My favorite moniker for non-native residents like me was always “locust.”
sparingly-used hybrid of “local” and “tourist” that was popular when I
first moved to Hatteras Island many years ago, I always found the term
quite appropriate. After all, we locusts pretty much descended on
the islands in droves and arguably changed the landscape with our
demanding need for restaurants that were open past 8 p.m. and a better
and more varied selection of Yankee beers.
disclosing my actual age – let’s just say that I am somewhere between
29 and death – I can proudly admit that I spent about half of my life
on Hatteras Island with no intention of ever leaving my little paradise
that eventually had summertime pizza delivery service until 10 p.m. and
ample local establishments with Samuel Adams on tap.
all changed, naturally, when I met my better half, and soon realized
that a tall gentleman with big blue eyes and a fabulous sense of humor
can apparently talk an otherwise independent lady into just about
anything. Case in point, I live in the North Carolina mountains now.
regardless of my location, I always assumed that despite the distance,
I would nevertheless retain my free-spirited, worry-free attitude
towards Hatteras Island. After all, when you live in a place for
[mumble, mumble] years, you don’t lose that carefree attitude that made
you fit into the community to begin with, right?
it is my current proximity to fast food, interstates, and a dozen
microbreweries, all of which I have shamefully taken full advantage of,
but somehow, living off island for over a year now has transformed me
into a big honking jerk when I return home.
is a fact I realized when we visited Hatteras Island this past winter
for the first time in months and enjoyed a long weekend of being
complete and total tourists. And, granted, while the majority of
tourists are fabulous, fun-loving folks who love the island as much as
the locals do, there are a few of us who fall into the “touron”
category, which is a hybrid of – actually, I imagine everyone can
figure that term out.
I used to be a locust. Now I am admittedly a touron. And this unexpected transformation is a gosh darn shame.
silver lining, if there is one, is that I have recognized this fact and
am able to share my newfound wisdom in the hopes that
former-locusts-turned-vacationers will not repeat my mistakes, but
instead get back into that groovy grind that made us tolerable
residents to begin with.
just get to the list of things former residents need to remember about
their past life and their past attitudes that are worth keeping in mind
regardless of residency status.
1. Highway 12 is not an interstate.
I have been completely spoiled in the interstate department.
a longtime Hatteras islander, I had totally forgotten until I moved out
west that the rest of the state of North Carolina is made up of miles
and miles of four- to 26-lane roads where 80 mph is the norm and turn
signals are considered exceptionally and unnecessarily polite gestures.
regardless of a current need for speed, Highway 12 has, in fact, not
changed the speed limit to coincide with my personal newfound
appreciation of interstates, and therefore it is important to
understand that going 60 in a 55 mph zone is perfectly reasonable --
and, amazingly, is also technically against the law.
Also, just because there are two lanes in a road does not mean you need to use both of them, multiple times.
2. 11 p.m. really isn’t an appropriate time to go out to eat.
hole-in-the-wall restaurants on mainland North Carolina tend to stay
open late and upscale favorites like the illustrious Taco Bell are open
24 hours a day, it’s pretty easy for the dinner hour for former
Hatteras Island residents to shift after landing in a new, more
first, this was a slow progression for us, as we used to eat at 6 p.m.,
which for Hatteras Island and most of the civilized world, is a
perfectly reasonably time for an evening meal.
after a few months it changed to 7 p.m. as I did a little writing after
work, then 8 p.m. as I did a few chores too, like clean the cat boxes,
and then 9 p.m. as I gradually realized that cleaning the cat boxes is
a totally unappetizing thing to do before eating.
realized this was a problem when I told my blue-eyed buddy that we
should go get some cheesy hash browns at Waffle House at 1 a.m. because
I was awake for some reason and kind of bored. Yikes.
when I went to Hatteras Island in the off-season, I somehow forgot that
–gasp! – restaurants do not, in fact, stay open in the dead of winter
on the off-chance that my longstanding craving for starches and cheese
might kick in during the wee hours of the morning. (I swear, with my
history of perpetual, random food cravings, I’ve most likely been
pregnant for several years now.)
because of this inconsideration, I had to make do with the hundreds of
dollars in groceries that we purchased at Conner’s to sustain us for
two whole days. Perish the thought.
course, now that I am rehashing this injustice, I recognize what a
rhymes-with-(witch) that I was and how ridiculous it is to simply expect
hash browns to be readily available, prepared, and served at all hours
of the day and night, simply to appease my perpetually knocked-up
appetite. I had somehow forgotten the most important aspect of island
living, an aspect which was so completely obvious when I was an Avon
You live on an island. Your backyard is a beach. Who gives a flying food truck about anything else?
3. A symphony performance on the beach would be inconvenient and stupid.
within months of moving to the real world, you develop an almost
tick-like habit of throwing around the word “culture.” Appreciating and
admiring “culture,” as it turns out, is how you let other mainlanders
know that you are smart despite your grungy physical appearance and
weird extensive collection of board shorts that are leftover from your
moving, I have dragged my poor significant other to multiple concerts,
musicals, and art gallery exhibits all across the western portion of
the state, and he has done his very best to feign interest and maintain
tolerance of this new cultural aspect of our lives. (Apparently, my big
old blue eyes and eyelash-batting techniques have some persuasion
powers of their own.)
realized during these cultural pursuits that I can stare for long
periods at abstract blotchy paintings and wax poetic about their subtle
statements about humanity with the best of them, but for me, “culture”
doesn’t get any better than a cool Kinnakeet watercolor by a local
island artist, or even a front yard display of stacked crab pots that
have been strategically positioned to resemble a Christmas tree or
other object d’ art.
I first returned to Hatteras Island, I admittedly had an initial
inkling to remark about the lack of cultivated and refined culture,
such as grand galas, symphony performances, or concerts, but luckily I
soon realized that this was stupid.
course Hatteras Island has a “cultural scene,” and it revolves around
fishing, shelling, beaching, bird watching, surfing, and all-around
island living. And honestly, if that doesn’t fill up my newfound need
for “culture,” then I might as well go back to my off-island pursuits
of staring at blotchy paintings.
4. If you don’t ultimately get on island time, there’s clearly something wrong with you.
am completely ashamed to admit that at one point during an otherwise
relaxing hike through the soundside of Little Kinnakeet, I had a
momentary mild freak-out because I didn’t have cell reception and was
worried I would get “stuck” and would be stranded, technically, miles
away from civilization.
I know, I know. I am shaking my head in disapproval too.
now, weeks after that incident, I remember an era when an
early-20-something version of myself with equally foolish
early-20-something friends, would tromp off into the wilderness with a
ratty tent, a banged up four-wheel-drive Geo Tracker, and a barely
irritating fear of having a potentially illegal campfire in the middle
of nowhere discovered by the local authorities – a fear that was
quickly dissolved with a couple of the aforementioned Sam Adams.
I was young, (and this is how you can tell I’m old – because I start
sentences with “When I was young” now), I used to love the opportunity
to get lost in Buxton Woods or the miles of untreaded terrain in
between Avon and Salvo. After all, this was how I initially discovered
those big sand dunes in the middle of Frisco Woods, the 1800s-era grave
sites just north of Little Kinnakeet Station, and some of the best,
most glorious undiscovered shelling beaches on the island. (My sincere
apologies, but I am not prepared to disclose those whereabouts without
a hefty sum of cash and/or Taco Bell gift certificates upfront.)
now that I am at the ripe old age of [mumble mumble], getting lost in
the woods with buddies and beer doesn’t sound nearly as entertaining as
an order of chalupas and a “Dance Moms” marathon.
Sad, I know.
the fact that I freaked out for a few minutes because I did not have
cell phone service and that all my attention was diverted to this fact
alone instead of the incredible soundfront scenery that was
panoramically before me, is what really made me stop and wonder what
the heck happened.
could blame my Smartphone for this, and I did for a while, but why on
earth did I need to check my e-mail and Facebook newsfeed when I was at
the very edge of the continent, overlooking miles of saltwater, in one
of the most breathtakingly beautiful locales I have ever, or will ever,
see in my lifetime?
the most noticeable and identifiable attribute of a touron is not the
smug discounting of the local speed limits or the aggravation with the
lack of chain restaurants and all-night conveniences on Hatteras
Island, but the total ignorance of the wildly gorgeous and enthralling
natural backdrop that is everywhere you go.
odd thing is that I never took this for granted when I lived full-time
on Hatteras Island, so it’s funny that a year in the world of flashy
attractions and 24-hour tacos and hash browns would inevitably lead me,
even for a moment, to think differently.
this skewed view might change, without conscious assistance, when I
decide on my own to get back to “normal” island living, or when my
better half uses his crazy-hypnotic-blue-eyed powers to lead us back to
the coastline and once again resume our beachside lifestyle.
until then, every time I go back to Hatteras Island, I am simply going
to make a concentrated effort to ignore my Smartphone, my late-night
fast food cravings, and all of my newfound tastes for the “modern
conveniences” of the real world, and return to the younger-ish woman
who could have an incredible time with nothing more than a few friends,
brews, and a good view.
That’s what made me a bona fide locust to begin with, and a reasonably tolerable member of our awesome island community.
while returning to this status and state of mind may seem like a weird
little goal for most people, (and to be perfectly honest, yeah, it
genuinely is a really weird goal), I’m nonetheless going to make a
dedicated effort to once again become, and remain, the best little
formerly-local locust I can be.
Crist and her fiancÚ are spending time at their newly purchased
property in the mountains of North Carolina, though she insists she
will be back on Hatteras one of these days. Meanwhile, she may
occasionally write about island life from her new perspective.)
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