Island Time

Karen and I visited Ocracoke Island for a few days, the reason for my Twitter absence and the late blog post this week. I intentionally “unplugged” for several days, even to the extent of turning off my mobile, as we needed some serious decompression time. Of course, our trip down was marked by our usual punctuality…that is, we were late. We were made later by the fact that you cannot drive straight to Ocracoke…a ferry ride is involved to get to the island. This means you line up your car in the boarding lane, wait for the next ferry, then wait the 30 minute ride across as the ferry chugs through the water. The first time was maddening. I paced. I made numerous phone calls to make certain our room reservation would survive our tardiness. I groaned and yelled at the slow traffic in the same way I would during rush hour, and bolted out of the car door when we finally parked where we were staying.

After settling into our room, we walked to find a restaurant for dinner, because you don’t drive a lot in Ocracoke. It’s a small village, and almost everyone walks or cycles everywhere. We sat on a screened-in porch over dinner with a guy playing blues and Southern rock with an acoustic guitar on the patio, in the notable absence of street lights. This, combined with a pleasant void of neon or digital signage, is significant, because no chain businesses exist on Ocracoke. Every restaurant, every shop, every business is owned by locals. The seafood is typically freshly caught that day. The closest thing to “big business” that I saw while we were there was a UPS truck.

Add this to miles of beaches that are protected by the National Park Service as a nature preserve and thus completely unpopulated by hotels and timeshares, and you have a blissfully natural and slowing experience.

During one of our outings, Karen and I waited nearly an hour for the ferry. I noticed a guy on the front with a t-shirt that read “I’m on Island Time,” and it made me smile. Karen made the comment that I wasn’t paying as much attention while driving at one point: that I’m normally a very vigilant driver, but that I wasn’t noticing cars braking in front of us as quickly as usual, or reacting as quickly. Nor did I seem stressed about anything.

Just a few days of being completely “unplugged” and worrying about nothing led me to a feeling of physical and mental….slowness, a slowness matched by, and indeed necessitated by, the island culture around me. What might have been sitting in my inbox held no concern for me. The television was on maybe twice, and then only for entertainment purposes. I had no clue what was occurring in the rest of the world for those few days. And I didn’t care. And I was so relaxed. And as I sat on the sparsely populated beach, and wandered out into the ocean to let it embrace me while I stared out at the far off point where it made introductions with the sky, I thought about the rest of the world…the other countries and peoples that were on the “other side” of that ocean…in a different way. I thought about how alike we all are, and about this stunningly beautiful water, a symbol of our life in motion, that is given to us all, and how Providential everything seemed in that moment.

And even today, even surrounded by Virginia drivers again, I’m calm and serene.

I certainly hope to stay that way for a while.


  1. It takes a lot to be calm and serene around VA drivers. I say this, even though I am one. They are ridiculous, and thankfully I don’t drive like one. 😉 Glad you were able to relax…we are going to the beach for a week, and I’m considering doing a little unplugging myself. You made it sound great!

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