We recently read a post on Facebook from someone who stated that “she had been visiting the Outer Banks 2-3 times a year for almost 20 years”. This made her an Outer Banks local and thereby entitled to express her opinion. Frankly, when we read her claim, it irritated us. Let’s do the math… 3 weeks a year X 20 years= 60 weeks, that’s just a tad over 1 year of time spent on the Outer Banks over a 20 year period. We’re not sure that qualifies, but it got us thinking, so how would someone define Outer Banks local? What does “local” even mean?
I moved to the Outer Banks on September 13, 1991, it was a Friday. Twenty five years old and thought I knew everything. Quickly it became apparent that I was an outsider. I barely knew anyone, or really anything about the Outer Banks. My initial perceptions of the Outer Banks were wrong, way wrong.
As the years passed, things changed for me on the beach, I got to know folks. Bartenders stopped ignoring me and many became my friends. I learned that soft crabs were not giant spiders on a bun. That corn hole is much safer when drinking than horseshoes and is not necessarily an event where they play banjos despite what it sounds like. Oysters became something to look forward to and I even went gulf stream fishing in 14’ seas in November once, ‘cause the Captain was bored. The mile post road system on the beach lost its mystery. I started to get “it”.
So here’s the question, what is “it”? We posited this question recently to Facebook to see what our neighbors might offer. Local radio personality, Doug Dino had a few wonderful observations on the subject. He stated that being part of this community meant in part, giving back to this community. Be part of a fundraiser for some poor soul with cancer with no insurance. Do something, anything, for the school system. Get your license and tags changed and pay your local taxes. Get to know some of the natives, people in Hatteras, Ocracoke, Wanchese and listen to their stories. These folks have family buried on this little strip of sand.
Survive a couple of Nor’easters, and a hurricane or two. Know what it’s like to stay, when others leave. Wonder if you made the right decision to stay, as the wind starts to actually whistle as it blows around your house. Or decide to evacuate and have to take stock of everything you have. Then decide what’s important enough to put in the car, along with your wife, your kids and your dog. Those are gut wrenching decisions every local knows.
There is one other really big part of being a true OBX local and it’s learning to help other people and to welcome them to the area. Few of us here, have a multi-generation attachment to the island. We were all once visitors too. Learning to appreciate the love of the Outer Banks, which other people share, is part of what makes us “local”. Welcoming people to our sliver of sand and smiling while we explain the difference between the “Beach Road” and the “Bypass”, this is what “it” means. Stopping at crosswalks, picking up other people’s litter from the beach, these are the lessons we have learned when we truly get “it”. In conclusion, we hope that our visitors and guests, can learn a little bit about “it” and take “it” back home with them.
If you’re interested in getting more involved in the Outer Banks community, below are links to a few organizations (of many) that do really good work.