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Working Through Hurricane Irma

As I write this, I’m sitting in Croatia, staring out my window onto a pretty side alley in Old Town Dubrovnik. Normally, I would have shared my photos and stories from our previous stops on this journey, Vienna and Salzburg, with the excitement that I have about seeing and experiencing new places. Instead, this trip has been absolutely consumed by Hurricane Irma. In Austria, we were awaiting her fall. We knew she was heading to Anguilla and had heard about the wreckage she’d cause, but weren’t sure of anything.

Then there was the waiting game during our last day in Austria and first day in Croatia. We just sat there, helplessly watching as our friends, our home, and our business were about to go through one of the worst storms that the Caribbean had ever seen. Last night, reunited with Scott’s family in Dubrovnik, we awaited updates. Somehow, connections were working; people were sharing updates and filling us in on some damage where they could.

Here’s what we know from those who we’ve been in contact with, and here’s what we don’t know yet: we have yet to hear about the safety of our dog, who was with our friend and petsitter on the island. We assume he’s safe, but have yet to hear back on this. We’re not sure if our home is still there, and if it is, we’re not sure about the level of damage that it’s sustained. Our hotel is still standing, but has taken a hit – as has every other building on the island. We are grateful that it stood as strong as it did, and are praying for the best as we assess damage and figure out next steps. We believe that all of our friends and staff have survived the storm, though we now know that some of their homes are severely damaged, if not entirely gone. We know that many businesses are completely gone, including the Sunshine Shack, Sandy Island, Pumphouse, Smokey’s and Mango’s (there are many we’re still not sure about). We know that St. Maarten sustained catastrophic damage and that the airport and ferry terminal have sustained heavy damage and will need to be reconstructed.

I’ll tell you a few things that I’ve learned through this: feeling helpless is one of the worst feelings in the world. Honestly, it feels terrible. I know we couldn’t have done anything if we were there, but part of me feels as though going through this and weathering it with everyone would have made me feel better in some way. And now, here we are, in Europe trying to enjoy this beautiful opportunity we have to be here celebrating with family, and we’re feeling utterly guilty for smiling, guilty for enjoying even a split second of anything around us. We’d like to go back, but we can’t even fathom how we’d get back with the airport and ferry systems down. We can’t even see our home, see our dog, or see our hotel to know first hand what’s been done by this hurricane.

We also had a serious conversation before Irma hit landfall. Would our home survive? There’s a chance that our home is severely damaged; that we’ve lost parts of the exterior and maybe most of our belongings inside… and you know what? It’s the least of my worries, to be honest. Everyone talks about how insignificant material possessions really are, and I can confirm that’s true now. I have Scott with me, I have my computer and cell phone to communicate with the world, I have enough clothes to wear, so what’s everything else? It’s nothing. It’s material. It can be replaced.

The other thing I’ve learned is how wonderful it is to have people who care about you. I can’t tell you how many emails and messages we’ve received over the past few days. There is SO MUCH LOVE coming at us that it’s humbling and manages to warm our hearts in the places that are a bit broken right now. It means so much to hear from people who care; who want to know how we’re doing, what’s going on, and how to help.

I will be sharing some images of our trip so far and I want to be clear here: I know there’s nothing I can physically do at this point. I can’t go back right now. We’re spending the majority of our days while in Europe working – checking in on people, responding to messages, figuring out next steps for our business, our life, and the people we can help. We’re also on this family trip that we planned a long time ago. We didn’t come to Europe to escape Irma; we came to Europe because this was something we had looked forward to for a year. Irma is weighing heavily on us right now, but we’re trying with every bit of ourselves to enjoy this even just the tiniest bit, because if we can’t find even just the smallest bit of happiness now with this, then we’ve wasted this time entirely. So for those that see us sharing some photos or see my blog posts going up, know that my heart is heavy. I’m sharing these picture and experiences because I’ve collaborated with wonderful people in Europe who’ve helped share all of this with me. I don’t want to hole up and stop communicating and stop living. All we can do now is assess, stay strong, and confidently move forward with the resilience that we know Anguilla has exemplified many times before.

Lots of love,Shannon Kircher, The Wanderlust Effect

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. Additionally, Shannon is the founder of Compass & Vine, a luxury boutique travel design firm, and is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort. Shannon holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and is a current candidate for WSET Level 3 in Wines & Spirits.