Editor’s Note: Some of the information below may be out-of-date. St. John was heavily impacted by Hurricane Irma. Please visit usviupdate.com for updates.
You know that dream you have of quitting your job and moving to an island? (We can relate.) Here’s how to turn that dream into a reality. We asked an expat to answer the top questions about day-to-day life on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
What jobs can I find?
Anyone — from accountants to construction contractors — can find the work they did on the mainland. But they might quickly find themselves working more hours than intended or facing more stress than befits paradise.
“Stay open to possibility,” says St. John resident Nancy Stromp, a yoga instructor and founder of doyogastjohnvi.com, who has lived on the island for seven years. The former accountant found a position teaching yoga via a casual conversation with a senior staffer at Concordia Eco-Resort.
An open mind can lead to a new career as a boat captain, a bar owner or a real estate agent — whatever the island needs.
“Re-engineer yourself, and you can have a very easy, very successful life,” says Stromp, adding that the island could also push you to redefine success. What makes you happiest might not be slaving more hours, but working fewer to have enough bucks — and more time to fish, hike or stroll the beach. “That’s the balance you get here,” says Stromp. “There is no overkill when it comes to working.”
Where do I buy groceries?
The only fast food is what you pick in your backyard: bananas, papayas, coconuts, star fruit. Beyond that, meals require planning — sometimes weeks in advance when relying on the corner market to stock specialty items, such as Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes or stout beer.
“Calabash Market sells the craziest stuff because Ollie, the owner, brings in requests for everybody,” says Stromp. “When you see anchovy paste, you think, ‘Oh my goodness, I need this too!’”
While the corner store is a mishmash of specialty items, it also stocks milk, cheese and other pantry staples. For a true grocery run, take the 15-minute car ferry to Red Hook in St. Thomas. And when you do, you’ll collect friends’ shopping lists, picking up cases of La Croix water and bulk toilet paper — because, as is island culture, they’ll do the same for you.
How do I bring my pets to the island?
There is no quarantine for dogs or cats. A vet-issued health certificate, good for 10 days, is required, proving Fluffy is up to date on vaccinations. Paper in hand, you can fly your pet to the U.S. Virgin Islands just as you would between states.
What are the health care options?
The healthcare clinic on St. John treats small injuries only. For annual exams or anything major, take the ferry — or helicopter, depending on the emergency — to St. Thomas.
Will online retailers deliver?
“Amazon can be fickle,” says Stromp. She adds that some sellers will ship to the USVI, while some don’t. “To buy one guitar, I will add five to my cart, then delete the sellers who won’t ship to us in checkout,” she says. She also picks whichever vendor uses the U.S. Postal Service, whose prices are cheapest. “Or, I ask for delivery to my sister in Ohio, who repacks purchases into small boxes before sending.”
How do I move my belongings?
What is the average cost of a home?
All building materials — even concrete — have to be imported from St. Thomas. Homes must also be built to withstand wind speeds of 110 mph, and every dwelling is required to have a septic tank and cistern. These two items alone account for 10 percent of the total building cost, which drives starting prices to at least $300 per square foot.
What are the regulations to buy land?
You’re still on U.S. soil, so the real estate process is largely the same. The biggest difference is that an attorney, not a title company, handles the closing. Says Jane Kelly, Realtor with Islandia Real Estate, “It’s pretty much just a difference in wording on the contract.”