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Why Island Living Isn’t Right for You (Or Is It?)

Island Living

Paul D’Ambra

Almost everyone has at some point found him- or herself on vacation in a tropical setting, looked across the water to a secluded island, and thought…I want to vacation there.

For the more intrepid traveler, maybe it even goes a step further.  Perhaps you’ve found yourself wanting to actually LIVE there.  Or, heck, even own the whole stinkin’ island for yourself.

But then there’s that little voice in the back of your mind that beckons you back to reality.  You know the one.  The little whisper reminding you that there aren’t any 24 hour pharmacies on that island, that there are however a number of poisonous critters, and that there may also not be any internet access to speak of.

So you wonder.  Could you really do it?  I mean, sure you could survive there for a few days, or maybe even a week.  But could you really live on a sparsely populated, or even…[gulp]…DESERTED island?

It’s true that island life isn’t for everyone.  It’s basically a matter of considering your priorities and values, as well as weighing the pros and cons of living in a remote setting.  We should also add that a number of those pros and cons pull double duty, as what is one man’s ideal picture of paradise might be another’s vision of absolute hell on earth.

It’s a weighted ranking system, really.  And one where only you can assign each positive or negative attribute the importance it deserves.  But to help you out, here are a few of the best and worst realities about living on an island.

Island Living

Paul D’Ambra

Pro:  Their undisturbed beauty is unrivaled by any planned development you can fathom.

Picture it.  Powdery sand beaches, colorful splashes of tropical flora…with no signs of human intervention other than a hammock slung between two trees that’s gently calling your name.  All this sits on the shores of the warm turquoise waters of your own private swimming pool that stretches infinitely toward the horizon.

There are no high-rise condos to block your view, no obnoxious souvenir vendors peddling their wares, and no loud neighbors blaring Jimmy Buffett on constant replay.  Just you and whomever and whatever you’ve elected to bring with you.

Con:  Sometimes a little development is a good thing.

Sure you’re considering island life because of its simplicity.  But keep in mind that many islands, particularly the smaller, undeveloped ones, lack any utilities or infrastructure whatsoever.  There may be no electricity, no hot water, no phones, no convenience stores.

What’s more, some islands that aren’t developed have remained that way because it’s not possible to get permission to develop them.  So you can’t assume that you can later add some of the amenities you desire.  That’s not always an option.

Compromise:  If you’re someone who absolutely has to have a little bit of development to feel content or secure, you have basically two options available to you.

The first option is to choose a relatively larger island that has a few more amenities.  There are some great options, like Roatan, Honduras, or Ambergris Caye, Belize, that offer all of the perks of island living but also have access to goods and services you might not find on a smaller island.

You won’t exactly be living the life of Robinson Crusoe, unless you can find a secluded lot somewhere well off the beaten path, but you’ll have those creature comforts you crave.  You’ll also pay considerably more for property on one of these more developed islands.

Another alternative is to choose a secluded, private island that’s NEAR a place that has more development.  A perfect example is Boca Chica Island, Panama. (Unashamed plug for our island!)  There you can be completely alone with your thoughts and then, after only a 10-minute boat ride, find yourself on the mainland with access to all of the basic necessities you might need.  For even more variety, the large city of David is only another half hour away once you reach the shore.

Island Living

Salvatore Freni Jr

Pro:  Island living is the epitome of freedom and easy living.

With no nosy neighbors, no authorities, no subdivision covenants, no schedules or deadlines, island life gives you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live your life exactly the way you want to.

You make the rules.  You set the agenda and the dress code.  You essentially create your own reality.  You can get up when you want to, spend your time doing whatever it is that fuels your existence, maybe take a siesta, and then get up and do it all again.

Con:  There’s such a thing as something that’s too easy and too free.

While some people might jump at the chance to live a life of leisure and do nothing but swim, surf, fish, or snooze, there are others among you who might already be asking yourself what you’re going to do AFTER you’re done doing all those things.

The truth is that, for some, island life can become a bit monotonous and…well…downright boring without something productive to do or some way of contributing.  Cabin fever can set in really quickly, especially if you’re living somewhere that’s completely deserted.  

People from first-world countries have been conditioned to seek challenges and find satisfaction in overcoming obstacles.  And by that we mean something a little more difficult than just figuring out how to get the coconuts down from that really tall tree.

Without enough healthy struggles, many people might quickly become frustrated with an all-too-easy lifestyle.

Compromise:  Again another option is to choose a more populated or developed island with a few more options for socializing or a wider variety of activities to participate in.

You can also stick with the more secluded place and just look for other ways to find your purpose.  A lot of island dwellers choose their locations because they’re the perfect setting for working remotely.  The solitude and natural surroundings are great fuel for uncluttered thinking and ultimate productivity.

island living


Pro:  There’s an unlimited supply of fresh fish, fruit, and more.

Talk about fresh, organic, wild-caught foods.  It doesn’t get any more natural than all of the amazing ingredients that are readily available on a tropical island.  

You’ve never caught fish so easily in your life.  And everything that grows on the trees is such a great natural complement to the flavors of the seafood.  Coincidence?  We think not.

So many people report weight loss and better health after moving to a tropical destination, even if they aren’t even trying to focus on their health.  It’s just a natural consequence of island living, which is also often much more inherently active than even other tropical living options.

Con:  On an island there’s little else in the way of supplies and consumer goods.

Depending as always on the level of development of your particular island, there may be very little access to the goods and services you need.  You may have no stores at all, maybe just one, or perhaps only a boat that comes periodically to the island from the mainland and may or may not have the things you’re after.

The level of inconvenience to you will also depend on how high-maintenance your needs are.  If you’re only slightly bummed that the local store doesn’t carry your brand of breakfast cereal, than that’s no biggie.  If you absolutely can’t handle the fact that you never know whether the supply boat will have milk this week or not, then that’s a bigger issue.

There’s also the issue of paying slightly more for what’s sometimes lesser quality items, due to the added cost of transporting the goods.  Transportation and availability become even more time- and money-consuming when it comes time to build an island home or make repairs or renovations as everything has to be brought over by boat.

Compromise:  There isn’t really a whole lot you can do about this issue.  What’s available is what’s available and your best bet is to just learn to have an extra measure of patience and to sweet talk the local business owners every opportunity you get.

This is also another area where living on a more populated island, or one that’s closer to civilization, affords you a much higher number of options in terms of goods and services.  You just have to find the right balance between solitude and convenience.  

island living

Paul D’Ambra

Pro:  Owning an island will make you a big hit at parties.

Let’s face it.  Island ownership is the ultimate status symbol.  Islands are the real estate equivalent of diamonds, extremely beautiful and valuable in their own right, but made even more desirable by their rarity.

Islands convey exclusivity, freedom, power, and a lot of other qualities associated with celebrities and other elite groups.  It’s like having a yacht, except it’s a solid investment in real property.  

Nothing shuts up the token show-off or the one-upper who’s bragging about his last blowout vacation like when you casually mention, “Yeah, that sounds kind of like my private island.”

That’s not to say that you should buy an island just for the bragging rights.  In fact, that’s far from the mindset of most people who invest in island real estate.  But there’s still the satisfaction of knowing you could brag about it.  If you wanted to.

Con:  There probably won’t be many parties on your deserted island.

Unless you’re willing to throw a soiree and somehow transport several dozen of your closest friends out to the island to attend it, you’re probably going to have to go elsewhere to find the above-described cocktail party.

Otherwise you’re going to have to be the one traveling to maintain any semblance of a social life.  For that matter, you’re also going to have to travel a considerable distance for things like matches, movie nights, boat repairs, and access to postal services.  

These occasional trips might not be a big issue to some, but it can be frustrating to run out of paint with ¾ of your room completed and a 45 minute one-way haul to the nearest hardware store.

Compromise:  When loneliness creeps in or you discover your significant other just ate the last slice of bread you’ll get for a week, the best solution is to remind yourself of all of the amazing benefits to island living that far outweigh the occasional inconvenience.

Running out of eggs is a small price to pay for a panoramic view of both sunrise and sunset from your wrap-around porch.  Spotty internet is not a bad trade-off when compared with the ability to enjoy complete solitude and total silence, save the howler monkeys and toucans flitting overhead.  

Island living isn’t for everyone.  And it isn’t for the faint of heart.  But if you’re one of those for whom this lifestyle is a perfect fit, you’ll spend the rest of your days wondering why you didn’t make the leap sooner.

Don’t waste another one merely staring at that island in the distance.  See what’s available and give island living a try for yourself.

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2 thoughts on “Why Island Living Isn’t Right for You (Or Is It?)

  1. Robert Kasak

    Informative article… thanks for the heads
    Up to island living… pros and cons…

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