The last thing I want is spoil the island life cliché because it actually encapsulates some charmful elements of truth: the quality of life that is specific to islands, closeness/ intimacy to nature and a certain cosiness and security brought about by the scaled-down distances. And yes (in my case), the year-round beach holiday feeling. However this is not all pink hearts and fluffy clouds. Unless you were born with a silver spoon or enjoy the financial security brought by acquired wealth, you will still feel the stress engendered by the need to make a living and get creative in a challenging marketplace, with tough economic conditions to boot, exacerbated by the geographical, physical and commercial limitations of the island.
Then to the tough challenge of finding permanent employment, establishing a business model that yields a revenue beyond the tourist season, or finding a sustainable niche, all of those under the auspices of the local close-knit diaspora (a tough one, this one!), you will likely have cabin fever to deal with, a condition that is not readily discussed out in the open, as it might be wrongly perceived by some as a sign of weakness or some mental disorder. Therefore the chic and glamour and dilettante of island living as purported by the likes of Condé Nast Traveller and Coastal Living do not *in reality* come as intrinsic universal island privileges.
|Oak Bluffs Cottage, via Remodelista (photography by Julian Wass)|
Seasoned residents and born-and-breds have (had) to deal with cabin fever. It has reached the more select corners of the Bahamas, Mustique, Madeira, Capri, Santorini, Mauritius or Tahiti, in fact all of the isles. Cabin fever is part and parcel of island life, and the smaller the isle, the more acute the 'fever' - I find. Cabin fever manifests cyclically, mostly outside the tourist season (personally I experience it around the equinox season, October-November and February-March time), when you find yourself at odds with your surroundings, stuck in isolation, in the tiny villages and resorts, the same ol' town, the same ol' faces, the same ol' stories that do the rounds, the same ol' repeated patterns, the pettiness of it all.
You feel restricted and it gets claustrophobic, the physical cut-off from mainland and the rest of world gets too much. There's a feeling of powerlessness, no escape, cut off from the buzz of 'real life' as portrayed outside the confines, the imposed protectiveness of the island vs. the hustle and bustle of the cities, the vastness of the regions and continents out there. You feel spaced out (as in not in touch with the reality of the world at large), locked in your own little world, like you live on a grain of sand. The energy is trapped on an island, it swishes around and goes round in circles and you may start going round in circles in your head! You are bound to turn introspective, reflective and nostalgic. A certain weariness and boredom set in. Some might experience an impression of hibernation, being kept on hold, waiting/ pining for something good to happen.
Gala Darling has aired a few times how cut off from the world she felt when living in New Zealand, and from other sources, I understand that cabin fever over there is due to its geographical seclusion from the rest of the world. Interestingly too, a friend from California who spent a few years in NYC told me how claustrophic she felt there, describing it as a world all to itself, 'a self-centred, navel-gazing island cut off from the rest of the US', and with an insular mentality... From there on, let's extrapolate further. How about those intense and exclusive family, friend or love relationships, where any sense of personal freedom is suffocated? Those may bring in the cabin fever. And the pinnacle of cabin fever, at the exact point that bears its stigma, and pushed to the extreme by the creep masters, with Stephen King who turned it into his trademark. Did you ever wonder that in The Shining, writer Jack Torrance (portrayed by Jack Nicholson on film) was suffering from a psychotic form of cabin fever?
But eh, don't let it put you off! There are ways to circumnavigate the pitfalls of cabin fever. First and foremost, the wonders of the digital age mean that nowadays we find ourselves no further than one click away from the buzz of the world. Secondly, if you have time on your hands, it is best to keep busy (especially in the bleaks of winter) and cultivate at least one hobby that you are passionate about and that will take your mind off the daily grind. Get acquainted with self-help techniques like meditation in order to deal with the troughs of energy, and to alleviate symptoms of melancholy. Take regular trips outside your island, go visit friends and relatives. Just don't keep all your eggs in one basket, all your focus on your little isle!
|'Kangaroo Island Sailboat', via Coastal Vintage|
As your person of choice to discuss all things cabin fever, I am much more than a casual islander. In fact, I am pretty acquainted with island life as a whole, clocking over 20 years of it: Corsica (4 years), British Isles (16 years), Greek islands, Cuba (and the Cayos), and - last but not least - a tourist trip to San Francisco's notorious Alcatraz! I don't recall cabin fever as such when living in the British Isles, despite the British reputation for their insular mentality (and for their economic model to stand halfway between two continents!).
You understand where I've come from for the purpose of this article: although it is not that clear-cut, cabin fever is not strictly confined to the small islands. I will deduct from my observations that cabin fever is a state of mind, irrespective of location. You are likely to experience it in the middle of the Australian outback, on a poxy little dot on the Indian Ocean, in the throbbing heart of the Big Apple or to get up, close and personal with it in 'the comfort of' your own town or village.
If it does get unbearable on the island, it is best to pack up, spread your wings out and fly off to new shores, to feel the contrast and judge for yourself where it is you truly belong in your heart of hearts. Sometimes all you have to do is leave in order to better come back. Maybe you are too close for comfort and all it takes for you is to find your purpose, embark upon a journey of self-discovery, realise what makes you tick, what drives you, and then make it happen. As for I, as much as I know I won't be island-bound for ever, I might as well try to make the most of a beach life while I'm here.
|My mum and Tickle (my little doggie) on our way to the local beaches...|