I’m back… *sigh*
I recently returned home from my absolutely fabulous 5th trip to Anguilla during which I had a fantastic time visiting friends and exploring more of the island. I only wish I could have stayed longer and, I know this makes me sound like a spoiled you-know-what, but this trip of 6 nights in Anguilla was WAY too short! I’m not sure I’ll be able to do an AXA trip that lasts less than 10 days ever again! Go ahead, you can hate me now. (Sorry, but you already knew this island thing is a bit of an addiction for me, right?) So, I’ll just have to save up for a longer trip next time.
As usual, in the short period that I’ve been back, the differences between that little island and home have been glaringly obvious. It always happens that way – I get back, I desperately long for all the things I’m missing from Anguilla, and then the memory of what it’s like to be there gradually fades as I get back into the “daily grind”.
Granted, some of those things that I love about being in Anguilla are simply the benefits of being on vacation: no set schedule, no one to take care of but myself, and the complete freedom to do anything or nothing at all.
But, what I tend to miss most about Anguilla are those things that are so distinctly different from life at home and that I won’t likely experience until I head back again. So, before my current “island high” wears off completely, I thought I should write down some of those things that keep me coming back to AXA time and time again:
1. The slower pace of island life
This natural and relaxed pace is likely an unavoidable result of the fact that quite a lot of AXA runs on island time, which is that casual “Don’t worry, it’ll get done sooner or later” laid-back attitude common to the islands.
For me, life at home consists of zipping around from one appointment to the next almost non-stop with barely enough time to sleep at night. Getting things done in a timely manner is key at all times; slow down and you get left behind.
So when I step foot on Anguilla, you can imagine the adjustment required for me to get used to the slower speed. Fortunately, with each visit, I’ve learned to lessen the time needed to get into that relaxed state of mind that works best in Anguilla. Once I’ve done that, I can enjoy things like the fact that in AXA, when driving, someone honking their car horn at you is not an angry “Get out of my way!” or “Go faster!” message as it would likely be at home. Instead, it’s just a way of them saying hello or a friendly heads-up that they’re going to pass you. Imagine that!
Of course, the downside of this slower pace is that, if you ever really want to get something done on a deadline, you might run into some issues depending on how the people you interact with operate.
For me, as a visitor, it’s just easier to accept that things are going to move slowly in Anguilla and not necessarily according to any particular plan. Everything is definitely much more enjoyable that way.
2. The friendliness of Anguillians
In my experience, the locals that I’ve met on Anguilla have been overwhelmingly kind and open. It makes me a little sad to say that it’s rare for me to find the same level of friendliness at home but this quality of Anguillans definitely warms my heart whenever I visit. It’s possible that their friendliness is just a consequence of the fact that many locals work in the hospitality industry, but to me, it seems far too genuine and from-the-heart for that to be the only reason. The vast majority of people that I’ve met on the island seem to be truly interested in hearing about me and in sharing about themselves.
Some of my most enjoyable memories on Anguilla have come after walking into a new restaurant alone, sitting at the bar to have my meal, and chatting for hours with locals that I had never met before. I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to strike up conversations with most people on the island as long as you’re polite and kind to them. Anguillians seem willing to treat you as well as you treat them and, many times, better than you deserve if you’re one of those rude visitors. (You know who you are.)
One (very sweet) young Anguillian woman that I met on this last trip assured me that “bad seeds” definitely do exist on the island, which is only realistic. Luckily, for those of us passing through, they seem to be few and far between.
I think that things at home usually move too fast for this level of friendliness with strangers to occur too often, so when I get frustrated about that fact, it’s great to know that a friendly place like Anguilla exists.
3. The lack of anonymity
Anguilla is only 35 square miles in size so it’s not hard to believe that it’s the kind of place where just about everyone seems to know everyone else. If they don’t know you personally, they probably have at least seen you or they know of your family.
If you’re just a one-time visitor to the island this close-knit community feeling might not make itself so apparent to you. However, if you’re a repeat visitor, you’ll likely soon find out that different people that you meet are connected in certain ways and, after some time, people might start remembering you.
Now, this doesn’t just happen with people you’ve met and talked to, but even people who have just seen you around. At home in the DC area, I can go months or more without ever accidentally bumping into someone I know. There are just too many people and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd and feel pretty anonymous.
So when I’m in Anguilla and someone that I don’t know comes over and greets me, you might think it would be a little disconcerting. But, since this has so far only happened to me with friendly and gracious Anguillians, well… I have to admit that I kinda like it. It’s a nice feeling to not feel like a complete stranger in a crowd sometimes, if that makes any sense.
Just on this last trip, a guy emerged from somewhere within a packed Pumphouse crowd on a Thursday night, gave me a big smile and came over to greet me with a charming Anguillian-style guy-girl handshake (see this post for my earlier description of this common AXA hello). He said “Do you remember me?” and my stomach dropped a little because I honestly did not remember him. Embarrassed, I apologized that I didn’t recognize him, but he was very kind and forgiving and said, “Don’t you remember? We were having dinner in the same group at Smokey’s that one time.” and he proceeded to name the people that we had been dining with. My mind was racing to remember the night, and I finally did recall the evening – but it had happened two years earlier! This gentleman and I had never actually been introduced and I don’t believe we even spoke much to each other, if at all.
I praised him for his amazing memory and again apologized profusely for mine being so bad. He didn’t hold it against me at all but said that it was nice to see me again and that he hoped that I was having a nice trip. The funny thing is that I ran into him again on my last day in Anguilla as I was arriving at the Blowing Point Ferry. You can be as sure as heck that I remembered him this time, and instead of getting the relatively formal handshake, he gave me a great big hug along with several well-wishes for my trip home. I guess that makes us friends. :)
The obvious drawback to this lack of anonymity is that people always seem to know what you’re doing and where you’re doing it. Also on this latest trip, a buddy of mine said “Oh, yeah, my friend’s brother told me he saw you at the Pumphouse last night at 1 am”. Huh? Wow. I don’t know his friend and, while I have met the friend’s brother (it took some digging for me to find out his identity), it was only a very brief meeting on a completely different day and at another location. I know, though, that this comment wasn’t meant with any ill intent and that it was really just something said in passing. It’s the kind of thing that happens pretty often in a small-town atmosphere. I learned early on that this just means that I have to behave myself at all times when on Anguilla – not that I wouldn’t anyway. No, I mean it! You don’t believe me? Why, what exactly have you heard? Umm…never mind. On second thought, don’t answer that.
Anguilla provides balance
Life at home isn’t perfect, but it is good. I consider myself very lucky to be able to visit a place like Anguilla that can provide me some balance when I feel like something is missing in my everyday life. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t pretend to believe that everything in Anguilla is perfect either, but to be able to have both kinds of places play significant parts in my life helps to keep me happy and (arguably) sane.
So, until I win the lottery and am able to have my own home in a place like Anguilla, I’ll have to settle for shorter visits and the knowledge that a temporary escape is only a short plane ride away. Works for me. For now.