One Year Anniversar...
 

One Year Anniversary! Our moving story.  

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AandA2VI
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January 18, 2014 3:40 pm  

Feels like I've been here for much longer than a year already lol. So I mentioned that I would write my moving story but I wanted to wait until I had been here a year. I am no wordsmith and am a horrible speller but here we are... our story.

The Back story
My first experience with the ocean was a trip to Catalina Island with my family when I was about 12. The water was 55 degrees and still I couldn't wait to have my first scuba diving experience, shivering and all. After the shallow dive with my dad, a master/rescue/tech/wreck (pretty much every cert available) I was HOOKED. The following years I read everything I could on reefs and the oceans, everything about it fascinated me. At 15 I started my first salt water aquarium and armed with tons of books and research my hobby progressed… rapidly. Over the years I had many sizes and types of aquariums all salt water and all “reefs”. When I turned 25 I was elected to run FRAG (the Fish and Reef Aquarium Group) a 200 person club in Arizona where we would propagate species of corals for trading with each other and we would supply these captive raised corals to display tanks of local aquariums. At this time I personally had a 200 gallon full blown SPS (small polyp stony) corals, that was breathtakingly beautiful with a dedicated bedroom for all of the equipment needed. It was quite the set up and very high tech. Why am I talking about this? Because my absolute love of the ocean, really all things nature that fueled my move to the islands.

The Dream:
I remember the exact moment in time that I decided I wanted to move to an island. My boyfriend and I were on our 4th cruise and one of the ports was the Cayman Islands. We got off the boat and a storm was rolling in, it began to rain and as the other tourists fled back to the boat, ladies shrieking "my hair", I giggled, grabbed my snorkel gear and headed off to find a reef to explore. It was a fantastic day in Cayman, we got to pet some giant tarpon at Eden's reef, played with the rays at Stingray City, snacked on Johnny cakes and my favorite, fried plantains. As we took touristy photos in front of the cruise port display of the Cayman Islands map, I had my ah-ha moment and said to my boyfriend... "we should move to an island!" He took one look at my face and knew he was in trouble. He knew that once my mind is set on something, I would not stop until I achieve it. My entire life I have been the "do-er" "the extrovert" and the "planner" in a family of 3 brothers and a sister. I had no idea on what island life would really be like, I just knew that I loved the ocean and wanted to be surrounded by it. Actually, I felt that my soul ached for the ocean, it was quite an odd feeling, a driving force to be living near the sea.... I guess if you're reading this, you get it. Anyway, when we got home from the cruise we started the planning. We had a list of islands that we had been to and some we had not, and one by one we eliminated them and quickly got down to the USVI. Ironically we had not ever been to any of the USVI’s but it was still the US which would make the transition easier (in theory) so we set a one year goal to plan it all out save a bunch of money and make the move.

The Plan:
During my first couple months of research I stumbled across the VI moving forum. Immediately I immersed myself into it, reading every post I could, up late nights with my computer glowing and my eyes burning; I read. Without a doubt this forum was the single most useful tool in planning this move. Some posts made me laugh, some made me worry, some made me mad and some were filled with invaluable information. We realized that most board members recommended a pre move visit, PMV. So that was it, our next step. We would plan a month long trip to St. Croix and get the best taste of island life that one could in a relatively short time period. Four months after the initial decision to move, we arrived on St. Croix. I was diligent in searching Craigslist (which can be real hit or miss) for a rental for our PMV. We found an ad for a cute studio attached to a private home on the east end that would let us rent for the one month time frame, the owners were both Realtor. Immediately we fell in love with the scenery. It was absolutely beautiful, with lush greenery, aqua colored waters and coming from Arizona, it was a VERY welcome change. We really lucked out and the couple we rented from were unbelievably nice, “showed us the ropes” and we remain great friends to this day. We did as much in that one month as possible, shopped for groceries of course, went to the post offices, snorkeled, banks, beaches, snorkeled, priced out and looked at rentals, snorkeled and tried lots of restaurants and bars…. did I mention we snorkeled? Our new Realtor friends took us to buck island one day and as I flopped into the crystal clear water I thought to myself… that THIS is what heaven looks like! Swimming with turtles, huge schools of tangs and corals the size of VWs. For an ocean junkie like myself, it doesn't get any better and this could be "my backyard"! We also encountered some of the friendliest people that I've ever met and at the end of our month long stay I was more sure than ever that this was the right decision.

The goal was that we would save every dime we could and start setting ourselves up financially to be able to make the move comfortably. Within the first month of planning we realized that there was a possible job transfer for my boyfriend who had worked in retail for his company for 13 years. We saw this as a huge bonus, perhaps…… it was a sign!! We started getting the finances in order by slimming down our spending, cut back our bills, got rid of things we didn't need and downgrading any services that we could. We started a "St. Croix" fund and we managed to put half of every paycheck away into the fund. We watched it grow into what we felt was a great start for the move of a lifetime. By month 7 of our one year planning period I had a 4 inch binder FULL of facts, information, contact numbers, price lists and things we would need for our move (I am a bit OCD when it comes to planning). The job transfer for my boyfriend was a definite yes to the USVI, however a bit of a wrench was thrown in the works. We received from corporate that he was now needed in St. Thomas instead of St. Croix. Well..... OK! During our PMV to St. Croix we did not go over to St. Thomas so, there we were, a huge move planned to an island we had never been to, a bit of a scary thought. I guess you can't plan for everything.

In our last month in Arizona we started to sell off everything… our trucks, our boat, and all of the furnishings of my but Arizona home including my 200 gallon reef tank. It was a huge undertaking. it was actually quite freeing to cleanse your life of possessions, but at the same time, it was TERRIFYING. There was no turning back at this point. A week later and we were having our going away party with a huge rowdy crew of all our family and friends. The very next day, we boarded a plane for a one way trip to St. Thomas with 2 cats and 4 suitcases.

The Island:
We arrived in STT exhausted, after a long 13 hour trip with two hungry kitties. Grabbed our rental car at "Dollar" and drove to Megan's Point Resort for an affordable week long stay. Glad to finally be on the rock we got the cats fed and watered and went to the bar to have a celebratory Cruzan banana and coke (our fav). The next few days were mostly spent driving the island, learning (the best we could) the roads, and what goes where. I will admit… at one point i was literally in tears, telling my boyfriend that I would never be able to drive on these steep hills! I look back now and laugh at myself for my minor freak out… if you haven't been here yet…. just wait, dem hills are no joke! So where was I? Oh yes, driving on STT. Its a lot like STX - NOT. Yes stay left but blind turns, washed out roads, hills so steep I thought I would have to bail out of the car all seem like nothing now after our fantastic year.

We had the help of a Realtor to show us a few places but unfortunately they wanted to only show us east end homes and I knew I wanting something greener, more spread out, something like… North side. Just driving through the north side of STT I knew this was where I wanted to be. We found a few for rent signs up at four corners. Called one and on the other end a man I could barely understand says yes its still available. After looking at a dozen places, on our 6th day in STT we decided this was the place for us. We moved in the very next day and didn't have power up yet. So it was pizza from “Thirteen” (a fab. restaurant) by candlelight and a bed that the landlord had delivered for us that morning. I remember that first night and I was amazed at how loud the frogs and crickets were and how beautiful the stars were. Heaven.

I had planned on renting a furnished place and would recommend it if you can. We just couldn't pass up this house so the next day it was off to get groceries and furniture. I was aware that it would be an expensive day and sure enough, it was. $500 to stock the fridge $500 in plates, pots, pans, $2k on furniture - TV - sheets and stuff. I think we spent all in all about $3k our first couple days in our new place. It was a whirlwind of debit cards. I though they might actually catch fire and we had to notify our bank that of course we'd be spending like it was our last day on earth. Ahhh but so worth it. We made dinner and hung out on the patio enjoying the frogs and distant waves over the ocean. My boyfriend was able to start work with his transfer a couple weeks after we moved to St. Thomas and I was able to find a job as an Scuba/Snorkel/Boat tours with a small family run company which I now love and consider family. My income is about 1/4 of what it was in the states but we make it work and live much simpler and without so much “stuff”.

So its a year later, do we still love it? YES… actually HELL YES! There are some real challenges, such as the BMV (getting anything done really) traffic on days with 6 ships in but overall this place is simply magical to me. Some will say “she’s still in the honeymoon phase” and that's probably right but hey.. nothing wrong with that! The best way I can put, for me, living in St. Thomas is… “The juice is worth the squeeze.” Will I stay here forever? Who knows. Could I and will I go back to Arizona? Nope. I can’t imagine not being close to the ocean…. and a udder delight milkshake ;-D

My top 10 pieces of advice to people who are looking to lime on da rock:
1. Bring 15K (double if you have kids) - This will set you up with everything you will need (generally). Can you do it for less? Absolutely but IMHO the less stressing about money at first the better and you will be prepared if you can’t find work right away. I would also suggest enough money for one way tickets back home… we call ours the “O-SH#T fund”.
2. BE NICE!!! Be kind to everyone you meet, even if they are not to you. I’ve REALLY noticed that even if someone is being a jerk to you, make a joke, smile, wish them a great day… it makes the WORLD of difference and people will really open right up to you.
3. BE NICE!!! Yes I am putting this twice.
4. Do a PMV. This is up for big debate but IMO it is a great idea. You will read horror stories about crime and the cost of living but until you actually see it in person you will never know if island life truly for you. A PMV is the best way to get a little glimpse into what life can be like in the USVI and can potentially save you A LOT of money.
5. Don’t try to change anything. I still struggle sometimes with this as I am a work smarter not harder kinda gal but guess what?? The stateside way of doing things doesn’t apply here, just give in and go with the flow. If you are not or can no become a patient person, don't move here.
6. Be open minded / flexible and toss out that “comfort zone” thing. Try that local dish, talk to a random stranger at the bar, take that road less traveled (with 4wd only lol). You never know who you will meet or what you will find.
7. Be RESPECTFUL. Smile… god day, good night, hold the door for someone and let people in when sitting in traffic, smile at everyone.
8. Get to like bugs and critters. Luckily for me I love them all! I don’t mind any critters and have some beautiful spiders happily living in my bathroom eating all the mozzys.
9. Drive Slowly. Its scary on these roads and you gotta pay attention - don’t even think about using that cell phone either lol.
10. Get in the water! When you're stressing about spending your savings up or about finding a place - take a dip or explore the beaches. We still find new cool secluded beaches all the time. Its just as easy to find yourself in the rat race of work here, even in the islands, so make it a point to explore the island, find a secluded beach or my personal favorite... island hop!

In my opinion if you don’t think you can do these things… best stay put. 😀

Thanks so much to all of my fellow board members who helped to make my dream a reality… even if some of ya make me nuts ;-D

*** The views and opinions expressed in my posts are soley those of A&A2VI and other like minded islanders. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the majority or any/all contributors to this site. Have a GREAT DAY!


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Exit Zero
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January 18, 2014 4:31 pm  

Very Nice piece of writing - Thank You for taking the time to put it together.
If there is a way to copy this to the "What to Expect" section of the drop down menu under 'The Move' it would be a good addition to the stories there.
The spelling was pretty good!! You probably should correct 'Magens' but the comment about the forum members who heeled is priceless.


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Alana33
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January 18, 2014 4:37 pm  

Congrats on your 1 yr. anniversery, your continued survival (both of island living and this forum :P) and enjoyment of living in de Tropics, mon.;)


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roadrunner
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January 18, 2014 4:39 pm  

Thanks for sharing your story! I've moved back to the states for career reasons, but I still own a tiny piece of STX, and I agree that this forum was by far the most helpful thing when I was preparing for my move and after I had moved to STX. I'm not as active on here now, since I no longer live there, but I still peek occasionally to keep up. I'm glad to see you've settled in nicely and have really enjoyed your first year.


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AandA2VI
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January 18, 2014 4:53 pm  

Dang... can't edit it anymore.. oops lol.

*** The views and opinions expressed in my posts are soley those of A&A2VI and other like minded islanders. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the majority or any/all contributors to this site. Have a GREAT DAY!


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helen352
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January 18, 2014 5:25 pm  

OMG !!! this is exactly what i am in the process of doing. i live in Florida now and can't wait to get out of here.. i vacationed in St Maartenn for 2 weeks and fell in love with that island and water, but like you said the virgin islands are part of the mainland and the move shouldn't be to hard ( i hope).it is only me no baggage just a suitcase or 2. and I'm gone .I CAN'T WAIT !!!! thxs for this story i made my day !!! :@)


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CruzanIron
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January 18, 2014 6:10 pm  

Helen, in reference to #8 above, you want to Google Centipedes..... :-X


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CAtoSTX
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January 18, 2014 6:13 pm  

I can't believe it's been a year! Congrats to you.
Are you still considering moving to a different apt?


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speee1dy
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January 18, 2014 8:17 pm  

Congratulations and it was fun reading


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AandA2VI
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January 19, 2014 1:12 am  

Maybe CAtoSTX. I'm looking at rental as I see them hoping for
A little cheaper of a place or a bit nicer for the price I pay. Likely we'll just stay put. I do like our place it has awesome breezes and a killer view.

*** The views and opinions expressed in my posts are soley those of A&A2VI and other like minded islanders. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the majority or any/all contributors to this site. Have a GREAT DAY!


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Ronnie
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January 21, 2014 12:56 pm  

Nicely done!

RL8-)


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Ericw
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January 21, 2014 4:29 pm  

A&A great write up. I too am a fellow reefer! It was so hard to break down my also, full blown, SPS tank full of rare corals and wrasses for our upcoming move. Even though it was sad, I was happy that I was starting a new chapter, and having a reef for my backyard instead of in a glass box. We're on STJ... we should get together and swap our reef pictures and stories 🙂


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LiquidFluoride
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January 21, 2014 5:28 pm  

This is a REALLy good piece of advise

2. BE NICE!!! Be kind to everyone you meet, even if they are not to you. I’ve REALLY noticed that even if someone is being a jerk to you, make a joke, smile, wish them a great day… it makes the WORLD of difference and people will really open right up to you./quote]

I like to err on the side of polite/friendliness, it works 100% of the time even with people who start out with an attitude. The people down here just can't help but be friendly, it's great!

Glad to see everything is working out for you, hope all the rest of your years go as well or better 🙂

There was a [URL="http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/abinazir/2011/06/15/what-are-chances-you-would-be-born/"]1: 400,000,000,000,000[/URL] chance of you being born: what have you done with your miraculous life today?


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susan56
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January 21, 2014 9:21 pm  

You are always so positive AandA. It is refreshing.

NYSue


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AandA2VI
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January 22, 2014 3:24 am  

A&A great write up. I too am a fellow reefer! It was so hard to break down my also, full blown, SPS tank full of rare corals and wrasses for our upcoming move. Even though it was sad, I was happy that I was starting a new chapter, and having a reef for my backyard instead of in a glass box. We're on STJ... we should get together and swap our reef pictures and stories 🙂

For sure! Next time I head over there (soon) ill PM u. Actually I want to go to honeymoon soon for some macro pictures of those geometric tunicates. Have u seen them?? They are black and white and soooo cool. New camera does an underwater super macro - need pics of them 😉

Thanks Susan and everyone for the kind words 😉

*** The views and opinions expressed in my posts are soley those of A&A2VI and other like minded islanders. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the majority or any/all contributors to this site. Have a GREAT DAY!


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mtdoramike
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January 23, 2014 8:01 pm  

Beautiful story, my wife and I loved it and it rings so true as well.


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ChrisMI
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January 25, 2014 12:05 pm  

Loved reading your story, not just this one, but all the posts you've made along the way. Thanks for sharing it with everyone!


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wcpalmer
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January 28, 2014 8:24 pm  

AandA2VI,

This is a great story. Thank you so much for sharing.

I do wonder though, how did you handle spending a month on STX getting to know the island and where you are going to live, only find out that you will not be living there?
Did you feel a bit like you had wasted your time or money on STX? ("Wasted" is not exactly the right word for what I am trying to convey, because I feel that getting to experience any new place is never a "waste"... I hope you get what I mean by that, just spending so much time and money preparing for moving to one place only to have your plans change)

How do YOU PERSONALLY like STT vs STX? (I'm not trying to start an island war here, I just want her opinion)
As someone who originally planned to move to STX and spent copious amounts of time researching that island, how hard was it to make a last minute transition to STT?

I too am planning on moving to STX. I have scoured the internet researching the USVI for the past year and I feel that STX is the island for me. I will be doing a PMV (much much shorter than your one month stay) next month but will not have time to visit STT.
I would very much like to see both islands before I move but that just isn't an option for me. My fear is that if I have a hard time finding work on STX, that I would need to move to STT, where the tourist industry is more of a driving force and probably an easier place to find a job for a young fella like me. In your opinion, was it disappointing or difficult switching up our original plan of living on STX for STT?


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AandA2VI
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January 30, 2014 5:31 am  

AandA2VI,

This is a great story. Thank you so much for sharing.

I do wonder though, how did you handle spending a month on STX getting to know the island and where you are going to live, only find out that you will not be living there?
Scared sh#$less. Mostly because we heard the crime was so much worse on STT. I do NOT find that to be fact. I feel the same in regards to safety on both islands and have had cars broken into on both islands also lol.

Did you feel a bit like you had wasted your time or money on STX? ("Wasted" is not exactly the right word for what I am trying to convey, because I feel that getting to experience any new place is never a "waste"... I hope you get what I mean by that, just spending so much time and money preparing for moving to one place only to have your plans change)
No way! I met Kim Lucas, actually stayed in one of her rentals. I will forever be friends with her, she is one of the best and most kind people I know! Worth every penny in experiences and you can't put a price on that! I loved our one month stay - we spent about 3K. Tickets were 1,200 alone. Now knowing what I do know, I would have booked cheaper flights (I find $300 RT to PHX often now) but thats the only money I would have saved. When we go on vacation and in this case a PMV we do whatever we want to. We save and bank up money to spend, so we try not to stress about that. After all its just money! Theres a LOT more money that we can make and we are good about buttoning down and working our butts off when we need to, only to allow us to do super fun things.

How do YOU PERSONALLY like STT vs STX? (I'm not trying to start an island war here, I just want her opinion)
As someone who originally planned to move to STX and spent copious amounts of time researching that island, how hard was it to make a last minute transition to STT?
Well this is a TOUGH question to answer. I do LOVE LOVE LOVE STX. Its beautiful there, I see a tight knit community and some BEAUTIFUL beaches. Very country like which is what I had wanted for myself. Now on STT I don't know which I like better. I live on the Northside of STT and its very much like STX - homes are spaced out, lush and jungle like and a tight knit community as well. I also work for a pretty popular dude and most people know me via him lol. I couldn't live on the busy east end of STT, its not for me at all. I do love that there is ALWAYS something going on in STT. It is/was much easier to find work IMO. I am pretty flexible and have a lot of random skills and talents so I usually can adapt and find work anywhere I go. STT can be frustrating with lots of cruise ships in but those people are what make the wheels turn over here. I think to answer that I would have to live on STX for a year for a fair comparison. Maybe that'll happen next year. ;~)

I too am planning on moving to STX. I have scoured the internet researching the USVI for the past year and I feel that STX is the island for me. I will be doing a PMV (much much shorter than your one month stay) next month but will not have time to visit STT.
I would very much like to see both islands before I move but that just isn't an option for me. My fear is that if I have a hard time finding work on STX, that I would need to move to STT, where the tourist industry is more of a driving force and probably an easier place to find a job for a young fella like me. In your opinion, was it disappointing or difficult switching up our original plan of living on STX for STT?
Nope it wasn't difficult to switch, I was a bit disappointed but I was freaking out at first and when/if you go to STT and see the hills and blind turns, you'll get it. I was literally in tears when we were looking for houses in our rental car (Yaris!) and the driveways that you can't see the road in front of you. Its super scary at first not knowing anything or anyone but honestly if you can be flexible, friendly and adventurous I think you can live on either and be happy.

*** The views and opinions expressed in my posts are soley those of A&A2VI and other like minded islanders. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the majority or any/all contributors to this site. Have a GREAT DAY!


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wcpalmer
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January 31, 2014 1:38 pm  

Once again, very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write me back!


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VT2VI
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February 6, 2014 1:47 pm  

Congrats on the big 1! We have had to put the planning stage back on the back burner for now. I am getting a medical discharge from the Army, and my civilian job goes with it. So......... looks like our 5 yr plan may be more like 10 years.
But, after reading this board from the first day it went up, i can assume the daily life challenges will remain the same.
I have been reading that the Crime rate has dropped a good bit, and the the 2013 murder rate was way down. I really hope this trend continues, as more locals start getting more involved. It was refreshing to see that.
And you 1yr story was put together very well A&A! Again congrats!

F-F-F-Freezing in the great white north


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FLLisa
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August 2, 2014 7:23 pm  

It's been a while since there were any new posts on this thread, but thanks so much for taking the time to share your story and thoughts on your move. As another "Wannabe" new to this forum, I really appreciate positive reports that include practical advice as yours does.


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DenverSteve
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August 2, 2014 9:28 pm  

Great story, one question, I can work from anywhere so I will not be missing any income, so how much of the 15K in cash was because you both were not working yet? I'm must wondering you full first month cost?


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AandA2VI
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August 3, 2014 3:50 pm  

We saved up that much before coming. My boyfriend had a job transfer. I do website design so can work from home so technically we were both working. I got a fun island job within two months.

We knew it would be a big chunk of change to get started. We did not want to struggle. I don't struggle I plan. Rentals in stt approx $1,200 a month for what we wanted so first last and security all adds up. We ended up at $1,400 so that alone is $4,200. We originally wanted furnished but quickly realized that I did NOT want to sit and sleep on god knows what/who. I have an irrational fear of bed bugs lol.

So $2k + in furnishings for a 2bdrm. Everything needed.

We found an island ride for $2500 which my boyfriend still drives lol. He loves that POS. I bought a car - what I wanted CRV from a fellow board member in STJ for $4200ish.

You can see how fast the necessities add up. IMHO I wouldn't come to the islands with less than this. I am sure you can but I would rather have a pleasant experience and have what I need than struggle to make it work.

*** The views and opinions expressed in my posts are soley those of A&A2VI and other like minded islanders. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the majority or any/all contributors to this site. Have a GREAT DAY!


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DenverSteve
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August 3, 2014 3:59 pm  

Thanks for breaking it out, I'm from SoCal and had a 30' sailboat so I spend a lot of weekends at Catalina fishing and diving, after seeing how clear the water is there you yearn for something similar and warmer is even better. I do web design & programming too on the side but it is nice that there were two of you, that helps cut some of the costs.
As far as the car, if I can ship my Land Rover over for under 2K that would be better and sell it off when I leave.
Thanks again for the posts and I am looking forward to my PMV visit but think I will wait till after hurricane season when it's not raining a ton.
Steve


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