For my Letter From the Editor column yesterday, I wrote about my husband’s and my Saint Thomas vacation. In fact, I wrote the column while still on vacation. Today I’d like to share what we did on on our vacation.
Paul and I are not your typical vacationers. We don’t seek out the beach and we also don’t cram elevendy million things into our vacations. We take each day as they come and make the best of them. We live less than an hour from the beach (on Puerto Rico) and we have been maybe 5 times since we moved here in 2008.
For this vacation, we had a very specific reason to visit Saint Thomas. Two friends we’d met through our farm website invited us to visit them and see what they were growing and how. Ec0-organic farming, if you haven’t guessed, is a big part of my life.
A Little About Saint Thomas: Vacation and Living There
The largest of the four islands in the USVI (United States Virgin Islands), Saint Thomas boats a population of just under 52,000 people. Shoot! Multiracial Media’s Facebook page has more followers than there are people living on Saint Thomas. First settled in the early 1500s by the Cibony people (who are actually the same tribe of indigenous people who lived on Cuba, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Jamaica and Hispaniola known as the Taino), once the Europeans discovered it, like all islands in the Caribbean, it has been a colony of some country for eons.
First the Dutch, then the Danish, even the British (for an entire 13 months) occupied / colonized Saint Thomas. It went back to the Danish in 1815 and in 1917 the United States bought Saint Thomas from the Danish. Like Puerto Rico, Saint Thomas (Saint John, Saint Croix and Water Island) are still colonies of the U.S.
According to the United States Census, the demographic breakdown of Saint Thomas is as follows:
- Black or African American 76 %
- White 15.6%
- Asian 1.4%
- Other 4.9% (I have no idea what “other” means. My guess is that it’s a combination of Jewish and Cibony people, although I am not sure.)
- Mixed 2.1%
Saint Thomas is the size of Manhattan but with far fewer people.
Our Saint Thomas Vacation Was the Bomb Because of Our Hosts
We only stayed a few days but for two people who hadn’t been on vacation in ten years, it was perfect! Our hosts Eron (pronounced Erin) and Mike couldn’t have been better hosts. For one thing, they are amazing in the kitchen, particularly Mike. Mike has the sort of personality that means he never met a stranger. Dynamic, effusive and very outgoing, if you aren’t happy, Mike will take it personally. It’s probably why he is so successfully in his business (more on that in a bit). I thought I was outgoing, but I have nothing on Mike.
Eron is introverted, like my husband and is really happy when Mike is being animated and the center of attention. Her introversion is why she is successful at what she does. (More on her profession in a bit, too.)
The first night of our Saint Thomas vacation was something we couldn’t have predicted but it was definitely memorable.
American social work students (both under grad and graduate) had been visiting Saint Thomas to look at various agencies around the island. They focused a lot on education and the water problem on the island. Part of their goal was to better understand the political implications of Saint Thomas’s colonial status.
A party was thrown for them on their last night, which was our first night there (Friday) at Shangra La VI: a 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom, 2000-square foot villa that can accommodate up to 8 people, owned by a woman named Catherine. Catherine is also working with the water utility to help provide safe drinking water for all on the island.
Each student talked about the impact their week-long trip had on them. I loved the fact that students spanned the ethnic and racial rainbow. Paul and I chatted with Diana (pronounced Deeahna) Mena, whose family is from the Dominican Republic. She is currently in Washington, D.C. doing an internship at an organization that strives to provide comprehensive immigration and family legal services to low-income members of the Spanish-speaking community in various U.S. cities.
Diana is one of many remarkable young people we met that evening.
The next few days we did things we never get to do at home with a menagerie of animals: we slept late, had someone else cook for us (Mike is really amazing! He ought to consider opening a restaurant), and we also went to three beaches (ironically, since we don’t really like the beach). We ate well (lots of greens) and visited a local bar.
Turning a Saint Thomas Vacation Into a Place to Live
It’s one thing to fall in love with Saint Thomas (or anywhere else) while on vacation, but another to figure out how to make a living there. It’s particularly complex when the place you’ve fallen in love with doesn’t have the same economic base you’re accustomed to. I make a living as a writer and a content marketing agency owner. My clients are mostly all in the United States as few people living here can afford my rates.
Paul works the farm and makes sure we’re fed. You definitely have to be clever and either provide services needed by people living off the island or one that nobody else is doing yet or better on the island.
Our hosts, Eron and Mike, are successful at doing both. Eron is the owner of Nerd for Hire VI. From computer freezes, laptop repair and peripheral support to spyware and malware removal to social media management and expertise with search engine optimization (I already implemented one suggested Eron gave me) and server and network support, as well as NAS and RAID backup, Eron is technical and knows her way around the software and hardware of personal computers and companies’ network systems.
Eron diagnoses and troubleshoots over the phone and makes house and office calls. Eron also does remote entry, so she doesn’t need to be in the same room, let alone the same country to manage a company’s servers. She knows Apple and PC, so no matter what your operating system, she’s proficient.
Mike, by contrast, needs to be around people, not computers.
What are some of the happiest moments of your life? Wedding, engagement party, vacation, family portrait, Mitzvah, Quinceañera, birthday, birth of a baby, milestone birthday, anniversary, retirement? Did I cover most of them?
Now think of those moments caught on film by a professional photographer. Mike owns Toes in the Sand Photography. No matter the occasion, Mike can take your once-in-lifetime moment and turn it into a lifetime of memories. Fewer things evoke emotions like a photograph. A glimpse into the past, a moment frozen in time, an opportunity to revisit the best pieces of your life, nothing does this quite like a photograph does.
Mike’s talent is magical for two reasons: the person taking the shot can make something seemingly ordinary and make it extra special. Not all people behind the camera can do this. As an example, I am not a photogenic person and he made me feel beautiful in this photo of Paul and me.
The other thing that makes Mike’s talent a must when shopping for a photographer is that he’s anything but boring. I used to be an event planner and I worked with many photographers. Long on talent and short on personality, the photos some of the photographers I worked with captured something special but there was no soul or depth to the photos. As you can see, there’s warmth and depth to all of these photos.
Mike’s personality, his direction, his smile and the way he engages people, mean you want to be drawn in and it shows in the photos he takes.
And the Initial Reason We Went to Saint Thomas
Together Mike and Eron provide a service nobody else is providing. They grow greens, like lots and lots of greens: Basil, arugula, lettuces, tomatoes (okay, that’s red), herbs, peppers, eggplants, onions and garlic and many more.
They make various types of bread and from their working garden, they can make some incredible sauces. Their pesto was the best I have ever had!
While we were there, two clients stopped in to buy some of their organic greens. All the meals we ate this past weekend were from their garden.
As you can see, it’s more than possible to make a living on an island you’ve decided will be your forever home.
Well, folks, it’s time to wrap this up. I have babbled on long enough about our Saint Thomas vacation. We had an amazing time and it wasn’t at all what we anticipated.
My name is Sarah and I am one of the founders of Multiracial Media. Not only am I multiracial (Black, Asian and White), but I’ve also lived in or spent long periods of time in several countries, throughout the United States and now my husband and I live on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. I see myself both in terms of my racial and ethnic identity as well as someone who appreciates the food, culture and customs of all nations—like a citizen of the world. Sarah’s World Beat column reflects this.
If you would like me to write about your culture or country, please drop me a line and suggest a topic.