This month has been my first living anywhere but London. Its taken me 21 years but I finally ‘flew the nest’ if you like. Its been a daunting, exciting and unexpected month. Saint Martin is a new place with new attitudes, new norms and a new culture, though I’m still finding my feet I feel ready to share some of what I’ve learnt whilst living in this new land.
I arrived on the island on a saturday, the streets were filled with energy and life. The air was thick with the smell of barbecuing meats and the sound of music. Every corner I turned I was met by another grill and another group of revellers dancing the afternoon away in the golden sunlight. I assumed it was a local holiday, a celebratory day for the island of some kind. But I was mistaken, as the month progressed I came to understand that the dancers who littered the streets were celebrating life, not for any particular reason or event other than the fact they could and they would! Why not dance in the streets with a BBQ sizzling away! Throughout my stay I’ve seen this celebratory nature everywhere. My neighbours don’t just live to work you can see they work to live. The evenings bring music, joy and relaxation in a way I’m yet to see anywhere else. Back home, at the end of the long day I’d shut the front door to the outside world, have some dinner, watch some T.V and get to sleep! But here, it’s quite the opposite, when the working day comes to an end the fun begins, the doors fly open the music rings loud and smiles creep contagiously from face to face. I’ve definitely learnt in the past month to start to live more in the moment. Thinking less “oh shit tomorrow I’ve got to…” and more “how much fun am I having now!”
When I was job hunting on the island I had no mode of transport. Cabs were too expensive, buses were too infrequent and so I concluded I was stuck. My boyfriend said I just had to hitchhike it was easy! I honestly thought he’d lost the plot “hitchhike?! Do you want me to be killed?!” I exclaimed! Since as far back as I can remember I’ve had stranger danger drummed into me. I’d never have even dreamt of stepping foot inside someone I didn’t knows car. Now being cautious is of course important, but this notion of not trusting anyone is one I’d grown up with, without a second thought. But on the island, it seems everyone grows up with quite the opposite being drummed into them. Trust, trust and trust again! The number one way of getting around the island is hitchhiking. As you go down the streets the pavements are littered with raised thumbs and hopeful faces. So I decided to quell my fears and give it a go and I haven’t looked back (apart from maybe to see if there’s a car on its way to give me a lift!). I’ve met so many interesting and kind people I never would have been able to if I hadn’t taken the plunge. The island is different to most in its expectation for hitchhikers, I’d probably be laughed at back in London, but here it works a treat! I found in myself a new level of trust for strangers thats been lovely to discover. I probably won’t bring my new found hitchhiking ways back home with me, but, I will try to bring the new found trust I’ve had for people back home with me.
Another lesson I’ve learnt from the island is to just relax! To stop worrying about the ticking clock and let what happens happens. Whenever I’ve been driven around on the island, at some point the traffic has come to an unexpected halt. No cars are blocking the way, no red lights are signalling, so why have we stopped mid journey? To have a chat of course! Without fail along the road at least a couple of cars will stop for a few minutes to chat to their friends they’ve seen strolling past. When I first arrived I felt agitated by this, desperate for them to stop talking and let me get on my way. But I’ve never seen a single person honk at this, or be taken over by road rage and insist they rekindle their talk another time. Rather, everyone just sits back and waits for the conversation to come to its conclusion and then they get calmly on their way. I think if this was to take place in the London; horns would be going off left right and centre, screaming voices would come flying from windows and angry faces would be seen behind windscreens. But here there’s a much calmer, less aggressive attitude filling the air. One which says, hey a couple minutes more on the road’s not gonna kill me!
The final, and for me the most important, lesson I’ve learnt whilst living in Saint Martin is to be more present. The apartment in which I live only gets internet from a particular spot on the communal stairs and even in this spot it’s pretty fleeting! On my 3rd day I was stood in the spot with my computer in the air desperately trying to get connection. My landlord saw me and came over for a chat “are you ok?” he asked I said yes I was good, just really needed some internet, to this he looked very confused. “what do you guys do on those things all day he asked” I told him about my blog, Facebook, Instagram etc. He just looked at me and told me to look up. In front of me lay the Caribbean sea, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a person in sight. I sat for a moment and finally began to take in what I was lucky enough to find in front of me. He left me whilst I gently shut my computer and watched the waves roll into shore. I felt ashamed for not realising what I had in front of me, for the first time I’d come to see the screen I had in my hands was stopping me from appreciating the real world I was surrounded by! I still love the online world, blogging especially! But I’ve begun to use it more as a tool to help me be more present rather than as I was before, which was as the majority filler of my time! I spend the day with my eyes wide open, living very much in the present, knowing that evening I will have seen more than I would have had my eyes been locked on my phone!
Though I’ve only called Saint Martin home for a month. This new place has taught me a great deal both about myself and about what surrounds me. I hope I can share with you more of what I learn as time goes on! Have you ever been to the Caribbean? Did you learn anything new?