Who are you?
Mariah Moyle, originally from the Pacific Northwest, but am now an island girl in the beautiful Bahamas. I grew up with a mix of spending my winters in the mountains ski racing, ski instructing and ski bumming, and summers at our beach house on an island in the Puget Sound, hiking, kayaking, salmon fishing and crabbing. Since moving to warmer climates I have replaced my northern adventure lifestyle with kiteboarding, paddlesurfing, diving and sportfishing. When I’m not in or on the water, I find solace in my yoga practice. My family consists of my Australian/Bahamian husband and our three island rescue dogs.Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I bought a 32′ sailboat in 2007 with the intent of sailing from Charleston, SC to the USVI with my sailing partner and two dogs. We set off in the fall of 2008 and made it as far as The Bahamas, falling in love with the remoteness of the Exumas, the friendliness and welcoming nature of the people and the pirate lifestyle. I returned to the US in mid-2009 upon losing my mother, but held The Bahamas in my heart.
In 2011 I made the official move. I called up some friends I had met while cruising who ran a beach bar on a remote island in the Exumas and they invited me to come and stay. The island had a population of about 7 people, but there was always a lot of activity at the beach bar from boaters and pilots who landed at the island airstrip, so it never felt lonely. It was there that I met my husband who was building a house on the island. We began chasing construction jobs and ended up working on construction projects for high-end private island owners in the Exumas. We ended up in Harbour Island for 2 1/2 years and recently made the move to the “big city” of Nassau in late 2016.
What challenges did you face during the move?
I completely wrapped my head around my move. I was ready for a change, so nothing really felt like a challenge, instead, an adventure. I showed up with a duffel bag and my dog, and some beer brewing equipment that I shipped in on a friend’s boat. The only thing I had to think about was necessities that I might need, like pharmacy items, flea and tick preventative for the dog and maybe a new pair of flip flops if I wore mine out.
I was living on a remote island that had no stores of any kind. The closest store was at a neighboring island marina where you could buy basic food items for an exorbitant price, but there was always someone offering to bring supplies to me from Nassau or the US, by plane or boat. I had access to fantastic seafood and fresh grown produce, and I made my own craft beer so I didn’t feel like I was lacking much. I’m not one for sweets, treats or indulgences so I didn’t miss not having things like ice cream, pizza or Chinese food at the time. It’s amazing what you really can live without.
Are there many other expats in your area?
There is a wide mix of people from all over the world, mostly foreigners married to Bahamians (such as myself) or dual citizenship Bahamians who were born in the Bahamas to foreign parents (such as my husband). We have friends from the UK, Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Germany and other Caribbean islands. Not too many other Americans however, so I’m typically the lone American in social situations.
It’s difficult to obtain residency with the right to work here, so overall, there really is a limited expat community because you can’t necessarily “just move here.”
What do you like about life where you are?
I love the vibrancy of the colors. Where I’m from in the Pacific Northwest the colors are very neutral. In the Bahamas, the colors pop year round. The glowing turquoise of the ocean, the neon fuchsia of the bougainvillea and the bright greens of the native beach shrubs never cease to take my breath away.
The people are friendly and laid back and don’t ever get too worked up about anything, if only in jest. On occasion there can be a slight bit of racism towards the white minority, but it’s very few and far between.
I love that you can always find a fun beach bar and feel like a tourist for a day and that we can fully enjoy outdoor living year round, something unheard of in the Northwest.
I like that compared to islands further south in the Caribbean, we do have seasons. I can wear pants and a sweater in the winter when the temperature drops into the upper 50’s on occasion, and summertime is typically hot and humid with thundershowers in the afternoon.
I love that we can easily go on a mini-vacation to the out islands. There are 700 islands in the Bahamas and each one is unique. It’s so easy to get out of the city and be at a small locally owned resort on a remote beach in a matter of a few hours.
I also love the quality of life. We don’t have much in the way of taxes compared to 1st world countries, so we are able to live a quality of life we probably wouldn’t be able to afford in the US or Australia. It comes with its drawbacks though…(see the next question)
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Constant power outages for up to 12 hours at a time, the poor quality of the water (we purchase bottled drinking water, but the tap water is pretty bad for your skin and hair), the fairly regular dump fire and breathing in its toxic fumes, and the instability of the government.
There’s very little agriculture in the country these days. There used to be, but it was crushed by big enterprises and now everything is imported. There are small farms attempting to revive it, but it makes me sad that it’s pretty hard to find local produce unless you grow your own.
There are certainly aspects I miss about conveniences and affordability of shopping in the US. Even with shopping malls in Nassau, you will inevitably need some specialty item from the States, which entails shipping it in and paying about double the original price because of shipping and duty, or flying several times per year to the US to shop and carry it back with you (in which you still pay duty upon entry).
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between
your new country and life back home?
People are so relaxed and friendly. You could be in the grocery store or the airport, and strike up a light-hearted conversation with someone. You know that by living in this country, you are most likely connected to that person by another person. 6 degrees of separation goes down to about 1 in the Bahamas, so everything is more personal. You can’t go anywhere without seeing someone you know so you never just feel like a number, or a face in the crowd. Some people don’t like that aspect, but I love it.
There’s also a whole new language to learn. Bahamians speak in kind of a sing-songy cadence that makes it difficult to understand regular English words, but they also have a lot of slang words as well. It took me a while, but I’m pretty fluent with navigating the accent now, although I do still learn new words from time to time.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Be open minded. Don’t be that person saying….”well, that’s not how we do it where I’m from.” If you are open to cultural differences, you will thrive, you will be welcomed, and you will fully enjoy your experience. If you get frustrated with the way things operate, you will quickly spiral downwards into hating your life here.
What are your plans for the future?
My husband and I moved to Nassau in order to finish the house he started building before the recession hit. It’s an amazing house up on a hill overlooking the ocean and I look forward to growing roots there. We are still involved in construction, but have focused more on working exclusively with real estate buyers (instead of sellers) and I have been diligently working on my Bahamas lifestyle and informative website Out Island Life. We hope to continue down the path of being the go-to lifestyle and investor experts in the Bahamas.
I'm always happy to answer questions for anyone interested in more information about the Bahamas. My focus is on lifestyle, and my husband can answer the more practical matters of government policies, construction costs and logistics, and property acquirement. You can find us at Out Island Life Bahamas or follow on Instagram.
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