Help nervous wife/mom moving to St Thomas
Hi. I have been reading this site for a few weeks now. My family and I have visited all 3 islands several times, and now we have decided to move our family to St. Thomas. We are so in love with everything about the islands...the people, island time, the beauty, the peaceful feeling we both have when we are there. But I know there is a difference from vacationing and actually living there. We know the income difference, prices are higher on everything. I'm so willing to live with less. My only concern is my children, we have a 5 year old a 9 year old and a 12 year old. Our 12 year old has decided to stay in the states with his mom. I haven't heard such good things about the schools(mold, unclean, low staff, over crowded), we have looked into the private christian schools, but they are so expensive. What are the schools really like?? What is the best area of town to look for temp housing till we'd have time to check on the schools. Our income will be limited so we cant go and look for housing and then back to the states and back to St Thomas, it would get too costly. What do you think a family of four would need in (cash on hand) to arrive on St Thomas with only our clothes and our car and get settled in. We are planning to arrive the beginning of June so the kids would be out of school a few months. My husband has so much faith in this move, I have so much faith in him, I'm just very nervous about being able to support our children till we find jobs. I'm willing to work any where, my husband is a very successful carpenter/ and also does home remodeling and wants to start carpentry there, doing any odd jobs, building decks, remodeling..whatever he can get. Any advice you can give would be great, I know it will be hard the first year, but its something we all want, even my 5 and 9 year old. We are giving up everything here to make a start there. My husband has a blog also, read "work and live by the grace of God"
Usually for a single person the figure thrown out is $10K. I'd want more than that for a family. You'll need first & last month's rent plus security & for a decent 2 bedroom, that would run you at least $1200.00 to $1,500.00 on up, most likely. What will you do about health insurance? Utililities are VERY expensive here & so is food. You can make up some of that because you won't need to dress up for most jobs. I don't have kids in schools but many seem to like Sibilly on the north side or Peace Corp school as far as public schools go.
"We are giving up everything here to make a start there"
If you ask me it sounds like a scary proposition. Especially leaving one child behind and not sure how you can afford a good education for your children. I would stay stateside a few more years while you try to live as frugally as you would need to on the island and see how much you can save and what your quality of life would be.
You sound like you have a lovely family so I do not mean any disrespect. I think that you will find the people on this forum have a wealth of information to share. I've heard over and again how important that a premove is. I think that you should try to budget that in for next June with the family and see how things go.
I'm personally doing the extreme in my move to the islands. My husband and I still have our two youngest children in school. We purchased a condo last year and spent 3 months with our family renovating our condo last summer. Our youngest will be 11 so we are on the 7 year plan before we make our big move. Although my family enjoys our time on the islands, we thought it best to wait. Believe me, another midwestern winter is not my idea of a good time, and I check this board almost daily to get my small dose of island living.
With that said, we did rent our condo out to a young couple with one child and they have found island life to be everything they wanted. But they were very prepared, they planned for several years, traveled to the islands often, and when the time was right they made their big move. They were able to provide first, last months rent and a security deposit, buy two cars and enroll their son in private schooling.
I think that to travel on an extreme budget without securing a job on the island first is very risky. You ask how much money would it take? I wouldn't do it without having at least $25,000. You will be showing up during the off season so housing should be easy to come by but a job will be a little harder to find.
My best wishes to you and your family, this is only my humble opinion. I love the islands and visit often, we have just decided to wait and not relocate the family but wait until the children graduate. But when the time comes, I think that the easiest way to make the transition is to be ready financially for whatever greets you on the island.
I have lived here 9 years and moved here with my husband and daughter. She is 13 years old now and went to Montessori through the 6th grade, then Gifft Hill School. It is expensive but some of the private schools have financial aid. I have a friend whose daughter went to All Saints until last year. She just couldn't afford the tuition. Now her daughter goes to Lockhart Elementary and my friend is happy with that school. I would be concerned about the public middle schools. This island needs carpenters who do good work so your husband could probably get work fairly easily. I would be concerned about moving here needing a job and housing, especially with kids. It is a big transition. Living here is expensive.
Antilles is a FANTASTIC school, many friends and my sister graduated from there. Very high graduation/college %...but very expensive. Between private education, moving expenses, and overhead costs for a family, im guessing at least $30k saved up. FInd a job first and always have a little extra cash saved up just in case... and you'll be fine! If your hearts are both into it and you will both work, i think you can do it no problem! Good Luck!
I hate to dampen the spirits on your dream, but when I read your post it sounds like you and and your husband are SO excited about this dream, for yourselves, that you're trying to look past your concern for the kids. You know that your kid's education is critical, and that you don't know enough about the schools in VI, and you know that you've read good and bad about the schools on this forum. I think you know that the only way you're going to figure this out is to go there, visit the schools and talk to teachers and parents before you commit to moving there. Best of luck.
You have to first ask yourself what are the reasons you are planning to move and would you make a similar move to another town, in the same state or even in another state for those same reasons. What I'm trying to say is people often look through rose colored glasses when they contemplate living on a Caribbean island. You say you are "willing to live with less" and "we are giving up everything here to make a start there" and "our income will be limited so we cant go and look for housing and then back to the states and back to St Thomas, it would get too costly' and yet your ask "how much money you might need" . Those comment suggest a bit of naivete. Have you tried "living on less" in your present location? It would give you a taste of the type of lifestyle you might encounter in the VI's and whether of not it suits you without risking all your savings. Also, if you spend the next year or two "living on less" you could build up more of a nest egg which will come in very handy if you do decide to make a move later in life.
I don't know your financial condition other than you believe you can't afford to make a few pre-move visits to check out schools, housing and job opportunities. That seems to me to be a receipe for failure.
We've all gone through what you are now experiencing. As far back as I can remember we've always wanted to live on an island but it wasn't until our kids were grown, had good educations and were out of the house and we were financially secure before we built our Caribbean home. Take it from someone who hs been there, done that - living on a caribbean island is challenging enough, trying to do it on a 'shoe string" budget may result in "paradise lost".
Wow, I'm getting some real feedback on this decision. When I stated that we "were giving up everything here to move there" it was a material statement. We are selling everything that we have accumulated in the past 10 years of marriage, why take all that "stuff" with us. And actually my family is living with less, my husband had a very lucrative construction business in Florida building multimillion dollar custom homes. As you all know the economy has dropped and Florida was hit hard in the construction business, so in February of this year we moved to South Carolina, our home in Florida is for sale, and my husband has started a decking business here, it was slow to start, but he is now booked Thur till the New Year . While making this transition my family has defiantly had to live with less. And it has also changed us in alot of ways, we can be truly happy with less.
We have been to the islands quit a few times and the last 2 visits we stayed in St Croix and talked to alot of islanders and locals about living there, and they couldn't say enough good about it. We have wanted to move there for about 2 years now, but 2 years ago my husbands business was doing too well to give up, and now its picking up again. If we stay here a few more years, our kids will be settled in, the business will be well established and the grind of everyday life will be set, and the islands will get pushed further away.
I thought maybe we should wait a few years and my husband wants to move in June. His theory is this "everyone works to live, to pay bills, to pay rent/mortgage, school..well you have to work no matter what, so why not work where your dream is to live.
Our kids are in a private christian school now, their education and moral upbringing is our main concern. That is why we figured if June comes and we are there we have a few months to check out the schools.
Coming for a pre-move visit, does sound wise, but why spend $4,000.00 to come for a week, when that $$$ can be put into the move itself.
I truly appreciate all of your replies, I know its a HUGE decision. We aren't looking thru rose colored glasses, we have children and so with that being said, each decision we make will have to be crystal clear. Someone else said thru our excitement we are trying to look past our concerns for our kids, well if that were the case, we would just pack up and leave and be there tomorrow. My children are my main concern. They want to live there also, they have been there almost every time we have.
My husband and I are not "religious" people but we are Christians, our faith is in God, and I know the Lord is in control, and if its His will we will find our way to the islands.
You admit that, "Coming for a pre-move visit, does sound wise," and then try to justify to yourself your inclination to ignore the wisdom by adding, "but why spend $4,000.00 to come for a week, when that $$$ can be put into the move itself." If you have read through all of the previous posts on this site you would be able to answer the why for yourself.
In any case, you should remember that the majority of people who move here return home within a few months, so you might want to keep enough money for return tickets in reserve. And nobody here will recommend local public schools for stateside kids, so if you can't afford private school tuition, you might want to reconsider moving here while you have school age children.
My husband and I have picked up and moved somewhere different 3 times now (only once with a child) and I can say that each time has been the best adventure of our lives. We moved to Alaska with nothing but the clothes on our back, our truck (that we drove up from Portland) and our washer/dryer. We plan to do the same when we move to the caribbean, sell it all!! We will bring our Jeep only. We also have a child however I am planning on home schooling if I can't afford the private school. Our plans are for June 2010, only because we have a house in the midst of a remodel and homes here in Houston mostly only sell between April - July, after that, houses just sit on the market. We also will have all our debts paid by then. We want to be debt free before we move. My son at that point would enter into the 6th grade. I am setting my self up to do work online so I don't have to rely on finding traditional work, therefore not having to worry about finding a job, pre or post move. I can be home with our son and we can enjoy the island way of life.
If I could move tomorrow, I would do it.
I wish you luck and would love to read back here before we move to hear of how your move, and how the kids are doing and your decision on schooling.
I homeschooled my kid K-12 and have found that homeschooling is not something most parents and kids can successfully switch to in junior high. I have also been telecommuting since 1995 and there are many pitfalls to doing so on island. If you require Internet access at speeds approaching what is commonly available in the states, your residence options will be limited to those that have line of sight to one of Broadband VI's towers, and you will need a generator to compensate for our frequent power outages.
Alaska is a state, with all of the infrastructure that entails. Homeschoolers in AK can obtain books and other materials for free from the state. AK has all of the usual goods and services found in states, with a small surcharge for the extra trucking costs. The USVI discourages homeschooling, and goods must be flown or shipped here so costs here are much higher.
Moving to a small rock 1200 miles from the mainland is not like moving to another state. The "island way of life" is difficult for most people here. Everyone is different: some people embrace the challenge; most find they don't want the struggles. N either is better than the other, but it is useful to know which type your family is before you move children here because mistakes here are costly.
For us it wouldn't be a mistake. Also many in Alaska feel they are in a foreign country. You really don't have the feeling as being "one of the states". I've homeschooled 2 other children, high school age, we did do this in Alaska and we didn't have any state funding. You can homeschool anywhere you want to, you don't have to live through the US goverment buracuracy if you don't want to. Also, living in Alaska is like living on an island, you can't just leave with out money in pocket. It takes 5-7 days to drive to the lower 48 states, or at least $500 plane ticket. It's the same "principle" as living on an island, you're stuck unless you have some money to get "off".
I"m not sure if you've ever lived in Alaska but unless you live in the big city of Anchorage, you don' t have the infastructure that you think Alasa does. In most neighborhoods you don't have cable TV and only had dial up internet. This is how the majority of the state is. Also, the goods that come in don't have a small surcharge, it's quite large actually!! Most goods come to Alaska via boat.
I really don't want to hash out the comparissons about Alaska and the caribbean with you, I was mearly giving my point of view.
I do agree with you that unless you are ready to move to an island and be removed from what the states have to offer, you'd better not do it.
I like your outlook on things. And as my husband says" you only live once"
I also heard that massage therapist get paid well. I was looking on line and the Divi was looking for one, but the pay was $8.00 an hour,
I know the pay is lower in the islands, but is that all a massage therapist would really make? Here a basic massage would be over a $100.00, and I know the resort spas there charge just as much. I have stayed at the Divi and saw what they charged. So does anyone know what they make on St Thomas? That is the job I would be seeking.
I teach at Antilles school. I know it is expensive, but more than 15% of the tuition income is placed right back into financial aid, so you could definitely look into that. Our web site is www.antilles.vi if you want to check it out. If you find yourselves on-island, just let me know and I can show you around: informally - I am not in the business office!
You made my afternoon, just reading your post!! Thank you so much for the information, I will check out the web site. And when we do get on the island, we will definatley get in touch with you. Thanks again