If you haven’t gotten around to visiting Anguilla as yet, imagine an island the size of Manhattan with the population of just two high-rises, surrounded by 33 sugary white beaches, lapped by stunning turquoise waters ‒ with temps in the mid-80s and a tropical breeze, just about 365.
After years of commuting before and after daylight, we decided to trade our sidewalks for beach walks. It only took a few trips for my husband and I to decide Anguilla was quite simply the very best place to live ‒ and work remotely.
Soon thereafter, we found half an acre overlooking the rocks and a shimmering vista of turquoise, emeralds, sapphires and pearl strands where the waves met the reefs to the north.
Over the next two years, we built a new house, sold the old one, and then locked the door behind us with two cats and one-way tickets to Anguilla.
The Wi-Fi was better than what we had in New Jersey, with access to US television on cable and any newspaper online. Although Anguilla is a British Overseas Territory, our US appliances plugged right in, and US dollars and credit cards are accepted everywhere with a standard conversion rate to Eastern Caribbean currency. And we have taken beach walks nearly every morning ever since.
These are just some of the basics that eased our transition to living and working in Anguilla. Still, anything you’ve read about the glorious beaches, luxurious villas, resorts and dozens of delicious restaurant options being outdone only by the people is true.
One more similarity to Manhattan is that the people comprise a sophisticated, well-traveled, strong and egalitarian community that also values common sense, faith, and courtesy. And for good measure, some of the most punctual and professional people I’ve ever met are born Anguillians.
Did I forget to mention cosmopolitan?
In addition to Anguillians, several hundred Americans, Canadians and a few English and European denizens, Anguilla is also regionally diverse, with residents and naturalized citizens hailing from as far south as Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent, to Dominica and Montserrat, to Saint Kitts, Nevis and Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, to Antigua, the British and US Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic – and Bermuda.
And those are just the countries represented by people we’ve befriended over the years. Indeed, being welcomed into the Anguillian ethos is every bit as engaging as one might hope when given a choice to live anyplace in the world.
In fact, some of the best chefs’ talents we’ve ever savored anywhere are also right here in Anguilla. Across a vast array of creative, independent eateries, the vibrant, varied culture has influenced the cuisine. From beach burgers, rice and peas and barbeque, to French, Mexican, Asian, Italian, classic Anguillian and regional dishes from throughout the Caribbean, the island has offered evolving but always delectable food since our first trip, to where we’ll dine tonight. There are also nearly as many versions of rum punch, signature cocktails, and from elegant to award-winning wine options as there are establishments, as well.
Standouts? Anguillian crayfish (think small lobster, not crawdads!) – and most dishes on traditional menus from Chef Dale at Tasty’s and at E’s Oven, warm Johnny cakes bathed in ice cream and caramel sauce at SandBar, lasagna at Dolce Vita and Vera Pizza at Artisan, roasted corn and quesadillas at Picante, innovations at Ember, terrine of foie gras and lavender ice cream at Hibernia, and everything prepared by Relaix & Châteaux Chef Dominique – and Joya’s mango crème brulee – at Quintessence, to name only a few.
Speaking of choices, part of the allure of living in Anguilla has always been knowing we could also be dining or shopping in New York or Paris in just a few hours on direct flights through nearby Sint Maarten.
Of course, this year’s seismic shifts have put such things once taken for granted into new light. As we stared out from the terrace at the silver glaze on the afternoon horizon a few weeks into our brief lockdown, realizing we literally could not travel was actually comforting.
After all, if one had to be caught anywhere when the borders closed, Anguilla was surely the only place we would want to be.
Those one-way tickets were priceless.
We think anyone who trades their sidewalks for beach walks in Anguilla is likely to agree.
Melinda K. M. Goddard is a business consultant and the author of “One Way Ticket: From America to Anguilla” – the story of building a new villa and a new life in paradise.