The vacation now ended was nice enough. The islands were fine. The water was warm. The villa both impressive and comfortable. Everything was fine. But there’s sand in my ears and there’s sand in my bed. There’s sand in my luggage and sand in the tiny space where the glass of my phone front meets the glass of the phone back. There’s sand in my face wash and sand in my toothpaste. It will be some time before the sand is gone, and by then our memory of this trip will have faded with our tans, and we’ll no longer be able to call forward the feeling of warm sunshine on our dry and cracked skin. This is the way it must be.
I once again did the thing I do when I go to another land: I judged it. I have a well developed, multi-part judgement plan that has never once let me down. My wife hates this judgement, as she thinks I should just “enjoy myself” and “relax”. I don’t know what those things are, and so I judge. The judgement is to determine if indeed I could live in such a place for any extended period of time (maybe 60 days or more). I should note that I have found very few, if any, places where I could reside for a longer vacation. The clear winner used to be the south of France, but with the Covid madness gripping the governments of greater Europe, I can’t imagine intentionally subjecting myself to such freedom usurping tyranny. Back to the drawing board.
One of the primary components of any potential vacation destination involves groceries. I like to cook when I’m on vacation with my family, and so a quality grocer is a most important key. Bonus points for dedicated fish monger, or butcher, or bakery. One island vacation featured a direct path to buying fresh Mahi Mahi off of the fishing boat, along with bakeries galore and the most delightful blocks of large, heavily salted butter. A long time ago my mom said that bread only existed as a delivery device for butter, and unfortunately I really latched onto that. That same island had a wonderful grocery store where I could buy anything my palpitating heart desired.
This island was different. The grocery stores were dreadful. The closest I came to buying fresh fish off of a boat was one morning when I spotted some locals hanging around a large white cooler near the docks (do NOT make the mistake of calling ocean docks piers, they are not worthy of this moniker). I asked what fish they had today, and through the heavy cloud of marijuana they muttered some sort of local name for what appeared to be a jack, or something similar. I asked if the fish was good, and you’ll be surprised to know they said it was. So I bought one for $20 and drove it home. I grilled it and while grilling it I thought that maybe it was a reef fish that would be loaded with toxins and so I threw it away. I can be a wasteful vacationer, and for that, I apologize.
Another day I drove an hour out of the way to a fish market. While my wife and daughter walked over to some nearby roadside donkeys, I looked over the fish case in this little market. I asked how old the fish was and the guy told me it was super fresh. I believed him. $60 later I had three small filets of Mahi Mahi, and two hours after that I grilled the fish as the sun set and had reasonably high hopes. This fresh fish was at least five days old. I didn’t eat it.
Another important component of a potential vacation spot is the quality of the coffee, whether that’s grocery coffee steamed into espresso at home, or coffee at a proper cafe. This island failed the coffee test as well. Miserably, I might add. Most of the available coffee was flavored, which reminded me of my Grandma Gudie who would drink hazelnut and French vanilla creamer with a dash of coffee all day long. That was a nice memory, but that sort of coffee isn’t for me.
Accessibility is a big issue for any vacation destination, and for this island it’s not especially good. A direct flight from ORD got me close to my destination, but a boat ride was also required and that’s not very convenient. With no airport on the island I can’t imagine being stuck there for any lengthy period of time. If it weren’t for the terrible grocers and awful fish and chemically flavored coffee I might have given this difficulty a pass, but alas, the damage has been done. This isn’t a place I could ever own real estate.
Yet the real estate is expensive. Very expensive. Hundreds or thousands of torn up cottages litter these hills and in between those you’ll have a $10M house. Around the corner from a communal dumpster you might be tempted to buy a $5M villa. Up the road from the place where you can buy the rotting fish and around the corner from the place that sells the flavored stale coffee you could buy a really cool little house with pool for $3.75M. Who would do this? Why would someone do this? Do they know there are other places on earth with real estate for sale?
I suppose it all comes back to the absurdity of buying an island vacation home. I have a client who is a billionaire who owns a large island compound. He has it so he doesn’t have to always sleep on his yacht. In this scenario, I approve of the purchase. But for everyone else? For the couple from St. Louis who is about to purchase some beach front condo in Puerto Rico, please don’t. For the couple from Minneapolis touring a home on St. John as I write, please run from this. For the couple from Chicago who just had a terrific vacation in Eluthera, just enjoy your beach time away and come home. Owning real estate in a location that is likely to be hammered by a hurricane once every couple of years is a risky game. And if you eat those reef fish, you’re going to need to go to the doctor. If that happens, it’ll always be best to visit a hospital that has walls.