St. John? Where is that? Oh, the Virgin Islands. Well, let’s get out the atlas. My journey to the small island in the Caribbean began with questions and lots of research. My story is a little different than most because I didn’t search out the Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands searched me out. My girlfriend, had done a job search on the internet and a company was hiring chefs for fine dining. As a kitchen manager and executive chef of a “dinner club” on a lake in Minnesota, I was looking for a change of pace. I was bored at my job. I asked my girlfriend if she was “up” for such a change. She sounded excited about the possibility. So I send my resume and next thing I know I am in the process of looking at flight times.
After finding a replacement for my job, I got a call by another person, Chad, who was interested in my former position. I told him the position was filled. He was excited for me because he had lived on St. Thomas a few years ago. I told him that the company was looking for other chefs. Next thing I know, Chad is on the plane with me to St. Thomas and eventually St. John. (My girlfriend decided to finish school and join me in January.)
After a long and delayed flight, Chad and I arrive on the dock of Cruz Bay around 10:30pm. The director of personnel greeted us and took us to our temporary housing. The bugs, frogs and other critters making all sorts of noises keep me awake all night. The weather was sticky and hot to me. I guess September is the worse month for weather on St. John because of the humidity, heat, and hurricane season. So there I was laying in my bed, in a new world, wondering and dreaming what life was going to bring me on my adventure. What was different? EVERYTHING!
People are nice. We drive on the left side of the road. Fresh water is like gold. Normal things that I took for granted were “extras.” Services like cable, internet, phone lines, and even power are not always included in a place of residence on St. John. Heck, paved roads are definitely a plus. It is ok to hitchhike on St. John. Point your finger out and hop in back if they stop. The catch is that if you get a vehicle, you must pass on the good karma. Hitchhiking is more reliable than the bus. I had been left on the other side of the island, Coral Bay, a few times because the bus never showed. That is why people say they are on island time. Some things happen that slow your schedule down and there is nothing you can do about it. For example, a water truck is delivering water to a neighbor on your road. If he blocks your one way road, you wait until he is done and moves. If the line is long at your bank on Friday, you wait. If you don’t, you go without. Maybe that is why you learn to be more forgiving with time and be more laid back. If you don’t, you go crazy.
There is a price you pay for living here. You live in a postcard, down here. Everyone dreams about living in a place where the weather is like this all year and the water is clear and warm. St. John has beaches rated as some of the best in the world. The snorkeling and diving is wonderful. I can’t imagine it being much better anywhere. On the flip side, I know how many hoops you jump through to buy and insure a vehicle. So, let’s weigh the good and bad.
You have a place that everything you want to do will take more time (building a house, getting services, waiting in lines). You also will pay much more to live here and get paid much less than in most places in the states. In contrast, you have one of the most beautiful places in the world to live. Blue sky, clear water, and soft sand are here every day to enjoy. (maybe one or two days it rains all day but rain is welcomed!!!!!) There is also some of the most beautiful underwater life that you can imagine. (I love scuba!) You also have a close knit community on St. John where everyone knows everyone and the days melt into years.
The move here definitely took some adjustments but I think I like it here. I still appreciate the occasional iguana scrambling across the road, although, I miss driving 80 in my convertible with the top down. You don’t use fifth gear on St. John. If you get to fourth, you might be going a little fast. St. John is for people looking for a slower pace. And if you feel the need for the big city, St. Thomas is a fifteen minute ferry ride away. If you can’t live without the Subways, McDonald’s, and Dominoes; St. John is not for you. We have no stoplights and we shun corporate structure. We are rebels and pacifists. Maybe all the hippies didn’t die, they just moved to the VI.
I wish you luck on your venture to the USVI and hopefully you can visit our nice island, if not stay a while longer. The St. John anthem is: “We are all here because we aren’t all there.” When I first got here, I didn’t understand it. Now, I do.