BootsnAll Travel Network



Virgin Islands the Steverspective

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Since I have a week left at work and then a free month of rent, I guess I will use the time to practice my blogging skills by writing about my current home. The good thing is that I am lucky enough to live in a place where people go to have an adventure and write their blogs about.

The US Virgin Islands are made up of 3 main islands: St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John, as well as 50+ small cays. The population consists of a mixture of Native Islanders (African descent), US mainland expats, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Danish, French, and one Japanese guy from Fresno. To find us on the map we are located half way between Florida and Venezuela/South America. We are just east of Puerto Rico. That is about as much general geography that I can muster. I sucked at Geography so I rely on visiting everywhere to see for myself.

Now for some Steveography.

I moved to St. Thomas at the end of May 2004. After spending almost three years in Key West, I needed a change of pace so I moved to another island. Smart huh. Actually, there was a huge demand for pencils in St. Thomas that was not being met so the company sent me there to increase the average pencils per household.

Luckily for me, I get to cheat a little and insert a link to a write up I did for a website involving my move. If your new to these types of blogs, click on the ?move? in the prior sentence and it should direct you to my article.

Now that was easy. Maybe I can create a whole blog that is made up of links to other peoples information on places that I visit. Oh wait, that would be the ?Old Steve (lie, cheat, and manipulate).? Okay, moving on.

Now there are no hard truths about island life versus ?real life.? What I have learned about this discussion is that there is no set facts because it is totally dependent on the other persons perspective. What I see can be totally different than what someone else does. With that in mind I have come to a resolution. The perspective that we will use is the person who has the log in and password to this blog. Now that was easy.

Island life.

Whether it be Hawaii, Key West, or St. Thomas, the best correlation I can give is to that of a small town. Make that a small town in some rural area. The reason being is that these islands are often times physically smaller than good old small town USA. The only real difference being that on an island, the cities boundary will in fact drown you. .

Who moves to the island. There are a ton of reasons for moving to the islands. I can tell you one main reason that seems to be a common thread, is to move to the farthest reaches as possible from someone or something. Everyone has a story. I?ll leave it at that. The positive effect of being on an island of outcasts is that the mentality is truly different. Again, a whole new can of worms that I won?t get into here. So, if you just don?t fit in where you are, or your world has crumbled, come on down to the islands, refresh your batteries, and see the world in a whole new perspective. Trust me you won?t be judged because your peers will be as looney as you. Island humor.

Real life St. Thomas. Each of the islands that I have lived are actually quite different so this will be more focused on St. Thomas. Now St. Thomas is one of the move visited Ports of Call for cruise ships in the world. If you?ve been on a few cruises, you most likely have stopped here at least once. Well, that is not real life St. Thomas. The 10 hour stopper or even the vacationer who never steps foot out of the all-inclusive resort never gets a chance to see St. Thomas. Here is just a little bit of Stevespective. Maybe I will limit it to some of the more unique aspects.

We don?t have running water. Whattttt no water. What I mean is no piped in water. Most of the homes utilize a system of catching and storing rain water in cisterns. Basically, a huge barrel holds the water that has run off the roof. During times of low rain, we have to buy water and have a water tanker fill up the cistern. We do have electricity and phone lines, but that water thing is definitely different. I thought the outside showers in Key West was weird.

We drive on the left side of the road. The cars are all left hand steering, but we just drive on the left. Basically, the island was bought and sold a few times from different countries before the US got a hold of it so that part never got americanized.

The native islanders speak English. Now its not main stream English, but it is English. There are different dialects that have meshed together throughout the years so it is definitely not proper English. The closest that I can relate it to is speaking with a lot of slang. It takes a bit to get used to, but its gone over my head more than once.

There are some world class beaches here, although over run by tourists, but with the exception of the handful of beaches, there is not a lot of access to the water. Where Key West is pretty much a flat piece of land not rising more that a yard or two above sea level, St. Thomas is much more mountainous/jungle. Most of the island has rocky cliffs that drop off into the ocean. My ears actually pop every time I come down the hill. Key West on the other hand actually has no real beaches. The few that are there are actually man-made and would rate very low on the beach scale unless one of the judges is from a farm community in Kansas who has never seen the ocean.

Activities rate low on the fun scale when you take away the beach/ocean activities. As much as every little town would like to think they are main stream, they are not. It?s pretty much a boring small town atmosphere with the occasional 5000 tourists dropping by for ten hours. Not too much in regards to cultural activities, not withstanding the local culture. If you take away the booze aspect, St. Thomas is actually a very big snoozer. After 10 pm with the exception of a couple of clubs, this place shuts down.

Cost of living. Naturally since you are paying for the view housing costs more than average. It?s definitely more than average when you take into consideration the quality of the houses. I hear that finding good contractors and workers can be very tough. Factor that in to material availability and the fact that most houses are built on the sides of mountains, (mi casa,) the quality that I have seen are somewhat poor. Definitely would not hold its value if placed on the mainland. Beyond that, with an exception of a few food items, everything else is fairly equal. In fact, it might be even cheaper when you take into consideration the moderate temperatures year round. Shorts and t-shirts are the only necessity in this climate. No need for fancy dancy duds or that whole fall wardrobe. Although, the dress here is more on the conservative level, long pants and shirt, no super casual wear. Just that and the cost savings in air conditioning and heating would offset any extra housing expense. Salaries are much lower here than in the states so the work force gets pretty much screwed, so I guess that is the offset to the wardrobe thing. Supposedly St. Thomas has one of the largest differences between cost of living and salaries. Since I am not a big drinker/partyer, I pretty much banked a crap load of cash while here. My entire expenses for the month was only 25% of my salary. That is a big reason why I feel comfortable taking a year off without going broke.

Work. Work is work is work. In big towns and small towns. If someone has to pay you to do something, then it is work. Just because you can see the ocean from your house, doesn?t mean the bills stop coming. Just like anywhere, if you want to play you gotta pay. What I do warn people though is that moving to these exotic places does remove the safety net that a lot of people take for granted. Mom, Dad, relatives, friends, are no longer next door. It?s a 4 hour $500 flight away at the minimum. You make a mistake here and it truly can be life changing. If you read my other write up on my move to St. Thomas, you will see that it is not cheap and you aren?t going to even survive the first month without a good plan and financing.

Creatures. Bugs, lizards, fish, spiders, roaches, iguanas, chickens, a few snakes (non-poisonous), and pretty much your usual jungle creatures. No monkeys though, now that would be cool. They even have deer here. I get along fine with all the above. The only negative are mosquitos. There are a few here. Follow the basic rules and its not a big deal, but they still annoy the hell out of me. Again read my other post to see my war on those bastards.

Food. Not the best choices in the world. You have 5-star priced restaurants and you have the hole in the wall places (and Mc Donald?s of course, there are three.) The problem is that there is not much in between. Selection is not that great because of above so unless you have a $100 a day food budget, the food scores pretty low. I live on Mc Donald?s (sushi wrapped Big Mac remember) so its not a big deal for me. On my off days Sprite and butter (inside joke to those who know me. That tends to be the only thing that I have in my refrigerator.) Now in regards to exotic fruits, oh yea. This place is awesome. Just visit any of the roadside stands for produce picked right off the vine/tree. Just to get an idea of what is available, just in my front yard I have mangoes (hybrid and local), lemons, limes, bananas, almonds, and avocadoes. There are a ton of other types of exotic fruit available but I have yet to try all of them. Mangoes are just starting and hopefully I will get to catch the early part of the season. Avocadoes and mangoes, I could live off of just those (with the occassional Big Mac of course.)

Fishing. I throw that in because it is one of my salvations in life. That single hobby got me through three years of hell in Kansas (sorry Kansas but you gotta admit.) Fishing kind or correlates to the food topic. If you have the cash to charter a big boat to take you out chasing Marlin, you will rank the VI as tops. Now if you are like the other 99% of this world, the fishing sucks because there is very little access. Like I reported before, there are very few beaches and those tend to be packed with tourists. The other areas are not very conducive to good fishing environments. Now Key West kicks the VI?s ass. If this one fact had been known before, I might have never moved here. Luckily in Key West one of my managers husband (Captain Carl- LooneyTunes) was one of the top charter captains in the Keys. He taught me the ropes of fishing for big stuff. Now I am no slacker when it comes to fishing because my parents taught me well as I grew up, but blue water fishing is completely different. The fish I used to catch before we would use for bait to catch the bait that we would use to catch the big fish. I learned enough to rank myself as a half of a half of a first mate. I even got offered tips when I would mate for him on some of his charters. Since I am vacationing this last week of work I have done a bit of fishing. I found a cool little spot that has a bunch or 24-30″ snook. Just have to figure out what they are feeding on. In Key West, my secret spot I would catch 3-5′ Tarpon off the bank. Now that kicks ass.

Island hopping. There are about 5 or 6 islands that are convenient enough that you can take a ferry to. For the next month I hope to do a lot of island hopping. I will report those as I visit them.

Beyond that, no different that any other place. There are good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods. Good people and bad people. Just like everywhere else. The only real difference is the view. For a saying that I have adapted to fit the island life- “Life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what your going to get, (and here’s the Steve-a-phrase) but you know its going to be chocolate.” Since we are having a sale on Steve-a-phrases, you get two for the price of one. “Island living is like Mayberry but with a view.” You know Andy Griffith…. whatever.

For Mom- Whenever I think about fishing I remember that time when I was what maybe 4 or 5 and I fell into the creek. I floated along that creek until someone dragged me out. I don?t remember even being scared. Just thinking about how cool that was. The other memory was when you took me and Mike Noel out fishing to the Kings River and you made us plain hotdogs on white bread. We both thought that was the greatest food we ever had and we weren’t even stoned.



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