How to Do Tropical Islands Right

Despite now having a degree in Geography, I went through a good portion of my life (ahem..twenty years) thinking that islands just floated around on the top of the sea. When asked why they didn’t move around, I concluded that they must be anchored to the sea floor by tree roots. Even when I sadly found out that this isn’t even slightly true, I secretly refuse to believe it. The world is hard enough, don’t take away my floating islands.

Even if islands don’t mysteriously float around in our sea like magical coconut-laden boats, they are still pretty great places to visit or live. Being the special places that they are, Island travel can be a little bit different to regular ole’ mainland travel.

Despite my aforementioned geographical oversight (#floatingislandsforever), with ten years living in Mauritius, four months in Madagascar, and a handful of trips to islands in Thailand and Greece, I do consider myself a bit of an island expert. Let’s just say that if lounging in a hammock with a book was an Olympic sport, I would automatically be disqualified from entering because it wouldn’t be fair to the other competitors.


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So whether you are hopping around the Thai islands or planting your slovenly body on a beach in the Caribbean, here is how to do them right.
Take the bare minimum
Do you really want to lug that 60L backpack from boat to beach, back to boat again? Nope. Think back-sweat, awkward boat transfers, and sand literally everywhere. Islands are about living freely, not about dragging your possessions around on your back like an awkward sea turtle.
Trust me when I say that you are NOT going to wear that pair of jeans, that ‘fancy’ dress, or god forbid those high heels. Put them down, walk away slowly.
Instead, pack as light as you can. After all, if you are truly doing islands right, you will be living in your swimsuit. Maybe chucking on a sarong or shorts and a T-shirt when you head out exploring or in the evenings.
These tips have generally served me well-
 Keep fabrics natural and light.
Take shoes that won’t be ruined if they get wet (keep those leather sandals at home!).
A sarong will be your best friend. Even if you are a guy, just rock it.
If you don’t want to burn your retinas, take a pair of sunglasses.
Take ONE book. You can trade it with a fellow book-loving traveller when you are finished with it.
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– Be friendly!-
Islanders are some of the most friendly people around. Maybe it’s because there is no anonymity in the islands (you can’t be a douche without everybody finding out), or maybe it’s a side effect of a banana/coconut/pineapple diet. Make an effort to say hi to everybody and the locals will really appreciate it! Go around with a smile on your face for goodness sake, you are exactly where everybody on Pinterest wants to be.
– Slowly, slowly- 
Malagasy’s live and die by this little country wide motto.. Islands are not for rushing around in a craze or hopping from one destination to the next. Slow down my island-bound friend and just be.
And if you suck at just being? Here are my suggestions:
Spend time feeling yours toes wiggle in the warm sand.
Pretend you are a smooth piece of driftwood that has been washed up on the shore.
Buy one of those awesome adult colouring books and just colour.
Weep at the ending of a sad book.
Actually taste and savour something that you eat.
Make yourself sea-sick by spending twelve hours in a hammock.
Have philosophical chats with the one-toothed drunk man in the village.
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-Be extra mindful about you leave behind-
 It is very easy when on a trip to take a holiday from being an environmentally conscious consumer. I don’t know about you, but I used to have at least two baths a day when I went on a holiday. The whole ‘well, this isn’t turning up on my water/electricity bill’ mentality can be a little bit dangerous for small islands that have limited environmental resources. Even though you are only there for a couple of weeks, don’t leave the island worse off than when you came.
Do you have any tips for doing tropical islands the right way? I would love to hear them! Leave me a comment or email me at

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