Okay, so I was lonely. I missed my city. I missed my tribe. I missed my creature comforts. But, hey, I'm adaptable. My new intention was to fall in love with my new life in this isolated paradise and embrace every ounce of this unique expat experience; including my new Spa career at five-star resort in the Caribbean. Here I was on a private island populated with approximately 300 other expats from as far as Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and India; to Mexico, Argentina, Spain, and Venezuela. I mean, how cool is that? And collectively we get to create award-winning experiences for travelers from around the world; including tons of New Yorkers which offers a beautiful taste of familiarity. My new life felt like I'd joined the cast of an already long-running show and, here I was, the new girl trying to learn all the choreography, spacing, entrances and exits and do it as seamlessly as those who've been performing the same show for years. I'd been teaching Pilates for years but I was on this gigantic new stage with unfamiliar set pieces and a cast of characters I was trying to get to know despite our language barriers and cultural differences.
Backstage life was in the Staff Village, tucked behind palm trees and bougainvillea bushes. The performer in me fantasized about off-shift hours being like "Dirty Dancing". But there never seemed to be any sweaty, late night grinding on the dance floor and I've never spotted a resort guest sneaking past the "Staff Only" signs in search of private "mambo" lessons. Backstage life was tame at best. Unlike life as a dancer on tour, there were no after-parties at the hottest clubs or rooftop bars. There was no downtime spent shopping at trendy boutiques, checking out the latest movie or discovering cool neighborhoods to explore. Life was work and work was life.
Nightlife was sitting around the dining room table, drinking wine with my housemates and bonding over food. I love how they'd include me in Hot Pot nights, or dared me to eat tiny, crunchy fishes with eyeballs still intact, or yummy glutinous rice treats stuffed with black sesame paste. I loved learning about their culture through elaborate ceremonies and beautiful rituals that honored the gods of nature. And I loved hearing stories about life at home and the beautiful families they left behind. I was struck by the complete selflessness of my colleagues who literally uprooted their lives and moved to the other side of the world to offer financial support to their families at home. I felt such a deep respect for their ability to leave behind husbands, wives, and kids to work their asses off six days per week in order to provide better lives for them. That takes a unique and extremely loving type of individual. And here I was, 3.5 hours away from home; single, childless and with the comfort of my dog. My own loneliness felt selfish even though, as time passed, the getting-to-know-you conversations and celebrations faded and, while sitting around the dining room table, I started to feel like that one loser in the school cafeteria with no friends. Unless someone was saying "Let's eat!" in Thai or "Good Morning" in Balinese, I was completely lost. Our cultural exchange ultimately turned into the Balinese seated at one end of the table and the Thais at the other end, and me in the middle; jealous of their friendships, their ability to speak colloquially, tell jokes, share stories and express their deeper emotions. I knew it wasn't personal, though. I understood their need for easy conversation and community because that's exactly what I needed.
So, eventually my nightlife became about connecting with my facebook community, watching Netflix, or purging all the words I couldn't express to my housemates into my journal... in the comfort of my own room, cuddled up with my best friend, Brooklyn.