Livin’ Large by Going Small?
How did all of this start? I thank Joel because it was his bright idea to take a vacation in Saba, a tiny Dutch Caribbean island (15 minutes flight from St. Maarten). I was just finishing work on a big sales deal for my company when I decided I could really use about 3 years – I mean weeks – off. Of course, this is relatively unheard of in my company, save urban legends about a friend of a friend. My understanding boss (thanks, Caroline!) gave me the nod for my much deserved hiatus. I think it had something to do with my persistence despite the 4-letter word (acronym?) I was working with at the time!

An Impossible Assignment?
While Joel had wanted to go to the Caribbean for years, I had always been resistant. I favored exploring Europe on a shoe-string, Rick Steves-style ( If you like traveling in Europe and want to go every year, we highly recommend his books or TV show (often on PBS). Joel was floored when I suggested we look at the Caribbean for a little R&R. We only had a few weeks to plan the vacation, so he searched for an island with little tourists, no cruise ships, plenty of outdoor activities (like hiking) and no crime. It was a challenge, but he ended up finding three possibilities: Costa Rica, Belize and Saba. We liked Saba the best and got fast replies from Lynn Costenaro, from Sea Saba ( Lynn arranged our cottages, airport pick up and diving certification classes. Now I hadn’t planned on learning to scuba dive (more on that later).

Does This Plane Fly?
Saba Airport 1300 ft. runway!We arrived in St. Martin and then took a little 20-seater Winair plane to Saba. We were told to get ready for adventures in flying, since the Saba runway is one of the smallest commercial runways in the world – only 1300 feet! It is akin to landing on an aircraft carrier. The pilots are excellent – Winair has flown 50 years accident free! In any case, it’s an adventure, so fasten your seatbelts – and get a seat on the right or in the front for the ride of a lifetime! Some tourists have described it as entering Jurrasic Park. The plane looks like it is going right into the mountains, then veers left and swoops down to the runway by the sea. There’s always the ferry, if you are not a small plane person.

We’re Going Where?
It should have been a clue when I saw a guy carrying a tub of Kentucky Friend Chicken onto the plane to Saba. We were leaving civilization as we knew it. The first person we met was Garvis, friendly taxi driver and guru (more on this later).

Garvis deftly navigated the amazingly steep, blind curved road up the mountain to our rented cottage. One of the first things I noticed, in spite of being nervous that the brakes would give out and we’d be hurdling down the mountain, was the beautiful pink flowers bursting from the sides of the road. This was no prima-donna manicure job – it was wild and unruly and beautiful! And that is Saba – wild, unruly and beautiful – which is why they call it “The Unspoiled Queen.” It is one of about two islands left in the Caribbean that have not been taken over by resorts, mega-shopping, casinos and spas. The ride up to Windwardside from the airport will get your heart pumping too – narrow roads, hairpin turns and drop-offs that that would make even folks from Colorado have to stop chatting and look over the edge.

When asked where we were staying, we said “Flamboyant cottage.” Garvis didn’t know where that was. We found out that this was because everyone called the cottage “Dr. Don’s” (the owner’s nickname).

To Make A Long Story Short
Our last week in Saba was spent at the Shell cottage. It was two bedrooms, one bathroom and a living room-dining room-kitchen area. It had a beautiful patio with a nice view of the ocean and sunsets. It was this last week when I really fell for Saba.

It was also this last week that something clicked in my mind. I realized that this simple life in a small cottage was all I really wanted or needed. Hmmm, was this just vacation wishes or was it real? My business coach had given me some visioning exercises to do while in Saba. It was a perfect place to figure out my dream life and I constructed it with Saba and small, simple living spaces in mind.

When I got home, I realized that you could fit 4 – 5 of those cottages in my house – it seemed too big to me. I had too much stuff. And I started to feel like all this work was just paying for my over-blown lifestyle – not to mention the de-stressing activities I did just to stay centered (a cook, cleaning person, landscaper, yoga teacher, retreats, etc.). I started to wonder how all of this complexity happened?

After taking inventory of our lives, Joel and I decided to buy a house in Saba for vacations. And after a few vacations, we decided to “pull the trigger” on our dreams – why put them off?

I spent the next year and a half preparing to live my dream. I continued working smart and building a personal life – after too many years of “all work and no play.” Joel ended his grueling commute to Boston by getting “work at home” status from his company. We put our house on the market, planning to move to Saba full time.

Get Out!
Our house sold within 4 months (a long time for our usual 1-2 day sales in previous houses!) and after selling almost ALL of our stuff (furniture, silver and a bunch of accumulated “stuff”) we moved into a 3-room apartment to finish out my time at my company.

We loved apartment life – it was a good experiment to see if we could hack it in our 750 square foot cottage. It was simple, just what we wanted. We ended up buying a house in the White Mountains – an unexpected purchase, but a good investment and a home for the Caribbean hurricane season. We rent it out while in Saba, so if you are a skier who loves log homes, take a peek at our website: Joel includes this in his repertoire of web designs.

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