Last Saturday, we finished all of our packing and cleaning, sent out final packages to our new home in the Alaskan bush, and boarded an airplane that would take us off of the island. We were, as we have so often been on the island, very blessed to know such wonderful people. Friends stopped by our house in the morning and more met us at the airport to say one last goodbye. It was odd to leave the island and know that we probably won't be back any time soon.
This year was an interesting one on the island. There are many things I will miss about Beaver Island, like the sunsets over Lake Michigan, or cruising around the island with friends. As a reflection of my time on Beaver Island, I've compiled a pros and cons list for living there (just like I did when we left Juneau).
Pro::The Beaches:: Beaver Island has some of the most stellar beaches in Michigan...maybe even in the United States. The beaches are completely pristine with crystal clear water and perfectly smooth sand. For the most part, you can have these beaches completely to yourself, except maybe on a packed weekend in the height of summer. Cody and I used the beaches for recreation in every season. We swam in the summer, went snowshoeing in the winter, and watched sunset over Lake Michigan all year.
Con::The Cost of Travel:: Traveling off and on Beaver Island is pricey because it has to be done by boat or plane. The ferry is a slightly cheaper option, but it also takes 2 1/2 hours to get to the mainland, has limited run times, and isn't available year round. Flying costs about $100 round trip, which adds up for two people and two dogs. This made it difficult to go visit family. Even though we were thousands of miles closer to our families than we were in Alaska, we still didn't see them very often because of the sheer cost.
Pro::The People:: Some of the best people in the world became part of our lives while living on the island. I met best friends and people I know I will keep in touch with for a lifetime. There was also no shortage of incredibly helpful people on the island who would, and have, dropped everything to help Cody and I when we really needed it. I also had the opportunity to work with some of the most caring and wonderful teachers in the world, and in turn got to work with some of the most amazing children and families too. We couldn't have asked for a better experience with making friends, interacting with coworkers, and finding a support system.
Con::The Gossip:: Beaver Island is small and isolated, which can occasionally breed some nasty gossip. I personally was pretty affected by gossip after finding out that, before I even moved to the island (or met anyone that lived there), a post had been made about how I shouldn't have been hired to teach at the school on the public forum. Parents, students, and community members that I had to face daily gossiped about me before even knowing me (and they did it publicly where I could easily read it) and that was tough for me to swallow. The gossip was a pretty consistent part of our lives there for the entirety of our two years, especially in the winter when there isn't much else to do.
Pro::The Outdoor Activities:: The recreation on the island is pretty fantastic, especially for the Midwest. There are abundant hiking, birding, and biking trails and numerous inland lakes for fishing and boating. Cody and I took advantage of the recreation most weekends. We climbed dunes with the dogs, biked to the beach, and kayaked on inland lakes. The wildlife was abundant on all of our outings and we had a blast getting to accidentally sneak up on the occasional turkey (and even a coyote once). It's a great place for outdoor-oriented people to visit, or even to call home.
Con::The Cost of Living:: Coming from Alaska I was expecting our move back to the Midwest to be a great chance to cut some costs (especially considering I took a 50% paycut to leave my job in AK). Unfortunately, that just didn't happen for us on Beaver Island. Our housing costs went down by only a couple hundred dollars a month, and our grocery, gas, and travel costs stayed sky high. On top of that, our first winter on the island saw temps in the -20's, which caused us some horrendous utility bills that made the difference in rental costs disappear entirely.
Overall, I loved our time on Beaver Island. It's as beautiful geographically as it is community-wise. For the right type of person, it is truly an island paradise. For Cody and I, it was a fun adventure, but it was also lacking a few of the things that we had grown so fond of in Alaska, which is why we chose to return to our beloved 49th state. In the future, I really believe we will return to the island, but this time just as tourists.
Your turn...What are some of the pros and cons about your current city/town?
Currently listening to...Doin' Time - Sublime