Part of our appeal in wintering in the St. John was that it’s a US Territory in the US Virgin Islands – thus not requiring nearly the amount of logistical challenges as living in another country might pose.
No visa, passport, currency exchange, postal logistics, pet quarantine or language barriers, for instance.
And while we’re looking forward to returning to those challenges for extended international travel in the future – for a spur of the moment decision, the opportunity to be in St. John was an easy one to make.
Some things are super easy as a result of being on a US Territory. Purchasing a vehicle and insurance with a US driver’s license was a tropical breeze. Our loved ones can ship us packages for US Postal rates (we’ve loved our care packages!). Our AT&T cell phones work on island as part of our US plans.
But while we’re technically in the US, we are constantly reminded that we’re only kinda-sorta-not-really in the USA, and definitely on a tiny remote island.
- We drive on the left hand side of the road here. But in US style cars with the steering wheel on the left side of the vehicle. Combine this with navigating narrow roads traversing steep curvy inclines and dodging donkeys and goats – and driving here is always exciting!
- You can legally drink and drive in the USVI. Like, sipping a beer while you’re driving (not that we would). Yeah, that adds to the driving excitement!
- Most streaming content is restricted to the 50 US states. So while we can get our Netflix discs, we can’t stream over a USVI IP address (which our Choice WiMax at the house registers as). Interestingly enough, when we do get AT&T 3G signal, we can stream on our iPad or via tethering with no blocks on streaming. (And yes, we know.. we can use gray-area geek magic to get around this.)
- Online merchants vary widely as to whether they know they can ship to the USVI. Some list us as a state (VI), and some list us as our own country (US Virgin Islands). Some merchants that ship worldwide seem to completely omit us – which totally makes ordering online a challenge. Amazon only ships some categories of their inventory to the island (DVDs, household items, clothing) – and their Prime shipping doesn’t apply.
- While we have full access to shipping and receiving via the US Postal Service, we have to fill out customs forms to ship things to the US. We’re told the reason is because all mail goes through Puerto Rico. Which doesn’t make sense, as it’s also a US Territory.
Most buildings on island don’t have an address that relates to a physical location – like, say, a street. We were amused that when we ordered our propane tank replacement for our stove, the company was lost for 2 weeks trying to find us despite us giving them explicit turn-by-turn directions. Apparently, we forgot to give them the key identifying piece of information about our place – the name of the tenant who lived here 10 years ago.
- Most streets take the name of a nearby landmark. Our street seems to be known by the name printed on the closest mailbox to the main intersection, not by the route number or its name on maps.
- We got a flat tire, were able to put the spare on. We asked a neighbor where to go to get a patch. She directed us to Bob the Mechanic Who Sits Under the Tree (her exact directions). We found Bob – who was indeed sitting under a tree – and he was able to patch our tire for us. However, he didn’t have enough air in his SCUBA tank to fill it completely.
Life on a small tropical island has been full of small adventures. But it’s all good – we’re on a tropical island, while the rest of the US seems to be under blankets of snow. It’s really hard to get frustrated by any of it.
Island time is alive and well!