The feeling you have arriving at Aruba’s Queen Beatrix Airport is very different than the feeling that descends upon you when you’re leaving. In the first scenario, you’re full of excitement and happy anticipation about all the wonders your vacation holds in store for you. In the second, while you might be happy to get back home (especially if you’ve got family members and/or fur babies waiting for you), there’s a better than average chance that you’re feeling a little sad that your time on the island is at an end.
As a matter of fact, our beloved tourists have dubbed the airport’s departure gate waiting area: The Crying Room. It’s become a rite of passage for veteran visitors to post pouty pictures of themselves in The Crying Room on the ‘All Things Aruba’ Facebook page as they’re waiting for the plane that will take them far away from Aruba’s breathtaking blue skies. Many people also use their time in The Crying Room to daydream about what life would be like if they never had to leave the island.
When you’re a tourist, the island is all rainbows and sunshine. Day drinking on the beach, watching the sunset over the turquoise sea, fine dining under the Caribbean stars – what’s not to love about a vacation in Aruba? (Other than leaving, of course.)
However, as a local, life on the island is very different. We’ve still got the sunshine and rainbows but we’ve also have a different experience living on the island than you do visiting it.
Before you cry too hard about going home, check out this list of things that might surprise you about full time life on the island:
1) We pay travel expenses for our groceries
Aruba has some great local brands such as; Aruba Aloe and 297 Farms but the vast majority of everything sold on the island is imported. That means more cost for consumers. Every once in a while, you might see a local sobbing softly in the check-out line at Superfood or Ling and Sons. Please be respectful – that person has most likely just returned from a visit to the States, has recently visited a Super Walmart and is mentally price comparing.
Our perishables tend to be short dated, we’ve got limited choices and there are somethings that you just can’t get here. What’s worse: most of our television channels come from the States so we see commercials for things we can’t have. If anyone is interested in becoming a hair care product mule, give us a call.
2) We run out of things sometimes
We just established that most products sold on Aruba are imported. Well, guess what? Sometimes crap happens. Containers are late, things get damaged, purchasing orders get screwed up, demand spikes suddenly…there are so many factors at play getting supplies to the island, naturally things go wrong sometimes. Try telling that to your toddler whose stuck in a Kraft macaroni and cheese rut the day you can’t find it.
A few years ago, all the grocery stores ran out of Diet Coke. A few days later, they ran out of Diet Pepsi.It was bedlam. Diet soda’s one of those things – either you love it or you hate it. Chances are, if you love it, you really love it. I personally waited in the drive through line of a local fast food restaurant, for 45 minutes, just to get a vat of chemical laden, caffeinated, bubbly beverage during the Diet Coke shortage. Don’t even get me started on that one time all the pharmacies ran out of Xanax.
3) The sun is relentless
If you’ve ever forgotten to reapply your sunblock on one of our beaches, you know how intense Aruba’s Sun can be. It takes it’s toll – on everything. Our cars require more maintenance, our landscaping needs more attention and our skin requires much more care. We can get a farmer’s tan just from hanging up the laundry in a T-shirt.
You know that cozy time of year, when you hide a few pounds in a cozy sweater and “forget” to shave your legs for a week or five? We don’t. You know how sometimes you can get away with not repainting your house for a few years? We can’t. You know how sometimes the weather’s so disagreeable outside that you basically have no choice but to curl up with a good book under a blanket? Well, you get the point…
Bright sunshine everyday on your vacation is heaven. Bright sunshine everyday of your life sounds good in theory but in practice, frankly, it’s exhausting.
4) The beach, you say?
You probably think that the best part of living on Aruba is access to the beach. You probably think that most locals enjoy the beach more often than the average bear. That’s very true. We enjoy passing it as we drive to work, run errands and take our kids to swim lessons.
Some locals make it a point to have a ‘Sunday Funday’ barbequing on the beach each week, but as for me – I’m more likely to spend my weekends being swept up by a tide of laundry than lounging on the sand. When you’re not on vacation, daily life really puts a damper on your beach days.
5) Oh, but it’s small!
Let’s get real, people. Aruba is SO small. From point to point the entire island is only 179 square kilometers. As a point of reference: you could fit Aruba 126 times in the state of New Jersey and a whopping 3,886 times in Texas!
What exactly does that mean for the locals? We’re so glad you asked. First, there’s not all that much to do. Weekend road trips are a logistical impossibility, we’ve got limited choices when it comes to entertainment and pretty much everybody knows everything about everybody else.
Oh, you need to run to the grocery store on a Saturday morning? Not only should you prepare to wait in a long line (because 25% of the island’s population is also doing their Saturday shopping) you should also prepare to run into your kid’s teacher, several coworkers and at least one person that you desperately wish you never had to see again. Oh, and chances are: you’ll look like a complete wildebeest. Good times.
In the event of energy interruption, you, Lovely Tourist, will be relatively unaffected. Most hotels don’t rely exclusively on the local grid to supply their power. Also, in the event of a power outage, hotels – after the airport, harbor and hospital – get priority to be reconnected. However, down here in the trenches, it’s a different story. We missed the series finale of Game of Thrones this year, during a massive, island-wide black-out.
It doesn’t happen all that often, but we do lose power on the island from time to time. It’s more of a nuisance than anything else, and the power company does an excellent job getting us back on track as soon as humanly possible. However, outages usually happen in the evening when we’re trying to chill – not an easy feat when you can’t turn on your airco.
7) Holiday’s are not quite the same…
You’ve heard that Aruba is ‘one happy island’.
This could be my own personal opinion – since I’m from New Jersey and Americans do tend to go over the top with holidays, but Aruba really only has one mode: Summertime.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with summer but have you ever tried making a Christmas turkey in 90° weather with no central air conditioner? Halloween (while gathering some cultural momentum) isn’t really a big deal here and we can’t give out chocolate because it’ll melt before the kids get home. At some point you just throw in the towel and have a barbecue. Meh.
8) We all have mild cases of vacation envy
As I sit here writing this, two party buses and a caravan of ATV’s have driven past my house. Why are there so many people playing when I’m trying to work?
We see you there, smugly sipping your Aruba Ariba while you lounge by the pool. We’re not jealous (we definitely don’t begrudge you your relaxation) but we want it, too!
9) Creepy crawlies
A while ago, I noticed my kitten playing with a toy I didn’t remember buying her. Upon closer inspection, her new toy turned out to be a 10 inch long centipede.
This is another thing that won’t affect you on ‘your’ side of the island but we’ve got some critters by us. Fun fact: iguanas seem to enjoy taking care of their business while perched on a tree branch. Bonus points if the branch is directly above your car. We’ve got huge toads, land crabs and lizards. Oh, my.
We know Aruba is your favorite go-to destination, but it’s good to make note that living here year-round is, despite to contrary belief, not an endless vacation. Next time you find yourself in the Crying Room, console yourself with the knowledge that whatever life throws at you back home – it probably won’t be iguana poop on your car.