After almost exactly six months living on St. Thomas, I decided it was time to move. Partially because I had to leave my studio in Red Hook, and partially because I was a little stir-crazy and wanted to check out something new. I’ve always really liked The Rock, so when I heard of a sublet for the summer, I jumped on the chance. My younger sister Adriana is staying with me for summer, so it’s an added bonus that I get to show her everything I love about St. John. We moved a few weeks ago, at the end of May.
It’s been really interesting transitioning from St. Thomas to St. John. Since I’ve been living on St. Thomas for over six months, and I’ve spent quite some time on St. John, I thought I was totally ready for the move- that I knew what to expect.
I was wrong. I knew the two islands were different, but I almost feel like “different” is an understatement now that I’m gaining a better understanding of St. John’s culture.
First of all, St. John is tiny. And when I say tiny, I really mean itty-bitty-teeny-weeny. The island is two-thirds National Forest, which is beautiful, but means that there isn’t very much room for people to live. It’s a small island anyway, so the population is under 5,000, which is a TENTH of St. Thomas. 5,000 is hardly anyone. I thought my hometown of Brevard was small, but they have a whopping population of 8,000. The small-town feel of seeing the same people around town every day is 100% true. It’s been nice in a lot of ways- I’ve gotten to know some really interesting people and once you meet them the first time, they remember who you are.
By the same sword, it’s definitely a one-horse town. There is only one gas station on the entire island. There isn’t any stop-lights (that I know of). Things are more expensive than St. Thomas, being one more destination farther from the contiguous U.S. And, even when you are in the one of two grocery stores on the island, there’s no guarantee you’ll find what you need. Not having every option available is an island things, and something I’ve gotten used to, but when the store doesn’t have basic necessities like cocoa powder so I can make brownies, it’s a new standard of low.
But St. John is quieter, and more remote. The beaches are BEAUTIFUL. Lameshur Bay is my new favorite spot. It’s a pebble beach, and it’s simply breath-taking. It’s way on the west end of St. John near Coral Bay, so privacy is pretty much guaranteed. Nearly all the beaches on St. John, much like St. Thomas, have great snorkeling off the beaches. It’s easy to swim with rays, sea turtles, fish and sea urchins (even if the urchins only move about a centimeter a day).
Something else that’s great about St. John is it’s safer. The Caribbean in general, although it’s home to only 8.5% of the global population, houses 27% of world crime according to the Global Study on Homicide 2013 by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime. But because St. John’s population is so small, and the layout of the town is so close, crime is a minimal. It’s nice knowing I can walk or hitchhike home with no stress.
One last big adjustment that I’ve been dealing with is the cell phone service. It’s a bit spotty and it’s difficult for me to get service at my house. By extension, internet spots are hard to find and using an AT&T box to get internet on my computer is a no-go. Although I have to go to St. Thomas for reliable internet (there are no free wifi spots that I know of on St. John), it’s nice to be able to unplug when I get home and not be constantly connected to texts and Facebook messages.
Long story short, I love St. John and am super glad I moved there. It’s been more of a change than I was expecting from St. Thomas, but change doesn’t equate to meaning bad. It has just required a bit of a mindset change, but that’s what the islands are all about.