I came, I experienced, I fell in love, and I'm coming back !
.......and just a few more tidbits........
San Juan was sweltering, not very breezy, and it rained every day, even if just for 3 to 5 minutes; and THEN it was steamy - you could see the steam rising from the concrete - which there was plenty of - concrete. All of the businesses there have iron bars and harsh metal panels they pull across their storefronts which made it look very unappealing and almost prisonlike.
St Thomas was very breezy and hot and not as humid it seemed; there was the Sahara Dust haze and my photographs reflected it, and i encountered no rain. The only times I truly broke a sweat were climbing those ever-present steep hills and endless steps. I saw few bars on windows and doors in STT but when there were some, they were at least decorative; mostly there were the attractive old wooden shutters and warehouse doors. Except on the waterfront road (veterans drive) I LIVED in low gear in my car. I think the mantra there is LOW LOW LOW.
St Croix was not quite as breezy, but there wasn't that haze from the Sahara Dust, and it did seem hotter than STT and maybe that was because it wasnt as breezy? And I did find we all tended to have a glisten of sweat at times but it seemed everyone was used to it. No rain during my visit. The buildings were attractive and few had bars, but again, they werent all over the place. Mostly there were shutters. I only found myself in low gear once.
I encountered internet blackouts one day for hours but hey, I've learned those things happen.
I took 500.00 in cash and ended up withdrawing another 80.00 at an ATM on the 3rd to last day. I charged an additional 357.00 on credit cards (this does not include my rents or car rentals). Most of the time I tried to cook myself. But of course I know that I will be able to use all of this on Fed Income Tax returns as job-hunting/moving expenses, etc. related to work, so a word of advice, be sure and keep up with ALL your receipts in case you can also.
Some of the postcards I mailed have still not made it back to my friends, but yet I have!
And Good Afternoon to all. Marc
Hola, Teresa. Yo no hablo español pero deseo que hubiera tomado el tiempo de aprender. Querría a pero inglés es un desafío para mí. Hoy tendrá que ser babblefish.com
Spoken like someone ..... who knows not what they do.....
Nice post, thanks for all of the info Marc! Good to hear as many points of view as possible. Good luck getting to your new home soon!
Marc, just wanted to thank you for the great post. It was very informative. My fiance and I are considering a move in the next 2 years, we were dead set on St. Croix but have now opened up the options to include Puerto Rico. We will be vacationing in both places this summer for an initial visit to see which Island we want to focus on for our move. I loved all the info in your post. I personally think that I would like the different culture that Puerto Rico has to offer but like the idea of a more laid back/secluded atmosphere that St. Croix has to offer. We should be able to pick the one we like the best after our vacation then start making plans for our future on a Caribbean Island.
Keep us updated on your progress!
PR has some laid back secluded places - they are more on the NW corner of the island and in the central rainforests. We chose to live in the Spanish speaking area and were rewarded by a unique blend of Caribbean and European culture with a sprinkling of the US on top. However San Juan, a very cosmopolitan city was only 2 hours away.
When we moved to St Croix, I found the VI to be too 'US'ified' for my taste. There was more of a balance IMHO between the new and the old on PR.
Hindsight being 20/20, I guess PR was the island for us.
Marc said: "I took 500.00 in cash and ended up withdrawing another 80.00 at an ATM on the 3rd to last day. I charged an additional 357.00 on credit cards (this does not include my rents or car rentals). Most of the time I tried to cook myself. But of course I know that I will be able to use all of this on Fed Income Tax returns as job-hunting/moving expenses, etc. related to work, so a word of advice, be sure and keep up with ALL your receipts in case you can also."
Okay - so there is $937 in cash and credit cards - PLUS room rental, PLUS car rental, and I assume PLUS airfare. And he cooked for himself a lot and spent 3 weeks looking over all the islands.
At the risk of being the wet blanket again, this wasn't a cheap trip for Marc.....informative, yes, but not cheap. This is why we, the Wet Blanket Society, encourage an extended PMV even if it costs a bucket - Marc may just as well have found he absolutely hated all three islands - what if he had moved without making this investment in time and money? He would be one lost camper and possibly have ended up on an island that didn't suit him and been absolutely miserable in 6 months. He may be yet, but at least he gave it a good shot.
I will say again - I think a PMV is the wisest investment you can make....it can either affirm your decision or keep you from having a wretched experience. And before anyone bites my head off, if I were moving to Nebraska, I'd want to go there for several weeks, too, and figure out if this was going to be for me.
Sometimes it works out to make your move based on what you remember from your cruise or two week vacation at a resort. I would venture to say most of the time it doesn't, or there wouldn't be such a huge turnover in population. However, I would imagine this PMV cost Marc thousands of dollars - but it may save him tens of thousands in the future. I'll bet you when you hear from Marc in a year he'll still say "but I missed this, this and this"...everyone finds out different things on their PMVs, but the most important thing is to take your time, invest your money, and see if this is a real "fit" for you.
Many people who make multiple pre-move visits still wind up leaving the islands within the first couple of years. Many people who don't make pre-move visits do find a fit in the islands and stay much longer, but still may not remain here forever. People move. The high turnover in the population includes probably at least 90% who never intended to remain long-term to begin with. They came for a contract or a season or an experience and left when it was time to go.
PMV's have their place and it can certainly be helpful to people to come and get a few things set up before making their actual move. It does not automatically follow that you will "fail" in your move attempt if you don't spend a few thousand dollars on a PMV prior to moving. Some people may spend that money on their PMV and then make the move... only to find out that the dollars they spent are the difference between having enough to get settled here or being a bit short and struggling harder.
If you have been in the islands on vacations in the past, especially if you experienced multiple islands, and one specific island really felt like the best fit for you, then you may already know the most important thing that any PMV can teach you. Islands are different and while one might not be your ideal fit, another might really feel like home from your first day. If you have never visited the islands even as a tourist, you probably should at least experience that entry level intro before making your move. Thousands of people in government service move all over the world each year without being allowed the luxury of a PMV and somehow they manage to make it work. Here you have the benefit of at least being in a US Territory to smooth some of the bumps out of the way.
In the islands you do have to go with the flow and roll with the punches as you learn your way around and get settled into life. If you need multiple PMV's to feel you are in complete control of your move, chances are that you may have the kind of personality that is more apt to struggle with the realities of life here. You also probably still WON'T be in complete control of everything no matter how many visits and plans you make. Adaptability and thinking on your feet and recovering from the assorted crises that will come your way are the hallmarks of the people who are most likely to remain in the islands long-term.
Certainly the less baggage you have, the easier it will be to adapt to island life. Many adults would put up with a variety of discomforts while getting situated, but it is emotionally much harder to commit your children to that. Children, just like adults, may love it here or they may resent you for taking them away from friends and familiar places. Some get over it and some do not. I see many couples come on a PMV without their children and I always wonder if the children would be for or against the move if they came first to visit. Some children would be against ANY move just out of a fear of changes and something entirely new. Close-knit families seem to adapt fairly readily, while families with children already in open rebellion on the mainland often have some tough times in the islands where the children have a lot of freedom and can easily get into trouble with drugs and alcohol if they are prone in that direction.
"The high turnover in the population includes probably at least 90% who never intended to remain long-term to begin with. They came for a contract or a season or an experience and left when it was time to go. "
I strongly disagree. The only newcomers I meet that say they have no intentions of staying or only staying for a certain term are Hovensa workers, pilots, or young seasonal hotel type workers for stt and stj. I would say 90% to 80% come with the intention of making it work. Quite a few buy businesses, houses, condos or land without ever having lived here.
The thousands of contract workers who come to Hovensa, the hospital, the court system, DEA, ATF, the schools, WAPA, etc. comprise the vast bulk of new arrivals on St. Croix, and certainly more than 10-20% of the total new arrivals (more like 70-80%). Very few expect to stay beyond the term of their contract and most do leave within a year or two of their arrival.
Other new arrivals include college students and young 20-somethings who come for a year or a winter season to work in the service industry. These also don't intend to stay long-term.
A large chunk of new property owners are buying their homes and condos as investments and vacation homes and they are here only part-time and rent them out when they are on the mainland. Some of them hope to eventually live here a large part of the year, but aren't making that move quite yet.
Yes, there are also some people who are moving here with the intention of this being their primary residence and hope it will be a long-term move. Even so, many of them don't necessarily expect that long-term means forever. Some of them come alone or with a significant other and some bring a family along. Of these, some do remain long-term and others do not. I don't see thousands of these types of new arrivals each year the way we see incoming droves of contractors for Hovensa.
At least 90% of the rental properties I manage get leased by people who are here on contracts. The other 10% are usually to people who do hope to make STX their home and want to try it out for six months before buying or leasing something for a longer term. More than half of the properties I sell are sold to investors and people looking for a vacation home or a place they may use as a retirement home (full or part time) someday. 20% are vacant land and the balance are houses and condos being purchased by people who are trying to move here. From these experiences, I stand by my numbers that somewhere around 10% of new arrivals come with the hope of this being their primary residence long-term. I would agree that 80% of the non-contract arrivals may hope to stay here long-term... but in my experience that equates to about 10% of the total arrivals.
Your statement, "The high turnover in the population includes probably at least 90% who never intended to remain long-term to begin with. They came for a contract or a season or an experience and left when it was time to go. " Isn't at all true for STT or STJ and maybe true for STX. The turnover on STT and STJ is just as high and there is no Hovensa nor contract type jobs in mass there.
You are not the only agent in the business and don't see all the traffic on all the islands. It is very evident of the extraordinary turnover in the attitude of the Islanders. It takes a while to fit in as the Islanders are so used to people coming and going that they don't invest their time on people who won't be there tomorrow. A person can move to many towns in the states that have the same population as the islands and you won't see that type of turnover and most people moving around the states don't move sight unseen. I don't understand why anyone would move sight unseen to the islands as it is costly if you find it doesn't work for you. If I wanted to move to Florida, I would most likely pick a couple of cities to visit and check out housing, schools, job availability, etc. before moving and would suggest the same for anyone moving to the islands. At the worst you can decide it isn't for you and spend the rest of the time as a vacationer.
I definitely think a PMV is essential and of course things will change once you do decide to move and settle in that you might not have thought of on a PMV, but that is why we have this message board.
Just thought I would throw my opinion in the ring regarding PMV's. I don't think a PMV is essential. I agree with Alexandra's post a few days back. If you are the type of person who needs to have your "ducks in a row", island life may not be for you. If you need to know that the markets carry your brand of "whatever", if schedules, efficiency, organization, etc. are very important to you, island life may not be for you. Please don't think I am saying those are not excellent qualities. They are, and those are the type of people who usually get involved with community projects, organizations, etc. Come on down! I just think that a more relaxed, go with the flow, personality has a better chance of adjusting to island life.
You don't need to micro-manage your move. As always, it depends on the individual person's wants and needs. What I "hear" in most posts by potential newbies, is the desire for an adventure. Just do your research, which you are doing.
What I think is much more important, is to maintain a safety net, of sorts. Have some cash, have a hurricane plan, and have somewhere to go if it doesn't work out. You will hear it a million times on this board; island life is not for everyone. It doesn't have to be. We are not a deserted island, thousands of miles from anything, with a mail boat once a month. The airport is open 7 days a week going in both directions!
Most people don't regret taking chances and having adventures. Most regret not doing so. Just my opinion.
I think a pmv is a great idea if nothing else it will give you piece of mind that this is for you. No one makes a blind move down here without some major worries. You may be excited but there are going to be alot of things you are unsure of and if you have children those worries can be compounded. Better to do a pmv before you move (the move will be alot more expensive then the pmv if there are more then one of you) and just make sure.
As far as store carrying you favorite brand of whatever, I think thats only looking at the surface layer of the problem. Many many people try to eat a low fat diet for example, but try doing that here where it can be hard many days out of the week to just find skim milk. Changing your entire diet is not a minor obstacle in my opinion, but one I had to change when I moved here. It has gotten better since I first moved here but still a long way from stateside.
In otherwords what may be a small issue to one person is a major issue to another. You should come down before hand and see for yourself if you can make it work here. There are many islands in the caribbean to explore and find out which one is right for you. And just because the island isnt the right fit for you doesnt mean you didnt "make it" .....in fact I think it means you "made it" as in you made the right decision for you.
Speaking of skim milk, why is it so hard to find on STX? All the markets on STT have it all the time, several brands to choose from. I also have trouble finding other fat free and low fat dairy products. For that matter, one of the things I have noticed about STX, all the stores seem to have very low inventory of "cold stuff". The obvious answer is shipping to STT is more frequent than STX. Right?
But, the "trade-off", STX has more fresh, local produce. Now, if I could just get some fat free cottage cheese to go with my fresh mango.....heaven.
I vacillate on this subject so often, because 1. I didn't have a PMV and we have been here almost two years and can't imagine living anywhere else and 2. I don't think a PMV will even begin to cover the basics. I was here for almost a year before the blush wore off and I started really seeing the problems with this place. I definitely still love it, but it's less like a love affair now, and more like a problem siblings. Yes, I still love you, but it doesn't mean I'm not frustrated by your many faults. 🙂
Still, a PMV, especially a detailed one can help with people who aren't yet sure... Take note of all of the pros and cons listed on the message board and come to the islands and see if they are the same for you. Go into local stores, find off the beaten path, inexpensive restaurants. Walk, take the bus, try to hail a taxi. Go to the post office. Go to the bank. Go through Sunny Isle at lunchtime. (Or don't... I've been to Sunny Isle maybe six times since I've lived here)
I think the point is that you are either meant to live here or you are not. If you are, you don't need a PMV. If you aren't, hopefully a detailed PMV will plant the doubt.
I ALWAYS recommend a pre-move visit. I wouldn't move from one place to another without ever having seen the new place, whether it's STX or a city in the states.
But with that said, the younger or richer you are, the less the need for the PMV. If you travel light and your needs are minimal or if you have $$$$ to spare, you can move down, check it out for a while and then stay or move on, as you wish.
The people who scare me are the ones who are traveling with VERY heavy luggage - whether it be kids, medical problems or very tight financial circumstances. Those are the folks who, in my opinion, need to really research a move to the VI. And for them a PMV is a necessity.
I agree... I would think twice about moving with young children unless I was financially secure. I would definitely NOT move with any big medical problems... that is something that Tabra and I consider... eventually we will need good medical care, as we are not getting any younger, and we may think about moving when that time comes.
Hey Board Posters, Marc here.
I haven't posted in awhile - my days have been full with all the things one must do to wrap things up here in preparation for leaving for the USVI to live. I have compared shipping household furnishings and vehicle versus selling and buying anew when I am "on island", and for me selling my things here and eventually buying anew will work best. (I didn't say buying NEW, but anew, or again).
I went to Wal-Mart and purchased about 20 large plastic containers with tops, $8.49 apiece; purchased unprinted newsprint paper from a moving company to wrap things in ($20.00 for a 20 lb bundle), and began packing up some of my personal items, favorite and treasured home items and accessories and knick-knacks. I decided while I was doing all this in my home, that I would post posters at the highway just in case people might want to come in and browse. This began last Monday the 11th and I sold more stuff by Friday than I would have ever imagined. People tended to tell people who told other people and so on. (Wasn't there an old Breck commercial like that? Or am I giving away my age!) And many buyers returned day after day as I pulled more things out and put them up for sale. My moving sale newspaper ad started Friday and so I have been absolutely swamped for the last 8 days until this morning.
I was fortunate in that I was able to sell everything I chose to sell (which was 25 years worth of home furnishings, antiques, collectibles, your general "Southern Living" or "Architectural Digest" type home full of things.) I was able to get reasonably good prices for most everything, and I only have one item left unsold, an antique oak pump organ from the 1890's, and I have a couple of good prospects on that. Of course you never get what you paid for something and no one else will pay what YOU would for something. But that is ok. I have enjoyed these many pieces for all these years and now it is time for others to enjoy them.
I sat aside a good selection of items that I will eventually ship down; my apartment there is furnished and I will only be shipping down 5 or 6 containers at this time (personal items, toiletries, misc. apt. accessories and unusual pieces that I especially like). The other 15 or so containers I will put in a storage building that I have rented here ($25.00/month, compared to Sun Storage on STX: same size $135.00/month). I figure if I'm not going to need it til I move to a larger or different place, why pay an extra $100.00 a month just to store it? I have friends here who will get it shipped for me when I need it.
And speaking of shipping: Since I am not "large container shipping" a whole house, I called and looked online and this is what I found: I can ship up to 70 lbs in small containers whose total length, width, height does not exceed 130 inches through the USPS for approx. $55.00 each. It will take up to 9 days or so. The same small plastic tub shipped through UPS will run $448.00 PLUS customs and other taxes or charges. The same small container through FedEx will run $1,100.00 (yes, that's one thousand one hundred dollars!) and will also be subject to customs inspections, taxes and other fees. With USPS it goes straight through and doesn't go through customs.
I expect to spend up to $500.00 to ship the containers I will need to have with me through USPS. The rest will follow at a later date.
My friends threw me a going away "Island" theme party (in which several of the chicks dressed in hula skirts and coconut bikini-tops and Hawaiian island type music playing in the background and I thought, oh, they have NO idea of real life ON THE USVI ISLANDS!) - and all my friends were excited to make their plans to visit (which will be a good thing, maybe I can bring in more business for the resort where I will be working!), and they were all jealous and excited but all had totally unrealistic perceptions of what living in the USVI will be like. Most tend to think of it as a vacation, like what it WILL be when they just VISIT. I just let them keep their absent-minded dreams and didn't want to spoil it for them by telling them what it's really like --- LIFE like anywhere else, just probably a little more challenging in some aspects, a little more trying and diffucult in other aspects, but still beautiful scenery to see in the midst of it all).
I am drving to Atlanta to fly out next week with my Yorkie and I am so fortunate - the lady who kept my Yorkie during my month-long PMV through P.R., STT and STX in May is buying my car for her grandson when I arrive. So I will have my car through my last day on the mainland! Like I have said before, God has been with me during this, and so many things have just "clicked", that for me, I think it was meant to be.
I don't know that I mentioned previously, but several things had led me to believe that it was time for me to explore my dream of living in the islands. All four happened in rapid succession last year and caused me to stop and think, well, about LIFE. First, my Mom passed away suddenly; I never would have moved further away from her as long as she was alive, and I would much rather have my mother than to fulfilling this life-long dream - but I cannot change what has happened with her passing, and she would want me to do this. Second, my brother-in-law of 42 years suddenly died of a heart attack in Palm Coast, Florida, near Daytonna. Third, the company for which I was a G.M. of a resort changed hands and I was without a job when the new owner brought in his BROTHER for my job; and lastly, my sister moved from here to Savannah, Georgia to be closer to her daughter, who had graduated college. All of those things happened within a 6 month period last year, so you can see why I felt the time was right for me to make this life change.
I cannot say that I will be in STX for the rest of my life, although I would think at this point in time that it will be the case. But who is to say? My friends and others cannot believe that I am making such a life change, such a substantial MOVE. Most have said they would love to do something like this but just don't have the guts. I am glad that I have got the guts. And that I am finally DOING this, this dream I have always had, regardless of the outcome. It is going to be a great experience, even with some of the less than positive aspects I will encounter.
I will post again as more things develop. I have been in touch with my future bosses and they are excited about my pending arrival, even wanting to pick me up at the airport; my landlords are tearing out the bathroom at my apartment and putting in a new bathroom, and I myself am excited and nervous and everything in between.
So until later, best regards to everyone,
Just to give you an idea of how long it took for my $55 USPS packages from Texas to STX. I sent sixty of them and they took anywhere from three to five weeks to be delivered. I insured only four of them but did have tracking on all . They arrived in very good condition with only minor damage to two items (probably my fault). I was very pleased with the service.
Make sure that when sent it is via USPS PRIORITY MAIL.
Thanks. Oh, I'm SURE there will be delays in the package arrivals. In fact, even if they were put on the SAME PLANE as me when I fly down I'm sure they'd end up in cyber-post til "whenever" arrives. Marc
Good for you for taking the plunge Marc!!
Best of luck, and if you need something stateside, PM me and I’ll do what I can. Did I mention that I am jealous?
Marc - thank you so much for sharing the specific prices you found - that really helps those of us that will be following you! Good luck with the move!!!
Marc, All the best with your plans & thanks for the updates!
Two quick notes on mailing stuff...
FedEx and UPS consider the USVI international, thats the reason for the really high postage prices.
And a quote from the USPS mailing guide:
"Length + girth (distance around the thickest part of the package) cannot exceed 108 inches. (Parcel Post cannot exceed 130 inches.)"
So for those that want to go the faster route like Promoguy suggested with Priority Mail do note the max size difference. 😉