'So, how was your time in Barbados?'
1. The weekends were perfect, but the weeks were long
2. The hardest part about leaving was saying goodbye to our friends
3. We came to appreciate America more than we could have imagined (which is the opposite of what we predicted). Go ‘Merica!
4. Lopez will never complain about being bored in Wisconsin again
5. We did our best to outrun a pandemic, but then it kicked our ass and a volcano erupted
For me, it was the trip of a lifetime. I made a group of girlfriends that I shared a bond with, unlike anything I’ve had in my adult life. We shared kids the same age, from littles to teens and biological to step kids. Most of us were there to outrun a pandemic, and we were experiencing this crazy adventure at the same time together. The rest were locals, who helped guide me through my new life in a strange land. (Also, most of this was done while sharing rum punches on the beach).
For Lopez, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. He fell in love with the beaches, dominoes, his friends, his neighborhood watch group consisting of just him and Jerry and he proudly declared himself 'Bajan American'. Then lockdown hit, and his mental health took a hit. For a month we were banned from the beach, we couldn’t use the pool at Rockley, we were breaking the law by visiting our friends, safely, outside. There were weekends we weren’t allowed to leave our property due to lockdown restrictions. If it weren’t for our friends, and the fact that I wasn’t ready to leave, Lopez would have left April 1st.
Aiden and Faith are happy to have had the experience, but they struggled to acclimate to life in Barbados. Faith finally met a group of friends she liked, was set to attend the posh, invite-only New Year's Eve party, but it was canceled on December 31st, the day they imposed COVID restrictions. The kids never went back to school, and socializing was frowned upon. We would spend more time in Barbados with COVID restrictions in place than without.
Aiden did better, by the end becoming close with Adero, who I met through Jennifer. Adero and his friends took Aiden out as a local, and they joined us for karaoke and generally made Aiden's final months highly enjoyable. He was sad to go by the time we left, but both teenagers were so ecstatic to see their significant others that he managed ok in the end.
Penny and Callen did as good as their mama, living their best lives in Barbados and finding their first real best friends. Eli and Penny screamed each other’s names at first sight, every time, then ran off to climb trees and ignore all others from their secret lair. Callen and Charlotte hit it off right away, and we're confident their nuptials will pan out in the end.
What’s changed since our time in Barbados?
The biggest takeaway is how we want to spend our time moving forward. We met these people who also abandoned their standard responsibilities in lieu of the beach; there were no weekend projects, no housework, no yard work – we just lived and enjoyed it. It was never a matter of *if* we were hanging out with our friends, it was a matter of *what* we were doing with them. We want our life here at home to be enjoyed in the same way and we know that means a less tended-to lawn, a messier house, and projects that aren’t always finished.
In the end, we left nearly two months before our lease ended. As May drew closer, I started to feel the excitement of home; it brewed in my bones and I couldn’t suppress it. The time was right, and we booked our flights and even ended up moving them up a week. Home was calling and we were finally ready to answer.
Here are the biggest drawbacks to life in Barbados:
It is so ridiculously expensive.
If you're from Toronto or another metropolitan, high-cost of living city, then fine; but if you're used to a nice, cheap life, the price is unbelievable.
There were a few staple items we always had on hand, like bagels, cheese, and apples, that were reasonable, everything else was not. When I ordered groceries that first week back in America, I got bagels and Lopez told me he never wanted to see another bagel in his life.
Nothing is as convenient as it is in good ol’ Merica.
Stores were still shut Sundays to reduce the spread of COVID (it's more spreadable then, didn't you know?), and most stores closed by 6 pm during the week. Taking Callen to the doctor for his ear infection was a 4-hour event as the neighborhood doctor’s office was a walk-in and wait type of situation. Here at home, I can make appointments – even for urgent situations, which we’ve had since returning home – and I can still check in online so I don’t have to wait. Call me an American asshole, I don’t care, I like what I like and time is precious to me. This wasn't vacation, and the snail's pace didn't suit me while balancing work and mommying.
Here are the observations I’ve made after spending time outside my home country and also with non-Americans:
· Canadians really are the friendliest damn people you’ll ever meet
· The obsession with ice is purely American
· Brits really do think they are the best in the world at everything (L/J - you ladies know I'm talking about you!)
· We are considered barbaric for not having universal health care, and also for the guns
· People talk trash about said lack of universal healthcare, but let's also give credit where credit is due and we did produce three vaccines, thank you very much
· Karaoke is the shit; all generations enjoy it and we're bringing karaoke night BACK to our backyard!
· America is socially conservative to the point of disturbing; stay out of women's body issues and why do you care who marries who again? Non-Americans find this weird (I do too, I'm just pointing out my observations)
· Please don't find it gross if my kid is naked because they're still little; you should question why it bothers you so much instead of being creepy
· I don’t need nearly as many things as I once thought I did; simplifying is good and less is more; if I ever find myself doubting that I must leave home as a reminder
Here is what I miss the most about Barbados:
· Seeing my friends every day
· Being outside every day (except for volcano days)
· Walking to the beach
· Rockley pool days
· Rockley baseball games
· Letting the kids enjoy their free-range lifestyle; they could wander freely together and we never worried
· The Kahl Drogo doppelganger that worked out at Dover Beach every day (why yes he did talk to me once… to commend Callen’s monkey bar skills, and I was nervous and stuttery the entire conversation)
· Blossom’s fries! The woman is a cooking goddess
· Hikes with Jerry and Blossom
· My balcony! I sat on it every night before bed enjoying the breeze and memorizing the feeling of it, knowing the moments were finite
· Lili stopping by so we could drink on the balcony while solving the world’s problems and discussing life in Britain vs the US
· Hearing roosters and frogs, all the time
It was the adventure of a lifetime that none of us will ever forget. The most standard response from people is “WHAT you just up and moved to Barbados?” and then we look at each other and wonder "Did we seriously do that? Who does that?"
The answer is Us, and we’ll do it again. Nine months is too long, seven months is too long; but we think two to three months could be just right. We scoffed at the people we met in the beginning who were ‘just there for a few months'; that’s no experience at all, we thought. But life in a different country isn't always easy. There are painful logistics, everything from phones to prescriptions to verification codes for your online accounts. And we missed our family back home so much.
So, next time, we won’t be escaping COVID (knock on wood), we’ll just be escaping a bitter cold Wisconsin winter. Good comes from everything, and this pandemic fundamentally changed the way the world operates. You aren’t required to be in school to get your education, you aren’t required to be sharing a cubicle wall to get your work done, and we intend to capitalize on that. Not every year, but we’ll be doing this again. Costa Rica anyone? Panama? I've also always wanted to explore the Southwest, and those don't even require my passport.
Here are my favorite pictures from the last two weeks in Barbados. Lopez, Faith, Aiden, and Bow left May 6th and Penny, Cal and I stayed a week longer, relaxing with our favorite people at Joanna and Jac's in Rockley. Highlights included a bonfire on the beach made by Jerry; he fried up breadfruit for the group and Marie-Laure brought marshmallows for the kids. Also, the catamaran trip finally happened and it was well worth it, a great way to end our time there. We hit ArtSplash (finally, it happened!), we played baseball, we had pool parties and wore costumes, we hiked and we had a farewell lunch overlooking the sea.
So long Barbados, thank you for the memories and the inspiration.
Lopez/Teens/Bow's Final Week
(yes Bow did turn a coconut into a ball for fetch)
My/Penny/Cal's Final Week
On land (mostly)
The Final Goodbyes, @ Grantley Adams International Airport