Knowing that the questioners often have a preconceived notion about a Caribbean paradise, I do my best to make them understand that this real place is unlike the luxury resorts touted by the vacation industry. So my efforts come off as negativity:
"There's really nothing there."
"Don't expect restaurants as you know them."
"Forget about shopping. There's no place to shop."
"Think of simple activities like walking the beach, reading or fishing. There are no operators for parasailing and such."
I fail to mention the miles of natural beach, where we say it's crowded if you meet more than six people ... or the calm blue waters protected by a reef ... or the fun of listening to men argue about politics at a tiny local bar ... or Susie Gardiner's conch fritters.
I'm not trying to be selfish about North Caicos, keeping others away to keep it peaceful. But I do know it's not for everyone, so I try to weed out those folks who imagine being served a pina colada while they lounge on a chaise listening to steel drums. Yes, you can do that, but you have to make the drink yourself and carry it to the beach along with the beach chair and the music. See the difference?
I do a much better description in my fiction, explaining this place through the incidents and stories I've encountered ... even though they've been dressed up, rearranged, blended together or pared down. Freed from discussing where to find lunch or how to get hold of the one dive operator, my writing can describe North Caicos (or East Taino, as I sometimes call it) as the kind of place where...
...an old man who gets lost in the Pine Yards might tell his rescuers he was lured there by a spirit.
...a blind flamingo can walk right into you on the beach.
...a woman can remain friends with and even do business with another woman who has slept with her husband -- and she knows it.
...everyone has a theory when shoes start washing up on the beach, and
...century-old traditions daily rub against the forces of the modern world. The erosion is subtle and slow, but inevitable.
When it comes to North Caicos, I can't write the tourist brochure. I can only write my own sort of homage and hope that those who appreciate the island will find it, the same way that those who appreciate the writing will find me.