Greetings loved ones,
Welcome to a most spectacularly special Island Feature Friday: Islander Edition! It was never my intention to make recapping my mom’s visit with us in March a month+ long blogging spree, but it happened nonetheless. Hopefully you’ve still found a way to be entertained. Anywho, I have decided to interrupt the recaps briefly in a moment of inspiration that I had yesterday. And here’s the preface:
About 2 weeks ago, DJ told me that while he was in St. John mating for Sail Safaris, he met this girl who was writing an article for Cosmo about her move to St. John. I thought this was super neat as I preach moving to the islands to the point of creepiness, especially for young people just starting their careers. Around the same time, I was Googling trying to find out what this new place is going to be that has one solitary sign in Red Hook when the first search result leads me to a forum titled “St. Thomas is dangerous”. Against all my better judgments, I proceeded to read it, get angry for much longer than was called for, and ramble on to DJ about how annoying/ridiculous people can be to which he wisely replied, “Babe internet people are crazy.” Amen. Anyway, the Cosmo article popped up on my Facebook feed yesterday, and I love it! Read it! All this recent media commentary paired with a delightful conversation I had with a stranger on island life gave me the idea to make the first Friday of every month IslandER Feature Friday to provide perspectives on life in de islands from islanders as well as visitors. Naturally I decided to kick off this new segment with an interview from yours truly, me 🙂
Here’s your disclaimer: I will be the first to admit that I am super de-duper biased about island life; I defend all the “downsides” of island life- or rather just quickly proceed to cover them up with all the wonderfullness of island life- because I love it so much. I really do try to be accurate and practical in my portrayals of island life but be forewarned that it will be sprinkled with sunshine and optimism. This quality is the very reason I decided to feature myself first. I find that the island life is different for everyone, including between my husband and myself. I am almost certain that my view is the most rose-colored, but I hope you find the various perspectives intriguing and entertaining. I will use the most common questions that I receive about island life and encourage you to comment and ask any of your own that I may not address. *sprinkling sunshine*
1. Why did you move to St. Thomas?
DJ and I had visited St. Thomas on two cruises before we decided to move, so if you’re doing the math there, you’re now aware that we visited the island for a total of 2 days, really not even 1 full day when you combine both, before we sold everything and bought a one-way ticket. The second time that we visited, we were sitting at Sapphire Beach and both felt that this place was home. DJ essentially proposed that we move in a year. I thought he was crazy. I had JUST graduated and was waiting to hear back from schools for my new teaching job. I could not conceive walking away from a brand new career which I worked so hard for. Long story short, a series of God-breathed events and one too many very late nights up grading papers and lesson planning later, and we decided, as I’ve found most islander have, to take a leap of faith. We sold our house, our cars, most of our possessions, and bought a one-way ticket to St. Thomas bearing two suitcases, a month’s savings, and a couple of Rubbermaid containers. And we love our life here!
2. Was it scary?
Absolutely! DJ and I moved here on faith knowing that God had a purpose for us here. For anyone else (or had we totally missed the mark on that calling) I would say you can always go back to where you came from! We came with one month of cushion and started off better than most. Plenty of people come for a while and leave when it doesn’t work out, so my advice for the person who is seriously considering throwing caution to the wind, just do it!
3. What’s the cost of living like?
*insert audible laugh* I have so much trouble answering this question every time. The standard answer is that you will pay more for everything: groceries, gas, clothing, electricity, everything. In St. Thomas you can find a package of bottled water for $4.50 at Kmart and then $20 at another store. For TYPICAL grocery items, the price increase is not THAT bad (some islanders may be yelling at me right but truthfully it varies from where you are from and what you are used to paying). I find that TYPICAL grocery items are somewhat comparable to what we payed at Target in Hammond, LA. Once you branch off from typical, the prices are anything but. For example, I payed $18 for a standard tub of almond butter the other day after shopping 5 stores for prices and availability. THE NEXT WEEK, PriceSmart had a LARGE tub of almond butter for $12. That is the picture of shopping on island: usually in bulk and not guaranteed in-stock. Reactions to rent vary depending on where people hail from originally. A very safe estimate for standard rent for a decent 2 bedroom or great 1 bedroom is $1200. Electric is way high here, but most people do without A/C and are pretty conservative; it’s not too bad when you have that mindset. Example: we have $100 electric allowance with our rent, do not have an A/C and are fairly conservative and haven’t been asked for supplement from our landlord (which honestly is probably more of a testament to him than the actual cost of electric-you get the idea though). And here’s the sunshine, you trade how you spend your money. Life is more focused on days on the beach and happy hour specials than nice restaurants and high-end clothing. I have never spent less in my life on luxuries than I do now: less expensive dinners, less fast food runs, less shopping in general. There are lost of people who come here to live simply and save money for a few months or years. Like everything else on island, it’s all about preference and perspective.
4. Is St. Thomas dangerous?
This is such a common question and one that I was unsure of the answer before moving here as well. I’m going to keep it short and emphasize that this is based solely on my experience. Our delightful friends over in St. John affectionately refer to St. Thomas as St. Trauma. But I think one of the responders in the forum I mentioned above summed it up pretty well when he said that you can hardly compare an island of 5,000 to an island of 50,000. One of my managers always tells guests when they ask (and I completely agree) that the “dangers” St. Thomas can be compared to most metropolitan area in the states. You just have to use common sense while you’re here and treat it like any other city.
5. What’s the hardest part of living in St. Thomas?
Adjusting to the transient lifestyle that most people live while here is by far the hardest part. It took me a long time to make real friends on island. Like everything else though, it’s something you get used to if you plan to stay. I’ve learned to never dismiss people based on their estimated time on island 1) because you never know and 2) because I’ve made friends with tourists, lifers, and everything in between. –Oh and donuts!
6. What’s it like living on an island?
Someone told me the other day that a tourist made a comment about the fact that she lives in paradise, and the woman wisely responded that we all make sacrifices to live in paradise. Preach sister because it is the truth. When I look at my life, I don’t feel like I’m making sacrifices to be in paradise, but when I start to think of how much my life has changed, I realize that I have actually made a lot of sacrifices. On a basic level, I left behind my family and friends and have to prioritize to make those long distance relationships thrive. There is not a single department store in the Virgin Islands, I still have not found a decent donut, and currently there is a Sahara dust cloud that is disgustingly covering the island and my air quality. Our water intake DEPENDS on rain. There is only so much I can do in my own home to escape heat, like- just leaving the house pretty much. The power goes out island wide at the worst moments, like- the Super Bowl or when hosting a movie night. We drive on the left side of roads that should often not have 2 lanes to begin with, counting the cruise ships to determine how bad traffic will be. The mail takes forever, and all lines are long and slow.
Behind every long line is someone greeting me with a “good morning/afternoon/night”. After a hard day, I can sit on a white sand beach and watch the sun set on the horizon and just let it all fade away. I spend my days off with sail boats and sea turtles and island secrets. I’ve met people from all over the world and made friends from completely different backgrounds and walks of life. I’ve had picture perfect moments and seen things you’d only find in a book store in the states. I’ve went to a mall back home and felt overwhelmed with ads, people rushing, and no one making eye contact because that’s not my pace of life anymore. I’ve sampled different foods and music and learned about a culture so unlike the one I was raised with. I’ve learned to rejoice in the rain, to admire the stars when the lights go out, and to count the moments spent with family and friends because in this short life, they are too few. Moving to this island has made me brave, adventurous, and confident that life will happen wherever I am in this world. Island life is like doing things you never imagined you’d do, discovering beauty in the simple things, and realizing how much you have to be thankful for in this life.
A little long-winded, but I hope that you get a better sense of what life is like in St. Thomas, hopefully with some sunshine and optimism. I look forward to hearing other perspectives and sharing them with you, so look forward to this feature at the first Friday of every month henceforth and onward! Here’s a taste of island life:
Thanks for checking in 🙂