“We’re going, where?” I responded to Eric.
Recently he told me that he was leaving for the Marshall Islands on a work trip, and he wanted me to go with him.
I couldn’t help but see the look in his eye for adventure, so two weeks later, we boarded a plane with nine other passengers, crossed the International Date Line, and landed on a tiny crescent in the Pacific called Kwajalein (pronounced qua-ja-lin) Atoll.
For the next six days, we were cut off from the world—no cell phones, no vehicles, no restaurants, no night-life, no shopping malls.
”Kwaj” is just a tiny island with a small government/military community of 1,200 adults and children and lots and lots of palm trees, coconuts, and endless ocean in every direction.
It felt like we were stepping back in time, to a simpler life where children play in the streets, carefree of cars and strangers. Where everybody knows everyone and instead of walking about with their heads buried in their smart phones, neighbors talk to one another, visit one another, and share dinner together on their porches.
So you can imagine, Eric and I were an instant sensation—we were the new people on the island! And within 24 hours, we had already made a good handful of friends.
Most of the folks who live there fulfill a government contract after a year or two and then leave. Others, decide to stay longer. When I asked the more veteran residents why they chose to stay, their reasons had the same basic theme.
This little island gave them something that no strip mall, large home, busy schedule, bustling city, or SUV could ever provide. It provided them freedom from the noise and the distractions of our complicated American lifestyle.
Their lives were simplified and relatively free of hassle. Husbands and wives could just enjoy each other after work and enjoy their children without being pulled in countless directions and burdened down by shopping, shuttling kids to activities, meetings, auto repairs, mortgages, text messages, and endless commitments. With one grocery store, “Surf and Save,” and one tiny shopette, these islanders learn to live with less, and learned to borrow from a neighbor when they ran out of something.
For Eric and I, those few days were surreal. Our love and companionship could truly breathe and we were conscious of effortless romance. We swam for hours together in the warm waters, and at night, wasted time in front of spectacular tropical sunsets. Then we would jump on our bicycles and ride over to visit our new friends who were excited to share their freshly caught Mahi-mahi, and whose porch was already flowing over with friendly neighbors.
Though I’m not sure I would want to live on a remote island for the rest of my life, our visit to Kwaj taught me several things that I hope to never forget:
- You can live without lots of stuff and be perfectly OK.
- Relationships benefit from turning the music down, turning NETFLIX off, putting the cell phone on silent, and experiencing the quiet beauty of the outdoors.
- Children are happier when they do less and just play more.
- And adults are happier when the clutter of life is pushed away and they can really get to know their children, their neighbors, and themselves.
Once back at home, Eric and I felt the desire to take a red pen to our schedule, to commit to doing less, wasting more “nothing” time with each other and good friends. We don’t live on a remote island, so it won’t be easy. It will require us to be proactive and intentional about our time and relationships. But because we truly do believe in love, we want our love to thrive by minimizing distractions and focusing on the important things. And one day, when we have children of our own, we want to pass on the gift of a simpler life to them, not just as a nice idea, but as a reality that allows them to live, thrive, and love.