For three years I wrote blogs called “Living the Dream” that were reflections on moving from the Midwest to Southern California.
Island Life Is In The Genes
Island life isn’t for most people. In fact, Jerry and I have often said that we don’t know anyone (stateside), who would want to live here full time, like us.
My parents loved island vacations and the Caribbean and I had the benefit of many family vacations in the islands. My first trip, at 6, was to Bermuda and I was hooked on island life at an early age. My blog “Beansie Goes To Bermuda” shares some of that experience.
Fast forward to 2020 as I’m packing to move to St. Croix and I’m purging pictures along with a lot of other personal belongings. And I find this picture of my mom and dad. On the back it says “St. Croix March 1959:
While St. Maarten became their vacation island of choice for the next 30 years, it started in St. Croix in 1959.
I never thought I’d say: “I can’t wait to go to K-Mart.”
K-Mart is closing all stateside stores. There are only six remaining stores, two of which are on St. Croix.
We were looking to buy Grand Marnier and Dry Vermouth. Staples for any household, right? Not one grocery store had them. K-Mart had a full shelf of each. Go figure…
We have an Office Max, Home Depot and three Dollar Stores. Thank God for K-Mart.
These pictures are typical of the some of the roads here:
Driving On The Left
We drive on the left, unless you encounter a pothole. Then you drive wherever you want.
Most roads don’t have streetlights. So at night, you’re convinced you’re going to have a head on collision at every curve.
GPS may or may not work. For our first trip to the animal shelter, GPS had us driving in circles. Finally, Jerry said: “There’s a guy with a dog! Follow him!” And there it was!
Verbal or written direction are something like this: “turn at old blue house with the anchor in front” – except the house isn’t blue anymore and anchor is gone.
I think brake lights are optional here.
One more thing about driving in STX. It’s exhausting to be a passenger. When you’re not swerving side to side to miss potholes, you’re being jerked forward and back as you go over speed bumps. One would think that with as many potholes as there are, there’s no need for speed bumps …
Inconveniences And Frustrations
Jerry and I love living here. It’s quirky and a little eccentric, probably like us. We heard early on that the “people here aren’t all there.” Yup.
To love living here means being willing to put up with the inconveniences and frustrations of living on island time, all the time.
There’s a general lack of urgency for just about everything. Stateside practices, even if they are buzzwords and clichés like “exceeding customer expectations” or “continuous/process improvement” or “out-performing the competition” are foreign concepts or simply irrelevant here.
Inefficiencies and laissez-faire attitudes are pretty typical. The Crucians, (local residents,) are happy, joyful people and their work is not the most important thing in their life. They usually show up for work. But sometimes they don’t. Kind of reminds me of SoCal when the surf was good.
Inconveniences Are Everywhere…
As I write this, I think the pandemic has heightened inconveniences for most people, regardless of where you live. Postal service is slow – everywhere. There are supply chain issues, labor shortages, and shifting priorities between work and life – everywhere. We’re all buying more things online because stores have closed or items aren’t readily available. Restaurants have closed or hours have changed due to staff shortages. So some inconveniences of living on an island may not be that much different – just magnified in some ways.
Being A Minority
The population of St. Croix is 76% Afro-Caribbean.
While I can’t find the exact statistics, I’ve been told the government of the USVI is 100% Afro-Caribbean, which is understandable, given its history.
It’s important for stateside folks to understand the history of the island when they come here because it’s deeply embedded in the culture. While STX became a U.S. Territory in 1917, the island’s history goes back thousands of years. The slave trade grew under Danish rule for almost 200 years until an uprising in 1848 brought about full emancipation of the enslaved. Emancipation Day is celebrated on July 3 and many consider it more important than USA’s Independence Day on July 4. The governor recently proclaimed June 29 – July 2 as Freedom Week.
Many of the local people we’ve met studied in the U.S. and/or served in the military. So they are familiar with the ways of the USA and proudly returned to their roots. When I asked some of the young Crucian men why they left the States to return to STX, they said they felt “more freedom” here… which makes sense. Black Lives Matter is not a topic of discussion or concern here. These young men can move about and live without fear, unlike in the States.
A Life Of Beauty And Ease
What we love and get to enjoy every day is being surrounded by the beauty that soothes our souls: magical Caribbean seas that can mesmerize you with the changing colors; Flowering trees and plants that bloom all year round in multiple colors everywhere! Lush mountains in the rainforest.
There are plenty of hiking trails and pristine beaches open to everyone for off-shore snorkeling, scuba diving or fishing or just floating with a noodle. Not that we’ve done any of that!
Well, I did try scuba diving and it was a disaster. Imagine watching a couple of senior citizens caught in rip currents, swirling about, trying to get to shore. I was rolling around like a beached whale with a 30-pound tank on my back, tubes, vest, weights, mask, fins and God knows what else…as several people tried to come to my rescue.
After that embarrassing experience, we did, however, do what we do best – went to lunch – across the street and had a local Leatherback beer to calm our nerves and soothe our egos.
Jerry and I realized that we’re really good at eating good food and drinking good wine or beer and there are so many outstanding restaurants and rum and vodka distilleries here. We call ourselves “Luncheon-eers” and our goal is to try all of them!
No Man Is An Island
As we enter our second year of “island living” and home remodeling is complete, we’re getting into a groove of meeting more people.
We’ve all heard that “no man is an island” and that is especially true when you live on an island. We have found the Crucians to be gracious and engaging. We’ve experienced first-hand that they are ready to lend a helping hand, especially when we get lost or look like we’re lost, which seems like a regular occurrence!
Neighbors, friends and casual acquaintances generously offer ideas, resources and ways to enjoy life here and all that it has to offer.
Are you living in an environment that soothes your soul?
Is your community gracious or engaging in ways that make you happy?
Do you have the support you need to navigate life?
Isn’t that what life is about, regardless of where you live?
Marty Stanley is a national speaker and author who “walks the talk” on personal and organizational change. Contact Marty today for a complimentary consultation on how she can help you or your organization plan for and navigate change.
Curious about how two old people fell in love during a pandemic and moved to a tropical island? Check out these blogs for more behind-the-scenes thoughts and experiences: