Traveling Cleverly Since 2001

on Thursday, August 23, 2012 | 0 comments

To know me in real life is to know that I have a Caribbean obsession. How in the hell a girl born in Indianapolis in the middle of a February blizzard has the sea in her veins is anyone's guess.

My first visit was in 1999. Jamaica, on a reward trip with Mr. Nomad's employer. Ah, we were wee then, just an unmarried couple on our first "nice" trip. The pina colada's flowed, hangovers were nursed, I was bitten by a yellow jacket in my abdomen. It was nice, but it didn't hit me "there." You know, the heart (not the groin, you sick bastard).

For our honeymoon, we went to Aruba. We were halfway in to our first drink when I looked at my new husband and proclaimed, "we need to buy a house on this island." Annulment was still an option for him at that moment; he should have considered it.

I've tried on other islands over the years as I've depleted our expendable income: Grand Bahama, Sint Maarten/St. Martin, Anguilla, but a one day cruise stop in 2005 changed it all. We pulled in to port at St. Thomas, and our day was to be spent on St. John, a short ferry ride away.

It was August, it was overcast. "Shouldn't we just stay here," asked Mr. Nomad as we stepped off the boat in St. Thomas, knowing my answer was "no" as soon as his question came out of his mouth. So on that ferry we went. (Annulment was no longer an option, it had been four years and we aren't Catholic. He had to tag along.)

"Welcome to St. John," proclaims a rather banal sign as you step off the ferry and walk by the pumpkin-colored ferry terminal. Welcome, indeed.

We took a jitney cab ride to the North Shore beaches. Though the driver was moving fast, the vistas glimpsed between the trees revealed St. John to be no ordinary island. Unlike St. Martin or Anguilla, where it was rare to find an ocean vista unspoiled by development, the North Shore of St. John embodies unspoiled with a few exceptions.

Don't get me wrong, I love the water and beaches of Anguilla, Mexico, the Bahamas. But the landscape is boring. No, I couldn't handle a flat island. Florida? That's out. I need points of reference, points of interest. A mountainous island for me, thank you very much.

St. John protected by law. Dedicated to the US Park Service by the Rockefellers. Caneel Bay, Peter Bay, and small portions elsewhere (a homesite or two) are all the development the North Shore has seen to date. 

Our day in 2005 was far from perfect. The heavens opened up as soon as we dipped our toes in the water at Trunk Bay. But when I look back at photos from that day, my smile in the pictures as we took cover from that storm says it all: I was happy.

See? Happy... and young. Good to see you, 27 year old face and clavicle. May we take a pause here to remember?

Moving along.

We went back for our first land-based trip in 2007. Then again in 2008, 2009 and 2010. I haven't been back since, which is hurting my soul. St. John is truly my place. See that picture above? That's no photoshop trick; it really is that beautiful. And that's just one of the North Shore beaches. That scene is played out, over and over again.

St. John even has a smell. It's earth, salt, decay... nature, really.

I don't mean to make it seem as if this is some deserted island. There is plenty of development. 1/3 of the island is not protected, and many millionaires (billionaires?) have chosen to build large monuments to their egos. Cruz Bay, the main town, is slightly seedy but serviceable. I always have fun there. The people are overwhelmingly friendly. I love it.

I'd love to move there. I think. I ponder this often, but holes are always punched in my plan. Private schools are required to the tune of $18K/year. Housing is through the roof expensive. Salaries are poor. Third world living at first world prices. That's how I've heard it described. There's an element of truth to that. But, there are things I cannot find in Atlanta: a small town feel, those views, no Apple stores, a sense of community.

For now, I must be content with visits. Perhaps I should stop typing and get to looking up airfare?

Maaahhho Bay.


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