That photo above was the view from the balcony of the apartment where I lived on a Caribbean island for a good bit of 2004-2005. That experience of close to a year taught me many things and one of the most important was how little of my “stuff” actually matters. All I had on the island was a few suitcases full of my things that got added to on trips back and forth ‘state-side’. When I moved back everything for my then wife and I fit into four suitcases and ten boxes we shipped home.
Satellite television existed when we first arrived on the island, but within six weeks a hurricane took that away. The remainder of the time was without television, except for a few VHS tapes filled with slow speed recorded programming that arrived from family from time to time. I did not miss watching the ‘tube’.
Our home on the island was furnished, but simply decorated. Never did I miss all the ‘bric-a-brac’ and ‘what-nots’ that fill my home today, nor did I miss the perpetual dusting and care such things require.
Having taken few valuables to the Caribbean in the first place, there was little worry about such things being lost or stolen. There was a simplicity about that I miss.
The clothing brought on-island was simple garb fitting of living on a palm treed island. Never did I need a sport coat or a tie (I didn’t bring any in the first place). Having brought only a small portion of my total clothing it was insightful that I missed the rest so very little.
Internet service ‘on-island” was very slow even when we had it and downloads were just not possible. Not a lot of time was spent ‘on-line’ although before the island a good bit of my time was spent that way. I swear I was calmer and more relaxed without it!
What did I miss? Books and music. While an ample supply traveled to Grand Cayman with me, the majority of both libraries stayed home. Digital music made my yearning for music bearable as I brought a hard drive filled with tunes.
Leisure time was spent mostly reading and it did not take long to get through all the books that traveled to the island. Because of the weight, I had not brought lots of reading material in the first place. I did discover a little book store that helped fill that need and broadened the scope of what I was reading with the eclectic variety they carried.
Most of all, I longed for friends and family. Not seeing a handful of people I loved and was accustomed to spending time with was the most challenging. Inattention to relationships can cause them to sag a bit over time. Thankfully I was able to pick up with where we had left off previously, but it still took time to get back into the full rhythm of the relationships.
Books, music, friends and family I learned are my greatest treasures. I am grateful for that heuristic lesson discovered in the Caribbean on a little island about four miles wide and twenty-two miles long. “Ya-mon!”
It ain’t about the money.
It ain’t about the time.
It ain’t about the love you lost,
Or the things you think you left behind.
It ain’t about your losing streak,
That makes you feel like you’re falling apart
What matters is the heart.
From “What Matters” by Edwin McCain