Island Living

By on April 17, 2016

By Pamela Lovegren–

A horn honks and I leap out of my ocean view hammock grabbing the coin box as I race to the street. Leonard, the local bread man, has arrived! Freshly baked goods of butter flaps, coconut scones, buns, bread pudding and other bakery goodies are tempting among his daily delivery choices. As phenomenal as the pastries are…nothing compares to his infectious smile, genuine good nature and sincere comments. Everyone should have a “Leonard” in their life.  

I met Leonard while traveling with my husband, Peter, to the Commonwealth of Dominica, which is known as the Nature Island. We set out to experience “Living on an Island”. Lush jungle vegetation surrounded us with unlimited shades of green sweeping all the way from its volcanic peak to the smooth ocean beaches and rocky shoreline cliffs.  Is it any wonder the dream of living on a beautiful island draws people to this pictorial paradise? 

Colorful Dominica townWhen our friends, Tom and Barb, extended an invitation to visit and experience their island lifestyle, Peter and I jumped at the chance. The warm 85 degree sun had set into a comfortable balmy 72 degree twilight evening when our plane touched down in front of a tiny airport hardly big enough for one or two aircraft. Shortly after arriving at our friend’s home I found myself following Barb in her revitalizing tradition. Showers are taken before dinner from solar heated water followed by donning a feminine sundress.

The next morning I discovered the benefits of rapid growing conditions in a warm climate. Gardens grow with abandon. Plucking new stalks of broccoli and red tomatoes before the birds get to them was the first mandate of the day. Using hoses connected to rain collection barrels, I sprayed gardens of pineapples, papaya, cherries, avocados, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce and herbs. My reward was biting into a freshly picked papaya that released a burst of luscious flavor not found in store bought produce.

Exploring on foot, we discovered a hidden treasure at Pointe Baptiste Estate. Tom introduced Peter and me to his friend and estate owner, Alan. After a fascinating private tour we indulged in chocolate tasting. The organic cocoa beans grown and fermented on the plantation make the finest, smoothest, most delicious handmade dark chocolates. I’m still trying to decide whether the Tangerine, Coffee or Ginger chocolate bar is my favorite.

Fermenting cocoa beans and cocoa bean pod

Fermenting cocoa beans and cocoa bean pod

Formal tourist attractions are few, but there are an unlimited number of natural marvels. To get to my favorite beach you traverse a jungle trail with an overgrown canopy, scramble over rocky outcroppings and drop down to a secluded beach of palms trees with a swirling mix of cream and ebony colored sands. Here the ocean starts out a pale aqua marine and fades into intense cobalt blue. It beckons the beholder to snorkel the world underneath the surface.  Waves pound against a jagged rock jetty sending white foamy spray towering into the air only to crash into cascading waterfalls over the rock cliffs back into the ocean. Mesmerizing beauty is everywhere you look.

I overcame my fear of submersing myself in murky water at Ti Tou Gorge. Four big men climbed out of the water when we arrived. They warned us that the strong flow made swimming to the hidden waterfall impossible. Tom, Peter and I resolved to beat the current. Slipping on flippers and life vests we gingerly stepped into the deep, chilly and muddied waters. We swam up the narrow gorge (where a scene in Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed) pushing hard against swirling underwater forces to the concealed 100 foot cascading water fall. We did it!

Screws Sulfur Hot Springs

Screws Sulfur Hot Springs

To warm up, our hosts treated us to Screws Sulfur Hot Springs with four different mineral pools. Each naturally fed pond grew progressively hotter until we sank gratefully into the hottest one at 95 degrees. All chills, aches and worries dissipated. No hurry, just leisure, relaxation and serene smiles of joy. Afterward my skin felt so soft. To wrap up the occasion we feasted on a tray of fresh island fruits consisting of pineapple, banana, coconut, papaya and watermelon.

We continued to explore the island on narrow, winding roads with hairpin turns just wide enough for 1 ½ vehicles.  It was a white knuckle experience. I am extremely thankful to our friends, hosts and guides for doing all the driving.

I was surprised to learn daylight hours are basically the same year-round with a captivating sunrise around 6:30am and dusk slipping into darkness around 6:30pm. Nighttime brings a chorus of insects to serenade you to sleep along with island breezes and ocean waves pounding the shoreline. After a torrential downpour the frogs join in and round out the symphony. I still miss the isle evening lullaby.

Building is a whole different ballgame in Dominica. Tom shared many construction stories which proved he is a man of patience, resourcefulness and determination. Supplies, even electricity and water, are never guaranteed. Damage from salty ocean air requires a huge investment of time and energy to maintain what is created. Everything metal rusts and buildings need to be repainted every three to five years. Materials, when available, are often poor quality and require a two hour drive to the other side of the mountain. These inconveniences are part of the package deal and worth it to those who take the plunge to live here.

Roadside vegetable stand

Roadside vegetable stand

Friday night before Peter and I flew back to the states, we mingled with expats from all over the world at a little outdoor restaurant called POZ. Each person we met was self-reliant with a unique personality. Yet, all had a commonality of inner strength while genuinely extending a hand of friendship. The contrast of how expats live compared to the rustic living conditions among many Caribs was illuminating and humbling. Many of the local island people are warm hearted and have an upbeat outlook on life. 

Now I am home. Peter and I immersed ourselves in Tom and Barb’s daily lives, interacted with local Caribs, mixed with the expats and experienced some of the pros and cons of living on an island. The reality of living on an island may not always be the romantic dream you imagine it to be…but I encourage you to try the lifestyle. The intangible aspects are ones you never forget and always cherish. 


About Pamela LovegrenBusiness Manager / Travel Editor
Pamela’s expertise flows from building her own successful business to guiding small to mid-size family owned companies. She analyzes business structure, is a diplomatic negotiator, identifies operational issues, and implements effective resolutions to lead a firm on a path to excellence. Her experience ranges from resort management, leadership conferences, property management and business consulting to managing editor of this online publication. Pamela shares the vision of Carol Doyel to celebrate and encourage women of 50+ who desire to live life with spirit and passion each and every day.

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Island Living