Most people have dreamt at some point in their lives of going to live on a tropical island somewhere. A paradise far away, where they can escape from all their everyday worries and cares. Perhaps you have had that fantasy. I happen to live on such a little tropical island. It’s been over a year since my partner and I traded our busy corporate London lives for a simpler life here.
We didn’t come seeking to escape a life or a place we didn’t like. We came to be able to live more truly to our values. What we sought were simple things. Even here, behind the walls of every luxury resort, there is ugliness, pollution, poverty and chaos. Many things we take for granted in big cities, such as a proper infrastructure, emergency services, supermarkets don’t exist here. We don’t even have fresh drinking water on tap. Living with these realities gives me a greater sense of humility, acceptance and gratitude for what I am fortunate to have – not because I have a lot, but because I have enough. And by enough I mean, I have learnt how little I really need to be content.
The things that make our lifestyle so satisfying are actually not necessarily geographical, but about the changes we have consciously made in our lives and certain realities we’ve had to accept. You could come to live on the same island and not experience any of this. Equally, you could stay at home and make similar changes to find the same contentment. We may not end up living here forever, but we know we will be able to continue to live contentedly with what we have learnt.
1. Slowing Down
Removing yourself from a busy city might be a step in the direction of slowing down, but it still requires real conscious effort. When the world is so connected as it is, you can so easily continue to be distracted and keep overworking no matter where you are. In my first 6 months in paradise, I was so busy working on things that I had to stop and remind myself that I came here to slow down. Initially I felt a lot of guilt about it. I really had to lean into it until it felt comfortable and I also apply discipline in how much time I spend doing tasks such as being online and checking emails. It means that I no longer feel like a slave to the clock or the global mood, or that I need to prove my worth by the number of things accomplished each day. It’s truly liberating and my days feel enriched as a result.
2. Living With Less
Moving across the world and having to tackle expensive shipping is plenty of motivation to downsize. We had a small one bedroom apartment in London, now we a have one room villa the size of our old living room. Yet we are so content. We each have only a suitcase of personal belongings and clothes and that’s all we need. My biggest luxuries are my old laptop and kindle so I can read lots of books. It has nothing to do with being rich, we are not, but we don’t need much money because we simply don’t spend much. We feel more abundant than ever before now that we have so little. It allows us to really appreciate the little conveniences and goods we took for granted when we had more.
When you live on a small island you get to know almost everyone. With such basic infrastructure it is often up to members of the community to deal with issues that would normally be left to councils and governments to sort out elsewhere. On the one hand there is a certain element of chaos and frustration about that, but on the other hand there is an opportunity to be actively involved with community matters, which is very rewarding and empowering. It’s something I believe we’ve lost touch with in big cities such as London. An important part of my life now is being able to volunteer and contribute to the community in whatever ways I can.
We really wanted to be closer to nature after so many years living in tight spaces in a big city. We’ve traded the sounds of noisy neighbours, airplanes and road traffic for the sound of birds and the distant sound of the sea. It is certainly a luxury to be able to walk barefoot on the beach at sunset whenever we want, but the reality is that most days we enjoy it from our own little garden, which I tend to with love. We love to watch the flowers and trees grow. We don’t have motorised transport here, so we either cycle or walk everywhere and that also puts us in direct contact with our environment, which is very grounding. If I ever find myself back in a city, I would definitely put a lot of time into gardening because even a small green space can give so much reward if you put enough love into it.
5. Adopting Rescue Animals
One of the most unexpected outcomes of our move here was how we unintentionally adopted two cats that really needed love and care. We avoided pets in London because we didn’t want the commitment and I was apparently allergic to cats. We’ve since seen how a bit of love has totally transformed their lives, as well as our own. Seeing them so healthy and happy now has been a powerful demonstration of what selflessness, patience and unconditional love can do. I would never have discovered this part of myself, or my partner, or known my own capacity to care for another being had they never entered our lives. They have been an all-in-one therapy package because they also teach us about mindfulness and playfulness which has contributed to our overall sense of wellbeing. And my allergies? Disappeared and forgotten it seems.
Image by Tim Foster via @unsplash