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Story #28: Story from a New St. Thomas Resident!
(Submitted in 2004) This is a looking back evaluation of my first year, which might prove beneficial to others thinking about or planning a move to the islands - here are my thoughts.
First you need to understand the GIVENS in my pre-move situation:
1. Decision to one day return to the islands was made 15 years ago after a week's vacation on St. John. (the idea to return here to actually live - NOT just coming back to vacation - was made about 2 years prior to the actual move)
2. My professional and personal life (single) had evolved to the
point where early retirement (62) helped shape/make the final
decision seem doable. Meaning - oft times when folks retire, they
accept as a given that:
> a. they will rid themselves or significantly downsize the personal "stuff" that has been gathered over their lifetime, b. might move to a new location, and accept the prospect/challenge of making new friends, c. accept, in the case of living in the islands, or a location OTHER than where one grew up or spent most of ones adult life, that you might need to adapt to a different culture
3. Had spent the year prior to the move, living on the funds that would be available to me (not totally by choice but a good reality check for sure!)
4. Total understanding of the fact that many of us never travel more than x number of miles from/to work and home and our immediate neighborhood or community....... I was thus comfortable with the idea of living in an area the size of St. John (actually now live on St. Thomas). Thus, no fear or concern of 'rock fever' or whatever one calls it. I have traveled throughout my childhood and adulthood, and even though there are still many places I want to visit - I don't need the ability to jump into a car and drive to them, to be happy.
In summary - I knew this is where I wanted to live. I accepted the challenge of making new acquaintances. I had an idea of personal needs with respect to available funds. I did do some research into aspects of island life that had not been considered when it was just a vacation spot - i.e., possible jobs, housing, etc.
Taking into account the givens in my situation, here are the 'looking back' things that I might have done differently that would have or might have made, my life here much happier... sooner.
1. Seriously factor the cost of living here vs. where you currently live. Meaning, understand the very real cost of everyday groceries you are used to buying, and the ability or lack thereof, to purchase not only specific grocery items, but everyday items such as clothing and stores that you might take for granted where you live now. Look at your lifestyle and try to understand what things you will be 'giving up' when you make the move to an island, and try to understand how those changes or absences will affect you.
2. Imperative is the arrival with sufficient cash to operate for a settlement period of time. I UNDER-estimated this amount. It is important to be prepared to pay (not un-like in the states I quickly add) first, last and a security deposit on many of the apartments, thus how much does rent here really cost becomes a crucially important question that you need to answer before you decide how much cash/funds to have at your disposal. I was extremely lucky in finding the small apartment for the amount I pay.
3. Absolutely plan on either bringing or acquiring some form of transportation - from the get go! I did not. I was very lucky, to secure an apt that was relatively close to the safari $1 ride taxi route and I was within walking distance (1.25 miles) of Red Hook (mail, Marina Market and other things) and the Food Center grocery store (approx. 1 mile or so). I absolutely needed to get the exercise of hiking here and there, but you have no idea how very old it became and how quickly! The lack of my own transportation also put a perhaps major crimp, in my ability to find/accept work. [...could I get to the job at the hours that they might require, day or night? Safari taxis do NOT run at night or take you to many parts of the island...]
4. I did not come with enough clothing of a type I would prefer, and did not anticipate NOT finding it available here. I had not given much thought to clothes as they are not of major importance to me or my "lifestyle" LOL, but I can tell you that the shorts and shirts that I did bring, quickly faded with my walking in the sun every day, and the need to spruce up my look was evident within a couple of months - it still is! My advice - give some serious thought to the clothes you will bring, or how you will acquire them, especially if you are moving here for the rest of your life.
5. Adapting to a new culture, making new friends - I have enjoyed this, in part because I know myself well enough to accept people for who and what they are, and to recognize that they have had a life here before I arrived - so how do I fit into their corner of the world? Making new friends has not been hard, but missing those now far far away, was & is still difficult. Life is full of changes - and while I had accepted (anticipated) this fact, I was not fully prepared (nor can we ever really be) for how seriously difficult it would prove to be.
WHAT TO CHANGE - come more prepared for the financial, transportation, and absence of old friends. I'm not sure you can do much pre-planning to change how you'll feel about this or how much it will, or, will not affect you, but come with the understanding that it will.
Best part - I love it here - except for my current situation which includes too many bugs! (Unexpected!!!!)
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