Welcome to a very special edition of Island Diaries by Kate! While most of my writing thus far has revolved around island living, I am in fact, a lake girl at heart. Growing up I spent my summers in “Up North” Wisconsin at a cabin on the lake with my family. A few years ago my parents purchased an RV on the same chain of lakes and we have continued to enjoy our lake lifestyle, a la “glamping.” Because I moved to the Cayman Islands in May 2020, I missed out on our long-established lake vacation and all the activities that came with it. One positive thing that came from this absence was a fresh perspective on the Midwest experience, namely, summertime lake life.
Returning to Wisconsin this summer has been a joy-filled experience. It has allowed me to see everything as if for the first time. In writing this blog, I am not saying that Wisconsin is better than Cayman. I am simply sharing the areas in which lake life has a leg up on island life (according to me)! Keep reading to discover the 10 Reasons Why Lake Life Beats Island Life!
1. The Lake Community
Lakes are a very intimate setting, both on the water and in the surrounding neighborhoods. If you’ve ever been boating on a lake in northern Wisconsin you know it’s absolutely compulsory that at least one person wave at every single boat that goes by. Many times one person starts it and then it turns into a domino effect of waving across the water. This is also true while out for a walk or run in the lake neighborhood. Each encounter requires smiles, greetings, and without a doubt a mention of the weather forecast (good or bad). It’s not that these kinds of interactions don’t happen in the Caribbean; however, boating on the ocean is more spread out and not nearly as cozy as the lake setting. There are simply less opportunities to chat up fellow ocean lovers. This community effect is further strengthened through the honorary lake “sport” of bar-hopping. Read more below!
2. Dive Bars
A dive bar by itself is not a particularly alluring place to visit; however, a dive bar on the lake is the crème de la crème when it comes to summertime merriment. There is something so comforting and uncomplicated about pulling up to the bar’s dock after a lazy troll around the lake. Once inside the bar, each personality gravitates to their own unique vice. There’s the closeted alcoholic who orders the Bloody Mary they’ve been fantasizing about for the past week. The wannabe DJ who whips out their juke box app and queues up enough songs for the next two hours. The overly competitive bar shark who will challenge anyone willing to a game of darts or pool. The gambler who buys 50 pull tabs and doles them out like Christmas presents. Then there’s my Mom and I who make a beeline to the quarter machine and spend the next hour completely fixated on teetering coins, oblivious to the outside world. If you spend enough time at dive bars, you’ve probably been all of these people at one point in time (or maybe all in the same day). Whatever the case, bar-hopping is a quintessential lake life activity that allows you to relax, socialize, and simply be yourself!
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3. Water Conditions
As a girl who gets seasick easily (even at paddleboard yoga) I am extremely grateful for the placid nature of lake water. In the Caribbean I have to start my sea preparations hours before getting on a boat. Dramamine, ginger tea, deep breathing, you name it. Lakes also have the obvious advantage of fresh water which is easy on the eyes and less damaging to the boats themselves. It feels so nice to jump into fresh water without having to brace for the sting of salt. One of the most beautiful phenomenons to experience on the lake is the glass water effect. The water is like a mirror; you can see the trees and clouds reflected on the surface. This is also known as prime time for water-skiers. I will talk about this more below in #4!
4. Lake Sports
While it is true that the ocean allows for a great variety of water sports (probably even more than lakes), lakes in my opinion provide a much better experience. Of course, water conditions have a lot to do with this. For example, waterskiing on the ocean is cumbersome and exhausting, requiring you to constantly adjust for the wavy surface. Lake conditions are much more conducive to an easy and graceful waterski outing. This is also true for the wake-boarders, kayakers, and the occasional paddle-boarder.
Another fun thing about lake sports is that you have an audience. At the risk of sounding conceited, it’s actually cool to have more than just your spotter watching you. Other boaters turn their heads to observe, people on the shore wave from their docks, a gaggle of geese scrambles away. It adds once again to the lake community feel. Likewise, it’s fun to watch other boats do their own sports. Unless it’s one of those horrendous surf boats putting up Poseidon level waves… (get off the lake!!!)
5. Floaties for the Win
It came as surprise to me that floaties are not all that popular in the Cayman Islands. While some stores do sell them, it is not common to see beach-goers with floaties. At the lake, floaties represent a culture in and of themselves. There are enormous flamingo floaties the size of a small cabin, 6-person floaties with drink holders and a place to dangle your feet. You may even see avocado, llama or unicorn floaties. Few things are more satisfying in this life than idly floating, face to the sun, with one leg lazily draped in the water. And of course this experience would not be complete without a drink in hand and a summer playlist in the background.
6. Cool Nights & Campfires
While it is true that campfires are somewhat of a universal pastime, Wisconsin simply provides the most ideal conditions for this quintessential summer tradition. Ever the more ideal if your set up is alongside the lake. (Ours is, hehe.) Wisconsin experiences notable temperature changes throughout the day, something I have missed desperately living in the Caribbean. Even if it’s 85 during the day, it might be 60 degrees at night (around 16 degrees celsius for my European friends.) This is sweatshirt, leggings, and baseball hat kind of weather… AKA every Midwest girl’s favorite outfit. (More about that below). These conditions invite you to throw on your favorite hoodie, huddle around the fire and roast the perfect toasty marshmallow.
RECOMMENDED READ: THE PROS AND CONS OF EXPAT ISLAND LIFE
7. Lake Attire
Again, I know that people all around the world like to dress casual…the Cayman Islands included. But trust me when I say that Wisconsin lake life permits a certain level of laid back that I have yet to witness in the Caribbean. As mentioned above, night time calls for sweatshirts, leggings, and baseball caps. Day time is even more low key (if that’s possible.) Alcohol-promoting tee shirts and denim shorts abound. More often than not though you’ll just see people wrapped up in beach towels or life jackets. Up North the most important summer accessory is undoubtedly your can koozie (an insulating sleeve for your canned or bottled beverage). One thing is for sure, you will never have to worry about what to wear while on the lake in Wisconsin.
Lake Life or Island Life? Which would you choose? For each one we can find points in favor and points against. Of course, when it comes to lake life in Wisconsin, we know it is fleeting. June, July, and August is our window to live it up on the lake. From my perspective, I think that is what makes it so special. We know it’s not going to last so we make the most of every opportunity. We live it to the fullest because we remember all too well what last winter felt like. Of course, if you’re really smart you’ll spend your winters in the Caribbean and summers in the Midwest… (wink, wink) 🙂 One thing is for sure, I wouldn’t trade this Wisconsin summer for anything!
Until next time! ~ “Lake” Diaries by Kate
Hi, I’m Kate! I’m a Wisconsin native who traded her snow boots for flip-flops in May of 2020 when I packed my whole life into two suitcases and moved to the Cayman Islands with my partner, Bryan. I created Island Diaries as a way to document my island adventures and share about the Cayman lifestyle. A Midwest girl at heart, I bring a fresh perspective to Caribbean life, serving as a guide for locals and tourists alike on all things Cayman Islands. Whether you are local to Cayman, planning to visit, or just curious about island life, I invite you to explore Island Diaries and let this site guide you on your next island adventure!
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