Life on a Rock: Full Circle

roccos second pic

Yesterday we introduced you to Carol and David Rocco, a couple from Missouri who decided to take a leap of faith and move to St. John for one year. Here’s part two of their story:

Rock Fever – September 24, 2013

Rock Fever – temporary claustrophobia and restlessness caused by living on an island

The fever is alive and well. And I have it.

How can anyone living in ‘paradise’ have moments or hours or days of restlessness? Good question. I can only describe just a few of the annoyances crowding my thoughts of late …

  • I’m going to toss a spike strip in front of the truck driver who blows his horn for a good quarter of a mile up the hill 18 times a day.
  • Could I get more than one bag of groceries for less than a hundred dollars?
  • Keep raining so it will fill the cistern and I can let the shower run for one full minute.
  • Stop raining! The dishes won’t even dry!
  • I dream of a mouth-watering pizza … delivered …
  • Oh how I miss the smell of a mall … even the offensive, mucus-inflammatory odor pouring out the doors of Hollister.
  • Is it happy hour yet?

I realize slow season is the calm before the storm, but at this moment I would welcome a hurricane. I haven’t crawled into a dry bed for three nights anyway.

P.S. To concerned family and friends: No worries. My antidepressant is still effective and there’s no need to alert AA. Rock fever is a normal and temporary condition of living in paradise. I feel better already.

Six Months in St. John: What I’ve Learned – December 17, 2013

We left America six months ago for an island adventure – and what an adventure it is!

Notes to Self:

  • You don’t need much to live here. You don’t need much to live in America either … you just thought you did.
  • This isn’t South Beach. No one cares about your designer clothing, expensive jewelry and shoes with bling. Those things will get ruined anyway. You’ll be glad you brought the weatherproof, functional (boring) handbag.
  • You will not live in a big house with air conditioning and all the luxuries you’re used to (unless you win the lottery, so start playing). You will, however, have a magnificent view while ‘suffering’ with less.
  • 450 square feet isn’t so bad. On the bright side, it will take only 30 minutes to clean house.
  • Do not bring anything you’d rather not replace. Your favorite pirate shirt will mold. Your most comfortable flip flops will fall apart. The metal embellishments on your pink bikini will rust. And you will replace computers and cameras at an astonishing rate.
  • After spending $60 on an appetizer and two drinks at a fancy restaurant, you will decide the $10 burger meal at Woody’s is a pretty good deal.
  • You will consume drinks at approximately 3 times the normal rate to avoid the immediacy at which ice melts in the tropics.
  • Choose ‘dry days’ and stick to it. Your liver will thank you.
  • Lizards are your friends. Scorpions are not.
  • You will live in Mayberry. The guy you dissed yesterday may end up being your landlord or employer or bartender or mechanic.
  • Want to be happy here? Then embrace island culture. This includes greeting everyone with a Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Night or the all-inclusive Good Day before uttering another word. Get comfortable with island time – the more of a hurry you’re in, the slower they’ll move. West Indians love music so when the gal on the taxi sings as if there’s a talent scout lurking, just sing along.
  • Try new things, sample new dishes, go new places. That is why you moved here, right?

Bittersweet – March 21, 2014

Warm weather, beautiful beaches, a small town where everybody knows your name – what’s not to love? As our one-year sabbatical comes to an end, we are often asked why we are returning to America. Why not park under a palm tree and live in paradise forever?

Leaving St. John will be bittersweet. There are so many things we love about living here aside from the obvious beauty and laid back lifestyle.

For instance:

  • We are judged by who we are, not by what (or who) we wear, who we know or how far we’ve climbed on an imaginary career ladder.

  • We have fewer aches and pains. A more consistent barometric pressure and warm weather is good for the bones. Our stash of antibiotics has remained virtually untouched.

  • We are far removed from mainstream media. Who cares about the latest iPhone release, or that Kim Kardashian named her baby North or South … instead, tell me what time the local parade begins and if the island’s second gas station will ever be finished.

However, living here and visiting are very different experiences. While on vacation, you climb into a fluffy, comfy king-sized bed in an air-conditioned multi-million dollar villa with panoramic views. We sleep in a lumpy, humid bed exactly four steps away from a toilet. But not before checking under the bed for iguanas.

Another misconception is that we are eating fresh fruit, vegetables and mahi every day. Not so. We shop at the grocery store just like you. Ciguatera, a toxic disease affecting reef fish in the area, prevents us from fishing anywhere near the shoreline. As for produce, St. John’s soil is equivalent to a desert so even most roadside vendors import.

Simply said, it is very expensive to live here. Most people work multiple jobs – with no benefits (which are rarer than a watermelon for less than $19.99). We could stay if we worked far more for far less. But that was never our intent.

I once overheard someone say {paraphrasing}, ”There are times when I think: I CANNOT believe I live here! … and other times when I think: I can’t believe I live HERE!” So true!

The rudimentary aspects of the islands are precisely why many people come here, including us. Escaping the daily grind has been good for the soul. We often hear people say, “You’re so lucky!” It has nothing to do with luck. It is a conscious decision.

Whatever your dreams are, pursue them. Don’t wait for someday. You will never have ‘enough’ money and the time will never be just right.

You just might run out of time.

Time’s Up – March 8, 2014

This experience has accomplished exactly what I had hoped — it changed me. My perspective, my attitude, my goals. I always had a wandering spirit; I just never had the guts to step outside of my comfort zone. Learning to live with less has been the shallow part of my transformation. Immersing myself in a vastly different culture in which I am the minority has provided the greatest insight. I use the term culture broadly: race, language, values, background, opinions … I am now much more open-minded, non-judgmental and tolerant. I am surprised by how liberated this makes me feel – obviously my ingrained belief system was stunting my growth.

I also realized how much I used to live in fear — fear of losing a good job, fear of something bad happening to the people I love, fear of not having enough money, fear of change. Uncertainty breeds vulnerability. I am learning to welcome vulnerability as a necessary ingredient of legitimate growth.

We return to America on May 1, starting with a family visit in Florida followed by a month-long journey back to Missouri. The old Carol would be anxious. After all, we are returning without a blueprint. However, the new Carol is learning to trust. And whaddya know … the Universe has already begun to provide.

Full Circle – April 22, 2014

214 hours …

I’m watching imaginary sand trickle through an imaginary hourglass timer – only I cannot turn it over or lay it on its side to delay the passage of time. Our last days are spent resurrecting the wonder and awe we felt when we first moved to St. John, while deliberately ignoring the countdown.

The transmission went out in our vehicle here in the ninth inning. We are now afoot just like our first days on island. Full circle.

Our walls are bare and supplies sparse. Just like our first few weeks. Full circle.

We are hypnotized by the sea, moved by scenic overlooks, and silenced by the sunset. Just like when we arrived. Full circle.

Our blog reaches more than 1,200 subscribers, many we haven’t had the pleasure of meeting. We often hear from followers who have been inspired to make a change or take a risk simply by witnessing our journey. Jimmy and Bridgette from Tennessee let us know we are living their dream. We were thrilled to finally meet them during their visit to St. John last month. Now it’s their turn. They will be moving into our apartment shortly after we leave and begin their own journey.

Full circle, wouldn’t you say?

May the island be as good to them as it has been to us.

15 thoughts on “Life on a Rock: Full Circle”

  1. Thanks for this two-part report. She is saying what we’ve heard from many people. One of our first friends on STJ told us, “It takes twice as much money to live here and you earn half as much as you do in the states.” All of us who have spent much time on STJ are familiar with the high price of groceries and gas. We’ve also been warned about the high cost of electricity and water. The climate destroys most building materials and furnishings at a high rate of speed. Even the one percenters have learned that they are not exempted from that rule. Another STJ friend told us that they were leave because they were planning to start a family. Apparently the schools and healthcare are not perceived to be very good. We probably all wish we could move there on a full time basis; but, in the back of our minds we know that living there is not the same as visiting there.

    The reasons we keep coming back are the beaches, the food, and especially the people are outstanding. We still long for that laid back lifestyle we experience once a year. We want to get out of what Cheers’ Norm described as “a dog-eat-dog world and I’m wearing Milk Bone shorts.” Even with all of this knowledge, I am listening to “It’s That Time of Day” and planning our next escape from the real world – even if it is temporary. I am also planning to buy more lottery tickets on my way home.

    Good day!

  2. Very true on most counts !.;) I lived in US & BVI for 30+yrs. From 1972 after St.Crx Fountain Valley Incident to 2002. Came back for my wife missing the US mainland & time to give back to our parents. We met on St.John at Dock Side Pub.1990 after I’ve been absent due to skin cancer and decided to return to d Islands after Hugo. Why I’m I telling u this !… it’s because when ur heart, NOT ur boss, friends even family, speaks on your decisions to make a move, I always recommend to anyone to put your mainland lifestyle in storage and move to your new life with new changes to be made and learn to live as the Romans do, to feel accepted by the locals. Yes, u have to pay d price, not only money but internally to get that peace of mind. Please…please…please… “If u don’t have some king of Hobbie or desire to work for much less or volunteer some service to LOCAL programs, u are setting urself to go backwards not only mentally but physically”. I will be 68 May15 and don’t plan to be here in Mickey Mouse land much longer. David & Carol, the Best on ur new Endeavors, may we hopefully meet one day in The US & BVI, where ‘My Islands…are My Home’

      • Pick St Thomas or another smaller island. St John is one of the most expensive Caribbean islands period. I have lived on both, but will next live in Belize, or an island further south. Look at Vieques, a part of Puerto Rico. Quiet, lovely beached, wonderfully kind people.
        What ever you choose, plan to live like a local.

  3. Thank you for sharing your “Life on A Rock” adventure. You will be returning to the states with a new calm that you will be able to handle any obstacles that may be in your way. I hope you blog your experience of returning to the states a year from now. It would also be interesting to read Jimmy and Bridgette’s blog of their island experience a year from now. Safe journey home.

  4. Thank you so much for the read. You nailed it! I hope to meet you one day. Happy trails and God bless. always remember that home is where your heart is. Love city will always be here. Erin go Brau!!!

  5. I have tears in my eyes reading the closing because that’s what I do when I leave St. John after a wonderfull vacation – cry! Kudos to you two for taking a chance and living your dream – if only for one year. I wish you the best of luck as you return to ‘reality’!

  6. I really loved reading your story, I think you’ve found your calling Carol as a writer. Though I don’t know either of you I totally feel the connection you have with St John. I too took a leap of faith back in 1994 and moved to St John for several years with a friend. We had some of the best times and met some wonderful people, memories that will last a lifetime. We have been back many times over the years to visit and have always loved it. We just went back in July for carnival and had a blast. Best of luck to you both on your new adventure.

  7. Sadly, I just found your blog. Being a frequent visitor to STJ over the years, I would have loved to follow your journey. Our eldest daughter and her now husband lived and worked there for 3 years. Because we loved it so much after they finished college they packed their 2 suitcases and made the move. They left island in 2011 but we all went back for their wedding in 2012. My husband and I would love to move there when we retire in a few years, just for a year or two. So happy that you were able to follow your dream. May your life continue to be blessed. Thanks for sharing. Keep liming.

  8. Great telling of a fun and heartfelt story which many of us can identify with in one way or another. You seem like very fun people to have connected with on St. John during our four month stay this past winter-I love how connected islanders become. I hope that you next adventure is as full and inspiring-keep blogging!!

  9. Did Carol or Rocco have jobs while living onSt John
    What a great article this was to read, and follow all the responses
    Thank you

    Phil

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