My Island Muse: Chrissann Nickel

chrissann8Funny, playful and most of all honest. That’s how I’d describe the memoirs of Women Who Live On Rocks. Founded by California native Chrissann Nickel in 2012, the blog is a unique collection of stories and experiences written by women residing all over the Caribbean. In these memoirs, island girls explore all the quirks, frustrations and eccentricities that are island life.

I first connected with  Chrissann on social media. At first glance I couldn’t help but swoon over the picturesque island of Virgin Gorda BVI she now called home, as well as admire her affection for toucans. Her support of Island Muse while in its infancy stages was not only appreciated, but a source of inspiration as I loved the unique platform she’d created for herself through Women Who Live on Rocks.

What I admire most about Chrissann’s story was her ability to recreate her life on a whim, while sharing her unique platform with women across the Caribbean. Chrissann Nickel is this month’s Island Muse Spotlight.

Tell us about yourself. Are you originally from the islands?
I am a freelance writer and Editor in Chief of the humorous island life website, Women Who Live on Rocks  For my website and others, I focus on pretty much anything that intrigues me from island life, travel, mindful living, to toucan training. My first children’s book is coming out in the fall. I am also a yoga instructor. I currently live on the little island of Virgin Gorda in the BVI.  While I would have definitely reveled in an island upbringing, I’m originally from the Bay Area in California. I used to work in hotel sales and moved to the US Virgin Islands on a whim, having never been there before. I have since fallen in love with the Caribbean lifestyle and haven’t looked back.

What inspired you to create your blog, Women Who Live on Rocks?
Since I first moved to St. Thomas back in 2006, I have been accumulating funny anecdotes about island life and wanting an outlet to share them on. However, I always knew I didn’t want that outlet to just be about my limited personal experience. Over the years, I continued to be amazed by how many fascinating, hilarious women I met in the islands and thus decided to make it a collaborative project. I tend to view life through a comedic lens, so I decided to make humor our core.

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Women Who Live on Rocks has amassed quite a following since its inception in 2012. Why do you think the blog has appealed to so many?
Well, for one, I think that a lot of the content written about island life elsewhere has a tendency to lean more towards the dreamy, fantastical “living in paradise” side of it. But as anyone who actually lives on an island knows, we don’t live in a perfect paradise. Life is still life – ours just happens to have a white sand beach attached to it. I think people are attracted to the more balanced, realistic, yet playful portrayal our site provides.

In addition to that, I’ve worked hard (and continue to do so), to cultivate a diverse group of women writing for the site. I’ve always wanted Women Who Live on Rocks to be a fun community of island women (men welcomed too) who can connect, laugh, share insights, vent frustrations, and celebrate the unique quirks of the island lifestyle. We have a wide range of women writing for the site: some have lived on their rock since birth, some for 15+ years, some for 5 months; some are originally from the States or the UK, some are originally from neighboring islands; some are partying 20-somethings, some are retired 60-somethings; some live a very stateside-eque version of island life with more creature comforts, and some live more on the wild side, roughing it even by island standards. Our site seeks to cover the full arc of the island woman’s experience in the hopes that while readers may not relate to every writer’s perspective, perhaps they’ll be able to find some that they can really identify with and appreciate.

I’ve read some of the articles, and I must say your contributors offer up an honest view of what it’s really like to live on an island. Do you ever get frustrated with island living? What do you find most challenging?
Yes, unabashed honesty with a funny twist is our specialty! Better to laugh than cry about it, right? (Or, at least laugh while you cry…) I am definitely susceptible to the infamous “rock fever” and can get antsy and discontented by the various eccentricities of island life, when I haven’t gotten away for a long stretch of time. Living on a rock can be isolating in many ways and when you don’t take the opportunity to travel elsewhere, your outlook can get clouded by an imbalance of negatives over positives. As an energetic, Type-A person, the slower pace of things in the Caribbean, that often halts the progress I desire is probably what gets under my skin most.

The important thing I try to remember when island life feels like it’s getting the better of me is that everything’s a trade-off. There’s a ying and yang to life and though island living is definitely not without its challenges, neither is anywhere else. I’ve been here for almost 10 years now and don’t plan on leaving until I find someplace I love coming home to as much as I do here.

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What advice would you offer to people wishing to relocate to the Caribbean?
Shameless plug: read through some of the stories on Women Who Live on Rocks. Haha… sorry, I had to. 😉 But seriously – so many people desire a move to the Caribbean because they’re wistfully picturing themselves laying in a hammock everyday and finally writing that novel they’ve just never found the time for. That’s not reality – or, at least, it’s not the reality of the majority. In a lot of ways, living on an island is actually much more difficult than trying to make a life elsewhere. Many rocks have a high cost of living due to limited resources and everything needing to be shipped in. Most islanders are incredibly hard workers because that’s what it takes. Our blog shows both the island highs and the island lows. If the lows – creepy crawlies, pesky tourists, frequent power/water outages, grocery expenses, etc. – sound like too much for you from the comfort of your computer, I promise the initial “adventure” of your idea will wear off fast. The jaw-dropping sunsets definitely help smooth things over, but if you’re not ready to roll with the island punches and expect things to be just as they are “back home”, rock life may not be for you.

Most memorable moment since starting this platform/blog?
As any writer does, I’m always happy to hear from people who enjoy our site. One of my favorites, was a group of sailing charter guests that pulled up to the Saba Rock marina, a resort my boyfriend operates. Somehow during the course of their conversation, the guests asked him if he knew of Women Who Live on Rocks (Surprise! He did.), and then raved to him about how much they loved it, they even printed out some of our posts to put into a binder for other charter guests to read while on the boat. My boyfriend snapped a photo of them holding it as proof for me, and to say it made my day is an understatement. It has always been my goal from the beginning to get our stories published as a book, so it absolutely delighted me to see this “first edition” sailing around my rock until I can get the real thing in print.

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Fav place to visit in the BVI and why?
I’m a spa girl and feel very fortunate to have one of the best ones I’ve ever visited right here on my rock. The Rosewood Little Dix Bay Sense Spa is spectacular. It is such a serene, tropical atmosphere, and I love to indulge in having lunch and champagne delivered up to the spa’s infinity pool to enjoy while I lounge in between treatments. It’s always the perfect day – whether I spend it alone, with girlfriends, or as a romantic treat with my boyfriend.

If you’re a fellow island girl, you can link up with the Women Who Live on Rocks community on Facebook. To connect with Chrissann, you can find her on Instagram or visit her personal website.