Potential relocation, advice/insight truly appreciated
Good evening, I am not quite sure where to begin, but I am very thankful for finding this page. I appreciate those that read this post and may have the time to share your thoughts or opinions on the topics mentioned. Thank you in advance!
We are currently navigating a great job offer to relocate to St Thomas. Fortunately, the offer includes most all of our relocation costs, as well as housing costs once on island.
We are a married couple, two small dogs, currently living on the southeast coast of GA. We are Frequent visitors of the islands with a great respect for the culture and nature. we are always planning our next visit, but I certainly did not think we’d ever be planning a move at this point in our lives!
We are well aware of the cost of living as I’ve often googled and stalked random pages as I daydreamed of one day moving here. (I just assumed it would be 20-30-40 years down the road!) I am also aware how difficult it will be to secure housing with two small dogs.
Here are some of my biggest concerns:
1. Finding a reliable vet for our senior dogs. We do find ourselves as monthly visitors as geriatric dogs require special attention and medicines. Any recommendations? Do you find specialty dog food and medical care is readily available?
2. the awkward “in between” time of landing, living in temporary housing (which is already secured if we accept) and settling into a new place. Where did you store you stuff? Are storage units readily available?
3. finding a job for myself in my field is very unlikely, but finding a job in general also proves to be a challenge
4. I am an excel guru, so making a hypothetical budget spreadsheet has my numbers all out of whack. Curious if you feel comfortable to share a realistic monthly ulitilies cost? I’m projecting 1000 on utilities alone, but not sure if I’m under/over shooting this figure (water, ac/electric, gas (if applicable) and internet)
5. In your opinion, was the move “worth it”? Does the beautiful culture, the trails, nature, and bays make up for the lack of stateside amenities? Naturally these are very personal and vary person to person, but I would appreciate your personal experience. (Aka, I will miss target)
We are not strangers to packing our lives in a van and moving, in fact we did this just four years ago cross country. However relocating without “stuff” certainly feels a little more abrupt. Although I usually welcome and celebrate change, I do find myself walking in the house pointing at my furniture and putting a price tag on what I could sell it for and also an emotional tag on “will I miss this?”
We are “young” relatively speaking (30 and 40) and have been soul searching in our recent years as we find ourselves in a limbo phase of life. Why do we have all this *stuff*? Why are we working so hard for jobs we don’t truly enjoy? Furthermore, we will not be blessed with children, so why are we attached to four bedrooms when we only ever sit in two rooms? Prior to this job offer panning out, we were very prepared to sell the house and move to a small unit to feel more free and clear of the “stuff”. To be more thoughtful with our money, our time, and our marriage. I realize making a move to seek these things out is not advisable, but I do wonder if it’s also exactly what we’ve been looking for?
yikes! Didn’t think this post would turn into a therapy session. (I have a sinus infection so I’m blaming the prednisone)
Thank you again for any advice or stories. I’ve learned so much from this message board and value the opinions of those who have been in our shoes.
*EDIT* embarrassed this page awkwardly picked up a photo of me in college… not sure how that happened. Those were the days of xanga and online journaling so I wonder if that’s somehow connected LOL oh well can’t figure out how to remove it.
Utilities of $1000 would be a pool pump and heater, A/C 24/7 in a Large house, top speed Internet, Full Cable or Satellite with all premium channels, multiple cell phones and landlines, excessive water use , daily washer and dryer use, overnite outdoor lites, electric fence, remote cameras, inefficient water heaters, old lite bulbs, many backround ON appliances/electronics.
Only my observations. Your experience may differ.
I live on St. Croix, so it may be slightly different then St. Thomas.
3) Plenty of hospitality jobs on the islands. If you find a good restaurant, you can easily make 200 plus in tips during tourist season.
4) As exit zero states, really depends on you. Electric is crazy expensive, food was a bit more than NY so wasn't really a shocker, thing is here you probably need to shop 2-3 places to find everything and keep costs effective. Internet is costly for the speeds you get and the reliability of some providers like Viya on STX has been an issue.
5) you'll miss more than target, shopping choices are extremely limited and if you go to the boutique type places, expect to spend a lot. My wife stocks up on make up and the hard to find stuff when we are in the states. Wal-mart ships here and is probably the cheapest when you buy a lot in one order. Amazon unfortunately is not free and depending on what you are buying it's cheaper to send through a freight forwarder and waiting an extra few weeks.
We have been on island permanently for almost 2 years now (owned for almost 7) and every time we go home to the states, I miss this place and call it home. Patience, tolerance and unfortunately lower expectations will allow you to enjoy paradise.
From the tone of your post it sounds like a change in your lives would be welcome. Given you’re familiar with the islands and one of you would have a good job, with a reasonable relocation agreement it sounds like you don’t have much risk. As far as your finding a job, being on island makes a huge difference and as noted above there are always reasonably good paying jobs in the hospitality industry for people willing to work. I would actually say that almost anyone with a skill shouldn’t have too much difficulty finding a job, the keys are being flexible and a willingness to work.
As for the cost of living, it’s largely a function of your requirements. Rents honestly aren’t too bad (compared to the Boston area), utilities are high (but your $1000 estimate for 2 people is very conservative), food is comparable if you eat things that are mostly local, all other costs are roughly comparable to the mainland. The restaurants are great.
Learning to shop on line will become important skill as the selections for many things is limited but given you seem to want a more minimalist lifestyle that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Make sure you have medical insurance with your job offer, I don’t think private insurance is available so make sure your covered there.
One recommendation might be to bring a car. Near as I can tell they are expensive here and many have questionable pasts. Car insurance is about 25% higher than we were paying south of Boston. If you leave you can sell it or ship it back. Shipping cost were around $3,500 all in.
We’re retired and have owned for 3 years on STX and live on island roughly half the year. I think l love it slightly more than my wife in that I could easily live here year round but my wife doesn’t like the heat and humidity of the summer, plus she has concerns about the crime and medical care.
Lastly, hurricanes are a consideration. The smaller ones aren’t too bad but a major storm can be truly frightening and leave not only significant destruction but potentially no power for many months. The major storms seem to hit the island about every 10 years (on average) but it’s impossible to predict.
Good luck whatever you decide.
You may wish to check airline regulations for traveling with pets as if they cannot fit in softsided travel bag under your seat and are above a certain weight you'll have to find an alternative to having them travel in cabin with you. It's best call airline directly when making your reservation. Airlines have banned pet travel for larger dogs in cargo on passenger flights since March 2020 due to covid.
1 dog per person. Health Certificate by veterinarian must be issued within 10 days of travel and all vaccinations, especially rabies, current. You need to show this and fill out airline paperwork at Check in if your pups can travel in cabin with you. There are also breed restrictions.
If your company is paying relocation costs, ship what you truly like, that's solid wood. Buying good quality furniture is expensive here. Have a great mattress? Bring it.
Look for housing that has a generator. Or buy and bring one. Hurricane season is almost over but outages can occur at any time and often do. Outages can last for a few hours or days, can be isolated or island wide. After a storm or hurricane, it might be months. if you work from home, you need one.
Propane stove is a must.
Not all areas receive good internet service. Check before committing to a location.
Indeed, check on healthcare coverage as unless you work for the VI government, a company that provides it or are eligible for Medicare or Medicaid, you're not going to have it.
Prices are high for groceries, internet, gas, and electricity. If you run AC 24/7, your Wapa bill, alone could be $1000+.
Good insights already. To add:
(1) There are two veterinarian offices currently on St Thomas. Good care is available, but you won’t find the level of treatment for certain conditions (like cancer) that you would stateside. If they don’t carry the food you need, Amazon Subscribe & Save may work for you (free shipping here, as @speee1dy mentioned).
(2) Wait to ship your “stuff” until you find housing and get a feel for how long you’ll be here. Most folks would be well served to keep 95% of their possessions in storage stateside for a year, then ship if need be.
(3) What field are you in? You may have better luck finding your place when you arrive.
(4) Utilities costs vary widely depending on your lifestyle. $1K is on the high side for a typical setup with your household size.
(5) Thousands of transplants come and go every year. A few fall in love and stay for decades. Some stay for a few years and eventually move again. “Worth it” is as variable as your WAPA bill.
Not to rain on your parade, but if I had a dollar for everyone who came down here for a “great job opportunity” for whom it ultimately didn’t work out, I’d never need grocery money again. Then again, for those it works out for — it’s a beautiful thing. You won’t know which category you’re in until you try.
If you are willing to learn how to be a positive part of the island community instead of worrying about the differences from whence you came, you’ll have a great experience. Best of luck!
@speee1dy Not to the USVI. Unless you have a work around. I even tried using the Post office street address to fool the system and that doesn't work. I think it did a few times at first. My packages range from $10-15 each time.
I have a PO Box, so that may be the reason why.
@daveb722 Subscribe & Save items don’t have a shipping charge here. Regular Amazon orders do. I often “subscribe” to an item I need and later cancel the subscription if I only need it once.
Not all items that say they are S&S-eligible ship here, but the majority seem to.
The Post Office address works for me every time. I have no issues ordering using the Post Office address and then my Box number.
I normally only pay the $10 fee for my entire purchase. Meaning if I buy 6 items separately then yes you would pay 6 x $10 for $60 in shipping charges. However if I have 6 items in my cart and check out then I just get charged normally 1 $10 charge and that’s it.
Make sure the zip code is the zip code of the physical address of the Post Office. Not your PO Box.
Richmond 00820, Kingshill is 00850, and Frederiksted 00840.
The zip code is different for your PO Boxes. My box is at Kingshill. Maybe it won’t work for Downtown, Gallows Bay, and Sunny Isle Post offices since they don’t have carriers stationed there.
My wife and I relocated from the Atlanta area to STX after having a condo on the island for several years. We're older than you (late 50s), but here are some of the things we've learned:
If you have a good reliable vehicle that's paid off, it's worth the money to ship it - it cost us about $3500 to ship our car (including taxes and fees) and took a couple weeks. If your car isn't paid off, check with your lender to make sure you have permission to move it.
When we had our condo, power was around $500 per month with occasional air conditioner use. Being from SE Georgia, if you were used to the weather there, it's actually more moderate here year round except for a couple weeks when there's no wind in September and October. We are on a hill and have good breezes at our house and only miss air conditioning during this couple weeks. If you can buy a place with breezes and solar, you can just about eliminate your power bill. We only have a small solar system (2.5 kw) and haven't had a power bill over $80 in the past couple years that we received after having company for a couple weeks. We're adding 2 more panels next month that will get our bill back to $0.
We left most of our things in storage in Atlanta - we brought what we knew we would need and sold or gave away much of our furniture. If you buy or bring furniture, try to stick to solid wood instead of composites or particle board frames, it will last much longer. Most of our furniture was bought or found locally over time here.
Make a grocery list on your phone (I use a 'to do' list with check boxes) and put the store where you found difficult to find items beside the item - also where you find the best prices. Many basic items are pretty available, but some you may find at only one store and it's stressful to find that one store that sells less common items when you need them. ALWAYS check expiration dates at the grocery store - I've put a number of items back on the shelf because they were near their expiration date or we wouldn't use them before they expired. Start in the 'bulk' section of the store - many staple goods are much cheaper there as long as you will use them before they expire. My wife and I eat pretty well, and normally spend $3-400 on groceries and $4-500 on eating out with friends/bar tabs per month.
With 2 dogs, it may be easier to find a small house than a condo or apartment. Most condos and apartments have strict limits on pets.
I still do some remote consulting and internet speeds are OK if you get the fastest you can find here. We have a 50 mbps Broadband VI connection ($109 last month) and it's fast enough for me to work and for streaming tv service.
There are a number of positions available here (mostly hospitality), but most employers want to see you in person - a lot of people call about jobs and then never show up. Depending on your experience, you could probably search for something like 'freelance excel opportunities online' and use one or more services to get started if you don't find anything locally.
If you own your current home, you might want to consider leasing it out for a year to make sure the job here works out.
If your husband's job comes with health insurance, you should be in good shape. Most people get some sort of medical evacuation insurance in case they need something that's not available on the island. Your doctor may have to approve it, but it covers transport to another location (like Miami) where services are more readily available.
Life in the Islands is like a big scavenger hunt much of the time - relax and enjoy the game!
Everyone here has provided such amazing advice and feedback. For that, thank you!
We were fortunate to find a Northside home with solar that accepts our dogs. They’ve received their final vaccinations and vet approval. Our moving company arrives Monday, and our flight takes off the 28th. We decided to sell most our belongings simply because the housing market hosted a bunch of buyers paying cash for our furnishings, but we are bringing a 20ft container of things to furnish the home.
We are also shipping our vehicle. Fortunately my husbands new job took care of the relocation, so it was one less thing to coordinate.
I didn’t expect for things to progress as quickly as they did, but as the time nears I find myself less worried about the “what if’s” and more excited about them.
Thank you again for all those who responded!
Congratulations and good luck with the move!
And today I accepted a job in my current stateside field! Thank y’all again, not even there yet and it’s already feeling more and more like home.