Six years ago my husband and I packed up our little family of three to move to the Virgin Islands. I am often asked by people what living here is really like, they often add why they would or wouldn’t be able to live in the tropics. Living here is so many of the things you might dream it to be and many of the things you wouldn’t. This place is breathtakingly beautiful, the water turquoise, the sand white. It is small and safe. It’s definitely a paradise, and yet there are times when paradise is lost on us. Many of the pros to island living can at times be the very cons (spoiler alert: the pros are pretty awesome!). Five that I have reflected on during my six plus years living here follow.
The Pros and Cons of Island Living
Pros: First of all it is community that can make or break it for me, be it University days, my early career in Toronto or living in the middle of the ocean. I have met the most incredible people, beautiful people born on the islands and many from varied nations that make up our rich ex-pat community. The ex-pats are particularly special to me as we are all in the same boat, so to speak, in that we are looking for community which makes us available on Christmas or Easter, a brunch or a barbecue as we don’t have family on the Island. We become that for each other: celebrators, listening ears and extra hands. We are Island Family.
Cons: It is a very transient place for ex-pats so you are always saying a heart wrenching farewell to one or more of these Island family members. And of course, we all miss our families/friends back home. I know I do.
Pros: Sometimes I am left speechless by the view of the ocean displaying its stunning shades of turquoise. As a family we savour incredible beach gatherings, boat trips, surf, snorkel adventures and sand castles all year round. My kids run for miles on some of the most beautiful and often empty beaches in the world. On this hilly island you can see the ocean from almost every vantage point.
Cons: You don’t always take the opportunities to go. I often think “hey, we haven’t been to the beach in a while”, whereas I imagine my friends generally assume my days to include daily beach trips (and probably when enduring a snowstorm also resentfully picture me on a lounger with a Piña Colada in hand). But alas, I have a toddler and a school-aged child so the lounger is usually out. Sand everywhere all year round is also irritating. Like all good and readily available things you get used to them and take them for granted, not taking the opportunity to enjoy them enough.
Seasons & Christmas
Pros: The weather is usually amazing and sunny. I admit that although I do romanticize snow here, I don’t miss scraping off my car or standing on a subway platform with my teeth chattering.
Cons: Right now the temperature is currently “walk from house to car becoming drenched in sweat” hot. Also, it is also almost always too hot to cuddle and I love the act of being “cosy,” which we never experienced here. I now watch hurricane weather reports like a hawk in the late summer/early fall, and I miss fall leaves, spring freshness, wearing cute boots, winter sports and Christmas doesn’t look like Christmas here!
The Convenience and Pace
Pros: My commute is short, scenic and traffic is rarely if ever delayed. Although people have important and busy jobs many agree that the pace would be much more demanding in their home countries.
Cons: Things have to be shipped here so you have to wait and some things aren’t available. I have been to our large, local grocery store many times and been unable to buy basic ingredients like bananas, so all recipes must have some flexibility and viewed a little loosely. As for the pace, an overly relaxed one can be very frustrating as a customer at times. Enough said?
So there are ups and downs to wherever you live as “wherever you go, there you are.” Problems and struggles happen everywhere. It is always important to evaluate your focus and count your blessings. Living here has been a rich and wonderful experience.
Footnote: I am revealing this list in the summer so you can even bear to read my thoughts on missing snow.