The Beginning of My Island Life

It’s hard to start this post because since landing on St. Thomas last Friday, it’s been completely overwhelming. People always say “it’s island time” and until you are immersed into the culture and lifestyle that doesn’t mean anything. “Island Time” has a whole new meaning to me, and I’ve only been here for a week. I’m positive that is going to change again and again as I continue to become immersed in the daily living of St. Thomas.

For those who don’t know, St. Thomas is 1 of 4 islands which form the U.S. Virgin Islands (along with St. Croix, St. John, and Water Island), an unincorporated territory of the United States since 1917. The island is home to ~51,000 residents over the ~31 square miles of land (that’s 23 miles from end to end), which sounds small but these roads are windy, steep and rough. So in reality it can take you over 2 hours to get from one side of the island to another. AND Traffic, will be, well horrible, from what I was told. We are a major port on many Caribbean cruise lines and I was told there could be as many as 5 ships in the harbor. So picture 10s of thousands of visitors occupying the island, with only 1 road wider than 2 lanes. Most of the windy “island” roads are 2 lanes and at times only wide enough for 1 car to go at a time. Windy roads is probably an understatement as “windy” should be termed “BLIND” corner roads. Let’s just say, it’s an adjustment to understand the road conditions.

I’ve had a few other learning opportunities since arriving on St. Thomas. Here’s what I’ve been able to compile and summarize to the best of my ability.

  1. They drive on the LEFT side of the road and the LEFT side of the car. This is a combination of English style driving and American style driving.
  2. The speed limit ranges from 10-35 mph. 35 mph is the fastest speed limit on the island with the majority of the roads set to 20 mph, but that’s just a suggestion.
  3. Honking is normal and the locals are not afraid to tell you when you aren’t driving correctly, well their standard of driving. I’m not going to lie when I say it’s makes me a little anxious with all the honking, but I’m sure I’ll get use to it. Maybe one day I’ll
  4. Open-Container is legal here and you’ll find that drinking and driving is a common occurrence on the island, however DRUNK driving is NOT. You cannot cause damage to anything.
  5. Obtaining registration for a vehicle is a strict process. You MUST show proof of insurance. Yes, that’s correct. You CANNOT drive without insurance and you will get stopped if you don’t have the necessary tags on your vehicle. (This I like!) They have check points that will ask for your paperwork and they will tow.
  6. Social etiquette such as “Good Morning”, “Good Afternoon”, or “Good Evening” are necessities when entering into a building, or even just walking down the street. It’s frowned upon when these greetings are not used.
  7. It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know, and in our case, it’s knowing our landlord and her family. Did I mention that the island is a small, tight knit community?  Well, our landlord and her family know just about everyone, so we are well connected and it’s a good feeling.

After the initial culture shock and several learning experiences, my time on the island has been fairly relaxing. I moved into a two bedroom 1 bathroom apartment with another co-worker upon my first day, as I was able to secure my living quarters prior to arrival. Honestly, people always become fearful of Craigslist, but securing my living quarters was probably the smartest thing I did, because it was one less factor I had to deal with during my non-working days. Oh, did I mention our amazing view? The apartment is located on the Northside of the island upon a hill overlooking Hull Bay and the mouth of Magen’s Bay. Off to the right, you can see several mini-islands including a beautiful sunrise. Pretty spectacular and I’ve sat on my patio every morning and every night since arriving.

Now aside from living quarters, my time has been spent securing a vehicle (which I did successfully), registering the vehicle (I did this successfully), locating the grocery stores (I haven’t gone hungry), and exploring multiple beaches and hotspots around the island. And by multiple beaches I mean 4 beaches
and I barely touched the surface. At these beaches, snorkeling can be done right off the beach and I made sure to pack my snorkeling gear. You can imagine that I abused this chance and will continue to abuse this freedom to snorkel so beware of picture overload, when I’m able to purchase a better underwater camera, a.k.a. a GoPro. People have told me you’re able to snorkel with stingrays and turtles all within the coast line. Yup, I’m officially in Paradise 🙂

Keep on Adventuring, Nicole

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