I’m not sure what you think of when you imagine living full time on a tiny tropical island, but I can bet it involves cocktails and a sun lounger. Certainly we have a very idyllic view of things because how bad can it be? Surely the worst that can happen is getting hit on the head by a stray coconut?
Yeah, living on Gili Air is a little different. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely loved living there, and when I left I was pretty damn heartbroken. But despite my infatuation with the place there are some things that definitely took some getting used to. A “paradise tax” as one of my favorite bloggers put it. Things like…
We lost electricity on the island with such regularity that it barely feelt worth mentioning when the lights went off. I learnt to keep my various devices fully charged in case and a big packet of candles handy with a few spare lighters. The worst part? It meant no fan to keep you cool!
Forget feeling pampered
Hot shower? You must be dreaming. Ditto for one that doesn’t contain any saltwater. And good luck finding beauty products on the island that don’t contain whitening. After two months I was seriously rocking the ‘rustic’ look.
You will be sweaty, all the time
Just accept it and move on. Everyone else is covered in a thin film of perspiration too.
You may get your change in food
It was a pretty routine arrangement to be given the change from your shopping in the form of some fruit or sweets if the relevant change isn’t available.
Volcanic ash errrrrywhere
With a volcano on the neighbouring (and much larger) island of Lombok it felt as though everything was permentantly dusty. Battling it was an uphill struggle so I decided it was a good reason to stop sweeping.
Got ladybits? Stock up on tampons.
Or money, because if you can find them they’re pretty bloody expensive. Thanks for the vagina tax, guys.
Your alarm clock will be some chickens and the mosque
The daily call to prayer will rouse you from all but the deepest of slumbers while the local chickens seem to think the Iman is requesting a fight. No more need for you, phone alarm clock.
Island Time will drive you nuts
“It will be here soon probably, or maybe in a while, perhaps now.” Just suck it up and go with the flow.
Get used to the critters
Whether it’s a huntsman the size of a plate in your kitchen, or a cockroach crawling up your back after a shower you better be ready to welcome some new friends into your life. Highlight so far? A very lost looking hermit crab. Aww.
The food is amazing, but limited
While there’s no shortage of amazing places to eat, as you’d expect from a tiny 1km wide speck in the ocean there isn’t exactly a huge range. And although cheese and bacon are no where to be seen either it’s funny the things you miss – I craved rocket, spinach and sushi like you wouldn’t believe.
At some point your tummy will revolt…
…and it will be awful. Thankfully every single person you know can sympathise and at least one of them will have a spare supply of bum-stop tablets if you run out.
There’s clean and then there’s ‘island clean’
When you have to hand wash your clothes you find tops passing the sniff test for far longer than they usually would back home.
Hard drives full of films become legitimate currency
“Oh my God you have the new James Bond? Gimme!”. With no TV to speak of the swapping of downloaded items becomes a genuine currency.
Every time you drink the island spirits you regret it…
It might say Icelandic vodka on the bottle but it tastes more like paint stripper and gives you a hangover that feels like an out of body experience.
…and the same goes for the wine
It’s $40 for a 2 litre box of red so rough it makes your tongue feel furry, but dammit we’re going to pretend it tastes good.
The locals are incredibly inquisitive
Tourism on the island is still relatively new, and we were a course of constant curiosity to many people on the island. “Where are you going” or “where have you been” are asked genuinely, especially when you’re a woman, and the answers listened to intently. You get used to it!
Every day you will look around and think “I can’t believe I get to call this place home”
Because even when you’re hot as fuck, in the dark with no power, eating rice for dinner (again) and chasing a cockroach with a broom you still can’t believe you luck that you get to live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.