Island Fever: Is it REALLY A Thing? 3 Stages, When It Can Strike, How You Can Fix it
Hell YES, After 15 Years on Ambergris Caye, I Still Find that Island Fever Is Very Very Real
Maybe you quit your job on a whim and moved to Caye Caulker because you felt amazing just being there. Or perhaps you painstakingly planned the relocation to Ambergris Caye for years. Plotting and organizing, reading everything you could get your hands on about your new country…and then you made the move.
You’ve settled down in Belize, your very own piece of paradise, with no plans to leave. Why would you? If you miss friends or family, they can visit you in Belize! I mean…who wouldn’t want to visit you in this amazing country.
But whether it hits you after your six-month “honeymoon period” or after a full year living on Ambergris Caye, it’s going to hit you. Island Fever.
You can’t blame it on your new country – it’s not Belize’s fault. And I’m not sure exactly what causes Island Fever. It might be a holdover from your school days…as summer approaches, your brain can’t help but chant VACATION VACATION!
It’s just a niggly feeling…that if not properly managed…can turn into a serious funk. And maybe worse.
I think it happens to those of us who have relocated to Belize, in general, and not those who grew up here.
So here are some of my observations…on When Island Fever Can HIt. What are the real symptoms to look out for. And What you can do about it.
Please feel free to let me know how it affects you. And remember, though it might seem surprising 😉 I am not a medical doctor.
But first, the definition of Island Fever: A feeling that can grow into a serious funk that can occur in people that have relocated to an island, often a feeling of being stuck…
When Island Fever Seems To Creep In
I find that this is the time of the year that it starts creeping on you. The weather is getting HOT – I mean really hot and rain is sporadic or non-existent which causes everything to be dusty.
Things that always seem like fun…maybe a trip to town to grab fruit and lunch…may now seem like a slog. You are hot, dirty and tired when you get home.
The HIGH season is coming to an end. That doesn’t mean there are no tourists – in fact, there are lots. But things slow down as the weather warms up north. People like to travel to warm, tropical spots when it is snowing/cold at home.
It’s also the time of year when many of Ambergris Caye’s “snowbirds” head back to the US or Canada. It’s not that you want to live half your year on the island, and half in the US or Canada, you know you don’t want to be a snowbird. It just adds to your creeping sense of…FOMO.
Three Stages of Island Fever
Here are the symptoms as I know them – let me try to break them down into three stages.
Please note: If you are in the process of building anything…a home or a business or especially a resort…it is very important to know these symptoms. This is the same for those running a business. Your level of stress is a sensitive and fluctuating one and can push you from Stage One to Stage Three very very quickly.
Also, if you are suffering from any of these symptoms, please avoid any contact with government entities (especially the Lands Department) or your local bank until you’ve found a solution.
Stage One: A mild feeling…restlessness, a bit of anxiousness and irritability
A general slump. You may find yourself obsessing about things that are not available on your island.
Finding yourself annoyed by well-meaning and Belize-loving visitors who ask you the questions that you are so used to and FINE with the rest of the year. You know the ones: How did you get to Belize?! Wow…you are so lucky! (Ok…that’s not a question) Do you like it?
Finding yourself annoyed by golf carts of fun-loving tourists that are driving slowly or just driving the wrong way on a one-way street
Stage Two: Irritability increases drastically. Your inward annoyance starts to manifest itself outwardly.
Now just the sight of fun-loving tourists just rubs you the wrong way. (You are not a bad person…you are just suffering “island fever”)
You are very prone to awful passive-aggressive post/comment writing on any and all social media outlets – especially Facebook. For example, since this is confusing. A Newcomer asks on a Facebook Ambergris Expat page (one of the 50 that seem to be out there): “Where’s the best place to get Fage Greek Yogurt on the island? I’ve been craving it” Your response: “If you want that, you should have stayed in the US! This island doesn’t need any more American yogurt-loving gringos on the island!” This is not appropriate behavior.
You might have a mild meltdown at a bank or government office – huffing and puffing in line, mumbling things like “wouldn’t it be NICE if this bank had more than ONE teller during busy times” so that everyone can hear. These things only make you look bad. Try to avoid.
You might find that commercials on TV for food you don’t even like – a glistening McRib or a Taco Bell Mexican Pizza – make your mouth water.
Stage Two can progress to Stage Three Very Quickly. Stage Three is a full-blown HERE’S JOHNNY situation.
LEAVE THE ISLAND IMMEDIATELY.
You want to stop yourself wayyy before you get to STAGE 3. So what’s the solution?
Remedies for Island Fever
I think the #1 solution is to be proactive. To work to avoid it before the symptoms even start. And to self-diagnosis! Knowing is half the battle.
Don’t try to be a “tough guy”…this does not mean you are a bad person or aren’t trying or not grateful…
Life in Belize – in a new country – can be hard! Jeff and I often say: that everything here is simple but it is never easy. And in many cases that is SOOOO true. It’s just not what we are used to – it’s a constant learning process. And this gets better over the years, but I’ve been here for 15 years – full-time – and it’s still an issue.
This may sound corny but think about the stuff you LOVE about your new home. The things, big and small, that made you want to move here in the first place. Be thankful that you are wearing flip flops, for the parakeets and chachalacas squawking outside, for the warm weather (people in the NE USA saw snow yesterday!)
Try to get outside…even though it is HOT…and do things you usually save for “when visitors come” – go swimming, go on a snorkeling tour, head over to Caye Caulker, try someplace new. Do the things that made you fall in love with the island in the first place.
Avoid other grumbly expats. Especially those who have been drinking and those who start every sentence with “When I first came here, things were better…”
Order yourself a self-care package from Amazon or Old Navy or Target…maybe some new pillowcases you like, make-up, a lotion you miss, candy you enjoy, some product you saw on TikTok..throw it in there. It’s fun to wait for…and SO fun when it arrives. (Can You Online Shop in Belize?)
If you can, take a trip to the mainland. Try to go for an overnight, at the very least. It helps.
In 2020 (one DOOZY of a year) – I took a trip in June to Gaia Riverlodge and it helped SOOO much.
And if none of this works, plan a bigger trip. Abroad. I try to head to the USA about once a year – if I can (not sure if I’ll make it this year). It’s the best solution. Because, for me, after the initial rush of euphoria you get at Target or CVS, it becomes quickly overwhelming. And when you eat that McRib you thought you were craving, you’ll realize it was kinda gross.
And after about 4 or 5 days, you’ll find that you miss your island home. Badly. THAT is the cure.
A quick note:
For those of you looking at the photos I posted and are thinking: “MUST BE NICE! If only I had such problems”, you are right. But Island Fever is real…can weigh on your heavily…and can cause you to start blaming Belize. Get on top of it before it reaches Stage 2, you don’t need to “tough it out” and you’ll be just fine.
OR maybe this is all in my head…and if so, this might be STAGE FOUR. Eeek!