By “we” I mean myself and others who have either moved permanently to the Caribbean, or who have frequently-visited homes there. And by “Jimmy Buffett,” I mean those early songs that touted a simple, lazy, slightly degenerate life of margaritas, dominoes, “land sharks” and changes in latitude/attitude.
The connection for Tom and me came after a couple of Windjammer cruises, an Earthwatch expedition in the Virgin Islands and a couple of visits to Nevis and North Caicos. It helped that Clifford Gardiner, who encouraged us to stay and keep staying on North, was already a Buffett fan. Back home, the music became a dream and the dream became a reality. So yes, we have Jimmy to thank, somewhat, for Aloe House.
But we also have him to blame for screwing things up. What began as an alternative lifestyle for the adventurous became an industry sending 9-to-5-‘ers on an endless bachelor/bachelorette party. (Some people claim that there’s a singer to blame!)
The original fans understood that the island lifestyle, while invitingly louche, required a few sacrifices. Reliable phone service, attentive service, insect-free rooms and tidied-up beaches were less important than the freedom of being there. Over time, though, this changed. Visitors began to demand American-style comforts such as air conditioning, television and (gasp!) wi-fi. The way most people on the island live was ignored for the way we all “should” live. A strong smell of colonialism made its second waft over the Caribbean.
As a result, today it’s difficult for a traveler to determine any island’s real culture. All the islanders want to make a buck from you (of course!), so they are certainly going to provide what’s expected. Angus beef in a place that doesn’t raise cattle? Of course! Flounder? Sure! Pineapple? Why not!
And, hey, if you’re from America and thinking of retiring here, let’s make it easy! Instead of making you understand trade winds and energy conservation and beach erosion and hurricanes, let’s just build an American-style condo on the beach, with electronic appliances that will break in two years and metal furniture that will rust. But at least you’ll have a frozen concoction machine.
Perhaps I’m being too hard on Margaritaville. They’re just trying to make money, after all (as if they need it).
But so are the local people on your chosen island, who can build you a hurricane-strong house, tell you the best places to get conch or lobster, and become friends and resources for the future. Your call.