One of the wiser people I’ve met since coming to Roatan remarked recently that it is usually folly to seek a geographic solution to the demons that haunt us in midlife. But if one feels compelled to “escape,” one could do worse than escape to Roatan.
That’s more or less the premise of Edwina Doyle’s autobiographical travelogue, Midlife Monkeylala: Escape to and from a Tropical Paradise. Doyle, aka Meez Weenie, was back on Roatan in December for the first time since the second edition was published in 2011.
Doyle’s book recounts how as a 42-year-old school teacher from Kentucky she first came to Roatan in 1989 in search of a “do-over,” running from a bad marriage, career burnout, health issues and the pain of losing her mother and sister. She stayed two months, then returned a few months later and spent much of the next three years on the island.
The title comes from the complimentary cocktail Doyle was served when she checked in at Anthony’s Key Resort, which quickly had her draped over the bar in a euphoric stupor. She decided the drink, together with the ubiquitous lizard of the same name, was a metaphor for her experience on the island.
“Perhaps this escape to paradise will be my midlife monkeylala – a synthesis of an intoxicating, exotic experience and the wonder of an unusual, inimitable creature.”
Doyle left Roatan in 1992 and did not come back until 2009, when she decided to turn her travel journals into a book.
“I wanted to get an update on the island, how it had changed in 20 years, to see some people who had grown up,” Doyle said. “Some of them had died. Some of them were in prison.”
Doyle caught up with the family of Freddy Cruz, the young tour guide she befriended on her first visit. Freddy is now 32 and living in the US, said Doyle. She visited his family, now living in La Colonia above Sandy Bay, during her December trip.
Doyle said her purpose in writing the book was to show people what life on Roatan was like before electricity – what islanders call “the before times.” Her love for the island is undiminished by the changes, but there are some consequences of modernity she finds worrisome. For example, one old friend she saw after 20 years had gotten involved with drugs and been shot in the head.
“I use to walk here miles of the beach at night, in the dark, by myself and never feel afraid,” Doyle recalled. “Things have changed.”
Roatan residents and visitors alike will appreciate the primer on the history and culture of the island, as well as the often humorous, sometimes bittersweet accounts of the author’s personal journey. The book also includes some stories from the mouth of Morgan Wagner, a security guard at AKR when Doyle first visited, since deceased. She made a CD with 12 of Wagner’s stories.
We’re not sure whether it’s better to read Midlife Monkeylala before coming to Roatan the first time or after living here a year or so. But everybody who plans to spend much time here should give it a thorough read, preferably in a hammock.