Why I Wouldn’t Live in Paradise

A week ago, Steve and I returned from vacationing in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  You probably think that I’m going to rave about the beautiful white beaches (they were beautiful and white), the chance to sleep in without a schedule (we did), or the totally incredible marine life we saw while snorkeling in beautifully clear water (it was–incredible, that is).  Nope, I’m not going to go into detail about that.  Instead, after much thought and discussion and after reading a book about the adventures a couple had when relocating to St. John, I’m going to talk about why I wouldn’t live in paradise.

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It is very expensive to live in paradise.  You may think the cost of living where you are is expensive.  I mean, I thought that gas being $3.39 a gallon was expensive.  Get a load of this:  Gas in St. John is $4.76.  Yes, $4.76.  That was not a typo.  Food is more expensive as well, as is eating out and a lot of the shopping on St. John.  I’m sure that buying a house or even renting is excessively expensive as well.

It is isolating to live in paradise.  You won’t here me argue that living in paradise can mean being in a relatively sparsely populated area.  We stayed on the eastern end of the island in Coral Bay, which has a population of roughly 700 people.  After the tough couple of months we both had at work, it was good to get away and to stay in an area with few people.  Sometimes I wondered if more goats than people inhabited Coral Bay.  Additionally, there was only one road that connected Coral Bay to the rest of the island.  One of our questions was:  What would happen if a hurricane destroyed the road?  Also, St. John is roughly eight miles east-to-west and two miles north-to-south.  Imagine having to take a boat (there is no airport on St. John) whenever you needed to get off that small piece of land.

There is a lack of choice in paradise.  This is very true.  We discovered it in the small grocery in Coral Bay when we were shopping for breakfast and lunch items.  When we’d gone to St. John in 2011 for my brother’s wedding, my parents picked up a book written by a couple who moved to St. John from New England.  In that book, they mentioned how they simply learned to do without some items, or they would fill a suitcase with a particular delicacy to bring back after a visit to the States.

Where do people in paradise go to vacation?  We went to St. John to vacation and get out of the dreary, cold winter.  Often, one of our questions related to where residents of St. John went to vacation.  If you live in heaven (e.g., paradise), everything else would be a massive step down.

Your problems will follow you.  At first, the prospect of living in paradise may tantalize the senses and entice a person into thinking, “If only I lived here in paradise, I wouldn’t have any problems.”  My thought is, that regardless of how much planning one does for such a big move, there will still be problems.  More than that, problems that you assumed you’d left behind may come back to haunt you.  Basic issues in a marriage like lack of love and respect or money management will only intensify when forced to rely on one another more so than in your home environment, especially when faced with having to earn money at a menial job in a place where the money simply doesn’t stretch as far.

Okay.  So maybe you say I’m a huge wet blanket about living on St. John or any other paradise.  Maybe I am.  Maybe it’s for you and not for me.  If you still think it’s for you, here’s some tips that I picked up from reading that book as well as talking with some St. John residents:

Plan, plan, plan.  Visit your paradise several times before making the decision.  Talk to the residents.  Make sure you understand what you’re getting into.  For example, you may not be able to have a job suited to your educational background.  Or there might be a hurricane that cuts you off from the rest of the island.  Or you may have to get used to limited usage of water and electricity because of scarcity.

Save, save, save.  Most places we consider to be paradise are extremely expensive due to their isolated nature.  As a result, the cost of living for items such as shelter, food, and gas may be higher than you anticipate.  The couple who wrote the book scrimped and saved in New England so that they could live in St. John, and they still found it exceedingly expensive.  Plan on simply not living with some items (e.g., your favorite brand of shampoo).  Also, count on extra costs to get off the island.  Depending on where you are, that may be by air or ferry.

Go into the transition with a united front and a spirit of adventure.  You may be married.  You may be in a long-term relationship with someone who will move to paradise with you.  If so, make sure that your relational house is in order.  Big changes can cause simmering issues to billow into flame, which can destroy a couple.  Have a healthy, harmonious relationship before contemplating such a move.  Most of all, though, approach the transition with a fresh set of eyes and a spirit of adventure.  If you do, then maybe you’ll find that paradise is the place where you want to live.


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