American-born Meghann Halfmoon lives with her husband and two kids on the tiny Caribbean island of Saba (population: 1824). Since moving to paradise a year ago, this bad ass designer, Mama and world traveler has launched her own business, built a home for her family and even learned to adjust to ‘island time’. So, run, don’t walk down the street where Meghann lives, making sure to take a moment to admire the local volcano, pick a banana from your tree, and don’t forget to wave (you’ll find out that this is very important) to the locals.
On her journey to Saba:
I’m originally from small town America – Yakima, Washington. I was born and raised in Yakima, but I always had an ardent desire to travel and see the world.
I studied International Business at UW in Seattle, which included a semester in Nantes, France. That’s where I met my husband, Koen, who is Dutch. A few years and a few countries later, we were living in Amsterdam with two children, my son, Tipp, and daughter, Loula. We’d had a half-year stint in Mozambique, and loved it so much that we had the itch again to live abroad for a longer period. That’s when Koen was offered a position on the Caribbean island of Saba, which has been a “special municipality” of the Netherlands since 2010. After briefly considering the potential challenges of moving from a world city to an island unknown to a good part of the world and with a population of less than 2000, we decided to go! And, if we didn’t like it, we could always move back, we told ourselves. So here we are! We’ve just passed our one-year mark and, while it definitely took me some time to get used to, life is good!
On a transatlantic love affair:
When I first met my now husband Koen, I had a boyfriend, and I didn’t even know that he had a thing for me. Fast forward two years, and we serendipitously met again at a party. That was when sparks flew! In the next two-and-a-half years there were multiple countries, long distances, a short break-up, a make-up, Master’s degrees completed and, eventually, a marriage on a Monday morning in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Monday was the free morning, and we had just finished school, so the price was right! We were never engaged. We simply realized one Saturday morning over pancakes that I would have to go back to the US once my masters program was finished if we didn't start making some real decisions. So, we decided to get married. Six weeks later, we were married at the town hall, with four friends as witnesses, and celebrated with a champagne breakfast in the park. A year later, we had a small wedding ceremony on a beach in Seattle. It all turned out to be very romantic! That was ten-and-a-half years and two children ago.
My son Tipp is my master builder and budding pilot and future musician. He can spend hours engineering complex buildings with Kapla blocks and crafting airplanes with lego’s. He also plays djembe drums and is learning to play the guitar. My daughter Loula is my tiny dancer, artist, novelist and comedienne. She loves to practice ballet and often gets the urge to do a little dance. She also likes to do lots of crafty work and is absolutely hilarious. Recently, she decided she’d also like to write a book. And as she’s only 5, she asks me how to spell every word- this could take some time to finish! They both love snorkeling and jumping off the pier in our harbor. We love that they are at the age where they are becoming a bit more independent, but still think that everything we do is terribly cool!
On finding the perfect island home:
Mine is a steep street leading from the center of town up the side of a volcano. It is lined by white wooden houses with red roofs, green gardens and banana and mango trees. Just like in a postcard!
We live in a typical Saban wooden cottage, painted white with green trim and surrounded by a lush yard, which includes our new vegetable garden (we’re slowly, but surely, becoming home farmers!) and our cistern, where we collect rainwater. I love that my house is typically Saban and so has character and a story. But let me tell you that humidity, mold and termites are real.
As a good deal of the population is related to each other, we found our rental home when living temporarily next to one of the grandsons of the woman who used to live here. His father grew up in this house, and is an older brother of our neighbor.
On following her career dreams:
My job is to make things that I love and that I hope other people will also love! My label is called Halfmoon, which I started in my home in Amsterdam in 2013. I design and make bags using vegetable tanned leather that I import from Italy, as well as limited edition organic clothing and hand-build stoneware pottery.
I didn't work my way into this job so much as dove into it! I used to work as a grant writer with an international development NGO in Amsterdam. It was a fabulous gig that allowed me to work on amazing projects in some of the poorest, but also most beautiful, places of the world. At some point though, it just didn’t fit me anymore. I questioned my career and sector. I wasn’t the Mom I wanted to be. I was terrified of flying and I became really depressed. So I left. And I started using my hands again, because I hadn’t had the time, or given myself the time, to be creative in years (my mom had taught me to sew as a child). I decided bags were a good place to start, so I invested in an industrial sewing machine, purchased scrap leather, and set up shop on one wall of our dining room in our 700 sq. ft. apartment. Since then, my business has grown very organically, and I’ve gradually added new crafts that I love, like designing and sewing clothes and hand-building pottery.
I love my job! I am always so touched and thrilled by the comments and reviews I receive from customers. It’s amazing to think that I can think up and make something that somebody somewhere else in the world then wears and loves. It’s surreal! A few of my customers have returned to make multiple purchases, and I don’t know if they quite understand what their support means to me. It means the world! It gives me the confidence to keep going.
On the challenges of island life:
Here on Saba, water scarcity is a part of life. Houses are connected to individual cisterns, which collect water from the roof and then feed into the house through an electric pump. We can literally walk out the door and look at how much water we have available. It’s fun to watch it fill during a rain storm, but less so to watch is be depleted during a drought. A leaky toilet can be a real disaster! It is possible to purchase desalinated water, but the cost can be a huge burden for a good deal of the population.
Also being an island means that pretty much everything is imported. While Saba used to be an export island, selling produce to other islands in the region, the coming of supermarkets and regular shipments meant that purchasing goods became easier. And so sadly, today, few farmers are left. However, there are efforts taking place to revive agricultural activities on the island. Of which our beloved veggie garden is a small part!
On having a very unusual address:
The street where I live is officially called ‘Carrot Street’, but other than the post office and a few people in government, I don’t know if anybody on the island actually knows that. About a year ago, we all received letters from the government telling us what our street name and address was. We still haven’t put a number plate on our house, and there is no sign indicating that this is in fact, Carrot Street! Locally, we still use the ‘address’ that most people on the island know and have been using for decades: ‘Miss Melanie’s house’ or ‘the house to the left of the tourist office, just up from Swinging Doors’.
On becoming a seasoned hitchhiker:
Hitch--hiking is a totally safe and common way of getting around here on Saba! We are just above the main road, called “The Road” (!) and so can easily hitch a ride from the intersection to anywhere on the island.
I’ve only recently realized how accustomed I’ve gotten to getting rides from strangers. A couple months ago I had to stay one night on St. Maarten to catch an early flight to the States. I had booked a taxi through my hotel. But, 6:30 came and went, and no taxi. So I started to walk out to the main street to see if I could hail a cab. Three or four cars passed me, walking with my suitcase, on the way to the main road and none of them stopped to ask if I needed a lift! I was so annoyed! It felt so rude! And then it hit me how used to Saba I’d become.
On some sweet Saba etiquette:
On Saba, people wave in passing…all the time…to everyone. It’s really funny at first. Then you get a bit tired of it. And then, once you’re off island, you realize that you also wave at everyone. Ha! It kind of requires having one hand on the wheel, and the other just resting there prepared to wave at any moment. When passing on foot, we also say “hi” to nearly everyone we pass. In fact, even on my morning jog, I wave to passersby!
Describe your street in five words:
Kneuterig (a non-translatable Dutch word that includes the concepts of kitsch, old-fashion and social control), unspoiled, central, steep, picturesque
When you walk down your street, what do you feel in your heart?
On a perfect day off in her neighborhood:
A perfect day off starts early but with a long lazy morning drinking coffee and reading the paper and blogs in bed, either next to my husband or my sweet babes if they’ve switched places during the night. We always prepare the coffee the evening before, so my son goes and flips the switch on for us. We’ve taught him so well!
Sometime around mid-morning, we head down to the Bizzy B Bakery for a morning treat. We bring our goodies home and enjoy them at the table, chatting all together. By noon we’re hungry again, so I make spinach, mushroom and feta omelets for a healthy, nutrient packed lunch.
In the afternoon, we’ll usually be starting to feel restless and so it’s time to get out of the house. We pack some drinks and snacks, load up our beach basket and snorkel gear. If we’re lucky, there’s sand at Well’s Bay and we can go swimming and snorkeling there. I recently saw four sea turtles and two little stingrays! Otherwise, we go to the harbor where we often run into friends and swim, snorkel and jump off the pier. Around 4 or 5pm we get some juice and beers from Pop’s Place bar and eat empanadas as the sun goes down over the sea. We feel so lucky to live here and we drive home with content smiles on our faces.
And because this is a “perfect day”, we’ll assume the babysitter is arriving soon after we get home! Haha! We get the kids ready for bed, and get ourselves ready to go out. We bring our kick-ass headlamps with us so we don’t trip and break any bones walking up or down the steep steps through the rain forest to the Ecolodge Rendez-vous restaurant, where Keith, Kelly, Kat and their volunteers hold a weekly family-style barbecue and bon-fire. Cure rub-a-dub ribs and lots of good stuff from their garden on the table. Good times.