Are they trying to kill me?

I’ve been on the Island for just over a month now, and one of the first things I set out to master was driving.  Perhaps you already know that it is customary to drive on the left side of the road in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  You may see a sign posted, much like the one in this photograph, and there is a great little shop named Keep Left over in Red Hook.

I don’t know if it’s true, but I have been told that when ownership of the Islands transferred to the United States, the local taxi drivers lobbied to maintain this custom. Why would they care?…because it discourages tourists from renting cars, of course!

As it turns out, learning to “keep left” is the easy part of driving around on this Island. The cars are the same familiar left-hand drive type we’re accustomed to driving on the mainland, just driven on the opposite side of the road. I got used to it very quickly, so I’m sure you could, too.

It is the rest of the driving experience that is quite different and….shall we say….invigorating?!!!

To give you an idea of the experience, let’s play a little game.

Begin by imagining yourself driving on a narrow, steeply-graded, winding road. There are no stop-lights or stop signs on this particular road. At all times, you are either driving up or down these very steep hills.  You will soon notice that this makes the hairpin curves very interesting. (Especially those that bend to your left and around which you have little visibility from your seat on the left side of the car.) You feel like you are on a roller coaster ride.

Now imagine the road you are on is also an obstacle course. The potential obstacles are many and appear suddenly and randomly. These may include a gauntlet of any combination of the following:

Wild chickens, wild goats, feral cats, sleeping dogs, reclining dogs, pooping dogs, dogs chasing tires, cows, iguanas, stopped tour buses, work vehicles, large kitchen appliances, public works crews, hitchhikers, enormous potholes, road construction, barricades, fallen rocks, bags of trash (or other unidentifiable debris), pedestrians (both sober and inebriated), randomly parked cars, school children, cars entering the road from blind drives, open car doors, stopped cars, the car you are following suddenly reversing direction, encroaching jungle vegetation (including potential windshield-smashing dangling limbs and vines), washed out roads, torrential downpours, and road closures due to collisions.  And these are just the hazards I’ve encountered in my first 30 days.

Now imagine that all of the traffic or right-of-way rules you’ve ever known, whether you followed them or not, have been disregarded. (Completely forget everything you know about four-way stops.)  Red lights don’t necessarily mean stop.  Green light? Proceed with caution because the cross traffic may also have a green light.  Headlights on after dark?  Not necessarily.  You quickly sense that if there are any right-of-way rules, they have been rewritten, and you have no idea where the handbook is hidden. The only rules you do know for sure are:

  • It is legal to drink alcohol while driving.
  • It is illegal to drive shirtless; and if you do, you are likely to be pulled over. (This applies to men as well as women.)

Yep…that’s all of them!

Oh, I should tell you the name of the game we are playing! Remember “Chicken?” Yes, that’s the one….two cars drive towards each other on a collision course: one must swerve, or both may die in the inevitable crash, but to swerve before the other driver will earn you the name “Chicken.”

Now imagine that you are one player in a multi-player game of “Chicken” (maybe we should call it “Island Chicken”) and it is being played on this narrow, winding, mountainside obstacle course.

Finally, you have reached your destination. You breathe deeply while asking yourself “Why are they trying to kill me?” Congratulations….you have won the game!!!  You feel happy to be alive…AND you still have both headlights and side mirrors!  This is cause for a moment of silence, followed by a refreshing (adult) beverage.

Cheers!  You have just experienced driving Island-style, and are now an honorary Islander!

Here’s a bonus quiz:

What does a tap on the horn mean to St. Thomians?

  1. Go!
  2. I am yielding to let you in.
  3. May I cut in?
  4. Get out of my way!
  5. Hello.
  6. Watch out!
  7. Stop!
  8. Goodbye.
  9. <Insert your own made-up meaning here>
  10. All of the above.
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Who said this would be easy????

As you might imagine, the phrase,“I’m moving to the Virgin Islands!” comes up often these days.

“Great! Piece of cake!” is not, however, the usual response. In fact, this is the one response I haven’t heard.  Is moving to the Caribbean easy?  Not so much.  Wonderful?  Yes.  Exciting?  Absolutely!   And, along with all of the wonderful excitement is a surprising amount of… pain.

I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t drawn a line between the word columns in my head associating ‘paradise’ with ‘pain.’  Joy, happiness, abundance, unspoiled beauty….these are the words that first came to mind.  I even anticipated ‘challenging’ and ‘discomfort’ (i.e. “you’re going to feel a slight pinch.”); however, when conceiving Project Paradise, ‘pain’ wasn’t one of the contingencies.

But I’m not IN paradise yet.  As it, and my husband, patiently wait for me to join them, I’m still in the process of getting from here to there.  And what feels like a dull ache has been with me since I put the first pair of pumps in the box labeled “Donate.”

Some days, the process seems endless.  Since we’re selling, donating, or gifting at least 95% of our earthly belongings, it’s not the actual packing that’s difficult; it’s the sifting.  Consider that when you self-fund a 3000+ mile relocation, and more than half of those miles are open ocean, you end up taking very little with you and letting go of everything else.  And deciding what 5% to keep is a lot like sifting through a mountain of sand, one grain at a time. (“Like grains of sand through the hourglass, these are the days of our lives,” says a deep voice in my head.)

Put another way, it’s a bit like having your life flash before your eyes, only in really, really s..l..o..w, agonizing motion.  At the end of each day, I feel like I’ve attended a funeral…emotionally drained, with a lightness of being that comes with finality and closure.

Before I continue, I can hear some of you groaning, “Is she really complaining about moving to the Caribbean?  Giving up a pair of shoes? Are you kidding me right now?”  (And the rest of you are smiling and laughing because schadenfreude delights you. You’re welcome.)

Believe me, I get how absurd it sounds.  But don’t give up on me yet, because if the whole idea of ‘paradise’ turns out to be a crock, and I’ve just made the biggest mistake of my life, don’t you want to know? At least so you can save yourself and trade it in for a better dream?

I’ll admit to griping a bit.  At the same time, I’m doing it with a sense of gratitude (there should be a word for this).   And I’m willing to bet that griping is exactly what you would be doing if you were in my shoes.  And that is part of the point, wouldn’t you agree?  A chance for you to walk through the experience and figure out where reality matches the dream, and where it doesn’t?

So, true, this part of the journey isn’t easy. We all know it as a ‘transition,’ and, if we’re very fortunate, we are blessed with many.  And we all know that loss often goes hand-in-hand with transitions, which is why we rarely consciously sign up for them.  Instead, we usually come barreling up on them at 100 miles per hour with our eye on the prize.  Soon, we realize we will have to empty our hands of something we hold dear before we are able to pick up something new.

While this particular leg of the journey is turning out to be miles longer than it looked on the map, it is the road I chose.  So even on the day I was pummeled by the gut-grabbing news that our beloved cat’s health is probably too fragile to make the journey with us, I was able to re-center myself in a place of gratitude and acceptance for “what is.”

“Is it all worth it?” someone recently asked.

“Absolutely!”  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Ever thought about moving to paradise?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to leave it all behind, move to a tropical island, and live your dream?  Well, we have, too.  Now my husband and I are in the middle of relocating to the Caribbean. You know…. turquoise water, white sand beaches, palm trees, perpetual summer…..yes, there!

You may be thinking, “Who really does that?”  Of course, everyone is in love with the idea….but it’s nearly a violation of a sacred trust to actually do it.

Sure, like most of you, we’re aware that their are plenty of reasons for leaving well enough alone.  We were happy, living in a beautiful city along the front range of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Good jobs, majestic mountains, four seasons, 300+ days of sunshine, good friends and family. Life was good!

Admittedly, our decision may not have been rational… it’s something other… a decision informed by things like dreams, intuition, instinct, and “callings.”

So, if you’re also in love with the idea of moving to paradise, or you’re one of those special people who believes in dreams coming true, then you’re in the right place to explore the possibility without all the mess and fuss.

I’ll save you the trouble of quitting your job and having your friends and family question your sanity. I’ve already left my job (with all of the mixed emotions you might imagine) and defended my mental health, and Project Paradise is full speed ahead.

Please, stick around!  I invite you to join me on the journey. I’ll do all the heavy lifting, and you can try it on, risk-free, and find out if the reality is anything like you imagine it.   I can’t promise that it will be, but I can promise you a true life story unfolding in real-time… a candid recounting of my experience leaving a conventional American life to explore the possibilities on a tropical island and ‘living the dream’ with the love of my life!

Come on, let’s order up a round of rum punch and have some island fun!

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Living our Dreams 2.0

Our normally scheduled programming was just interrupted, yet again, with an opportunity for a new adventure!

Marty was selected to begin Ground School Training for Seaborne Airlines on the island of St. Croix (USVI), followed by Simulator Training in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. God willing, he will then be employed as a First Officer flying inter-island routes for Seaborne Airlines!

If all goes well, come February/March, Bridget will be busy with the relocation; purging ourselves of most worldly possessions, packing up and shipping what’s left, and fixing up and renting or selling the house. We hope to be together again, in the Caribbean, in a few short months.

What we do know is that it is Bridget’s life-long dream to live on a tropical island, and it’s Marty’s life-long dream to fly airplanes. To be able to do both, together, is the opportunity of a lifetime.

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