On island for a year. --- What now?
O.K. so hypothetically I have been on island for a year; made my move, found a place to rent, gained employment, learned to drive again, accepted the pace, and settled in with the bugs. What happens now?
I'm very curious as to what the longer term realities are because I feel, through reading, that this is more why people end up leaving than the initial culture shock. I think the single largest mistake that we paradise seekers make (and please correct me if I am wrong) is to not consider what happens after the initial to-do list is complete, the island has been explored, and the hum drum routine sets in, This isolation and boredom aspect seems to be hugely underestimated. Even anticipating that the boredom will come cannot prepare a person. It's the most unpredictable variable in the happiness equation. There's no other way to find out but to actually live it. What's hilarious is that: times can be so trying that people are actually measured by their ability to tollerate them. This is where the pride comes in for those that have been on island the longest. Its as if their strong will and reliable coping skills somehow make them the winners. (Please don't take offense because none is intended, It's just an observation that tends to come out of all the stories and replies I've read on here) It's just human nature and it's that way no matter where you are. Veteran always trumps novice. However; I don't feel it is reason enough to keep old islanders from associating with new islanders. That's one of the things I've read over and over and cannot understand. What makes one person's dream of making a new life in paradise and different than any other's?
Now I've gone off topic and haven't gotten to what I was looking for in the first place. All responses and opinions on any of that would still be greatly appreciated but what I'm really after is the "What do you do after settled in?" question. Do you associate with a lot of other people? (dinners, get togethers, cook-outs and that sort of thing) Do you rely only on a couple really close friends? Do you save up for vacations elsewhere? Do you travel back to your homeland often? Are you active in the community? Are there many community activities? I basically would like to know what it is that you do to shun the boredom bug that keeps you happy enough to stay and feel like you don't ever want to move because, quite frankly, it's the nothing to do here boredom bug that currently makes me not want to stay in Oklahoma. I feel as though I could be bored in a lot better places than here. I am outdoorsy by nature and we have no mountains, no beaches, no good lakes, or any of the things I enjoy. I like things like fishing, hunting, skiing, scuba diving, boating, jet skiing, bike riding, camping and almost anything outdoors.
i am very bored and there just does not seem to be enough to do. i dont dive and cannot get my ears wet so i am limited in ceetain aspects of what i can and can not do. the fact that you just can'dt drive off is a biggie too. and of course the family being so far away and expensive to go see. i go stir crazy here. i know i am not alone in this.
Part of the answer is you DON'T know until you know. Everybody's situation is a little different.
Your itches and needs will change, ...and the island may no longer be able to scratch that itch, or meet your needs, and you just can't move out into the country or across the state to change up a few things.
More specifically, money is the biggest factor.
In my experience on island, higher expenses start to wear on you, like the added expense of trying to get to the mainland to see your family. It gets harder to justify after you've shelled out for couple of years. If you have grown kids or grandkids that you miss, this can become a huge problem. Some of the long-timers here either have the means to travel when they want, or some don't have close relationships with their family, and that makes it all easier.
A lot depends on what you do for a living on-island. In the first year or two, most willing to put up with less than perfect jobs, pay and benefits, and the island-style of working. But after a while, those "lack there of's" can wear on you.
It appears by your statements that you are an outdoor type activist, you should have a lot of fun on the islands. The following is my opinion; I think a lot has to do with the age, size of family and family members. The one size fits all doesn't really apply to relocation anywhere. There is a wide variety of age difference and expectations. Snow Birds want sun, warm weather, beautiful beaches and a good book (TV) etc. Younger people want to party and have fun. Some are looking for a slower pace. All types are available its up to the individuals to find their niche.
I can honestly say that after almost 30 years here I've never been bored. There's no question that many eventually get "rock fever", people miss their families, and miss the conveniences they've been accustomed to. Cost of living is also a major factor and, particularly in the case of the older generation, living on fixed incomes and/or having chronic medical conditions becomes a major issue. You'd be surprised at even the number of locals (as in native Virgin Islanders) who leave for those same latter reasons. I lived a third of my life in the UK, another almost third in the continental US and have now lived here longer than anywhere before - no doubt will die here!
One of the things I found most difficult to deal with was getting used to people leaving. You make friends, some of whom you become very close to and, within a few years they're off back stateside. By the same token, the sheer variety of people to get acquainted with here is priceless. It's a real melting pot of cultures! And look at all the places to explore both by sea and air. So many islands to see, all so different from each other.
There are tons of community activities in which to participate, tons of things to do which don't cost a lot of money. Never a reason to be bored. And if you have to deal with a major hurricane which devastates everything around you, you learn to deal with it and it, in turn, such events teach you what's really important and what's not. As an old and dear friend so often said, "Don't sweat the petty stuff - pet the sweaty stuff"!
It's been about a year and four months for us and there are still lots of things to do. I love outdoor stuff, hiking and snorkeling, mostly. I'd like to learn to dive. I'll get to it one of these days. There are GORGEOUS places to snorkel and hike on STT, then add in STJ with the national park (and plenty more to explore out of it.) My bf and I agree, we aren't leaving until we have done everything. And the more we do, the more we discover there is to do. We cured the "rock fever" by taking a trip back to the states to load up on a few things (like my favorite kind of instant oatmeal I can never seem to find, that sort of thing) and raid the storage unit (SO SO SO GLAD we stored nearly everything!!) and of course, visit friends and family. I know, however, that we won't be here forever, more because we both love travel and the adventure of a new place, but I think it'll be a couple or three more years.
I don't think you should look down the road a year. If you move here, figure out what you'd like to do . I know people who have a list- learn to scuba, sail, kiteboard, go to X other islands, etc. Give yourself 6 months at least. If you are done with your list and you can't stand it, go. If you are just getting started, give yourself another 6 months to a year. VIsnorkeler has the right idea.
Rock fever doesn't happen with everyone.
And I agree with OT. One of the most difficult things here is losing people. You make friends, you invest in that friendship and that person is up and gone. You start gravitating toward folks you know who have been here longer than you have. And the folks who get here and are unhappy are really difficult- always with the negative waves so early in the morning. You need to have an escape hatch so you can go back to the states in case you find yourself in that situation.
I don't know if I can help with this discussion... I know we are looking at moving to the Islands. We are retired Military so I'm thinking you do your homework as anyone should do before a major move. Do your pre-move visit & go from there.
Being retired Military... it's always hard to see a friend move a long distance, however, they don't stop being your friend & we've stopped through out our travels to visit with close friends when we could. We keep in touch through emails & facebook. I remember back in the day when First Class Mail is all we had.
I love warm weather, so I know I'll be much happier there. I don't need a lot of entertainment for the most part I can entertain myself. Sounds as if you love warm weather activities & that will keep you busy. I love beautiful flowers, tropical flowers, being outside, the beach, etc. My hubby & I are both warm weather individuals. We live in a big city now & unless money is no object then you never can afford to do everything you want.
Thanks to those who are willing to post on such diverse issues. I am a good 2 years out from being able to really make any attempt at moving from Okla. (2 daughters still in college, living at home) but I would like to spend this time really trying to gain some insight from those of you in the know about island life. My wife and I are planning a trip to STT this summer to get away for a bit and check out some of the things on the island. I was there 22 years ago while in the Navy and thought it (STT) was the most beautiful place I'd been. And I saw a lot of places to compare it with.
I do have to say that a lot of the issues brought up and explained on these boards tend to make me hesitant or at the very least cautious about jumping into it. First off, I've read so many stories of those that decided to go on a whim and showed up with not enough money and then got caught without enough to leave. That's the very first thing in the definition of 'miserable'. Life is bad no matter where you are if you can't afford to get by. It's even worse if you can't get out of that bad situation. I am not a wealthy person by any means (middle class at best) so I have a great understanding of what it takes to come up with money you don't have. I admire those that have had the guts to take the plunge because most people sit back and only wish they would have tried and always wonder if they would have liked it.
The reasons I am looking into it so far in advance are many but up on the list are job options (so I can maybe aquire some new skills or education requirements in the meantime to make myself more employable), housing and cost of living (so I will know what suitable employment really means), moving and setup expenses (so I can be financially prepared), and tieing up loose ends (downsizing my life here and preparing my wife and I as well as those around us for our prolonged absence). I'm not so sure my daughters are feeling the reality of it yet.
I like the take it six months at a time idea because one never really knows what they will want at any given time in the future; however, I want to approach it from here as if we are going for the long haul so that I don't come over already believing that I will be leaving. I think a person tries harder to make it work when they believe there aren't other choices.
Prior to checking out this sight and hearing from you guys I had already planned this part, but now that I have gotten some feedback, I am completely convinced it is the most important part: I will have an emergency fund large enough to get us back home as well as keep us floating until we are reemployed. A way out, an escape, a safety net, or any version thereof seems to be the most resounding advice there is. I also think that always knowing the door is open to return and the means available to do it would allow a person to at least maintain a positive mental outlook about living there. It's always a lot more fun to voluntarily do the dishes than it is to be forced to do them.
I must say that, after living here for 8 years, I've rarely ever been bored or found myself without anything to do. In fact, its quite the opposite for me. I rarely have any downtime and am on the go 7 days a week. I have kids to shuttle around, home repairs to tend to and many great friends whom I love to go out to dinner with and socialize. We have taken cruises out of Puerto Rico both with family and groups of friends and travelled elsewhere fairly regularly.
When I contemplated moving here many years ago, I wondered if I'd slow down and eventually get bored. This has not been the case at all and I have recently pined for the day when I'm actually able to take a breather from my very busy island life.
I wish I had more time, I am never bored. My to do list is quite long- between our little farm, alternative energy projects, and maintaining vehicles and water toys there are alwasy chores. Oh yeah, that thing called work takes up some time but it keeps that stupid thing called money rolling in so my family and I can have fun. Being a dad is also quite time consuming but my favorite way to spend my days.
I try to balance chores with fun. There are countless recreational activities. If you don't enjoy watersports, you're in the wrong place. I do whatever the mood of the ocean dictates:
Windy- kiteboarding or sailing
Flatwater - freediving, scuba diving, spearfishing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, long distance swimming, fishing
If the ocean gets old, and for me it never does, there's always hiking, fruit foraging, bar hopping, island hopping, people watching, music, and much more. Seems like every weekend something is going on.
Some of my more creative pastimes are: harvesting coconuts and bottling the precious coconut water, or removing the meat from mature nuts and making coconut milk and coconut oil. Finding various fruits like starfruit, plum, mango, guava, etc to make juices and preserves. Making and carving calabash bowls. Finding secluded beaches to go beachcombing- we find some awesome stuff! On St. Croix, go out west to Concordia and hike up the creek. You can find some edible treats in this creek, I will not say exactly what- but they are yummy!
Camping is fun too. Spear some fish, light a fire and crack a bottle of wine with ya partna and life is about as good as it gets.
If you get really bored, there is tons of trash to pickup. It may not sound like fun, but pick your favorite beach or hangout, and bring a plastic bag and pick up some trash. You will feel very happy afterwards and the islands will repay you tenfold- trust me!
spend some time learning to lime, grow some veggies, visit every beach, volunteer, take a course, enjoy, learn yoga or meditation. star gaze, take photos, do a sport, stand up paddle boarding is fun and good exercise and you see a lot of marine stuff. For me there is not enough time in the day.
optimist with low expectations on STX
Excellent info from all, thank you! Lots of things mentioned that sound really good to me that I haven't ever thought of before. I don't think I saw a single suggestion that sounded bad. From the taking a course to gardening to exploring to all the activities, it sounds just like my cup of tea. These are the type of things my wife and I did all the time before the kids. We did as much with the kids as we could so they would be exposed to as much as possible but there is a lot more logistics, responsibilities, and costs involved with them. I gotta say, I'm kinda ready to be on our own again for a while. Maybe we'll sew our wild oats some more for a few years and come back to be active grandparents, who knows. I'll be 43 this Saturday and I can't help but have this overwhelming picture in my mind that I will be 65 years old one day telling stories of my time in St. Thomas (whether it was 6 months or 6 years) as if it were one of the most exciting times in my life. The good seems to always overshadow the bad in time. I seriously doubt that there's anyone out there that has given it a go on the islands that regrets it 20 years later (barring catastrophy). After all, the stories of the bugs alone, would be great conversation in the retirement home. lol
This is my reasoning for making it happen.
Eiplanner, I think you're smart to amass as much money as you can before you make the move, but I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about what is said on this message board about island life. As people have said above, it's different for everybody. I've gone through some of the hardest, most frustrating times in my life while living on St. Croix. I've underestimated what I could afford, my car was repaired many, many times (and not in a timely fashion, I might add) before finally breaking completely, I've dealt with some of the most unprofessional work situations I ever have, I've seen debauchery at its worst and have had friends experience crime firsthand (thankfully I've never personally been mugged, seen anyone fire gunshots, etc...knock on wood). But I would never regret living on St. Croix, and I prefer it over living in the states even though I've spent the vast majority of my life in New England.
My situation is a bit different I suppose because I have a lot of family on island, but I'm living in the states now and I miss island life. Not because it's paradise, but because I find the people and energy of St. Croix to be more authentic than I've seen anywhere else that I've lived. There's a sense of freedom, I think, because many people who live in the Virgin Islands do so because they've chosen it, and have the intention to create the life that they want--not just one they've fallen into. You have to be deliberate about your life when you live in this part of the world. The media and workforce cultures of the states don't have the same overarching presence in the islands that they do on the mainland even though it's technically America, so the culture is defined almost exclusively by the people of the island and their ideas about life. Nobody is telling you how to live. Since moving back (I did so for graduate school) I have really begun to see just how much of our culture in mainland America is influenced by media, government, and capitalism in general and while all those elements are present on St. Croix, it's much easier to get away from it. People spend more time together on the island. They spend time outside. They become part of the community because, quite frankly, you'd really have to try hard not to. Community is a HUGE part of life there.
So I guess my point is that even though there can be tough elements to life in the Virgin Islands, it's totally worth it if you're looking for a life full of stuff that matters, even if you don't live there forever. You'll find your niche after a year, trust me. It's very easy to meet people, and for a community so small there really is a variety of stuff to do. I'd rather wait forever (and trust me, you will) in line at the post office or change my flat tire in the middle of nowhere with no cell service than live somewhere where everything's convenient and easy but lacks such authenticity of culture and character.
Very nice description 603yoga, thank you! You smacked the nail right on the head for me when you mentioned there being a difference between living a life you fell into or are stuck with vs. living one you consciously chose to live. That's what "Living the Dream" is to me. I also completely agree with your interpretation of mainland culture and the media and all of that. I spend lots of time anymore finding my own interesting things to read and do online simply because I cannot stand what's on TV. It's just become lots and lots of false advertising, one sided news, and mind numbing nonsense. Hence, the reason for my wanting to be outdoors.
I saw Matt T mentioned fishing and spear-fishing. I wonder if you're still reading or if anyone else could tell me a bit about the fishing laws. I know I've been to islands where it is very strictly regulated and enforced because of over fishing by many starving locals and because of the preservation of reef life. Is fishing for your own use legal? Is permitting costly? Is it fairly easy to catch fish for those that do it? Just some information like that would be helpful.
If you have a physical, mental and emotional character that allows you to be bored now - moving anywhere, the VI included, will not change that part of you. If you enjoy life and finding things to do now, the VI has just as many opportunities for living an interesting life as anywhere else - with some beautiful water, excellent weather and an accepting society overlaid on it all.
Well yes Exit Zero, I believe technically you are correct with basically saying bored people are bored people by nature and active people are active people by nature regardless of their environments. In my case, I am an active person that is located in an environment that hinders my desire to do the activities I most enjoy. Kind of like putting a piano player in a room full of trombones. Maybe he'll pick one up and give it a go because he doesn't want to just sit there and watch the clock tick but he'd still rather be playing his beloved piano.
I am a master diver certified scuba diver. I love to dive. I dive many times a year here in the Oklahoma lakes. For those that don't know, our lakes are red due to our red dirt. Filthy red; it stains anything white. The visibility under water is usually 3 to 5 feet and very turbid (lots of tiny particles floating around that cause vertigo). You'll see an occasional small fish or an old car that was rolled into the lake but thats pretty much all there is. The water is so cold that most of the year you have to wear a full drysuit; not a wetsuit, but the big bulky drysuit. Many many divers here do not dive the lakes because of the bad conditions, they wait for a vacation somewhere. But, my wife and I, we do dive them because we are active and want something to do. However, I consider this boring divng as compared to a caribbean reef. 100's of feet visibility, 1000's of amazing creatures, large shipwrecks, warm water, reef projects, awareness projects the whole 9 yards. The words night and day are not even drastic enough to describe the difference between the tropics and the lakes here.
That's just one example of why I say I am bored here. Yes, I can find or invent things to do here and I do but the real things I want to do just aren't here.
With all respect, Have you visited the USVI yet? If you haven't, many of the answers you receive to your questions will not be meaningful to you. Now that you have the basics, better to come down for a 3-4 week visit. Move around a little, explore, and decide if this is the right move for you. This option is costly, but a LOT cheaper than moving here and discovering in a month that you hate it.
The fishing link was just what I was looking for OldTart, thank you.
@ Linda J - Yes, I have been to St. Thomas twice but was 20 years ago. We are planning to visit again this summer for a couple weeks. In the past 10 years or so, my wife and I (a few with the kids) have made 5 trips to Cozumel, 2 trips to Jamaica, 2 trips to the Bahamas, and 1 trip each to Puerto Rico, and Grand Caymen. About half were resort stays and the other half rental properties. I met my wife in the Navy on board a Destroyer Tender (a repair ship that stays in ports to repair other ships rather than staying out at sea). While in the Navy we spent a year in European and North African ports. We also spent a month at Guantanamo Bay Cuba. This was when we made our two visits to St. Thomas. I've also traveled to Namibia and South Africa.
So, I'm no stranger to drastic culture differences, language barriers, crime, crazy driving, locals that would rather not have you there, etc. We've almost always rented cars and took off exploring on every trip because that's what we like to do. We try to stay as far from the tourist traps as much as possible because we don't need any more souvenirs and we don't like being hounded for money and we don't get to find out what the real local foods are like. Although we do generally frequent the tourist bars such as Margaritaville in the late evenings mostly for safety sake. I can't predict long term any better than anyone else can but I do feel that I am not coming into this blindly.
As far as these message boards are concerned, I am probably here for two reasons. The first is to try and avoid making costly mistakes by learning from others that have made them and are now wiser for it. The second I think, to be quite honest, is that I am so dog gone eager to make the move that I just get a kick out of hearing from people already on island.