Life on a Rock: Carol and David Rocco

davidcarolrocco“Island life is either your thing or it’s not – and it’s impossible to justify to those who are not mentally transported to another realm simply by listening to Jimmy Buffett’s Son of a Sailor.” -Carol Rocco

You could say that Carol and David Rocco have been living the dream for the past 12 months. After being fed up with long, cold Missouri winters and the fast-paced lifestyle that typically accompanies corporate America, it was the untimely passing of both of their fathers that really made them reevaluate their lives. Realizing that life is simply too short to watch it pass by, the Roccos made the decision in April 2013 to move to St. John for one year. Carol and David’s island adventure ends this week, and on Thursday, they will be on a plane back to the States.

We were so captivated by Carol and David’s story that we wanted to share it with all of you. Carol’s been blogging throughout the year, so we thought it was best to share a few snippets of her writings. This will allow all of you to live the journey through her own words, and I’m certain you’ll all enjoy it as much as I did.

The Deep End – April 28, 2013

After much contemplation, we have decided to hold hands and jump into the deep end. Anyone who knows me knows how analytical and meticulous I am, so there should be no doubt as to whether I’ve done my homework. It may come as a surprise, however, to learn that I am willing to trade 1,800 square feet and a sportscar to pull up to a bare-bones studio in a tired old Jeep. David on the other hand, has liveaboard experience as well as a military background that has aptly prepared him for this endeavor.

Sure I could play it safe, do what I’ve always done and save money for old age. Then I remember watching my father take his last breath just a few short months from retirement; and I think of David’s father who tragically died in a plane crash before he could enjoy his retirement … and I know I will have no regrets for taking this leap of faith.

Seeking Shelter – May 23, 2013

Until recently I was beginning to wonder if our money was no good in the VIs. We have been probing the internet each week in search of suitable accommodations and inquired on a number of properties. Only occasionally have we received a response.

When I called the local inn to reserve a room, the nice gal on the other end said, “Send me an email – I’m tending bar right now.” So I did. She acknowledged my email a week later. I had to chuckle, knowing this must be God’s way of helping me learn the island way.

Paradise = Sacrifice – June 19, 2013

Most of you are under the impression that we are living in paradise – and yes, we are. Paradise defined as one of the safest Caribbean islands surrounded by picturesque palm trees, turquoise water and the most beautiful beaches in the world. However we are not sipping Painkillers from our veranda nestled in the hills overlooking the deep blue sea from one of those dream homes on House Hunters International.

The intent of our blog is twofold: a) to keep our friends and family informed of our adventure, and b) to provide fellow travelers with a realistic expectation of what it’s like to live here. So please allow me to elaborate on a few practicalities of living in this Garden of Eden.

Unless you are particularly wealthy, you will count your lucky stars to find a decent apartment in town (Cruz Bay) for less than $1500 a month. Add electricity at a rate five times higher than on the mainland, water at 50 cents per gallon (out of a cistern), drinking water at 75 cents per gallon, propane, internet and satellite tv if desired.

Automobiles are overpriced and repairs are frequent due to the wear of climbing mountainous terrain at 20 mph. Gas at the one and only station is currently $4.55 per gallon, however they ran out so you get premium at $4.91.

Groceries are up to three times higher than in the states so you shop for the best deals at all four stores. Examples: cereal $6.99, crackers $5.99, 1/2 gallon milk $4.59, one gallon orange juice $11.59, 1.75 liters of rum $8.49. If the price of groceries doesn’t drive you to drink, the cheap price of rum will.

As for doing business, allow several hours to open a checking account. Allow most of the day to visit the motor vehicle bureau. You may have to wait in line while someone breaks for lunch. The more impatient you are, the longer it will take so take a book and pretend you have nowhere else to be.

Conscious Living- June 26, 2013

Normal used to mean buying more hangars several times a year to accommodate a growing closet, floor-to-ceiling storage for 60+ shoes, and enough cookware to outfit three kitchens. Betty Crocker would’ve been proud but the fact was, I had more restaurant take out numbers on speed dial than friends.

That all changed the moment we started seriously considering a move to an unincorporated U.S. territory reachable only by boat. I began researching minimalism once I discovered shipping our belongings in the smallest 20 ft container from Miami would cost $4,200. So we accepted our mission to downsize and to my surprise, purging excess ‘stuff’ felt strangely satisfying. As my possessions began to dwindle, so did the clutter in my mind.

Some would call minimalism voluntary poverty. I call it conscious living. It doesn’t mean we can’t have things – it means the things we have are meaningful. Though I know I am conditioned to the American way, I’m still genuinely ashamed of how wasteful I have been and how much I took for granted. That simple realization alone has made this island experience worthwhile.

To be continued…

17 thoughts on “Life on a Rock: Carol and David Rocco”

  1. Not to mention having to take an entire day to just buy a pair of men’s underwear: drive to the St. Thomas car ferry, wait for it, travel on the car ferry. drive to K-Mart, drive back to the car ferry, wait for it, travel on the car ferry, drive home. We lived there for two years and it’s definitely third world. We STILL haven’t gotten our VI $300 tax refund from 2008. Forget about trying. We had an accountant do it so it’s accurate, but the government is too corrupt to pay. BUT it’s a magnificent place to visit, or if you have a jillion bucks like Kenny Chesney and can get other people to do important stuff for you, it’s ok living there, too…..

    • Michael, there are cheaper ways to live here. Trip to KMart. Take the people ferry for $6 ($1.50 if you have a Senior Card 60+) Then take the dollar taxi to KMart. If you are only buying underwear, you can do a quick turn around. Take the dollar taxi back to Red Hook and you can catch the next ferry back to St. John.

      We have received all our tax refunds including 2012 (we owed for 2013). However, if you can afford to add the cost of the car ferry to cost of your underwear, I assume you don’t really need the $300 refund.

        • Phil, the dollar taxis run on St. Thomas. They are the open air safari taxis. they run a loop route from Red Hook to Tutu to the University and back. Price is $1 from Red Hook to Tutu and another dollar to go all the way to the University. The look like the tourist safari taxis that charge much more but are usually a bit more rundown looking and the passengers are primarily West Indians.

  2. I so enjoyed reading ur blog. My husband and I are hoping to some day retire PT to St John. We have been there 4 times soon to be 5th and recently started staying for 3 wks at a time. You are so on spot with everything u say and gave us some more good info. Vacationing on STJ and living there I think are def 2 different things but if u go into it prepared, as u both were, its an easier transition. I have heard some folks who live there say that u can get island fever if ur used to US living and the rat race but……..I think if its in ur heart and u make smart choices and are prepared for what to expect and prepare for things that u dont expect, ur experience will be more enjoyable. I could give it all up now and just move to STJ but while currently thats not a reality, you have given me/us food for thought when that time comes! I wish u safe travels returning to the states! I really enjoyed reading ur blogs! Best to u both!

  3. We will miss Carol and David immensely when they make their move “back to America”, but we have enjoyed getting to know them, and value their friendship.

    I know that they are excited about the next set of adventures that await them, but we hope that one day, before too long, that they will realize that they have been infected with a terminal case of island fever and will return!

    Leslie and Steve

  4. Great blog, looking forward to the continuation. My brother lives in STJ and has told me many times how expensive it is to live there. He brings his solar lights inside at night to give him some “free” lighting. He too will be returning to the states soon because he can’t afford to live in paradise any longer.

    Your comments about minimalism and purging really gave me a wake-up call. I have lived in my house for 25+yrs, accumulating more and more “STUFF.” Time do pretend I am moving to paradise and FREE myself.

    Good luck with your next venture!!

  5. I think the best idea (at least this is my plan upon retirement) is to split your time down there. I plan to live there from Nov-April and try and rent for the other months were in the states. Hopefully when I retire, my mortgage will be paid off so if it’s not rented the entire time, we will still be able to handle St John expenses.

  6. Having owned a condo at Serendip for 11 years; and having been a teacher,
    we had time to go 3 times a yr.(3 wks. In summer), and had our condo in which to stay. Hence, over 50 visits!
    Have many friends there and know all the difficulties inherent in living” life on the rock”.
    As you might guess we have the same dream; and, in retirement, we’re still trying to find a way.
    Pretty much reconciled to part time; but you never know.
    ” Where there’s a will; there’s a way.”
    Not sure of that regarding St. John.
    Right now plannind our 30th anniversary vowel renewal– married there by Rev. Schaffer in 1985; renewed our vows in 2001 w Ann Marie Porter–she’ll be doing it again for us.
    “Com in’ back to the island, com in’ back to the sun; got my mind all made up, makin’ that Caribbean Run!”


  7. This is a wonderful blog, please continue as you have me hooked on what you are going to reveal next…I, along with many others, visit STJ as often as my bank account will let me and we always say, “oh I wish I could live here…”, but realistically as you have pointed out, it requires a major lifestyle change unless, as you also pointed out, you are Kenny Chesney (which I am NOT)…so, I will continue to visit STJ as often as I can and will continue to be sad when I have to leave (truly STJ is the only place I have vacationed that I am never ready to leave and go home!)…I digress… Good for you for seeing this adventure through, as you are so right, life is short and tomorrow has not been promised! All the best to you as you return to the States and your life there…

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