What was I thinking?

I think I have briefly made mention of it in previous posts, but I will go into greater detail today since not much is happening on the home front. In 1994 I was in college at Florida State University in Tallahassee studying fine art. I wasn’t all that sure what I wanted to do with my life at that point, and was searching for a way out of school. That summer, my grandma took me, my mom, my aunt, my sister and two cousins on a cruise. We stopped for one day in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the wheels in my head began to spin. A few weeks after we got back from the cruise, I decided I was going to move to St. Thomas. I didn’t know anyone there, I was nineteen and had almost no money. It was the only time in my life that I could do something like that, and I seized the opportunity. I bought a one-way ticket and had $300 to get started on the island. I am pretty sure everyone thought I was crazy. When I look back now, I see how insane it was, and am kind of sorry that I put my parents through it, because they must have worried a lot. Still, they let me do what I had to do. I looked at it like this; I would go and see if I could survive on my own, and if I couldn’t I could always come back and call the whole experiment a “vacation.” Well, I ended up staying for over a year, about a year and a quarter. I look back at it now as an excellent exercise in finding myself and confidence building and I wouldn’t be the person I am without the experience. I really have no regrets about it aside from making my parents worry. I got to do incredible things like motor yacht and sail on an Olympic racing catamaran, helicopter around and island hop in small planes. I lived in a really cool simple little house tucked away on the side of a mountain with the most gorgeous beach at the base of it. I hitchhiked all over the island and worked in stores selling jewelry and in bars serving cocktails. But mostly, I played. And it was fun.

When I worked in the jewelry stores, we would get lots of customers from the many cruise ships that would come in every day. People would come in and say to me “you don’t have the accent (like the locals), where are you from?” and I would tell them my story and they would always say “I wish I did something like that when I was your age.” So now I will never have to be one of those people who “wishes” they had an adventure like mine. I did it! By the way, I wasn’t the only one- there were a couple hundred of regular American kids in their late teens or twenties that had done exactly the same thing I had. These were the people that became my friends on the island.

I ended up leaving in November of 2005, after Hurricane Marilyn devastated the island. It just wasn’t much fun after that with no power or anything, and it was to be months or years before it was restored. It was time for me to get back to the real world.

St. Thomas View.jpg
This is the view from the little house in the Virgin Islands. Pretty incredible, isn’t it? The two islands in the distance are Inner and Outer Brass Islands.

St. Thomas House.jpg
Here’s me in my little house in St. Thomas. It was all wood, and one room except the bathroom and there was a screened porch on the front of it. There was no A/C, just a ceiling fan, but it was plenty cool enough. The shower was actually outside, on a big rock outside the bathroom, with wooden slats all around it. There was a tree growing there that you could hang your shampoo and conditioner on. You can see the wood slats of the shower right behind me out the window in the picture.

  1. #1 by Harry on May 29, 2005 - 4:04 pm

    Well-written little adventure story, Jen. Good for you for having the courage to do that. And I like the (new) name of your blog, too.

  2. #2 by Jen on May 29, 2005 - 4:18 pm

    Thanks, Harry. This story came up at work the other day and the people I worked with said they couldn’t believe I did such a crazy thing and also came out out alive. It is a part of what shapes my life today.

  3. #3 by Alice: In Wonderland or Not on May 29, 2005 - 8:20 pm

    I know a number of kids taking a year off from school this year to go live in Europe and several that plan to spend at least a year after college just sirfing in Hawaii or Australia. I think it is important to do what you have to do.It sounds like a great adventure.

  4. #4 by skull princess on May 29, 2005 - 8:39 pm

    Just went up against you in Battle of the Blogs.. Your blog is very interesting.. I voted for you a few minutes before.. tehe-hugs-

  5. #5 by absent.canadian on May 29, 2005 - 9:28 pm

    Great story. I have never known anyone to regret travelling – it is one of the best “character builders” out there.

  6. #6 by ramblin' girl on May 29, 2005 - 10:56 pm

    I’m one of those that wishes I’d done the “year off” thing. I wish I’d had the courage. Thanks for sharing your story!Oh, and can I come hang out at that beautiful new pool?Cheers!rg

  7. #7 by Clublint on May 30, 2005 - 3:31 am

    A totally gutsy move.You’ll never be a coulda woulda shoulda.Deb

  8. #8 by Jen on May 30, 2005 - 8:49 am

    Ramblin’ Girl, you can hang out anytime, but I think it is a bit of a long drive from Colorado. However, if you are ever in the area…

  9. #9 by Michael on November 2, 2006 - 4:18 pm

    gotta think that I know you. I moved to ST T (and had a little condo on east end (Cabrita Point). Got hit by storms that summer too (Luis, Marylin..etc) and then the fun was gone. Went back to the BVI for a short stint but never got to feel the tropical itch like that first time on ST T

  10. #10 by Jen on November 2, 2006 - 6:36 pm


    Certainly we must have met at some point- the island was so small. I worked at AH Riise selling jewelry and at various other places like the Old Mill and such and lived above Hull Bay. Write me another comment and include your email address and we can chat.

  11. #11 by Jim on November 10, 2006 - 12:17 pm

    Great post.
    We just visited St. Thomas last week as part of the Disney Cruise. Spent time at Megan’s Bay
    and sipping drinks at Coconuts. John and
    Shirley the owners come from my home town.

  12. #12 by Michael on November 10, 2006 - 2:43 pm

    Went to USVI for a 180 change from my life in San Diego- that one never quite happened exactly but have some interesting stories still. I wen to sail and work for the dive operation in bolongo bay and then the wind changed the plans.
    Found your posting by looking for the bar that used to be named “for the birds” ever been there? the place litterally got blown away during that season in 1995. Didnt spend too much time in Char Amal but more focused on using ST T as a launching point for the BVI and other down island destinations. Still have some friends there who continue to do the same thing 10yrs later..not sure if i could have done that looking back.

  13. #13 by Camille on December 12, 2006 - 12:05 am

    I was looking through pictures of st. thomas and found your little article. I AM RELIEVED!!! I am 18 and am doing the same thing. I leave on january 8th for st. thomas and know no one have not jobe nor a place to stay. I have more than 300 dollars though, so thats a good start. I am happy I read this. so they let you work in bars even though your not 21? how does that work, cause i’ve been reading up on bartending

  14. #14 by Ron on February 11, 2007 - 3:17 pm

    Incredible story Jen, I’ve been going on and off again to STT ever few years, and though I’m in my late 30’s I often wonder what it would be like to do something as spontaneous as that. How totally pushing the edge it must have been. The tropical surroundings, the meager and simple life style, the cheap rum! I admire you for you adventure! One quick question, ever think of going back to live?

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