I am Canadian through and through, but I lived in the British Virgin Islands for seven years with my husband and two children until moving back recently. From my house I saw the ocean, our weekends were spent at the beach, on the water, and temperature always hovered somewhere between perfect and ideal. I’m happy to be back for all four seasons, but our former life in the tropics defines ‘living the dream’ for those who don’t do winter and yet there are others like me – others who are looking for travel destinations for people who already live in paradise.
It’s not all sunscreen and margaritas when you live in the tropics. My days generally consisted of the same (sometimes) mundane tasks we all live with, whether it’s chilly or hot: bank and postal runs, school chauffeur, desk jockeying, and on and on. Living in paradise didn’t prevent me from wanting to run away for a vacation every once in a while.
When we first arrived in the BVIs, and after the unpacking was finished, I watched a cruise ship from my deck and thought, “How great would it be to be on vacation?!” It’s likely a few people watching me watch them thought, “How great would it be to live there?!” The grass is always greener on the other side of the deck rail. So where do people who live in the tropics go when they long for greener grass?
Travel Destinations for People Who Already Live in Paradise
Many ex-pats head home for the holidays. That means either where they grew up, where they have a family home, or where their future home will be once they’re no longer ex-pats. The sacrifice for many ex-pat families is being away from family and friends. Whether or not these visits home qualify as vacations is questionable though. It’s rarely home for a rest, as the vacation is more a whirlwind of visits.
There are two plans of attack when heading home: an impossible schedule of hopping from town to town, never knowing where you’re eating next; OR staying put in one place and having people come to you. While I subscribe to the latter, we often fell into the former. The plan that works best, however is organizing a big party at least once during the vacation so you don’t miss any favourite people. Don’t feel bad about turning down invitations for BBQs and weekend stays; you can’t be everywhere.
Many people in the islands shop online or visit the few, but nice stores locally, there isn’t a great diversity on the smaller islands that’s found on larger islands or the mainland. To make up for it, many people head to Miami or Puerto Rico for shopping trips. These trips happen throughout the year and especially on long weekends and school breaks. San Juan is favourite destination point from our old island and it’s still on the bucket list.
Hit the Slopes
For those who miss the snow — and these people do exist! — a ski trip during winter break is on the list. We always miss what we don’t have, and many ski and snow enthusiasts we know take the opportunity to head to Colorado, Quebec, and British Columbia for some time on the slopes.
The British Virgin Islands, like most of the Caribbean, is only a short flight to various other destinations in the Caribbean. Every island is so diverse – Sint Maartens/St. Martin with its dual countries and Dominica and its jungles, are top of the list. For others, it’s a cruise. We had friends who cruise every year and love having the ships to themselves while other passengers jump ship to explore the islands.
The beauty of living in the British Virgin Islands is that you can easily get off the island you live on and see others. Convenient ferry rides will take you to Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada for great day trips. The BVIs are also very close to the USVI and it’s easy to get to St. John or St. Thomas, or take a flight to St. Croix to explore. There are also resident staycation deals with local resorts and hotels, sailing trips around local shorelines, and simply whiling away a few hours at the beach to relax.
It’s easy to imagine an ex-pat life as one spent sitting on a verandah, sipping a fruity drink, but life happens in the islands like it does elsewhere. We still work, get our kids to school, and pay bills; we just do in a warmer climate with palm trees all around instead of maples and pines.