If your holiday is going well, there is always a point where a little voice in your head says, “You could live here, you know.”
Yes, that sounds like a good idea. I could live here and I would stay in this nicely located, nicely equipped apartment in the city centre, with bars and restaurants not far from my door if I don’t want to cook, and I would not need to work, I would just go to the beach and go hiking in the mountains, and if I wanted to go somewhere I could arrange for someone to come collect me in a nice air conditioned mini bus and it would always be summer and there would always be time for ice cream in the afternoon and beer with lunch.
Of course, we know it would not be like that. Holidays do give you a skewed idea of what life in a place is like. In reality, you would not have a nice central place to live – you couldn’t afford it. You would be living in one of the new build apartments way up in the hills where you have to take the slow non-air-conditioned public bus to work; if you could find any work that it, because what can a foreigner like you do here, when you don’t even speak the language? And if you were lucky enough to find work (because – paying for food, accommodation, transport, things like that – work comes in handy) that would interfere with your beach and mountain time.
In fact life would be a bit like your old life back at home but now you can’t read the packaging on the food in the supermarkets and you have to find a new hairdresser and you’ve discovered that despite it being hot here, women tend not to wear shorts, they only wear dresses or long trousers and that makes you wonder if there isn’t some kind of unofficial dress code? If you lived here, would you be expected to always look groomed whenever you left the house? Always have your hair/nails done? Always wear makeup?
Yes, I’ve done a bit of life dreaming while travelling on buses over the past week or so. In effect, life here would not be too much different to life back in my hometown in Australia; the only difference is there I speak the language.
But it has reminded me of what sub-tropical life is like.
Life in humidity – damn humidity! Sapping my will to live. I can’t drink enough water to replace the water I’m sweating out. My hair is frizzy and my skin is breaking out. It’s hot all day and hot all night and I’ve only had maybe three good nights of sleep since we got here.
Sub-tropical life means bugs. Although I’ve only seen one mosquito in our apartment, the number of itchy bites all over my legs would indicate there is an army of bugs that are feasting on me at night. Now the benefit of having Husband as a life partner is that he has traditionally been more attractive to bugs than I am. Mosquitos in particular seem to love him. But whatever these night time bugs are, they love my feet and legs.
The sun can burn you. I’ve had two pool experiences and collected two doses of sunburn. Impressively, on the second pool visit (in my new bikini!) I did not burn my stomach, but I did fail to properly do the backs of my legs so they are red and sore. I would love to be tanned. Everyone native to this island looks so dark and tanned. I realise they are starting from a different skin colour to me, and they have had a whole summer to get ahead of me in the tanning department. I also know that I should not associate tan with health. Tanned skin is damaged skin, or so the Australian Cancer Society says.
And yes, I am high risk for skin cancer – I was of the generation sent out to play without suncream, without hats, without any protection under the harsh Australian sun. I’m at the age now where my skin should be showing the effects of that early sun exposure, which is why I’m particular about getting skin lumps checked out by a doctor (and you can read about the ABCDE of skin cancer here).
So I think I have decided, much as I like Madeira as a holiday destination to the point I would consider coming back, that I would not live here. I’m not even going to indulge in an imaginary life here. Instead I’m going to enjoy being here now, and enjoy all that a holiday has to offer (and know that I will need to cut down on bread and dairy and alcohol when I get home), and enjoy the challenge of shopping for groceries in a foreign language while it lasts, and then I’ll go home and get back to “real life”, whatever that looks like these days.