As I write this, I’m unwinding on my patio just a stone’s throw from the Caribbean Sea. I watched the sun touch down on the horizon a few hours ago—as I do every evening—and the stars have now revealed themselves once more. Meanwhile, Barbados’ army of whistling frogs are deep into the overture of their nightly chorus. Nature’s rhythm is predictable in the tropics; I like it that way.
Today marks six months since I moved halfway across the world (again). I left Vancouver before the Canadian winter set in, as the pandemic was reaching its 2021 crescendo and my mental health was teetering on the edge of unmanageable once more.
Two flights and several thousand miles later I landed in paradise, and I haven’t looked back since. What’s more, I don’t look forward here, either. With 12 hours of solid sunshine most days, a sea to swim in as blue as you can imagine and a community I’ve spent years trying to find, it’s difficult to be anything other than present.
One of the biggest surprises of moving south has been the early, punctual sunsets. Here, whether it’s early June or late December, there’s little variation in the length of the day. The sun hits the horizon between 5.30 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. year-round. It took some getting used to, but it’s enabled me to tune into the rhythm of my environment, find a pattern for my days that works, and form a ritual or two to keep me grounded. Truth be told, I’ve been supporting my local sunset since before Barbados, before even MUD\WTR, albeit inconsistently. But in my new environment, I’ve allowed the ritual to blossom into a non-negotiable bookend to every single day—when your environment runs like clockwork, it’s much easier to lock into a daily groove.
When I started at MUD\WTR back in August of 2021, we were scrambling to get everything in line for the launch of :rest, our second flagship product. To complement :rise’s strapline “Support Your Local Sunrise,” :rest asks you to “Support Your Local Sunset.” As I got settled into my role, those four words resonated with me deeply. It wasn't a million miles away from my own mantra of the time: "Never waste a Vancouver sunset."
Sunset Beach, Vancouver, late summer 2020
If you were to scroll through the Photo Library on my iPhone, you’d see how far back my sunset ritual goes. In Vancouver, I was fortunate to live a few minutes’ walk from the Seawall and English Bay, the city’s premier sunset spot. Every day from March through September, I’d finish my working day, roll a couple of spliffs, pack my bag with drinks, snacks and a speaker, and head down to my spot. Some days, I’d take my bike further out along the Seawall or find a lookout over Stanley Park for the evening light show. I’d often come across other people doing the very same thing—enjoying the view with just their own thoughts for company.
For me, this ritual began early in the pandemic. I lived on my own downtown and the city’s COVID rules at the time allowed me to form a bubble with one other person or household. My lockdown buddy Kyle only stuck it out in Vancouver for a month or so. After that, I was on my own.
Sunset Beach, Vancouver, summer 2021
What started as a way to give my day some structure and get me out amongst other humans soon became the highlight of my day. I found pretty quickly that supporting my local sunset every evening gave me the chance to process a lot of what I was struggling with at the time.
My recent sobriety. My shitty marketing job. My mom’s impending heart surgery. The crippling loneliness of single pandemic living.
Sunset became a clear line in the sand of my schedule, separating the working hours spent in my 500-square-foot condo from the freedom, the air, the space and the magic of the outside world.
Since moving to Barbados, the sun’s regularity has allowed me to double down on the ritual. Here, when the clock hits 5 p.m., I pack up my beach bag—two towels, a bottle of water, headphones, my journal, Kindle, and a couple of spliffs—and make the 90-second walk to this spot.
Rockley Beach, Barbados, literally yesterday, 2022
I don’t allow myself exceptions. Even when the tropical rain comes, the shelter of the palm trees above keeps me dry and my ritual regular. Of course, I miss the long summer evenings of the Pacific Northwest, but the schedule of the Caribbean sun suits me better.
There I stay for an hour or so, until the sun has fully left the sky and the moon and stars take over. Back when the ritual began in Vancouver, I used the time to process difficult feelings. Now, it’s my time for gratitude and reconnecting with the world around me. With my feet in the sand, the sky illuminated in technicolor above and the waves gently lapping just a few meters ahead, I am so grateful I get to do this—here—every day.
Most people think the best part of a sunset is just before the sun hits the horizon. This is incorrect. Pro-tip: The best part of sunset is about 20 minutes after touchdown. Trust me. Here in Barbados at least, the light in the sky refracts to a cascading palette of pinks and purples and greens, and it happens every single day. Yet most people have their backs to it as they walk away.
Somewhere on Barbados' platinum coast, Boxing Day, 2021
I’ve been at MUD\WTR for most of a year now. I write the words “support your local sunset” in some place or another every day. But what does it mean to me? Simple. It means reminding myself I’m a part of all of this. That whatever else is going on inside my head, everything outside is going exactly to schedule.
Andy Ritchie is Trends w/ Benefits’ assistant editor.
Read more: Work from Anywhere (But Here)
Read more: Eat One Wild Thing Every Day
Read more: Koa Smith's Daily Rituals