I’ve given up fighting a sandal tan.
I used to put a lot of effort, on holiday, into not getting tan lines from my sandals. I’d sit with only my bare feet in the sun, and slather on the sunblock when I was wearing sandals.
I used to be proud of my tan. I tan easily, and it is golden and even. At home in Canada it was a status symbol, especially in the dark, wet winters. “Where have you been?!?”
In Barbados, tan just happens: despite 50+ sunblock, covering up, avoiding midday sun, seeking shade. Not only do I have sandal tan, my feet show the distinct line on the side of the water shoes I wear while surfing.
And I don’t care.
I wear flip flops and barely there sandals that show most of my feet. I think the sandal tan obsession was about not drawing attention to my feet: my big, flat feet with long, skinny toes— prehensile, my ex jokingly called them.
My feet are functional, and to tell the truth, they look a lot better when I no longer try to hide them in shoes or with an even tan.
In the container with the sunblocks, there are also many insect repellents. Here, after trying citronella (candles, oil, bracelets), Vitamin B, rosemary oil, citrus body wash, and every “natural” product in the stores, we finally started buying sprays and lotions with DEET, and have even used mosquito coils. When Zika virus and Dengue fever are on the island, when I have talked to several people who have had Dengue in the past or just recently, I realized my preferences were luxuries I and others who live here couldn’t afford.
But if you’re coming down, could you bring some SkinSoSoft dry oil spray? Or Boot’s Soltan After sun lotion with bug repellent? And a good garlic press? Because, like many other products I’m used to, you can’t buy them here. You can’t just order them on-line, either. Shipping is expensive and duties can more than double the price, as well as tying the parcel up for weeks at customs and immigration. Many locals go off-island shopping annually in normal times, or have services in the States that collect orders and consolidate them in a barrel that is shipped by sea. There are many items I would have ordered without thought if the process was easier, but I have discovered I can do without.
Barbados has taught me flexibility. If there are no fresh tomatoes or feta cheese in the store, think of something else for dinner! I am actually finding cooking more fun with less options. There is more imagination involved, and less stressing about the “right” recipe or ingredients. After 18 years in the same kitchen, I had the perfect dish or tool for every culinary process. Now I have rediscovered how little you actually need, how adaptable some items are, and the joy of having an empty glass jar that is just the right size for storing food.
I’ve used the same brand of skin care product for 30 years and was worried when I was running out and couldn’t get more here. Now I’ve tried other products and they work just fine. It’s yet one more case of realizing that what I thought were needs were really just wants, or even just preferences, habit. My hair gets shorter and shorter with every cut and hair products, like cosmetics, are simplified and rarely used. It’s all about functionality.
I’ve also discovered, to my surprise, that a car is not necessary. I bought my first car at 18, and apart from a few years in my 20s, have always had one. At times, there were more vehicles in the driveway than there were people in the house.
In Barbados, going without a car was an experiment to reduce expenses, as Scott and I are both supporting households at “home” as well as here. I didn’t think it would last, but to my surprise we have only rented a car a few times, for a few days. Of course, there are many times having a car would be more convenient, but without one I plan more, and have no problem averaging 10,000 steps a day!
I have always been fit, but in Barbados I have rediscovered the fun of exercise. For the last twenty years, fitness has been a health related goal. Attending a class or boot camp, going to the gym or getting those daily 10K steps— although I had pride in being in good shape, and sometimes the exercise endorphins kicked in, it was often a grim chore. Skiing and long hikes were enjoyable but rare.
Now I surf. And like when I rock climbed or played ice hockey, my other exercise is undertaken happily, knowing it will help me be better at my sport.
I have rediscovered being lazy, the lazy of a child who has time to lie on the ground and gaze at the clouds. It’s been a long process to let go of the belief that I only had value in what I did, that there must always be purpose. In January, when I stopped tutoring on-line, I was restless and looking for things to DO, until I realized that whatever I was doing, that was enough! I started reading fiction again. My sense of obligation, and the discontent that went with it, began to dissolve.
Here, I get up early and go to bed early— or at least, early for me. The sun rises before 6 and sets not long after 6, and I don’t want to miss the daylight. When the beaches were only open 6 to 9 am, I was often out on my surfboard not long after curfew ended. I don’t feel the need to sit up late at night, alone, trying to get “me” time, no matter how low quality it was at the end of long days. Now, I can get that quiet, personal time during the day, even when Scott is right there with me.
In Barbados I have rediscovered the joy of being in love, with someone who loves me exactly as I am.
I don’t think I would have found this, however, if I had not already rediscovered joy, and understanding and acceptance of myself. It’s been a process as difficult and rewarding as raising children, and it started long before I arrived here, when I began my brave travels.
What has Barbados taught me? That right here, right now, is all that any of us really has, and all that really matters. We might as well enjoy it!