We’ve run a couple of stories over the past year from the Seasonal Nomads, Carrie and Jack Janssen. Half the year they’re home in Muskoka, in the Canadian province of Ontario. The other half? Well, that’s what makes them seasonal nomads. Right now they’re in the Caribbean paradise of St. Lucia, and they want other baby boomers to have the fun and adventure they’re having. That’s why we’re adapting an excerpt from their book, Another Cocktail Please. It’s about their kind of extended vacation.
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener
A vacation, or as we call it, a holiday, means different things to different people. For us, it is a combination of factors. Initially we enjoy considerable periods of relaxation, as we de-stress from six months of intensive work back in Canada. We also maintain our health by combining a nutritious diet with plenty of exercise. But what we really look forward to is exploring our destination and immersing ourselves in a new and often fascinating culture.
By asking around and looking at bulletin boards, we can find out about events, fundraisers, tourist trips, markets, and local festivals. In many cases there are Facebook pages dedicated to our destination.
Live like a local, don’t travel like a tourist
Showing respect in another culture is essential when living abroad. It’s not only a reflection on us personally, but also about how we represent our home country. This is why we always research the local customs before arrival and do our best to abide by them.
We make sure to dress appropriately and try to ask permission before taking photos of people. In some cultures, particularly in Africa and South America, people still believe that taking a photo captures the soul of a person. Which they don’t want to leave to strangers. And remember, taking pictures of women in certain countries, without permission, is dangerous. In some places, especially government, military, and public buildings (including embassies), photography is prohibited. When in doubt, google it.
As we will be in a single location for five to six months, we try to blend in as much as possible with the locals and ex-pats, and think you’ll want to do the same. We remove our rose-colored glasses and assimilate into the community as quickly as we can. We find that street and beach vendors tend to leave us alone when we tell them we are residents, not tourists.
When close to a port where cruise ships regularly dock, we look for the online schedule, and avoid the area and nearby tourist traps on docking days. We save our outings for quieter, non-cruise ship periods, when prices are also easier to negotiate.
When the ships arrive, not only is traffic increased, but prices for tourist excursions generally rise. For example, a private boat tour would normally cost $250 (U.S.) for four hours. On a non-cruise ship day though the boat wasn’t booked, and we were able to bargain the price down to $140 for the same trip. The boat driver benefited too; he wouldn’t have had any work otherwise.
We quickly familiarize ourselves with the local currency. It is fun to learn, but more importantly, when you can pay confidently with the correct coins or notes, you look less like a fumbling tourist.