Questioning my life decisions in the Caribbean: I’m just a girl being asked to work a 40-hour week

How just 5 days of Caribbean island hopping made me consider leaving London in search of the soft life

Mischa Anouk Smith in the Caribbean
Mischa Anouk Smith at Sunset Reef St Kitts
(Image credit: Mischa Anouk Smith)

It’s taken me ten years to land a full-time magazine job. I’ve wanted this job for 20 years, but it took less than one night in the Caribbean on St Kitts island to question all that.

Dale, our yoga teacher from Newfoundland, Canada, felt the same way when she arrived in the Caribbean 30 years ago. She’d been working for Scotia Bank back home and was feeling disenfranchised. On her first night here, she met her husband-to-be, a local Kittitian. I decide then and there—in the aptly named Lookout at Belle Mont Sanctuary Resort, which hangs over verdant hills dusted with wispy clouds like a scene from Gorillas In The Mist— that it would take less than a soulmate to get me to stay.

I’ve been at the hotel, a lush and luxurious tropical retreat 1,000 feet above sea level, for 14 hours by the time I meet Dale for our early morning yoga and sound bath - the gong competes with cicadas and frogs, and it’s the latter who wins. Despite my short stay, I have swam laps in the infinity pool that stretches out from my private porch, gorged on a Kittitian feast cooked by chef Telsa Johnson (and met his entire family at breakfast in the hotel the next morning) and tried my first guava. Anyone can help themselves to the fruit, Telsa tells me, but you’ll have to get there before the monkeys.

The hotel sits within an organic tropical farm which supplies the kitchen. “Just recently, a local woman came and collected 250 avocados,” says Amarylis Dávila, the Puerto Rican hotel manager who flies in once a month. “They don’t have that many avocados in Puerto Rico,” she says while I scrabble to mentally calculate the cost of 250 avocados in my local grocery store on Broadway Market. I estimate almost the flight price (return flights from London Gatwick with British Airways start from £506pp and run twice weekly). Fed and fuelled, the adventure can begin.

Day 1

We skitter onto a runway thronged with palm trees and are quickly ushered (via private transfer, no less) to the Kayan Jet lounge, where cheery staff deal with the pesky business of immigration checks and luggage retrieval, thus spoiling all future airport experiences for me. Champagne quaffed and passports stamped, we make our way to Belle Mont Sanctuary Resort.

There’s just enough time to bask in the golden hour glow and cool off in the infinity pool before dinner in The Great House. St Kitts has a brutal history of warring between French and British colonists—it became the smallest independent nation in the Western Hemisphere in 1983—and is reclaiming its past, so you’ll find plenty of ‘Great Houses’ scattered around the island. Stuffed from the ‘Flavours of St Kitts Chef Table Dinner’ (think salt fish fritters, pan-seared snapper, chicken curry and mutton stew) and sleepy from jet lag and rosé, by 8 pm there’s not an ounce of conversation left, so we retreat to our rooms where huge projectors have been pulled down for Netflix streaming. I plonk onto the plump white bed and let birdsong lull me to sleep.

Day 2

I wake to the oddly soothing sound of a thunderstorm; the heavy rainfall, fertile soil, sun, and sea, makes for abundant local cuisine, which awaits us after our early yoga session. We gorge on Johnny Cakes, salt fish stew, and tropical fruit before heading to Basseterre Harbour to board The Eagle catamaran.

“We call it Ting with a sting,” proclaims skipper Elvis as he hands me a deceptively lethal concoction. I’m not sure what the fascination with bees means, but after snorkelling, we knock back the famous ‘Killer Bee’ rum punch at Sunshine’s Beach Bar and Grill. Sunshine’s is a local institution decked out in red, green, and yellow and plastered with snaps of the eponymous owner and celebrities of varying calibre. Mel B, for instance, and a medley of American politicians. “People are the same all over; you get them on the island, and they surrender to the island - flip flops, baseball cap.” laughs Sunshine.

As I amble along the white sands of Pinney’s Beach, Elvis asks, “Did you get stung by the killer bee?” I nod yes. To deny being buzzed on the nutmeg-dusted nectar would be a futile endeavour - I have surrendered to the island. Later, I’ll order two frothy pina coladas with my lobster at Arthur’s Restaurant & Bar in Dieppe Bay and think nothing of it.

Day 3

O’Neil Mulraine meets us at the foothills of the lush rainforest in the Wingfield Estate, a former sugar plantation. To get here, we’d ridden past locals descaling freshly caught mackerel along the winding 16th-century railroad, which once transported sugar cane—St Kitts’ main export and income source until 2004.

Indigenous Carib carvings far outdate the colonial structures, and local folklore has it that anyone who rubs the swollen belly of the ancient graffiti will get pregnant. As we squelch through the dense jungle, Mulraine points out plants, flowers and fruit - over 650 species call the 18 miles of mountainous forest home, so the monkeys are spoilt for choice. These green vervet monkeys are a cheeky (and wasteful) bunch; they’ll nibble a mango before dropping it on the forest floor and picking another. Later, at Carambola Beach Club, over a dinner of Kittitian conch fritters, juicy scallops, and grilled herb red snapper, our host tells us that local farmers bought dogs to protect their produce, only to find the monkeys befriended the dogs, and within days, they were all in cahoots.

After our trail, we’re handed a fiery rum punch that sets us up for an afternoon spent limin’ (a colloquialism for drinking and shooting the shit) on the strip. Old Road Rum Company sits on the earliest known place of rum production in the Caribbean (though Barbados contests that claim). It dates back to 1681 and is punctuated with well-preserved ruins, which blur around the edges as the syrupy liquid hits.

Day 4

Kerryn “Tiem” Williams bursts out of a hatch in our beat-up military truck to announce that Liamuiga, the natural farm we’re rattling up the mountain towards, means “land of fertility”. As if to prove this statement, upon arrival, we’re led to a long table in the middle of the rainforest that’s heaving with local delicacies. In no time, my banana leaf plate is brimming with pumpkin pancakes slathered in papaya jam, pickled turmeric, curried eggs and hearty stews. I’d been given fair warning to go easy on breakfast, but did I listen? No. Waking up early in our second hotel, the luxurious Park Hyatt St. Kitts, I’d been eager to sample the buffet breakfast, a decision I soon regretted. When it’s time for Tiem (also pronounced time) to give us a tour of the sweeping hills of The Liamuiga Natural Farms, I’m full to bursting, but that isn’t to say I’m not soon snacking on crunchy peanuts pulled straight from the earth.

In just over an hour, I’m back at the table gorging on my second Liamuiga feast - it might only be 1 pm, but this is meal number three. Like a trooper, I battle on as soup is spooned into my bowl straight from a traditional Yabba pot. All trip, I’ve told people I’m pescatarian as it’s easier than admitting the truth—that I baulk at lamb chops but happily gobble bacon frazzled to the size of a pin—but when a dish of seasoned chicken is put in front of me, I forget my rouse and immediately drop several chunks into the soup along with flaky pieces of mahi-mahi and a generous dollop of chilli sauce which’ll soon be soothed with coffee ice cream made from Liamuiga beans. This is farm-to-table dining at its freshest, or, as Tiem says, “From the soil straight to the soul”. I succumb to the gluttony of the day, and later, at Marshall’s, a vibey restaurant bathed in neon light and fringed with palm trees, I’ll find room for coconut shrimp with spicy pineapple salsa, grilled Kittitian lobster tail, and boozy bread pudding.

Day 5

After five days, my London conditioning has given way to a slower pace. “You’re running on Island time”, laughs Gail at the front desk of the Sugar Mill Spa after I nearly miss my full body massage. I’m practically walking horizontally by the time I leave, such is my level of relaxation. Ambling towards the adult’s-only infinity pool is about as much as I can muster, and from here, I’ll fashion a super straw (several straws pushed together, in case you’re wondering) so that I can slurp my 75th rum punch without exerting any effort. All trip, I’ve heard the mantra “rush slowly”. I finally understand the sentiment, and gladly succumb.

For more information on St. Kitts, go to

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Mischa Anouk Smith
News and Features Editor

Mischa Anouk Smith is the News and Features Editor of Marie Claire UK.

From personal essays to purpose-driven stories, reported studies, and interviews with celebrities like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and designers including Dries Van Noten, Mischa has been featured in publications such as Refinery29, Stylist and Dazed. Her work explores what it means to be a woman today and sits at the intersection of culture and style, though, in the spirit of eclecticism, she has also written about NFTs, mental health and the rise of AI bands.