I live in my own fantasy world.

What happened to these people I used to call my classmates? Why being a BVI expat keeps you young.


For some of us, growing up is harder to accept than others.

Some people seem like they were born old, so it’s no surprise when you see an introverted little girl 15 years later and she’s still quite happy living in her own bubble of routine and similar anti-social types.

Then there’s the ones that are forced to grow up when life takes an unplanned detour around the city centre of fun and they suddenly become parents.

But the hardest thing is accepting when a friend of yours who used to be your partner in crime suddenly ages from 21 to 65 between a Deadmau5 concert and a wine and cheese night.

Excuse me? But where’d my best friend go and who is this boring person who’s making their own candles, settled down with the love of their life and putting a down payment on a house?!

You see your ex-classmates you would sit with and draw stick-people comics making fun of other class-mates, and suddenly they’re dressed in their Autumn-Best cranberry coloured sweater and leather boots kissing their finance, showing off their engagement ring in some cheesy photoshoot.

But then you get those types like me. I really don’t think I will ever “grow up”. Or at least not become boring.

Living far away from your hometown and “real life” to an exotic place is a different type of growing up. Rather than giving into age, you work harder to become mature in ways which teach you to handle complicated situations independently and rely on the people you meet and get to know rather than the same structure of support you’ve relied on since childhood.

That’s why I fled to a place like The British Virgin Islands, apparently known by some as “The university of life”. And it was just like that. The main island of Tortola is like a giant university campus. With a population that’s less than the school where I completed my undergrad, 24,000 approx., it is uncommon NOT to have all the same uni-life experiences.


You come to see the same faces as part of your daily routine.

On your morning run you pass the lady with the leather purse who stares into space. At lunch you fight off a gang of roosters from the picnic table only to have it taken over by the people who work at the mini-mart next door. On your way home your poor friend sees you walking in the same spot and feels obligated to pick you up. Then of course when you decide “Oh hey it’s Tuesday, better go to the bar,”  everyone is already there.

Your professional life and personal life cross over.

If I had to describe the bar scene in the BVI I’d say it’s like a kegger at a frat house where you know half the crowd and suddenly you’re partying with your professors. Be prepared to see your boss dancing topless at the beachfront nightclub then watch him roll into work on Monday morning like Donald Trump.

You can’t go ANYWHERE without seeing someone you know.

Anywhere which is public, guaranteed you’ll see someone you know. Be prepared to take twice as long doing daily tasks since 3/4 of them will likely be interrupted by conversations.

You talk about someone and suddenly, no matter where in the country you are, they pop out of the nearest plant pot.

I call it the “Tortola Magic Trick”. Just start talking negatively about someone and they’ll just show up out of nowhere. The key is to do “the look around” and look over both shoulders and under the table before engaging in juicy gossip.

You do something on the weekend and everyone knows by Wednesday morning.

Monday is the catch up day where everyone’s busy checking emails at work but in between will gossip on Facebook chat. By Tuesday night, everyone is ready to meet and discuss the latest scandals over a couple of beers. Wednesday morning you plan to meet for happy hour to get to the bottom of what’s really going on with this week’s Brangelina of the island.

You know people better from lurking Facebook than you do in person.

You know people so well from Facebook that you actually think their real name is “Lyon”, “Coco” or “Lollypop”. Not everyone with a nickname is a drug dealer in the BVI so it can be pretty embarrassing when you forget one of the 2436 names you learned in one year and think their parents named them after a Teletubby.

You have a ton of “BFF” pics on Facebook and Instagram of people you just met or barely know.

In university where we had “I hate this girl, but I’m drunk so I’m going to take a picture with her” pictures. We also had the “let’s get all of our hot girlfriends together and pose with the geekiest guy we can find” photo. And let’s not forget the group shots with anyone who happens to be standing within a 10 foot radius of the camera. We seem to have matured past the first two, but the last is still true of “students” of the BVI. Be prepared to be pulled into photos on a regular basis and see blasts of “sugar shots” popping up on social media.


Lala word drop: “Sugar shots” – Sugar shots are photos taken with the sole purpose of Instagramming later to show how sweet your life is. Examples can be found of my past life in the BVI by searching #sugarshots on Insta.

Yes, student life at the BVI University of Life is an interesting one. But it’s fascinating because you meet the most extraordinary people. Expats from all over the world have travelled to find the perfect place where they can stay youthful for as young as possible in paradise.

Love from Lala.

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