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Story #44: Moved to St. Thomas Story
(Submitted in 2005) I made a promise to myself and the good people at VImovingcenter.com that I would write a piece after relocating to St. Thomas, USVI. This site was extremely helpful in the success of my endeavor and I feel it is the least I could do. I felt it was important to wait a good five months before writing anything because relocating is one thing, but the transition is an entirely different animal. Before I begin my rant, I do want to make one point clear-What you read is clearly my opinion based on my experiences. Feel free to take it with a grain of salt because you know how the old saying goes, "Opinions are like @$$holes everybody has one."
HERE IT GOES…
So before you just up and move, my advice would be to take a moment and evaluate the reasons why you want to relocate. Really, why? Because there are times when you are going to get aggravated while living here (You will. Don't kid yourself.) and that is when you go back to the point of origin, "Hey the reason why is…" If you possess defined, solid reasons to relocate then it will make it easier to deal with the transition.
A nice lady at a bar once told me, "We are all here, because we're not all there." There is some truth to that and brings me to my theory-All "relocaters" can be filed under three categories-HIDING, ESCAPING, and/or SEARCHING. Numerous new residents can be under more then one category. I am a prime example; escaping and searching. Here is a quick background check and I will make it short and sweet. Back in the states I found myself newly divorced, and employed at a job that hit the ceiling. My artistic, creative side had been stomped to the ground by the "reality rat race" sometime ago, but was starting to call to me. In order to rejuvenate my suppressed being, I had to escape where nobody knew me, no obligations, no connections and no excuses. On the same token, I was also searching. I took a wrong turn in life a while back, really got lost and then found myself searching for a new map. What better place to find this map then an enchanted island, surrounded by crystal blue waters? Isn't that what sells you? I visited many of the islands in the Caribbean ten years ago when I was a Navy Squid. I told myself that if I ever got the chance I would move to an island. I was sold on the laid back atmosphere and the beautiful scenery. So it was now or never. Decision made, case closed.
I just want to say this before I go on:
If you are a depressed, closed minded person with high expectations and under the impression that once you escape here to be showered with a Poo Poo platter of bliss and positive energy in paradise-You will be disappointed.
To the ones who are escaping an addiction/problem with alcohol or drugs, "Don't come here." Your chances are better in a dry county somewhere in the Midwest. The second you find yourself weak down here, the demons will literally knock on you door and make deliveries. To many islanders, drinking is a way of life. To others, the VI's are conveniently close to Columbia, just look on a map. It is far too easy and prevalent. It's almost ridiculous.
My goal here is not to bore you with insignificant, minor details-just the highpoints. The two words that must be in your pre-move plan are "organization and research." Your last week home and your first month here can be rather hectic, but if you are organized and do the proper research you decrease that margin tremendously. The internet is a powerful tool in the relocation process. This site alone contains tons of useful info on making the transition. First, shop around for air fare, for you can find some descent deals. Take only what you need. You can have stuff shipped down later. Make sure you know the airline's baggage weight and number limit. I had to forfeit two bills because one bag was overweight and had one to many. If I had done the proper research this could have been avoided. Find long term rental before you arrive (Villa Fairview, The Mafolie, Captain's Quarters), have the rental car company (Dependable Car Rental) waiting for you when you arrive at the airport. Get a PO Box (Red Hook Mail Service) and a bank account (First Bank). The latter two can be done later, depending on your priorities. I thought it was necessary right off the back. Remember "organization and research" and you will be fine.
Don't know? Ask somebody. You will not believe the amount of info you gain just by conversation. The post office, gas station, restaurants, bars, etc., it's out there and all around. Most people are eager to help because chances are they have been in your shoes and know what it's like. Where can I find good produce (Fruit Bowl)? Who has specialty items (Gourmet Gallery)? Who is a good mechanic (Carlos, at the Auto Clinic)? What's a cool bar where I can chill that is not very touristy ( Epernay, Sopchoppy's)? Ask questions and then ask questions on top of that. Shower them with questions. The more, the merrier. For example, I bought the "Beast" (90' Mitsubishi Montero) from a nice couple that was leaving the island. I asked them if they knew of a good place to rent. They said, "Yeah, actually ours. We are leaving in a week. Come check it out." So I found a nice, reasonable place with an incredible view from the same source I got the vehicle just by asking one simple question.
LIVIN' & DRIVIN'
KEEP LEFT AND FOLLOW THE CARS IN FRONT OF YOU! "Nah, it ain't really that bad." But I will say having your own vehicle is not a must, but it's a whole, helluva lot easier to get around. Important Note: Think Island Car - A dependable piece of Sh!++. I would not drive anything new here. The road conditions, terrain, driver error and disrespect can turn a good car bad with the quickness. Also, in my humble opinion, I would not ship your car from home. Not yet, anyway. Think about driving an island car first, then if you feel your gonna stay awhile then take action. I know a chef that relocated here on a job offer that shipped his car with the intentions of staying a while. He now hates his job, ready to move back to the states and now has to ship his "baby" back home.
As for as housing goes, the only thing I will say is, "Choose wisely." This is going to be home; indefinitely. Make sure you are gonna be content with the place. If they give you a choice on the lease, six months or a year, take the six months. You may find something better in six months or decide island life is not for you and go back to the states. Try to find something with a view, they are out here. It's a freakin' island for God's sake. It's nice for me to hop on the porch, drink my coffee and observe the arriving cruise ships. It's inspiring.
If you're here on a job transfer then feel free to scroll down to the next section. If you're a job seeker: find some source of employment, the sooner the better. The stash that you religiously rat-holed to come down here begins to deplete at a very steady rate. Restaurants, retail, and boat charters are always hiring. Get employed and if you are not satisfied; keep looking. At least you have some source of income. I was a little stressed about finding a job, but people reassured me, "If you wanna work, you will find a job." It's the truth, show some ambition and you will find some income. My background is Hotel Event Management but I found being a server in fine dining was geared more to my lifestyle. I can write in the morning and work in the evening. I am a creature of habit and this schedule is perfect for me. Yeah, it would be nice to sit under a palm tree all day collecting my thoughts, but unless you are blessed with millions a job is a necessity.
THE DAILY GRIND
Soon enough the newness will wear off like a good wax job. You will find a routine on a part of the island you call, "my stomping ground." And yes, even in paradise you will be confronted with daily aggravations and inconveniences. In many ways this is third world living with a high cost flare. Sweating while you eat, paying over five bucks for cereal, drinking recombined milk, mosquitoes, power outages, mildewed clothing, island drunks, wannabe pirates, aggravating Rastas, dumb tourists, taxi road hogs, cruise ship traffic, redundant radio commercials - I could piss and moan for days, but you get the point. Yet still, it is all worth it because chilling in the beautiful ocean with cool rum punch in hand at Maho Bay is an experience you will never duplicate. The opportunity to meet people from all over the United States is priceless. Breathtaking views and ocean pleasure is part of your daily life. These experiences are held in high regard and will be with me for the rest of my life.
Think of your time on the Island as an adventure. Your adventure, just do it smartly. Watch your back. Think before your act. It's easy to get sucked into a life of straight partying here. Temptation lurks behind every palm tree. This place is filled with "Peter Pans" living under the impression that this is Never Never Land. They appear to be running from something and/or dodging reality. I once read an entry on this site while planning my escape that read, "It's a great place to waste your life." If this is the path you choose, then it can be found here. It's evident all around, it's present everyday. I will conclude this section with a chorus from a song by Handsome Boy Modeling School that sums it all up, "You can hide from the truth, but the truth is all there really is." So have a purpose here and remember your goals.
As for me? Well, if you care. I will do a year here and move back to the states. I always new it would be temporary. It will be enough time to complete my writing and start things on the right foot back home. Sometimes in order to solve the problem you have to take yourself out of the equation. A year will be enough time to make that happen. Besides, for the same reasons I left home are the same reasons I miss it. I think with time on-island you come to appreciate what you left behind. A Mexican Pizza from Taco Bell anyone?
With all things said and done, I want to express that I have zero regrets moving down here. It's something that I had to do. Again, it's an adventure and I will cherish it for the rest of my life. Living here humbles your inner being and expands the horizon. How can that not make you a better person? So is it a burning desire to come down here? Do you want to take a chance? Change your map? Then like Bob Barker would say, "C'mon down!" Just remember living here - It is what it is. Don't try to change it, but live with it and totally embrace it. Come find yourself, escape, hide, have a good time, live a little, be Peter Pan, watch your back, moderation is the key, think before you act, God bless, good luck and may the force be with you.
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