Picture it. Chilling on the beach all day with mojitos, palm trees, coconuts, 94°F weather, hammocks, and hot girls. Ahh...
But take it from a guy who’s currently living the non-touristic island life: it turns out that the dreams of the easygoing island life made popular by people like Jimmy Buffett and The Beach Boys are just that, dreams.
I'm living on Cozumel, an extremely small island 11 miles off of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, for eight weeks doing a scuba divemaster internship, and, man, I've already learned more than I ever hoped (or wanted) to know.
Here’s one problem: the warm, relaxing climate of an island isn’t enough to switch off the insanity that runs through our veins. The place is small enough that everyone knows everyone, gossip is more intense, and situations get weird in a less regulated country like Mexico.
And that’s only the beginning. Add tons of expats in to the mix—people from all over the world, of all different ages, all looking for something different or trying to escape their old lives. You’re going to get some weird social dynamics, people struggling with self-confidence, and lots of drama.
Island life isn’t really that different from small town life, but it’s even more concentrated. Expats and locals don’t mingle much (because of language barriers) which effectively makes the pool of available people even smaller than a town.
And then there’s the point of moving to escape your old stressful life. Don’t get me wrong, you feel a sense of escape for a while, but it won't last forever. Eventually, you’ll get used to your lifestyle, and your old worries (if they’re internalized) will come back in full force.
On top of that, you can easily become a slave to the island lifestyle over time no matter how you choose to spend your time. I'm living with a bunch of dive instructors and divemasters and already discovered that work can be just as enslaving here too. They just enjoy it more than working at home.
There’s also the danger of succumbing to your vices full-time, especially since everything is cheap. I've met a few people who do.
It’s important to realize that the grass isn't always greener, even in a tropical paradise.
Escaping from yourself doesn't work. You have to figure out what you need to do to make things okay (much more easily said than done) and take charge of your life.
As for the drama, if you find yourself in this type of situation, just try to enjoy yourself. If you love drama, you’ll fit right in. If you like avoiding drama, it’s possible too.
All aside, give the island life a try for a while if you can. If you're content, maybe Jimmy was right.