While the husband and I are not cool enough to drop our lives and careers in order to travel the world, what we are able to do is plan for retirement within the next ten years before either of us hits 50. We are kidless with government pensions. No, we didn’t travel 50 countries in 2 years while in our twenties, but what we are doing is traveling internationally at least two to three times a year and experiencing the wonders of other cultures while we keep our thriving careers. All while saving for retirement with the intention of NEVER returning to work again. Part of this plan includes deciding where to live permanently.
Hubs wants to live on a tropical island. I thought of Sr. Croix, United States Virgin Islands. US citizens, an international airport, a larger island with more benefits to offer, consistent temperatures, beaches, and beautiful scenery. Why the hell not give it a look?
Additionally, blame whomever becomes the president on us in the future… oh wait, you can’t. Living in St. Croix, we would get the benefits of being US citizens, EXCEPT that we aren’t permitted to vote for president ever again. Yeah yeah yeah… I should want to vote, it’s my responsibility… my goal is to be too distracted living my life and traveling to let my life be controlled by politics. All while also avoiding the usual crime and terrorism aspects typically associated with normal, large US cities. WIN. Anyway, back to St. Croix.
There was a lot to consider on this two week escape from the Virginia cold of February. Was there enough to keep us entertained? Were the food products too inaccessible, or could we manage without certain items we were accustomed to? Would we be able to meet like-minded people (aka. kidless, dog lovers with a crazy sense of adventure)? Can we afford it? Will hurricanes be the death of us? I could definitely keep going, but I’ll keep the boring retirement-related survey to a minimum. Anywho….
We flew into St. Croix via private jet (a side note later). The island looked gorgeous from above, however, upon landing, we drove through the more impoverished and less rebuilt side of the island, giving us our poor first impression. We also visited a grocery store that lacked many normal items we’ve been used to in the States. Who doesn’t have fresh fish when the aforementioned fish are steps away?!?!
That short tangent out of the way, we embarked on the journey to our rental home.
One drives on the opposite side of the road (NOT the opposite side of the car, like Ireland) while in St. Croix. Far easier to adapt to! After picking up our midsized rental SUV, we loaded it up with our bags, and headed for our two week home away from home.
Roads did leave a lot to be desired, as potholes and unpaved roads are pervasive. However, contrary to what I read prior to our arrival, one did NOT need an off road vehicle in order to get around. Most roads, that is. Hubs and I decided to try taking a detour on the way home one afternoon. Even an SUV couldn’t successfully navigate the water-ravaged dirt roads. I failed at maneuvering over the steep, jagged road, so Hubs tried his hand… that resulted in an almost overturned rental car. Time to reverse down the road to safety! Never fear… the “main” road our house was off of, was being repaved right that moment. Easy-peasy! Hubs’ preferred (and owned) vehicular device is a pick up truck. That would definitely make some roads easier to navigate sans injury. Yippee!
As mentioned before, the western side of the island (Frederiksted) was dirtier, more destruction from the hurricanes was still visible (two years later), and research told us crime was more prevalent. It was obvious that side of the island was lacking the same funding being shoveled into the eastern portion (Christiansted). Unfortunately, we did not visit the Christiansted side of the island for several days. Additionally, we were saddled with a house that left a lot to be desired. Thus, the initial poor impression. Time to overcome!
Our first impression of the western side included the initial decay post-hurricane, a lacking grocery store, less-than-great road conditions, a lack of road signs, angry looking locals, and exhaustion. Can we really retire to this island, and call it our permanent home? We have two weeks, we’ll certainly give it a shot.
I can happily confirm that we discovered multiple pulls and benefits before that two week period ever concluded… The climate, the splendid landscape, the laid back atmosphere, the congenial people, the (shocking) accessibility of goods, and the sheer relaxation we felt while residing there.
Starting with the climate… mid to low 80s year round as highs. The lows provided cool evenings with a phenomenal breeze. Screw you, snow… beach wins every time! I don’t care how majestic you can be. That’s what travel is for! I can visit snowy places for a week at a time without shoveling. Yes, St. Croix does suffer from the devastating effects of hurricanes. We saw house after house with little hurricane damage, as well as house after house WITH hurricane damage. Lesson being: Build or buy a house that is “hurricane proof.” Concrete, rebar, solar panels, generator, cistern, battery back-up, and just generally solid building can accomplish this. No, nothing is guaranteed, but a multitude of people survived on the island without simple pleasures, but also did not suffer full loss of power. And natural disasters can happen literally anywhere.
Next, the landscape… beautiful, blue waters framed by lush, green landscape. No, the water may not be as enchanting as those in the Maldives, but they are a close second. Views leave little to be desired. I found myself enchanted by views every evening.
Another added bonus with regards to landscape… St. Croix (and the US Virgin Islands in general) has a higher elevation than many other islands in the Caribbean. Not only does that protect against the damaging effects of hurricanes, but it allows for hiking! While his mom and her friend lounged on a beach one afternoon, we took the opportunity to hike from the shuttered resort to Annaly Bay Tidal Pools. The trail, after we finally found the hidden sucker, was wet and slippery until the rain stopped. I should have chosen proper footwear for the endeavor. Unfortunately, we arrived right at high tide, and were not able to scramble up and over the jagged rocks to get into the pools, but it was still a unique beach – not sandy, but strewn with rocks.
More on the landscape… BEACHES!!! First, Rainbow beach on the west side of the island. There is a bar/restaurant and white, sandy shoreline.
However, Rainbow Beach pales in comparison to Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge. The beaches along the southwest portion of the island were absolutely exquisite. We accidentally chose the less populated part of the beach, which included rougher waters, but a pristine beach. Hubs and I strolled around the corner and discovered paradise. The beach was large with calmer waters. All of it was a brilliant turquoise.
Last bit related to landscape… The eastern most point of the United States lies in St. Croix… Point Udall. A sundial juts up from the ground, known as Millennium Monument.
And…………. handstands around the island!!!
Third, the laid back atmosphere… nothing moves quickly in St. Croix, and everyone seemed genuinely relaxed and happy. If I’m retired, I certainly don’t care if things move at a slower pace. In fact, it will be a nice change. This goes hand-in-hand with the congenial people…
EVERYONE says hello. One is considered rude if they don’t either say “good morning” or “good afternoon” or “good evening.” The south is reborn! Not a lot of good comes out of the south, but hospitality is one of those things the south certainly does right. I knew my neighbors, I smiled at random strangers on the street, and I was likely to start up a conversation with anyone I met on an elevator. That same mentality was prevalent throughout St. Croix. Brilliant!!!
Another added bonus as it relates to the type of people residing on St. Croix was obvious in the people and couples we met. We bumped into a couple at the distillery (totally should have mentioned the distillery earlier). They were our age (non-millennials with life experience), without kids, and rescued dogs for fun. Pit Bulls to say the least! We chatted about how our friends and family constantly inquired as to when we were going to start procreating (the answer is never), and sharing stories about our rescued Pitties. Our realtor (yup, we even perused some properties while there), was part of another kidless couple. She also prefers dogs over people. Even better yet, the other realtor we spoke with had a husband working for the federal government, they lacked mini-me’s, liked four legged fur buddies over humans, and also enjoyed partaking of active adventures. I’m liking this place more and more!
Also…. Street chickens EVERYWHERE!!!
Since I brought up the distillery… Cruzan Rum. The distillery was founded in 1760 and is located in Fredericksted. Some exceptionally friendly people gave us a tour of the facility, including a chance to stick our fingers in cascading molasses. Our neon clad guide escorted us through the many processes going on throughout, and explained Cruzan’s unique way of manufacturing the tasty adult beverage. Every bottle of rum bearing the Cruzan name is made on the island, but some is shipped to the States for bottling.
And who would not partake in a tasting while there! Cruzan has developed a hue range of cocktails using their different rums… how on earth can I choose just three?! We made sure to purchase the rums that would allow us to make these delightful cocktails at home (both our temporary home on St. Croix AND back in the continental United States). It made for an interesting bag checking experience, as the large bottles took up a majority of the weight limit. Let’s just say, we have to relieve ourselves of a few things in order to not pay an overage fee. Oops.
Hubs matched our awesome guide unintentionally. And handstand!
We were concerned accessibility would be a huge hurtle to get over, but we were never found wanting something that was nowhere to be found (or at least some alternative). Grocery stores did have a limited supply, and limited options, but if you were looking for an item, you could generally find some brand of it. Except Bisquik… Sandy went ape shit when she could not find Biquik, specifically. Food items were more expensive, even more so than the DC area in some cases, but most were not out of the question.
On that same note, we were befuddled at the lack of fresh fish in the supermarkets. One was able to easily obtain frozen options of the gilled creatures, but fresh was hard to come by. We assumed we would have to pay a visit to an unknown local spot fisherman frequent. Not having easy access to a wide range of fresh meat was something we would have to get accustomed to, but the fact that everything was available frozen (from chicken, to salmon, to beef, and even some more obscured items) proved helpful.
The island also had no shortage of tasty restaurants. Cafe Fresco’s, in downtown Christiansted, had some extremely delectable sustenance for lunch. Be prepared for some SLOW service. Even when the little cafe is not that bustling, it still takes some time to get your food.
After some internet searching, we discovered the nearby Flyers in Salt River Marina – nice and close to our rental home. They had some fantastic fresh seafood, and common laid back atmosphere.
A FEW MORE DETAILS…
Since I forgot to mention much about our accommodations earlier… Our rental home, Sassy’s View, was perched on the side of a hill with a phenomenal view. The brightly colored, salmon house was basically a split level with the main kitchen and two bedrooms on one side of a set of stairs, and another bedroom and smaller living area with a tiny kitchen on the other side. A large deck and a chilly saltwater pool (common due to the easy care), took advantage of the great view. An upper deck took advantage of the late afternoon sun. I spent many a days reading on that deck. It had one of the most precarious driveways I have ever encountered. The vehicle oftentimes slid down the hill on the crumbling asphalt. If the driver lost control, it was through the top floor of the home and straight down the steep hill!
Given my fitness nuttiness, I brought along my Insanity DVDs in order to work out while there. Those were some of the hottest, sweatiest workouts I have ever completed. Since our rental house lacked AC except in the bedrooms (which we were instructed to only use at night), we relied on ceiling fans to keep the home cool during the day. Thanks to the breezes, it normally was quite comfortable. This is VERY common in Caribbean homes. The frigid pool was phenomenal for a speedy cool down! Which was about the only time anyone used the freezing cold saltwater pool.
We spent February relaxed, tan and rested. The evenings were marked by cool breezes sweeping through our side of the house while we sat on the deck watching the sun set. And obviously a lot of card playing and partaking in adult beverages (typically, Cruzan Rum of various different flavors) after dinner. Is it time to retire yet?
We departed St. Croix on a private jet, just the way we came in because Hubs’ mom refuses to fly any way but private. While I certainly was not going to complain about the comfortable accommodations, swiveling seats, well stocked bar (to include snacks and booze), I am sure I could never bring myself to spend $17,000 on a one way flight. Also, in the aftermath of September 11th, I have not seen a cockpit except briefly while exiting the plane. We chatted with our pilots face-to-face throughout the flight! The multi-taskers even served as our stewards, asking about the temperature, and showing us were the goodies were hidden. It was a bit surreal.
How Hubs’ mom’s dog, Hershey, prefers sitting during a flight… or a car ride…
Private jets at their finest.