Why We Are Embracing the Island Life

Thank you so much for all of your mixed reactions from my previous post, both public and private feedback.   

In this blog post, I am answering questions that I have received after sharing our adventures on the island.

Living on the island is such a great opportunity to bask in the beauty of this paradise and to meet locals who are equally lovely.  Yet, I aspire to illustrate an honest view away from picture-perfect Instagram photos.  In reality, behind every smile and gorgeous landscape are factors that may pose as challenges. Please let me make it clear, we have so much to learn and it is our own responsibility to adapt.

To long time readers of the blog, it is without any doubt, a big contrast to our previous life. Friends who know me by heart might be perplexed with this big change.  Good Lord, I wasn't gifted nor had the passion to play "Survivor".  I was in fact deemed  fragile when I was in my teens to early 20s. My life abroad later toughened me up. I nod at the fact that we have come a long way from Dubai , France, Manila and now on this island.

"What is the biggest challenge of island living for you?"

For me the biggest challenge is the fear of losing my identity.

I can't help feeling inadequate whenever I see colleagues winning awards and friends who are successful in their chosen careers and are making a name for themselves.  I get green with envy, watching all the wine and cheese parties that go by thinking I can't throw any (for now). Sometimes, I also feel a sense of self consciousness when I spot an urban tourist that is all dressed up with perfectly manicured nails and makeup. Here I am, looking like I have just showered when in fact I am just covered with perspiration. 

The comparison can be quite depressing at times. That self pity eventually gets the best of me especially when I am consumed by all those defeating thoughts while cooking in a hot kitchen with a "sticky" pan. Sticky pan is my term for those metal pots where you need a looooot of oil to prevent your food from sticking on the surface.

I noticed however that whenever I am out in nature, I am embraced by a reassuring feeling that I am where I am meant to be.  I am left with awe by the beauty of God's creation. It reminds me how God made me exactly the way He needed me to be. Nothing more and nothing less.  

Hence, this gives me the courage to shrug off negative thoughts. A late afternoon walk admiring the captivating sunset is such an effective cure for the blues.

"How Long Are You Going to Do This?"

We don't know how long we would be living this lifestyle. It can be a year, 5 years, 10 years? We're keeping an open mind.

"Why Are You Subjecting Yourselves to this Lifestyle?"

I suppose reading the book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma propelled me to explore this kind of life.

I was telling a friend recently that when I left, I had no intentions to return to my country. Yet, here I am. Life called me back.  Middle East was my training ground for the challenge God has for me here now. 

I remember less than 2 years ago, back in the Middle East, my dilemma then was how my career in Interior Design would flourish. My schedule was hectic. I usually arrived home very late, sometimes at 12 midnight or 2am. Despite the love for what I was doing and the drive to progress in my career, I quit my designer job to spend more time with my baby several months after giving birth. Yet, I wasn't happy being a stay-at-home Mom. Work used to define my life. It was my identity, thus making me a workaholic. I missed my job so much, that I decided to go back to work on a part time basis. Can you imagine I went for an interview with my 6 month old baby? I was negotiating my salary with my future boss while bottle feeding her on my lap? 

Then my husband was unwillingly separated from us for a short period of time.  

My career ambitions ceased to matter at that moment.  Our survival became the primary need. We changed. Our life views were altered. My definition of happiness changed to homemade meals shared as a family, watching a stupid episode of a TV series on the laptop in bed together with my husband, traveling, quality time spent with family we've been away from and dear friends who were there for us at such a time.  

I realized, I had everything I needed.

So when God was kind enough to give us our life back as a family, a lifestyle change was inevitably necessary. I'm extremely grateful that we have a second chance to make the most of what we have and appreciate seemingly mundane moments I used to take for granted. 

As you've seen here, we have let go of our material-driven life.  I'm not saying they're bad. I lived that life. Was I happy?  A fleeting kind of happiness, yes. The kind where a surge of happiness disappeared a few seconds after it landed. 

Nature vs Society

The more we satisfy our hedonistic impulses, the more we crave. We work too hard to pay for the car or the house. We try to keep up with the latest trends and gadgets in order to keep appearances. Who cares, really?

I have nothing against working the daily grind.  I think for as long as you enjoy what you do and you feel a sense of purpose doing what you love, go for it. A life without purpose is not a life at all.

What we try to avoid is working excessively in the wrong domain for the wrong reasons. I am against having our identities defined by what society dictates.  At the end of the day, our personal values are more important and not what society makes us feel.

A passage from the book by Laurent Gounelle, Le Jour Où J'ai Appris à Vivre validated my belief. 

"Nous sommes des êtres complets et la nature nous amène à le ressentir profondément, alors que la societé crée en nous le manque. Elle sait nous faire croire et nous faire ressentir qu'il nous manque quelque chose pour etre heureux. Elle nous interdit d'être satisfaits de ce que nous avons, de ce que nous sommes. Elle ne cesse de nous faire croire que nous sommes incomplets. "

Translation:  We are complete human beings and nature leads us to feel it profoundly, whereas society creates a feeling of something missing in us. It knows how to make us believe and feel that we are missing something to be happy. It forbids us to be satisfied with what we have, with what we are. It doesn't stop making us believe that we are incomplete.

Our Family Philosophy

I'm glad my husband and I share the same vision. We spent 13 years working and saving hard towards a life reflecting our family's values and core beliefs:

"We want to live fully. What we want is a financially secure life where we have enough quality time with family and friends, while doing what we love at our own time, without being bound to one place. We can be free as birds and can fly anytime and anywhere we choose. We can live both a comfortable life and/ or with the bare minimum."

Your Values

To each his own. Some of us are meant to live in the land of convenience while some of us are called to explore rougher unknown terrain. For now, we fall in the latter category. There is no right or wrong way.  It all matters to what is important to you. 

What is your ideal life?  What do you value the most?

Love & light,

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  1. I can't pretend that I understand you fully as I have not walked in your shoes but I can imagine the big adjustment that you and your family need to deal with from living in Dubai and France and now to exchange all those for an island life in the Philippines. I am sure that it is tough, as you said so yourself but I like your attitude. You are willing to look at the bright side and you are willing to learn and adapt. That for me is admirable.

    The passage that you shared resonates what I am feeling in this moment. I was once a material driven person, all I wanted was to acquire things and I didn't even care if I had to borrow money from the bank (a.ka. credit cards) to acquire them. Now that I'm in my 30s I realized that material things pale in comparison with experiences. Thus, I am now more focused on buying experience than upgrading my gadget or my "lifestyle."

    I admire you Arni, I think if I have a husband and a kid right now I'd follow in your footsteps and live a life as free as you do.

    1. Hello Marge, I definitely agree with you on investing in experiences. Haha, don't get me started on the credit cards :), I still remember the moment when I finally learned how to control my impulses. Like most young adults, I went through a phase too. I still remember the time I cut my credit cards into small pieces with scissors right in front of the manager(s) in two different banks telling me, "Are you sure you're not going to change your mind?" Collecting experiences on the other hand is something worth spending for. That also holds true for amazing food as well as life's simple pleasures.

  2. Hope you achieve it all! People do need to resolve what they want while they're still young. I personally don't have much energy to fight with life, but I admire those who do

    1. Your encouraging and kind words mean a lot, Dezzy. Thank you much.

  3. Thank you again for sharing all of the pieces of your life - even the ones that are not so pretty. Comparison is the thief of joy, so they say, or something like that. It's funny because I think you hit the nail on the head. I have all of the ingredients available to be perfectly happy but for me, I don't think that's the ultimate goal. I'll always be scratching at something and stirring up something somewhere. Sitting still without distraction is not my strong suit. I don't want to be where I am geographically but have landed here anyway and it's not so bad (and actually pretty good) if I really think about it.

    1. You are absolutely right. All these years, I searched for happiness in every destination I went to. Only to realize that true happiness or the joy of fulfillment can only be found within.

  4. Arni I really admired your bravery moving there, considering you had your toddler with you. Before I also wanted to experience the island life but then I was stuck coping up with my finances here until I had my baby which made it more difficult. Good thing that my husband was always reminding me that God will never leave us so I don't have to worry too much and he is right. Life is short, we don't have to worry so much, just enjoy that you're living the life with nature now. :)

    1. It's amazing how each of our stories unfold. When I look back and re-trace the steps, from the beginning leading to the present moment, I am humbled by how events were designed to prepare us for what we are facing now. If I ask my past self from 2012 about my thoughts on living out here, she would have most probably laughed at me. God is so wise. I wonder though what my future self would say.

  5. I think I would choose a life living close to nature over a life with the same old boring cheese and wine parties everyday anytime! Very brave move and I'm glad you're enjoying the island living.

    1. Thanks Trishie, so far so good. Living out here in isolation does make me feel more introverted than ever before. I tend to seek more happiness within. When in doubt, nature is our friend.