and bite or kill your kitten. They are present in most restaurants, since all foreign restaurant owners have adopted a few dogs. That’s another thing on this island: you cannot avoid having to adopt a couple of dogs. So if dogs are not your favourite pet, don’t come and live here, because they are in your face all the time!!!
  8. The Aquifer: little islands have small aquifers, that usually get replenished just by rain water. Population growth and a few dry years may make your tropical paradise much less inhabitable. Salinization of ground water, contamination with sewage and chemicals, or just downright depletion can all contribute to an unsustainable situation. Do you want to live in a place where they have to ship in your daily water?
  9. Trash: the last one on the long list of “natural” reasons why you may consider not wanting to live on a tropical island. What will you do with your trash? We don’t have a trash pick up system, and there is no central garbage dump. Burning is bad for the atmosphere, and some of the plastic will leach into the soil. Burying will affect the water quality. Unless you are one of those reduce/reuse/recycle experts, you will spend a fortune shipping your trash off the island. 
  10. The Limited Availability of Basic Stuff: the other end of that trash problem: your consumption patterns. There are a whole lot of things you cannot get on a little tropical island, although with the growth of tourism that is definitely improving. Basic foods, yes. But don’t go looking for anything whole-grain or fancy. Limited fresh produce, the rest canned and very expensive (and a lot of trash afterwards!). Forget broccoli, snow peas, mushrooms, sprouts, berries or kiwis. All non-food products are of the cheapest and worst quality and will fall apart or stop functioning in no time, creating a lot of unwanted trash. A few clothes and shoes are available, and a couple of cans of paint and some hardware. Oh, and everything is up to three times more expensive than on the mainland, due to all the transport involved to get it here. Mostly, you have to get everything yourself on the mainland, which involves either a lot of travelling or having a lot of reliable connections in the capital that can organise the shopping for you. You may feel you are living in constant lack, if you try to hold on to consumption patterns that you had before you arrived. 
  11. Lack of proper healthcare/dental care/etc.: a small health centre provides very basic care,  but cannot handle real emergencies that go beyond a few stitches. Then you have to get onto that same open panga (or hire a private one that won’t leave until the gas has been paid) to get off the island and from there on a flight to the capital to get to a good hospital. If you have a condition that may require emergency health assistance you don’t want to live on a little tropical island. Also, if you can’t handle toothaches or walking around with a broken tooth for a few weeks/months until you travel to the mainland, consider another location to settle.
  12. Communications: we have cell phone service and internet too, but it is spotty to say the least, and sometimes it just does not work at all. A few people relying on internet for their work get up at 3am to get the full bandwidth. If you cannot live without 24/7 wifi, a little tropical island may not be your place to dwell.
  13. Limited things to do: small islands offer a limited amount of things to do to fill your days with: swimming, diving, snorkelling, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, yoga, massage and some short hikes, but that is about it. A book or a game, and maybe some gardening around your own house. Ah, of course, I forgot that one: you will be forever working on the maintenance of your property, since the salt air eats up all hardware, paint and even cement. OK, you won’t get bored then. 
  14. Temptations: remote little islands can also be “paradise” in a different way: they usually offer easy access to large amounts of cheap drinks and drugs. The visiting tourists are here to have good time, so they will be partying a lot, and it is easy to join them every night (or day). If you are trying to get away from a life of addictive habits, this particular side of our little paradise may be detrimental for your health and well-being. 
  15. The Tourists: funny, isn’t it: you came here as a tourist, but once you live here for a while, you sometimes wish they would all disappear, with their OFF-smell, their trash, their drunken loudness, and their endless FAQ’s. (FAQ’s: an unexpected downside of living on a little tropical island. I will write about that in another post. If you cannot handle repetitive curious questions, a small touristy island is not your dwelling of choice). When they like the island as much as you do, they might stay and buy a property right next to yours and open a bar there. So far for living in paradise. But they also bring good atmosphere, help out in the community, clean beaches and maybe make your money, so focus on liking them, if you can. Otherwise: don’t come live in paradise, it’s full of tourists!
  16. The Local Community: apart from tourists, your tropical paradise island will be full of two types of very different people living there: locals and foreigners (I refuse to call them ex-pats. I think that is a politically incorrect name. When people from rich countries go and live in a developing country they call themselves expats, but when people from poor countries move into the rich countries, they are called (illegal) immigrants or at best foreigners, but never expats. What is the difference?). The local community has its own way of doing things, organising things, their own set of rules and regulations, habits and traditions. They have no reason to let go of all that, just because you decided to start living on their island. The foreigners already living on the island will give you a false sense of “home”, which might make you believe that things are being (or getting) done in similar ways to what you were used to before you moved to paradise. Burst your bubble: everything is done differently here: from buying land to building a house to organising transport to hiring workers to doing laundry to handling trash or getting married. If you cannot let go of your western ideas of how things should be done, you’re up for a tough time in paradise. 
  17. Self-Confrontation: moving to a small remote island confronts you with yourself in many ways. You thought your life was going to be perfect because you were moving to paradise. But then things turn out anything but perfect. Possibly you will start blaming it on all of the above points: the weather, the bugs, the people, lack of communications, the stuff you are missing…… But what it all boils down to is that you’re having a hard time because you are resisting all sorts of changes in your life, because you cannot let go of certain habits, ideas, comforts and because you want to keep up the idea that life on a tropical island is perfect, because that’s the dream they have been selling you all your life.   

    Let me get this straight: this whole list is not a complaint about how miserable life is on our little island. It’s a reality check. If you already start cringing just reading about these inconveniences,  you better let go of the dream of living a paradisiacal life on a little tropical island. I have written this all with a smile on my face, because I’ve learned to love and deal with all of the above. Next week I will rewrite this list, and show you that it’s not the fault of all the above points that your paradise isn’t so perfect……