Be honest. The thought of just packing up and moving to an island sounds pretty amazing. Work can be a drag. It gets cold, even in the South, during the winter months. Sometimes the grind of real life can be too much to bear. Day in and day out, it’s a constant pressure to keep up with the Joneses, to get that next promotion, to make more money, to save more money, to buy a bigger house and a nicer car, to have a baby, to have another baby. It never stops. Change- even the thought of change- can be exhilarating when you’ve had enough.
When you’re in that grind and you have the opportunity to escape for a vacation to your destination of choice, you get a glimpse at what life could be like. You envision yourself on the beach in a sarong, sipping a rum drink, drifting off to a place where it’s always sunny and money doesn’t matter. After all, all you really need is love and the ocean, right? You realize that the comfort zone of your life back home perhaps really isn’t all that comfortable after all. So maybe after a week away, you decide it’s time to throw caution to the wind, quit your job, and move your family to the Caribbean.
Fast forward to your arrival in paradise. You made it. You’re tired from all the activities that lead up to this moment. But you’re running on adrenaline. You’re ready to start your new life. It’s going to be a piece of cake to make a fresh start. Or is it? Here are a few things to remember when it’s time to get up and running in paradise.
THE HEAT. It’s hot as HELL. We strategically selected October as our move date, thinking that we’d outsmart mother nature and miss out on the excruciating heat of July thru September. WRONG! Multiple people have told us that October is actually the muggiest time of the year. Where are these trade winds that I kept hearing about? Well, apparently, the winds are changing direction, or something like that… I don’t know. I was probably wiping sweat and swatting mosquitoes while they were explaining it to me.
ANGRY ATTACKERS. The mosquitoes may drive you insane or nearly kill you. Statistically I’m not sure it’s even possible that I’ll be able to avoid Chikungunya. These tiny blood-sucking critters love me. I am armed with OFF Deep Woods and my zapper, but they will find me. The will attack at every moment when I’m least expecting it. If I get Chikungunya I fear I’ll be laid up in bed for weeks or months sweating while I try to recover.
LIMITED SELECTION. Maybe you want a lovely coffee drink in the morning. Maybe you are trying to be dairy-free. Maybe you don’t do artificial sweeteners but you just can’t drink your coffee black. Maybe you like organic coffee. OK, maybe I’m the one with the problem, but if you are set in a routine of going to Starbucks or better yet, a lovely local organic shop where you can access exactly what you need- coffee or groceries- be ready to make some sacrifices. And not just in the latte line… You’ll find that you may have to visit three or four markets only to find that they don’t sell organic chicken or the unsweetened almond milk you like.
LIMITED QUANTITY. Let’s just say that you find a place that actually DOES carry some of the products you need. You better get a plan to meet the delivery truck in the parking lot. Because what was there last time you visited probably won’t be there next time. And that will really disappoint you after you’ve spent $20 on a bag of good coffee, $20 on local honey, and you can’t find a creamer substitute that is acceptable. Or another scenario may be that after three stops and a much anticipated delivery from vitacost.com, you have your chips, a tomato, an avocado, and some seasoning mix, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t find any cheese you are willing to eat or salsa that is less than $9 a jar. And it’s not even the kind you want! The organic chicken you bought three days ago- $15 for three small pieces- isn’t available anymore and the cheap chicken looks like it was only ever fed hormones because it is enormous. Ugh, so much for the healthy nachos you planned to make at home. Better just call in a pizza at this point and pretend the ingredients on it are organic.
The limited selection AND limited quantity of quality fruits and vegetables is probably what worries me the most. I wish I didn’t know that vine-ripened mattered. I wish I didn’t know that antioxidants are the only way to combat disease and the aging process. It isn’t easy to eat right and stay healthy, but I have a plan.
The good news is that I eat Juice Plus, a super simple- and very affordable- way to add vine-ripened fruits and vegetables to my diet. I am making healthy shakes and eating nutient-packed bars. It’s a lot better than anything else I can find to put in my body. Click here to learn more.
THE JOB MARKET. It’s different here on St. John. There are people with advanced degrees working as bartenders and entrepreneurs working at anything they want to do here. On one hand, it’s incredibly inspiring. You make your own way. The possibilities are endless. On the other hand, the possibilities are endless, so it’s hard to figure out what it is you have moved here to do. It’s liberating to have choices, but it takes money to survive, so that’s a catch 22 of sorts.
THE PACE. Something tells me that if you were a Type A, task-oriented, list-making machine on the mainland, you may be super appreciative of the laid back nature of the island while on vacation. Once you’re a resident, the “no problem mon” attitude may be an adjustment. You may want your insurance policy yesterday, and two weeks later you’re still waiting on the underwriters. Maybe you decide, like my husband, that you do want a job working for an established company (see #5). The time that lapses between emails and replies may be surprising. In the states, we text, call, “ping” each other inner office, and email expecting instant responses. And if someone doesn’t immediately get back to us, we are frustrated and assume they’ve checked out for the day… Well, assume whatever you want, people on an island are on island time, and you’ll get a response when you get a response.
TRANSPORTATION. Do you have a car at home? I’m assuming the answer is yes if you’re over 16. Do you share a car with another adult? I’m assuming the answer is no if you’re over 30. We have one car on St John, and we feel really blessed to have it. The temperature (see #1) is not such that you’d want to walk everywhere. The hills are brutal. Sweating profusely is inevitable. Sometimes the best air I have ever felt in my life is coming out of the vents in my car. A car may or may not matter to you, but after not having to worry about transportation for the past 18 years, I’ll just say it’s different.
ACCOMMODATIONS. If your first time staying outside of a luxury resort is when you officially move, you may be in for a surprise. Actually, you may be in for a lot of surprises. Unless money isn’t a concern at all, you probably are not going to want to turn on your air. That is, if you even have the option of using AC. We have a window unit and a unit on the wall in our kitchen, but we’ve heard so many horror stories about the cost of running them, we’ve tried to be very conservative and keep them off. Therefore, we are hot. Ongoing theme, I’m sorry. Aside from AC or lack thereof, you may not be sleeping on a Heavenly Bed. You may be on a full size bed that hurts your back. You may have to share a bathroom. Your kitchen may also be your living room. Your stove may only have two burners that work. You may not have an ice maker. You may not have a dishwasher. You may not have a clothes dryer. You may not have a place to hang your wet or dry clothes because your wife took all the hangers and the only chest of drawers available. (But enough about Shaun’s situation!)
You may not have cable, or a TV for that matter. You may have spiders and crawling bugs (and those are the ones you’ll learn to like). You may find that your fan is like an oxygen tank that you move around with you constantly to avoid disease (see #2).
What I’m saying is this- whether your reality is Starbucks lattes on your way to the office where you absolutely kill it before heading home to prepare an amazing meal full of organic awesomeness and then watch hi-def cable TV by the fire… or whether you sweat it out in your island home with your mosquito zapper nearby praying the Christmas winds you keep hearing about will make themselves known… either way, your life is YOUR life. You have a purpose in this world that is uniquely yours. Embrace each day and appreciate what you have. The tradewinds will eventually come and you may get your chance to take that huge leap of faith. If so, just don’t say I didn’t warn you about the trade-offs.
Ashley Cates, St. John USVI blogger.