Sophomore Year

“We recognize your dogs from when we were here on vacation last year,” says a nice lady enjoying happy hour on Cruz Bay.

Really, I thought, from last YEAR? Have we been here long enough for vacationers who come annually to recognize us? That’s crazy!

Time flies, whether you’re living stateside or on a rock. The comment about our dogs, along with several other observations I’ve made recently, have lead me to the conclusion that my husband and I have officially transitioned into our sophomore year on St. John.

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Proof that we¬†Aren’t Freshmen Anymore:

1) We are busy working.

When we moved to St. John, the first couple of weeks were like a happy honeymoon. We felt like we were on a vacation that didn’t have to end. We had arrived during slow season, so the beaches were almost empty. We explored trails we’ve never hiked, we snorkeled beaches we’d never seen, and we visited nearby islands. It was unbelievably awesome…. For about two weeks.

Then reality quickly set in. We realized that we were pretty much hemorrhaging money. It’s not cheap to live on St. John. We didn’t have jobs, and many places were not yet hiring for the upcoming season.

Not only did we not want to tap into our hard-earned savings, but we truly wanted to be busier. Believe it or not, we craved structure, and more than structure, we wanted some spending money.

I can happily report that we both have stable jobs and we work at least five days a week, sometimes more. The good news is we still live on St. John, so on our days off we get to take advantage of all that this island has to offer. Having full-time jobs has made us appreciate our leisure time even more.

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2) We are busy socializing.

My work days tend to be shorter than my husband’s. After I finish work, I think about what I want to do for the rest of the day. This time last year, I had one good friend to call. I’m lucky enough to still have Tiffany, and in addition, I have several other island besties! And not only do I have fabulous girlfriends on St. John, my husband and I have awesome couple friends. Many of them even live in the same apartment complex!

If you know me, it will come as no surprise that my social network is absolutely critical to me. I am the opposite of a loner. I love spending quality time with people who inspire and motivate me. And I have a deep emotional need to feel connected to those around me. Sophomore year has meant feeling more connected with more people and thus, I feel happier and more content.

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sailing to BVIs

3) My hair is a different color.

I haven’t had professional color on my hair in many years. I have been doing my own touch ups with boxed color that my mom ships me from the states. While it’s certainly not glamorous to color your hair in your tiny island bathroom, it was cheap and did the trick.

Recently (maybe it was due to my last birthday), I’ve been feeling like I needed a little pick me up. As shallow as it may seem, my new highlights have made a huge difference in how I feel about my appearance. I’m still in my casual island attire and most days I don’t wear much makeup, but even island girls in our island clothes need to feel pretty. Getting¬†some professional help with my hair was a great use of my time and money!

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4) We’re buying a boat.

I know, I know. The two best days in a boater’s life are the day he buys the boat and the day he sells the boat. I was totally anti for the longest time. I am pretty conservative, and buying a boat kind of freaks me out. However, if we are ever going to own a boat, I feel like this is the time. I mean, we are literally surrounded by water. We would be silly not to take advantage of this opportunity, right?

I am most excited about getting Henry and Logan out on the water. There are so many places to explore near St. John, and we believe the boat will expand our horizons. Bon voyage to freshman year!

These boys need a boat!

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5) People are asking us for advice.

We are by no means experts on the art of island living. We barely know what we’re doing most days. But, guess who we know more than? The incoming freshman class!

I’ve had people contact me through the blog and people who follow my account on Instagram. It’s been fun to offer my humble advice as people prepare to leave “normal life” behind and venture to the Caribbean to start a new phase of their lives.

I’d like to think that I give them both a positive and a realistic look at what living on St John is like. And if they decide to take the plunge, I welcome them with open arms. I remember when we arrived, there were a couple of people who were so gracious and extended such a warm welcome to us, and I want to pay it forward and backward, you know? Karma is a wonderful thing.

Living on an island has taught me many lessons. I know that staying busy is critical to my mental health. Feeling like I look presentable (and maybe even pretty) makes me happy. Of all the lessons, by far the most important is that wherever you go, your circle of friends can enhance your experience tremendously.

Year two is shaping up to be pretty great. Freshman year left me with no regrets, but I think sophomore year will blow last year away!

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Ashley Cates, St. John USVI Blogger

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