Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How To Be A Valued Visitor

Recently a reader asked, "can you pass along some constructive suggestions (or perhaps your own pet peeves) to help us all be better guests of the island?"

First, a couple of comments: Most visitors to Ocracoke are considerate and respectful of our beaches, our community, and our private property. And anyone who asks the question above clearly already understands how to be a valued guest of the island. However, here are a few suggestions for all of our readers:

--Please follow NC state law and bike with traffic...and walk facing traffic. In addition to being our law, it is also safest for everyone.

--When walking along our narrow streets, please try to stay out of the traffic lanes as much as possible. Probably the most annoying behavior is walking in the traffic lane with backs to oncoming vehicles. I am constantly amazed at how many parents with small children walk like this. Thankfully there are very few injuries because cars are moving so slowly.

--If you rent a golf cart, please pay attention to the rules and regulations. We have already had serious injuries...and one death...as a result of misuse of golf carts. I have seen several people racing down Howard Street in golf carts. They are not amusement rides.

--Be friendly...be patient...be kind. This applies to everyone -- visitors and residents alike. Visitors often need a little extra time to figure out where they are, or where they are going, or how to find a parking space. Slow down, relax, and be courteous and considerate.

--If you see litter while walking on the beach...or along our roadways...stop and pick it up. If everyone picked up just a few pieces of litter it would make a difference.

--Please carry a flashlight, or use a bicycle headlight when biking after dark. This, too is our law, and will help prevent injuries. (I must confess that I sometimes ride without a light when my batteries die...shame on me!)

--Please turn off your cell phones when entering stores, restaurants, and music concerts. It is really not necessary to be connected to the rest of the world at all times. In fact, one of the gifts our island has to offer is a respite from the outside world. Take advantage of it.

These are just a few suggestion, "off the top of my head." Maybe some of our local readers have more comments to add.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the marine hospital on Portsmouth Island. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news082111.htm.


  1. Anonymous7:06 AM

    Well said, Philip...I nodded my head to all, especially to your cell phone, picking up litter and not blocking the streets (walking facing traffic) suggestions.

    I realize a fiesty girl, "Irene" is on yours and everyone else's minds right now. We on the mainland are concerned for you and even though we want to be kept informed from our top notch reporter (you!), just do what you need to do and put the blog aside. We will understand! Know you are such a "pro" at this kind of weather stuff.

    Being a NC mainlander myself and having kindred spirits (family) on the coast as well as my deep love for Ocracoke and the people there, I am doing some extra praying this week.

    All the best....

  2. Anonymous10:21 AM

    Remember this is our HOME. This is where we choose to live and raise our families. We bake brownies for the school carnival, play Bingo to support the Fire Dept., buy cookies from the Girl Scouts and popcorn from the boys. And we eat many a hotdog and plate of BBQ so that local churches and school groups can earn a small amount of money. We are real people, probably not unlike those of you who choose to visit us. Please consider what a lack of respect you're showing when you ask, "Do you LIVE here?" Do you LIKE it?" "How did you end up here?" "What do you DO here?" How would you answer those questions if I turned them around and asked you the same? How did you come to live where you live? Do you like living there? What do you do? I will talk to you all you want about this lovely island and life here, but there's a fine line between curiosity and disrespect. What do we do here? We do laundry and mow the lawn and cook supper and help with homework and read books and pay bills and LIVE! Really, it's probably a lot like what you do. BUT when we venture off the island, I like to think that we drive according to the law, that we don't park in the road or on the grass in your yard. We clean up after our dogs. We don't let our children wonder around unsupervised, we don't trespass, we expect laws to apply to us. We try to be better tourists because of what we learn from some of you!

  3. Anonymous11:10 AM

    why would those questions be offensive?

  4. Anonymous11:16 AM

    I'm guessing that the 10:21 comment is from a transplant to the island. I've never met a long time resident that minded answering even basic questions. They know they live in a unique place and seemingly "dumb" questions are interesting to us, the visitors.

  5. I agree. If I were to ask those questions, it would be because I'm genuinely interested in you and your beautiful island and wonder what it would be like to never have to leave. Disrespect would never enter my mind. "In awe" would better describe it. Of course, I guess the tone and inflection of the questions could change the perception of the person being questioned.

  6. ejhall12:16 PM

    I would not be offended if you asked me any of those questions. That is quite a rant over a few questions about your interesting lifestyle. You sound like you are not a fan of the tourists who keep almost all of the businesses open on Ocracoke. I have met many locals over the years and most are very friendly and hospitable.

  7. I live in a resort community and alot of people ask me those questions. I am always willing to use them as a way to sell this area as a destination. It is also fun to realize how envious those people are at our good luck.

    As a yearly visitor to Ocracoke I find the golf carts to be a real hazard. Most of them drove right through stop signs or crossed in front of cars as if they had no rules. I also saw alot of people transporting babies on themwithout car seats. I wish the local officials would ban them all.

  8. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Just heard on the noon news they have issued evacuation for Ocracoke. Are you leaving? Irene looks mean! Stay safe.

  9. Sundae Horn12:26 PM

    As a resident (but not the same one that left the comment above), I can say that those questions can be offensive depending on how they're asked. There's a certain type of visitor who assumes superiority to the residents here because of perceived higher status. It could be their job, their city, their wonderful cultural activities, their great school system, whatever that they think is superior, but the result is they think of Ocracoke as a great place to visit, but how could you possibly LIVE here? Sometimes they assume a level of ignorance on our part about the rest of the world. (I had a customer once who assumed I wouldn't know what a Home Depot was, and another who asked "Do you ever leave the island and go anywhere different?" And, from a different perspective, this year several people have asked me if all the workers here commute.)

    I've known visitors to give my kids a hard time about their small school (and perceived lack of opportunities) and their lack of recreational activities (as if a mall or movie theater is better than the beach.) My 12 year-old daughter was told -- BY AN ADULT -- that her life is "lame."

    I've had visitors show surprise that people live here year 'round, that we actually have a school, and that we are not bored silly in the winter. I am really tired of the question, "Don't you get bored?" I always answer with what my mother told me when I'd complain about boredom as a kid: "Only boring people get bored. Interesting people can always find something interesting to do."

    When people ask about our lives here with genuine interest and kindness, then of course we like to chat. And MOST people are nice, or sometimes just clueless. But there's no mistaking the sneer behind some of those questions, and the way people ask just to ridicule the answers.

    I would guess that the resident who wrote the comments above has suffered many of those types of questions recently. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these issues. Thanks, Philip, and thanks, readers!

  10. Anonymous1:24 PM

    I want to know why 10:21 seem so approachable to complete strangers? I want to know how 10:21 comes into contact with so many people that don't live on the island. I also think 10:21 needs more fiber in their diet. fruit and veggies for starters...

  11. Anonymous1:32 PM

    I don't think 10:21 is a happy person and will be happy anywhere!

  12. Anonymous2:06 PM

    Sundae, I like that "only boring people get bored"...think I'll adopt it.

  13. Anonymous2:33 PM

    I like that one too! Learned and enjoyed from the article and comments. We come after busy season-beautiful fall-and really try to be a good visitor and citizen. We pick up the beach, are quiet and clean and cordial. All of our interactions with you islanders have been quite positive. Think it might be really nice to have that major tourist happening behind you for the year in Sept. and Oct. tho I know you still get sportsters then too.
    You are all in our thoughts and prayers re Irene and now an earthquake too! We're sending a storm front in your direction from the midwest-hopefully it will bump her off the coast!

    Goodnight already Irene! SueM

  14. Anonymous2:50 PM

    I have been a regular visitor to OI since 1993 when my children moved there and I would like to apoligize to all the good folk who call OI home for all the obnoxious visitors who seem to show up there year after year. You just can't fix stupid! Residents can keep in mind that they get to remain on this beautiful Island and all those visitors with the ofending questions have to go home!!

  15. Anonymous2:56 PM

    Did you feel the earthquake on Ocracoke?

  16. I didn't feel the earthquake (I was outside, working pretty hard), but many others (particularly those inside) did.

  17. Anonymous3:27 PM

    Very well said Sudae. Most of the people we've met on Ocracoke are refreshingly nice. So nice that we want to come back every year and couldn't imagine not going back.

    I think it's a great opportunity for your kids to go to such a small school. Most kids are packed into classes of 25-35 kids here and the kids there have such small classes. I'm sure the education is priceless.

    I'm sure the first time we drove through Ocracoke on our way up the coast, we didn't appreciate it enough and didn't take the time to really enjoy it. I would guess those who come and ask the condescending questions haven't and won't spend enough time in Ocracoke to get it. :)

  18. Anonymous3:37 PM

    Shook briefly in Philly. Hope Irene doesn't take a liking to the island.

  19. debbie s.4:39 PM

    yes,Miss Sundae, very well said.

    As envious as I am of those who live there, I like to think(hope) that I too realize life is life. And just as I am about to head to the kitchen to make dinner, so are folks on the island. And as my kids are getting ready for another school year, so are y'all.

    I can definitely appreciate though, how tiresome it (the questions) may be at times. Living out in the middle of nowhere myself (well, more somewhere than ocracoke LOL)I get those questions - what do you DO? - where do you GO?

    Take care and enjoy the evening!

  20. Anonymous5:59 PM

    I love Ocracoke Island so much & in such a personal way that I cherish the life the residents are blessed to have and yes, this NC mainlander is envious, even when having to evacuate during unpredictable tropical weather, that my zip code isn't 27960. I've even memorized the O.I. zip code and I have pretended that it was my own. (Yes, I am confessing...) I treasure the wonderful school and sense of community which is so genuine and precious. Ocracoke Island is just so special to me and I hurt whenever the island or the people are going through challenges of any kind. I also know the folks are "tough" and will pull together. They would give a visitor the shirt off their back, if it was necessary. I feel like O.I. is home and it is one area of this country where I travel alone and feel so safe to do so.

    There is and always will be one Ocracoke Island. It's a priceless, rare gem.

  21. Anonymous7:20 PM

    "I can definitely appreciate though, how tiresome it (the questions) may be at times."

    Agreed, but living on an island where ones lifestyle is paid for by tourists, it seems a decent tradeoff to answer politely or well-intentioned questions.

  22. Anonymous8:05 PM

    Appreciate Sundae's perspective, and found it telling that Philip's observations would apply equally in my neighborhood 300 miles inland, or anyone else's. Boors are boors, and you encounter them everywhere. On the bright side, Ocracoke has several ferries that transport them off the island throughout the day.


    Thanks for sharing, Philip.

    Glad I didn't pick that prickly pear fruit.

  23. Anonymous10:04 PM

    i've been in business for over 30 years on ocracoke. there is nothing i enjoy more than meeting visitors, anwering the questions about what life is like on ocracoke. i've never felt talked down to or felt that they were feeling superior to me. if anything many seem a little jealous of our simpler way of living. those few times i've encountered a person who is unhappy on ocracoke i've always pointed out that its not for everyone, i certainly don't take offence.

  24. Sundae Horn11:42 PM

    Thanks to everyone for their comments. Please let me add that I don't really like to listen to or contribute to tourist-bashing, but I think it's a human tendency we all indulge in -- complaining about our jobs sometimes, even when we love them.

    None of us, old families or transplants, would be here without the tourist economy to support us. We know that. We appreciate that they're here. I don't even mind people walking in the middle of the street (I worry about their safety, but I don't get mad about it. I just drive more slowly.) I don't mind them throwing their trash away in my shop, or asking for directions or information. I don't mind them talking on their cell phones in my shop or bringing in drinks or small children. I don't make people pay for stuff when they accidentally break it. Accidents happen. I'm happy to send people to other shops to find what they want, so they'll be happy and enjoy their time on Ocracoke. I like good will. I love talking to people -- that's why I'm in this business.

    My comments above were my attempt to explain why Ocracoke residents might take offense at personal and condescending questions. We get plenty of them. I'm glad Anonymous above has never been asked a condescending question. But I think he or she is one of the lucky few.

    Sometimes people do seem jealous of us and our perceived "simpler" way of life. I don't want people to be jealous of me. That's as uncomfortable as having them pity me.

    I hope you all have a great rest of the summer and are safe from hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters, oh my!

  25. Very well said, Sundae!

  26. Anonymous11:19 PM

    You're such a class act. A kind, gentle & peaceful soul.

    I think I'll go play Apples in June - and pretend to be on Ocracoke with all of you fabulous folks!

    You're all so REAL - and so HUMAN :o) (& some of your visitors - well, they are just plain ignorant)

    Thanks Phillip for your fabulous blog!

    Keeping you all - and the wonderful Ocracoke Island - in our thoughts & prayers.

    m&m - charlotte