Lord Howe Island's Quirks

Lord Howe Island’s Quirks

Living on a remote island is the dream. But as we all know, nothing is perfect in life, and living on Lord Howe definitely took some getting used to. These aren’t all necessarily good or bad things, just things that were noticeably different from life in a more populated place.

1a. Lack of internet

Coming from the USA, I thought getting used to the limited internet in New Zealand was hard. I never even knew limited internet existed – I always thought the only two options were internet and no internet. Anyways, by the time I made it over to Lord Howe Island, I could live without streaming Netflix and YouTube videos. Little did I know, I’d soon consider New Zealand internet to be a luxury. Most of the time it was just slow. Very slow. But, every now and then we’d get a storm that would knock it out all together. It’d take someone about three weeks to come over from the mainland and fix it. The first time this happened, my mom got a little worried when she didn’t hear from me. I know, I should’ve called. Luckily, she also knows by now that no news is good news. Going without internet for three weeks that first time was a little rough. After that, I ordered myself a Kindle, downloaded a bunch of books, and made friends with anyone on the island who had a hard drive full of movies.

1b. Lack of cell phone service

I lived without a cell phone for almost a year. But, being on a tiny island where nobody else uses a cell phone makes it easier. In fact, it was a bigger transition flying back to the mainland and charging my iPhone for the first time. I had forgotten how convenient texting was! And 4G! Amazing stuff.

2. Grocery shopping

Everything (food, building materials, cars, everything) makes its way to the island by ship. Unfortunately, this causes ridiculously expensive Australian groceries to become even more ridiculously expensive. The cheapest way to grocery shop turns out to be ordering online from Woolworths. This involves putting your order in (on the previously mentioned impossibly slow internet) for a month’s worth of groceries a week before the ship was expected to arrive on the island. Ship day feels like Christmas. Opening boxes of food and stocking the fridge is a great feeling. Although, fitting stuff into the freezer was always a challenging puzzle. The first few days after the ship arrives are great, but by the end of the month when supplies are running low, it’s hard to find ways to get creative with pasta, rice, and beans.

3. Muttonbirds

These are really loud nocturnal birds. Loud and nocturnal is not a great combination. And there were a lot of them on the island. Some lived underneath my house. Most people compared the sound to a baby crying. I thought they sounded exactly like squeaky dog toys. Either way, it’s not the easiest thing to fall asleep to.

4. Transportation

There are very few cars on the island, and I never drove one during my time there. Every now and then I’d get offered a ride by someone passing on my walk to work. But I was probably in a car (not wearing a seatbelt and going 25 kph) only a handful of times throughout the year. A lot of the locals get around by bicycle. I preferred to walk most of the time. (I am not so great at biking up hills.) This was a part of island living that I really did enjoy, and I now find sitting in the DMV traffic to be way more intolerable than I remember it being.

5. <1000 people

As I’ve mentioned before, there are about 350 permanent residents on Lord Howe, and the number of tourists is limited to 400 at a time. While this can definitely be great at times, especially because it results in beautiful empty beaches, it can also be a bit of a downside. Most of the time I love walking down the road and saying hi to everyone – strangers and friends. But on days when I’m not in the best mood, sometimes I enjoy taking a walk and not having to put on a smile for every person I pass. I’m one of those people who enjoys feeling anonymous in a big city.

Living on Lord Howe Island was an experience I feel lucky to have had. It is such a cool hidden gem of Australia, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. But, I was definitely craving some McDonalds and ready to get back to the mainland after 11 months. I’m not sure I could live on a remote island forever, but it was a great adventure for a year.