[KIM] Hi Bub! Welcome back… So, where did we leave off last week?
[AMY] Hey Kim, thanks so much for having me back! I think it was right around the time that I decided to hang up my white polo shirt & skorts from 6 years on super yachts and take a job as General Manager of a private island in Honduras.
[KIM] Ah yes, that does sound very glamorous! Was it as luxurious as it sounds?
[AMY] haha welllllllll no, not really! I mean, the island itself was stunning and the facilities that had been built on the island were incredible but my life as manager on island was definitely not glamorous! Isla Barbareta or Barbarat/Barbareta as the islanders call it is one of 8 in the Bay Islands chain. Roatan is the most famous and developed island in the chain and is a popular tourist destination and cruiseship port. Barbareta is about a 30-45min boat ride to the east of Roatan and is privately owned by an American family. As I mentioned last week, I met the family when they chartered the yacht that I last worked on. Upon accepting the management role, I moved to the island in mid-2013. The entire island is about 3 miles long, is the 4th largest island in the archipelago, and is solely for private use by the owner and his family and friends. During my years there, the owners didn't use it all that much as they had quite a few different ranches in the States that were a little more convenient to get to for weekends away. But the owner really loved the island! It was a very special place for him, and he loved to hike, zipline and ride around in 4WD Polaris’s. As manager, I was responsible for overseeing everything on the island: from general maintenance, to guest service, to major construction projects. The owner of the island was (probably still is) quite project… umm… obsessed! There was ALWAYS something major in the pipeline and I had the privilege of developing some pretty incredible projects that I’m still quite proud of.
[KIM] Can you tell us about some of those projects? What’s the weirdest (and most wonderful) island ventures you worked on?
[AMY] Well, when I arrived on the island there were some existing animal enclosures that had a few native animals that were being kept, including a couple of monkeys and birds but many enclosures were empty. Exotic animal trafficking is a HUGE issue in Central America and I knew that we had the resources and enclosures to house more animals in need of a home. Many times when the authorities would confiscate illegal animals, they had nowhere to send them for help! So, we put a plan into action to become an authorized animal sanctuary and eventually ended up housing a wide array of rare wildlife, including: pumas, toucans, Scarlett macaws, monkeys, anteaters, kinkajou’s, an ocelot, coati’s, deer, sloths, and more!! I even helped to start a major project to release Scarlett macaws back into the wild in the Bay Islands, and there are now hundreds of these magnificent birds flying around down there after decades with none! Pretty cool, right?
[KIM] Wow that’s amazing!! What about construction projects? I remember a giant lake you were building at one stage, what was that all about?
[AMY] Pretty wild, right? Who just decides to build a lake one day?! Haha In my final year on the island, the owner had decided to retire the quarry that they had used to get all the gravel for the roads on island. It was quite a substantial quarry and looked a bit ugly when flying in, so he wanted to turn it into a freshwater lake with a waterfall and a Palapa Bar and lookout above it. This was an intensely stressful project, and we were under a time crunch to complete it before the owner was bringing some high profile guests down. The lake was lined with a huge liner that was sent down via plane from USA, then covered by hand and shovel. Quite literally: the staff worked with wheelbarrows to bring in gravel then spread it with shovels, in the beating hot sun! The waterfall was also built by hand out of huge rocks from the quarry. Honestly, the work ethic of these Hondurans was unlike anything I’d ever seen before! The Palapa bar was insane to think about now. I was given these instructions: It must have 7 sides and it must be built around a specific tree (found by the owner on the island)… Aaaaand GO! Haha Once consulting with an architect and our contract builders on island, we just kinda got started! We moved the tree, we concreted it all in, we brought in more dead tree stumps sourced from the forest on the island, we basically used whatever native materials that we could: jade stone and tree stumps and river rock and hand-carved wood panels. It ended up being absolutely stunning and I’m definitely proud to have worked on it!
[KIM] So, what did your life look like down there?
[AMY] Well, I really did fall in love with the place, and I truly felt so connected to the island and the people. I had formed really close relationships and a really strong desire to make the island better and better every day. I lived full-time on Barbareta, and only made trips to the neighboring island of Roatan every couple of weekends. It did get a little secluded after some time, and I guess that’s why I inevitably left. I often felt like I was living on an island within the island: I was the manager and the other island inhabitants were staff, and although I had a great bond with everyone, there was still a sense of being alone. I definitely missed being around peers and family! I think that was the hardest part of my island life.
[KIM] If you could choose, what would be your TOP 5 things you loved the most about island living?
[AMY] There’s so many! Ok ok, here goes:
1. The people and the relationships that I formed during my time in the Bay Islands. I still keep in contact with many friends I met during my time on island and I’m forever grateful for the lessons they taught me and the love they showed me! I truly believe that living on an island (much like living on a yacht) forces you to form stronger bonds in a shorter amount of time. I love that!
2. The accessibility of the beach. I would literally swim in the ocean most days, walk my dogs on the beach, or just sip a cocktail while watching the sunset. It was easy to just be at the beach and enjoy the soul therapy that it provides.
The stars. OMG I have never seen clearer skies and brighter stars than a clear night on Barbareta. I remember sitting out on my balcony one evening sipping red wine and I counted over 20 shooting stars! Just one after the other. Pretty incredible!
3. The sunsets. Cliche? Maybe. But there’s nothing quite like watching the sun set over the Caribbean Sea!
4. The ability to really relax. I don’t think I’ve found that since moving away from the islands (maybe it’s more to do with having babies now haha) but I do think that there’s normal relaxation and then there is ISLAND relaxation! Maybe it’s the sea breeze or the palm trees swaying or the sand or the salt air. But I think it’s just the island energy.
[KIM] I love number 5, and I definitely agree with that! Even in stressful times, mother island nature can really calm your nervous system! Ok, one last question. We did a photo shoot on Barbareta, way back in 2014. Can you take us back to that day?
[AMY] YES! That was so awesome! I had just returned from meeting you in Florida for a trade show, and I brought back all the samples for the new collection with my in my luggage. I don’t even remember where we found Shawn & Maggie Jackson, but they were a local husband/wife photography team who lived on Roatan! We arranged for them to come over to Barbareta for the day, and I also got a friend to help me model the clothes. We had SO much fun shooting in a couple of different locations. The first spot was a very secluded beach called Jade Beach (because of the incredible Jade stone cliffs that jutted up above the pure white, shelly sand). I remember the sand was SO hot that we would have to run across to a spot, quickly take the shot and run back to the shade! We spend most of the day shooting on this beach because it’s just so incredibly beautiful until the afternoon storms rolled in and we had to hike back up to the road with all the clothes and equipment before getting drenched! Actually, I think we radioed in the boat driver to quickly come and get some of the equipment! It was a big day but the photos turned out amazing. We did a couple of shoots with Maggie & Shawn throughout the years, and we still keep in contact now (thank you, FB haha)!
[KIM] That was our first-ever professional shoot, and the photos were amazing! Such fun memories… I cannot even believe it was almost a decade ago!! I continued to work with Maggie & Shawn for many years after ~ even after Amy left the island and moved to USA. I always loved the photos that they produced together and loved that I was able to trust them to handle all the logistics (there's a lot!) despite me not being there. But, I did always end up with FOMO! I wanted so badly to be on site and behind the scenes, styling and having a great time. So in more recent years, I finally moved the shoots to Australia. Whilst we might not be a tropical Caribbean island, Australia has some of the most beautiful beaches and shoot locations in the world right at my doorstep.
[KIM] Thanks again to Amy for sharing a glimpse into her island life, let me know in the comments if you loved this format! Perhaps I need to start interviewing more past and current island girls on this blog. Would that be fun?