In journalism, hitting deadlines is as much a part of the daily routine as flipping the switch on the coffee maker first thing every morning. For me, time is always of the essence, so I’m a planner to the core. And when it comes to making any sort of itinerary—whether navigating some water or just my own daily grind—I’m as obsessive as it gets.
If you’ve ever been to the Caribbean, then you have surely experienced the sluggish phenomenon affectionately known as “island time.” It’s as if the locals know a clock exists, but their pace is never in sync with anyone else’s. From clearing customs to ordering a fish sandwich (and having it actually arrive at the table), the perpetual hurry-up-and-wait momentum, or lack thereof, can make a person absolutely insane.
So, you can imagine my anxiety level the first time I set foot in the Bahamas.
Some visitors are quick to get upset when islanders don’t share the same sense of urgency. Travelers become annoyed that the locals don’t respond to every request as promptly and efficiently as service personnel do back home.
Rookie mistake. As I did, back then, those visitors are totally missing the point.
It took me about 48 hours anchored off Staniel Cay in the Exumas to admit defeat, chucking my watch into the duffel for the duration of the voyage. Not until I arrived back home and crashed into that good ol’ daily grind did I truly realize the profound effect that island time had instilled upon me. (Suddenly, my doctor always seemed to run on island time.)
From the tranquil evenings cozied up on a foredeck savoring a good book against a glorious Caribbean sunset to the warm locals who, on their own time and in their own way, always made me feel like I was at home away from home, the Bahamas left me constantly reminiscing about the splendid simplicity of the islands, their singular charm, the soothing beat of their rhythm.
At some point nearly every day, I find myself yearning for island time, and as duty calls, I seize every opportunity to get back to that intoxicating pace. And now, when I go to the Bahamas, I keep a loose itinerary. I don’t pack much: a couple of T-shirts, a couple of board shorts, a worn pair of flip-flops, a favorite pair of sunglasses, a notepad and a big straw hat. It’s difficult to explain how few things you really need on island time. In reality, life is as one might expect in such a beautifully rugged place, where all you really need for a bar is a soft sandy beach, a wood table and a bottle of rum.
The Rolling Stones were so right: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.” At least that’s what island time has come to mean for me. And in this fast-forward world of perpetual deadlines, there’s something to be appreciated about being just a little bit late.