Moving to a tropical island

I guess that if you are reading this blog then you are probably considering moving to a tropical island and want to know what you will be in for. How hard or easy is the transition going to be!

Well we escaped to live on a tropical island in the South Pacific just on three years ago, and it has been a fabulous adventure, but yes there are a number of things we did not anticipate or expect. Hopefully this blog will help you beyond the romance of living on an island.

table of knowledge

Finding the right location

We found our dream location in Vanuatu, on the island of Efate, and contrary to popular opinion, learned early that you had to spend some time on the island to understand its geography and topography. If we were going to build our dream home, then we needed to be sure that it was safe from tsunamis and storms. Some research and lots of talking with the local people and we quickly got to know where NOT to look.

Forget the real estate agents!

You really need to understand location from the people who have been living there for some time. After many days of been driven around by real estate agents who were not interested in what I was looking for, but rather what they wanted so sell me, I connected with someone who I had known in Australia. As fortune had it she had a real estate license in Vanuatu but more importantly, had lived here for some time and listened carefully to what I was looking for.

You need to have patience

From the time I found our little slice of paradise to getting a title to it took three years! Of course you can’t build on it until you know you have clear title to the land you are building on. We learned that the rules in Australia when it comes to purchasing property, basically don’t exist. Getting upset at how long things take makes absolutely no difference. Things really are on “Island Time” so this will be your first test of your commitment.

Getting set up

The thing about leaving one country to move to another, is that there is so much that needs to be done to shut down one life, and then establish your new life. This will be the second test of your commitment. You will be amazed on the lifetime of things that you had gradually set up that you now have to coordinate to dismantle. Add to this getting set up so that you exist in your new found paradise, and then coordinate both so that the transition is smooth, legal, and cost effective is no mean feat! Unfortunately we had no advice on this and had to learn the hard way… and sometimes the expensive way!

Residency, tax status, banking, income, drivers licenses, etc, etc… the list goes on. We also soon came face to face with a draconian administration of a small third world country. Get everything done on line… yeah right!

Culture shock

To be honest, for us it wasn’t shock, but rather a deep dive into the unknown. We were now guests in someone else’s country, and they had different cultural norms, customs, history, and laws. Priorities were different … gender equality was 50+ years behind what we understood to be normal.

In many ways we had to ‘unlearn’ a lifetime of Western social construct and embrace ‘village life’. But significantly we had to adapt to ‘island time’ where everything gets done when it gets done, and if it isn’t fast enough for you, then you are reminded quickly that you don’t have endless options and alternatives.

With that said, we discovered that in so many ways, they have got it so right!

Things that seemed important in Australia simply didn’t matter here in the islands, and I say this in the best possible context… it was a bonus that we did not see coming. We now look back on our previous ‘first world life’ with a grin and sometimes wonder “what were we thinking?”. Why had we wasted so many years in a lifetime that is finite…


Letting go

The third test of your commitment will come in the form of letting go of your previous ‘first world life.’

What do you let go of?

Hmmm good question methinks… this takes some time to work out, and it took us several years to learn what you really need to let go of. There are numerous things that may seem important but they just turn out to be handbrakes for your new life! They will stop or slowdown the transition into your new island life. You will be in for a serious ‘reality check’.

Some of it will be people, some of it will be ‘stuff’ and some of it will be the benefits of living in a technologically developed robust country. I only wish we had known more about this sooner as it would have saved much angst and confusion.

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