Why St. Croix? We didn't have to puzzle too hard over choosing St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. It's a U.S. territory (hence no immigration, work permit or property rights worries), it's English-speaking, it's affordable and it's a nonstop flight from the U.S. It also looks like that picture of Caribbean paradise -- swaying palm trees, a pale slice of beach, a blue wash of sea -- that decorates computer screensavers and cubicle walls nationwide. Compared to its sister Virgin Islands, St. Croix is less touristy than St. Thomas and more populated than St. John. We think it's just right.
Life of an Expat "We basically said, 'Let's go live there a year and evaluate it, then we can move back if it doesn't work out,'" says Anna Holley, who moved to St. Croix from Austin, Texas, with her husband, Carl. "We didn't have any kids, we were young and it was a year of our lives. I can think of a lot worse things to do with a year of my life." Now Anna and Carl, both 32, have lived on the island for nearly six years. "The first night in our condo I made a spaghetti dinner," says Anna. "A year later I made the same spaghetti dinner and we looked at each other and said, 'Do you want to stay? Yes!' A year goes by so quickly."
Anna and Carl started their lives on the island working at local resorts and restaurants. Soon they both found jobs more in line with their interests. Anna works as a producer for the website gotostcroix.com, which provides information about vacationing on or moving to the island. Carl bought a boat and started his own sport-fishing business, Fish with Carl. Two years after they moved to St. Croix, Anna knew it had all come together. "When I moved into the house that I live in now, I was painting the kitchen cabinets and it was Carl's first day taking tourists out fishing," says Anna. "I'm covered in paint and I look out the window and I see Carl's boat, the Mocko Jumbie, passing. Out of all the times for me to look out our window! I just started crying," she says. "I think that was the moment for me that I knew we were supposed to be here."
On November 30, 2006, Anna and Carl welcomed their daughter, Savanna Cay Holley, to the island life. "Starting a family here was not a concern for me," says Anna. "Savanna's outside 80 percent of the day, seeing the geckos, hummingbirds, chickens and horses that are on our property. She is going to say, 'I grew up in the Caribbean.' How horrible is that?" On the weekends, the Holley family likes to take mini road-trips across the island. "On the west side are the most beautiful beaches," Anna says. "They are what magazine layouts are made of. The water is so calm, so blue. The beaches are so white and sandy. This is our life -- it just happens to be on a beautiful island."
Anna's advice for others dreaming of this beautiful life on St. Croix, Virgin Islands: "You're never going to have enough money. You're never going to be prepared enough. Take a chance. It's not for everyone, but I say take a year and do it."
Facts of Life
- Climate: Tropical
- Population of St. Croix: 53,234
- Percentage "statesiders" (not born on St. Croix): about 15 percent
- Population of main towns, Christiansted and Frederiksted: 2,637 and 732
- House starting price: mid $100,000s
- Travel from U.S.: Nonstop flights available, or connect through Miami, Puerto Rico or St. Thomas.
- Closest hospital: Christiansted
- Price of a local beer: $3 for a pint of Blackbeard Ale at St. Croix's Fort Christian Brew Pub.
- Language: English
- Ease of immigration: Easy
- Ease of buying a home: Easy
- Website: usvitourism.vi
- $ Three-bedroom, two-bath Caribbean house with new ceramic-tile floors and front porch: $165,000.
- $$ Three-bedroom, 2,700-square-foot estate with exposed-beam ceilings and new covered patio: $398,500.
- $$$ Five-bedroom, new hilltop home with the use of a golf course and yacht club, cathedral ceilings, two-person spa bathtub and serene swimming pool: $1.2 million.