As I peered out the window of the plane, I couldn’t help but take in the vast expanse of the deep blue ocean. Seated next to me was a relaxed dive instructor headed to the island for the “season” unsure of whether he has plans to stay for a month or two or longer. As I watched him take photos out the window, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would become his new home. If he turned out to be anything like our catamaran boat captain, Mike, he might be in for 10 years or if more like our host, Duane, who arrived in 1972, this might become the place he finally puts down roots.
The deep dark blue ocean turned to 50 shades of turquoise as we approached the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Croix. There is something about islands that enchant me and continue to call me back. Maybe it is the extreme difference in the pace of life so far from the hustle and bustle of cities, or the lack of organization when it comes to just about anything (driving, supermarkets, construction, restaurants to name a few). Perhaps it is friendly, laidback attitude of the locals and the transplants or just the beautiful beaches and coconut drinks. Whatever it is, it would be hard to find an island that I didn’t fall for almost immediately.
When addresses are more general locations like Peter’s Farm along the Christiansted By-pass rather than a number and a street and directions include “turn left at the row of Australian Pines”, I know I am headed to somewhere truly magical. St. Croix is the least talked about and most overlooked Virgin Island of the United States. Most Americans I mentioned it to, responded with, “is that a British Virgin Island?” or “Why there?” I have to admit I wasn’t super familiar before it landed on my Google Flights search.
Lacking the big glitzy resorts, St. Croix is regularly passed up for St. Thomas or St. John. Within 2 1/2 hours of South Florida, the size of Martha’s Vineyard, underdeveloped and small enough to cross within a half hour, this island seemed like the perfect stop for a quick weekend getaway. Side note: St. Croix was also left relatively unscathed in comparison from the paths of Irma and Maria which battered many of the surrounded islands.
Traveling in a group of three consisting of two married women – not to each other – and a dude in a relationship, two of which had never even met prior to the journey, we were a motley crew. Most people probably wouldn’t have put the three of us in a group to travel randomly to an island destination none of us were familiar with, but the forces prevailed and we were here. Defying normal is in my blood.
As we pulled out of the airport in our electric blue Toyata Yaris and realized that they drive on the left side of the road in St. Croix, we quickly settled into a routine full of laughs, quips and new inside jokes. We regularly responded to inquires as to our random group, simply with, “our significant others weren’t able to join us, so we figured we would go explore anyways.”
Honestly I love traveling with crews of people that haven’t traveled together before or are just getting to know one another; there are always moments of the unexpected, moments of comfort, moments of ease and flow and times filled with contagious belly laughs – the best kind. I find that in these scenarios everyone takes the time to get to know each other – whether it is over a long dinner or a longer car ride – to a level that can sometimes be rare in our regular lives. Plus, as you explore new places, you as a team will be put to the test on multiple occasions, you will have to make decisions, figure things out and work through all sorts of different scenarios. In these moments you can uncover more than you would ever expect about these friends.
St. Croix surprised, delighted and confused me, but in the end it left me wanting more. More time, more exploration, more sunsets, and more beaches. Despite being a small island that most wonder what there even is to do there, I couldn’t stop finding pockets to explore.
With it’s empty rolling green hills, dozens of little turquoise coves, Dutch ruins covered in blooming pink flowers, countless butterflies and miles of undeveloped coastline, it is hard to imagine that it will be long before St. Croix starts to attract the investors, developers, hotel chains and more cruise ships potentially taking this sleepy, tropical island paradise from untouched to overrun. But for now, it was quite a dream.