When people dream about winning the lottery they often imagine moving to a tropical island. I am one of the fortunate souls who get to live that life (although I didn’t need to win the lottery to get here).
People dream about sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and a stress free way of life. While this is absolutely true there are also cons to living remotely.
A little about Christmas Island and how I ended up here
I came to Christmas Island in August 2016. I had met my fiance, Jack, on an online game (Dota 2) and we clicked instantly. He flew 5000km to my home in Melbourne and we spent 2 weeks together. Then, long story short, I came here for a holiday to visit him and never left. Since then we have had a gorgeous baby and are planning our wedding.
So here I am to share my first hand experience of the pros and cons of living on in a isolated paradise
When I first heard about Christmas Island I really thought that Jack was pulling my leg. I had never heard of the place before and I was convinced that this guy was absolutely full of it. A quick Google search proved that it was in fact a very real place, although much to my dismay there weren’t Christmas Trees and Elves. Jungle and crabs is the vibe of the island. It is home to the largest crab migration on earth. As well as the largest land and hermit crab, the Coconut Crab
The island boasts a warm tropical climate that is gorgeous most of the year round but isn’t overly humid. Which is great for someone like me, who dreams of living in a winter wonderland. Christmas Island is home to the largest crab migration in the world when millions of Red Crabs march down to the ocean for their yearly breeding season.
There is a vast amount of nature-based activities on the island.. Snorkelling, Swimming, Diving, Hiking, Fishing, Boating etc. Whale sharks come when the crabs migrate and dolphins can be seen swimming around popular swimming spots.
The untouched nature does come at a cost, both monetary and mentally/emotionally. Due to the location it is quite expensive to fly to/from the island, with one way tickets to Perth costing anywhere from $500 to $1000. Due to this high cost it isn’t cheap for people to get off island and for single income families such as ours it is a huge blow emotionally. Jack is an apprentice who gets paid flights off island 4 times a year for his studies, however I do not. I have not been off island in 12 months and counting. You get a sort of strange cabin fever and if you are not careful your life becomes a blur with nothing to break up your time or give you relief from the repetitive lifestyle.
When I first had my little girl in 2017 I had mild PND and suffered greatly from the isolation I felt. Thankfully since then things have improved and my sister has moved to the island, so I feel much more at ease and much less alone.
Bananas and mangoes and chillies, oh my!
When you picture a tropical beach there is usually an image of coconut and banana trees, and you would be spot on. There is a large variety of food that grows on the island and throughout the jungle. Bananas, Mango, Avocado, Limes, Chillies, Papaya, Pumpkins, Coconut.. the list goes on. The locals are very switched on about where to find the amazing island grown foods, however I am still working on it myself.
Food cost and availability
Aside from the tropical foods, the cost of groceries here is insane. I have paid $18 for a single iceberg lettuce, $4 for a single tomato and don’t even talk to me about the price of eggs.
The reasons for the high food costs are mostly due to freight prices, which I will get to in a minute. There is also the factor of no competition. There are a handful of small stores on the island and they have practically nobody to compete with. So when they want to charge you $10 for a punnet of blueberries, they are going to do it. Most of the high cost foods are fresh produce. I can buy things such as chocolate and party pies for what seems like next to no mark up. In addition to this, because of the islands Duty Free status, things such as cigarettes and alcohol are incredibly cheap. A litre of Smirnoff will set you back $20 and a carton (5 packets) of cigarettes is even less than that. Go figure!
As a household with 2 adults and 1 toddler we have a budget of $200 a week on food. This usually gets us 1kg mince, 800 grams of chicken, some vegetables (mostly frozen), bread, milk, cheese and other bits and pieces we need. Everything other than basic meals is a huge luxury.
Mail and Freight
When I talk about the cost of food on the island the main response I get is “why not just get it from the mainland?”. If it were that simple, we would be eating a lot better than we do.
There are two ways that food and other goods get delivered to the island. One is freight plane and the other is by boat.
The planes are sometimes unreliable and not all of the mail will fit on the freight so it gets spread across the commercial flight (which comes in twice a week). Letters will come on the plane but all other mail will only come on the plane if it is via AusPost Express, and let me tell you it ain’t easy finding online stores that not only ship here but will also express post for a reasonable price!
Aside from general mail the freight plane also brings in additional goods. Usually fresh produce the stores have ordered and other goods local businesses need. This is also how we can order our own fresh produce from an IGA store in Perth, but at a cost! To put items on the freighter there is a consignment fee of $70 as well as an added charge of $8 per kilogram. On top of that, the IGA store charges $50 just to pack your order. So if you order $100 worth of food that weighs 15kg you are looking at a total cost of roughly $340 just for your order.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we don’t order directly from the mainland.
Thankfully we have an amazing team at our local post office and they work their butts off trying to try and get us a fair mail service.
The boat works a little differently. It comes in once every 6-8 weeks and relies heavily on the weather being good for it to unload. This is where shops and locals get most of their goods. Any general bulky mail will be put on the boat for no extra charge, however unlike the plane which goes based off weight, for extra items you are looking at about $300 per square metre.
I hope I didn’t lose you guys with this one! Basically mail and freight are costly and can be a very slow process. This is by far one of my biggest struggles with the island lifestyle.
Community and Diversity
The population on Christmas Island was sitting at 2000 last count. But that 2000 are all incredible and caring people. There is a very strong community feel and everyone knows each other. Among the population there is also so much diversity. The majority are Malay Muslims or Chinese. Because of this Chinese New Year and Ramadan are public holidays here. As well as the usual Christmas, Easter and New Years. We all share each others holidays and come together as a community for each of them. It is such a beautiful and warming feeling, and my favourite thing about the island!
When you are dreaming of your big lottery win then maybe visit a tropical island before you decide it is the lifestyle for you.
I do feel very lucky to live in such a beautiful and friendly place but it does come at a cost.. and not just a financial one.