The clock on The dash of Eric Anderson’s dusty truck is four hours fast. Or maybe it’s eight hours slow. It doesn’t matter. Not here. “Want some gum?” Eric asks, jawing on his own piece of Eclipse. Eric is 68, looks 49-ish and plans his day like he’s 14. He has toyed with retirement and real estate since he moved to Roatan in 1971, so I’ve asked him to take me to my island dream home. Not a pipe-dream monstrosity, but a real deal that I could afford with a wad of cash barely bigger than the wad of gum in his mouth. I’m looking at the island, 35 miles off the coast of Honduras, as a place to chuck the daily work routine for a Roatan retirement life. Whatever that is. But instead of hustling through ocean-view floor plans, we’re bouncing over a side of the island that’s still better suited for mule transit.
“I used to be anxious to get the road paved up here, but now I really don’t care,” says Eric, tapping the brakes with his sea-foam Crocs. “Oh good! You wore your swimsuit.”
Looks like we will not be looking at property today.
Eric pulls up to his multilevel, multicolor second home on Camp Bay Beach. We’re 90 minutes, or as far removed as possible, from Roatan’s cruise-ship port and its busy all-inclusives. There are no other houses in sight. No toe prints in the most beautiful sand nobody’s seen. The man believed to be the first American expat to build a home on Roatan (it’s still his primary residence, 15 minutes away in Port Royal) disappears into a bedroom. He re-emerges holding his 3-year-old son, Axel. They’re wearing their big-guy and little-guy swimsuits.
“He keeps me young,” Eric says, tossing Axel into the ocean water. A hundred yards out, small waves break over a reef second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. “We come here at least once a week. Swim. Sail. Kayak. It’s all to ourselves.”
An hour later I’m folding myself onto a hammock. Around me, a young islander named Rolando sweeps the patio for the third time since we’ve been here. “If you’re at the beach once a week,” I ask Eric, “what do you do the other six days?”
“Roatan’s an exciting place,” he says, standing in the outdoor shower with Axel. “People who retire here don’t veg out in front of the TV. Boredom is the enemy.”
The next morning a sea breeze flows Through The wood-slat blinds in my bungalow at Barefoot Cay Resort. It’s 5:20. The sun won’t let me sleep in. I shuffle out the door, down the dock and, swimsuit and snorkel mask on, jump into the lagoon. The question on Roatan isn’t boxers or briefs. It’s drawstring or elastic waistband.
I’m still dripping when I arrive at the island’s only golf course, the Black Pearl, framed with new homes on three sides and the ever-present reef on the other.