The Strange Truth About Paradise

7-Mile Beach: A Real Guide's Day Off

Reflections on Life in the Tropics

The strange truth about paradise is that it eventually gets to be boring and, quite frankly, depressing. Well, maybe not so much “depressing” as “melancholy”. It’s the seasons that do it… or rather, the lack of any discernible seasons.

To the locals the changes are obvious, and we look forward to the cooling “Christmas Breezes” as much as any Mid-westerner looks forward to the first crisp days of autumn and the changing leaves. But in the tropics the seasons are more subtle and to those who were not born here it seems the land of endless summer. The weight of time is increased by this lack of noticeable change. Now, the really strange part is that it was this same consistency that attracted them here in the first place (not that they would phrase it exactly like that).

They said to themselves, “To hell with winter; I hear down in the Keys you never have to buy antifreeze for your car or and the only ice you see is floating in rum.” People say stuff like that, and it’s true enough, but then the truth slowly dawns on them—that remembering how bad winter was makes spring seem even better. Then they say, “To hell with paradise.” and blow town. We’re sorry to see them go. I mean, it’s actually kind of amusing to hear someone constantly complain about the heat—“This place is like hell with palm trees,” they say, when they’re from a land that seems to us like the arctic circle.

That’s the danger in island life: you expect it to be not only better, but perfect. Why shouldn’t it be? You’ve got the sun, the beach, and don’t forget the all-important piña-colada. However, the ironic reality is that those who come expecting perfection (not just a nice vacation) are often disappointed, while those who know it will probably be hot, humid, and primitive (not to mention larcenously expensive as far as frozen drinks are concerned) are often pleasantly surprised by how relaxed life can be here.

I think that the locals’ perspective is best summed up by Herman Wouk (who’s book Don’t Stop the Carnival I highly recommend).

[For the local there is] a piece of wisdom that his climate of eternal summer teaches him. It is that, under all the parade of human effort and noise, today is like yesterday, and tomorrow will be like today; that existence is a wheel of recurring patterns from which no one escapes; that all anybody does in this life is live for a while and then die for good, without finding out much; and that therefore the idea is to take things easy and enjoy the passing time under the sun.

Well, I don’t care what the ex-pats say: still sounds like paradise to me.

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    […] Flatswalker has a bit to share about what island life is really like… The strange truth about paradise is that it eventually gets to be boring and, quite frankly, depressing. […]

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    […] those living in cold climes often romanticize the tropics as paradise. Yet as Davin Ebanks writes, the constant can bring a melancholy all its own: “today is like yesterday, and tomorrow will be like today; that existence is a wheel of […]

  • WindKnotFollower

    Loved this post Windknot.

    The reality of an ‘island’ Christmas is that I killed two mosquitoes last night, maybe three…and where is this Christmas breeze you speak of? With all this drizzly stillness (minus a degree or two of raging heat) and you have typical summer misery right here in December. I lie! It’s actually quite cool down in the islands. Cool enough to enjoy a friend drinking a real drink without breaking a sweat;) Paradise ain’t so bad when there’s good company about. But sometimes I wish that there was some white stuff on the ground other than sand.

    Does that make me sound like a whingy ungrateful ex-pat?

  • sensitive soul

    Sounds like paradise to me too.
    Cool rains in “winter” in Florida were enough cold for me.
    I still managed to catch pneumonia going for a jog! LOL.
    For now I’ll hibernate in Germany…

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