Consistency. It’s a huge part of my internal make-up. I believe if you find something worthwhile, you should a) appreciate it and b) keep it. That is why I have been married to the same mostly wonderful man for 29 years, or as we like to say, 26 years of wedded bliss. My best friends date back decades, I’ve lived in St. Louis all my life, and I still end each week with a Friday night steak and wine dinner with Hubs.
I love to travel and experience new places, but I find myself returning again and again to my favorites. The last ten days were spent in my personal Nirvana, Anguilla. This beautiful, hard-to-get-to island has stunning beaches with blindingly white, powdery sand, infinite shades of crystal blue waters, fantastic gourmet restaurants on the beach where you dine under the stars and in your shorts and flip flops. The pace is decidedly relaxed, and the free-roaming goats and chickens outnumber the tourists.
I know there are many other places that match this description, I have been to a few. I keep trying to understand and explain what it is about Anguilla and why it calls me back so frequently (five times in the last 10 years!)
I think ultimately the irresistible allure is what I glean from the people and their culture. I find myself returned to my real world much more relaxed, more appreciative of all I have, and a better sense of what is really important in life.
First, Anguillans call themselves “Belongers.” What a fabulous term, signifying family, and community, and the spirit of their island. If you were born here, you belong here. Our taxi pulls up to our resort, and the taxi driver calls out “Hey, Cuz” to the woman greeting us. We drive by the same house every evening, and every evening a lively game of dominoes, complete with laughter and the distinct sharp clap of tiles being slammed onto the table, continues. Sundays on Anguilla are family days. Multi-generational groups gather after church and spend the day together barbecuing, playing games on the beach, swimming, laughing and enjoying one another.
There is always a weekend event for the children, with what seems like the whole island out to watch and support… a bike race, a foot race, sailboat races.
Every business transaction starts with a handshake and introduction, followed by friendly general chatting about the day, the weather, anything really, just showing interest in you as a person.
The pace is decidedly slow. I watched with awe and amusement as cars went through the drive thru at the local bank. First, the teller window was on the usual left side of the car, but Anguillans drive on the opposite side of the road as we do, and most of their steering wheels are on the right. Each driver approaches the drive-thru, gets out of the car, walks around to the window, chats, laughs and transacts business, then walks back into the car. I sat for 15 minutes waiting for Hubs to do his own transaction inside the bank, and only two cars completed their journey. Three cars were still lined up behind, and no one honked, grew agitated or even seemed to care.
Here is a “no parking” sign, Anguilla style.
Any issues, concerns or obstacles that come up are always met with a “no problem.” Manners are impeccable, with pleases and thank yous, smiles and hugs.
Humor seems to be a key ingredient to the Anguillan personality, as well; dead-pan and delightful. They don’t put up with nonsense. I was at a beach bar and ordered a cheeseburger (I know! I know!) Owner Mo raised his eyebrow, gave me that “Really?” look and gestured towards the sea. We all laughed.
Keeping with our newly acquired Anguillan spirit, while others panicked, yelled, cussed and generally showed their worst side, here is how Hubs and I dealt with our very long flight delay leaving St. Maarten: drinks, snacks, laughs and a photo war…
Of course the island is not perfect. There are real world problems here, like everywhere; but civility, manners, kindness, love and humor and an appreciation for life go a long way in addressing these issues.
I come back from these trips a better person, having learned life lessons from these wonderful people. I think I go back so often as I want to refresh and relearn just how amazing life can be if you slow down to appreciate it.