Barbados Reboot
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7 March 2016
St George Parish valley
St George Parish valley

by Karen Karp

Happy New Year.

I know, it’s March. But I’m just back from my annual winter trip to Barbados, which this time out was a complete month. It was the first time in 27 years that I’ve taken a break of this length— it was planned, needed, and fabulous.

Dick and I return year after year to Barbados because it’s sunny and warm, because we can fulfill some of our Anglophile tendencies there, like driving on the left side of the road (silly but true), and mostly because it’s the right balance of familiar and new for us each time.

You might imagine that upon arrival each year I immediately transform into some kind of super-foodie-discoveryhero. Not true. I do peel away some winter layers of clothing and exit the airplane into that wonderfully welcome blanket of humidity wearing a T-shirt and flip flops.


Sailfish prep
Sailfish prep

But the discoveries of every visit emerge slowly, from traversing well-worn, craggy, east coast roads; through visiting fields of peas and other “ground provisions”; via our quirky cottage with a 220-degree ocean view; to the tune of a very different soundscape of wind and light toots of car horns and weekly music from the house across the road, mostly B-sides of 1960s and ‘70s R&B songs; and, thankfully, with minimal commercial distractions.

Yes, there are always food and agriculture discoveries to be made, ever since my friend (and Barbados resident) Sarah Venable and I wrote a travel piece about Barbados for Edible Manhattan six years ago.

But this year, the travelogue was more internally focused. With a seemingly endless expanse of time, I was intent upon (and successful at) slowing all the way down to tap into something there — out of reach in the rapid-response, be-always-brilliant, dutifully-delivering mode that the world has come to expect.

Here’s my reboot recipe:

  • Read in bed for a really long time each morning, whatever I like
  • Find and hire a twice-weekly swimming coach and work on form
  • Swim another three to four times per week
  • Find new-to-me, indigenous ingredients and cook with them. (This year these were dried coconut milk, green bananas, and sailfish.)
  • Get into a few TV shows and enjoy them without guilt
  • Walk and drive around to see what I am in the mood to draw; experiment with color
  • Be fine with the inevitability of getting lost on roads after dark
  • Read myself to sleep
  • Repeat


The final gift was my computer dying, so that even if I wanted to do some work towards the end of my stay — which I did — I had to do it differently. By hand. Old school. Analog!

Analog spreadsheet
Analog spreadsheet

Which fit perfectly with my overall pace — slow, and often revealing. What emerged was an experience of connecting to a broader range of senses, remembering things, seeing something move in front of me, and keeping my eye on it for as long as it was available to watch, not being diverted or distracted. (Often my attention was focused on the cows I was drawing in open fields.)

As food issues evolve and edge their way into a movement — some would dare say into the mainstream — the volume and frequency of requests to respond rapidly, uniquely conceive, and dynamically recommend approaches, programs, and business models — “fixes” — continually rises. This is good: it keeps me and my company busy and involved and purposeful.

But to do it better, it’s important to be open to the many ways of seeing what is in front of me, and to take it all in with the gift of  experience and time.

I need to remember this key ingredient: see things with time, don’t try to beat time.


Karen Karp is founder and president of Karen Karp & Partners.