Virginia Heath's extolling the virtues of living on Island Time, and is telling us about her love for the Caribbean.
I have to confess, escaping Halloween and those miserable wet Autumn and Winter months before Christmas is not something I’ve done much. Back in my teaching days, holidays were set in stone and excruciatingly expensive. Despite that, I still managed to see some fabulous places in the world because my love of travelling outweighs my need to live within my means. Over countless Summers, I’ve travelled to Thailand, seen huge chunks of Europe, visited Tunisia and repeatedly visited the USA. It’s my mission to see every single state.
Last year, for the first time since recklessly throwing away my teaching career to pursue my life-long dream of writing romance, I took two Winter holidays- a brilliant trip to Iceland and my fifth visit to my favourite city, New York. This year, I’m running away from the dank British weather again, but this time I’m chasing some out-of-season sun in my favourite holiday destination in the whole, wide world. The Caribbean.
My first trip to those balmy, forever Summer oasis was in 2007, when on a whim I booked a family vacation to Jamaica. It blew me away. The endless powdery sandy beaches, the warm azure ocean, the coconutty rum infused cocktails and the soothing stress-busting quality of something you only get in the tranquil waters of the Caribbean Sea- Island Time.
If you’ve never experienced it you must. I won’t deny it took some getting used to. For a girl who’s lived her entire life in the busy metropolis of London, where we expect everything in a timely manner if not yesterday, Island Time first seems like an abomination. You order a drink and the waiter wants to chat before leisurely strolling off to see to it. Your food takes a good hour or more to get to your table. And if you order a taxi and are told 5 minutes, don’t expect it for at least half an hour. Or longer. I’ve never seen a soul wear a watch in the Caribbean and they get there when they get there. Going with the flow. Cheerfully smiling and wholly unapologetic for the long delay. That’s the way it is.
Yet the moment you embrace it and throw away your own timepiece and rigorous, anally retentive schedule for the world, the better you’ll feel. Instantly. It’s a revelation that changes how you think.
Since that first sun-kissed visit all those years ago, I’ve been back time and time again. I’ve strolled down a stunning beach in St Lucia during a thunderstorm then air-dried in the hot sun before I reached home. I’ve snorkelled between the magnificent Pitons and fed bananas underwater to the colourful Sergeant Major fish. I’ve eaten juicy jerk chicken with my fingers and sampled the surprising delights of fried conch. I’ve lounged on beaches, boats, catamarans and under palm trees and I’ve witnessed many a Caribbean sunset. The most spectacular on the tranquil Turks and Caicos islands.
And because my body clock was still on English time, I’ve taken a solitary walk down to the shore of Grace Bay in the small hours where I stared at the stars, so much brighter in the Caribbean than anywhere else for some reason, and felt small beneath them. Then held my breath as a giant sea turtle slowly emerged from the waves and shuffled towards me. I’m not sure what that phenomenal creature thought about the sight of a Londoner sat alone on his beach before dawn, but he didn’t seem to mind me being there. We hung out together for an hour until the sunrise when he disappeared back into the sea. I got married in secret on that same beach just a few days later.
No worries.The perfect way to celebrate 20 years with the love of my life and the children we created.
But be warned- Island Time is as addictive as crack cocaine. Like the most committed of junkies I now need a regular fix. To that end I’m disappearing there again this Winter. Barbados this time. One of the many paradise islands I have yet to see. And because I’m now a professional, I’ll change into my linens on the plane, throw away my watch the moment that it lands. I’ll take a deep, cleansing breath of Caribbean air as I step out of that oval doorway and then instantly go with the flow.