Day in the Life of a Housesitter

We are just two days away from finishing a fantastic housesit in St Croix, USVI!  This has been a six week stint and we have relished every day of it!  The weather has been perfect – warm breezes and temps in the upper 80s.  As with Florida weather, there is often a brief period of rain each day but before you know it, the sun is shining and there may be a beautiful rainbow to enjoy!

 

Several friends and family members wonder what we do all day…..aren’t you bored?!  The answer is a resounding no!  You may even think that we would be getting on each other’s nerves by now.  Not really.  We do enjoy each other’s company and since we have different sleep patterns, we each have a portion of the day for “me” time.  My time is in the morning as I can’t seem to ever sleep past 8 am. Mitch, on the other hand, is a night owl after so many years of musician hours!  So, he will be up and prowling around for several hours after I konk out.
But anyway, back to the daily life here…..There are the usual household chores to do – cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping for food. Then there are plenty of plants to tend to and the pool to clean.  Now that the Christmas winds have kicked up, cleaning the pool has become a bit more time-consuming.

Food shopping in St Croix can encompass the better part of the day.  Everything here is imported.  And other than booze and cigarettes, it is quite expensive.  I think the mainland prices are catching up, but we shop at Aldi’s when we are home, so these prices leave us in sticker shock!  It is time-consuming to review all the store ads and drive from place to place to get the deals!

What else do we do?  Being away from the work world (for the most part) has afforded me the time to pay more attention to my health.  I have been walking 4-5 miles almost daily.  Mitch joins me more and more often.  We have to keep our health together so we can continue traveling. It is quite hilly here. And there’s nothing like hill workouts to get a good sweat going!

Home Sweet Home

The driveway alone is killer. We both had shin splints for several days from the walk down the driveway.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you it must be a 65 degree angle at the least.  Following the walk, a dip in the pool is an absolute must to recover!  We had hoped to do more swimming on this trip, but the pool isn’t that long and the water is a bit to cool for me.  The walking has been working out fine. One of our walks is rather flat.

Cheney Bay

This is the 5 mile one. Only problem is that the turnaround point is a beach bar, so Mitch has been successful (on more than one occasion) into talking me into a cold beer break before the return!  Seems a little counterproductive, but who can resist this view?

Cheney Bay Beach Bar

Then it’s time for blogging.  This has turned into a longer learning curve that I realized it would be.  Picking the right name was a long process.  And we needed two names.  One for this blog and one for our housesitting site. Next step, web hosting.  Reading other blogs for inspiration, watching youtube tutorials, pitching ideas to each other…..editing, photo runs, more editing, #*#@*%!.. We have to discipline ourselves to block out the Caribbean, the pool and the beverages so we can be somewhat productive on this goal every day.

We have both been able to work on this trip.  Not nearly as many hours as we put in at home, but more than enough to keep us going.  It’s nice not having to dip into our savings to cover food and entertainment.  And the bills back home don’t disappear, so we have that to think about as well.  Mitch has made some new contacts for gigs down here. He is gigging at least three times a week.

Cafe Fresco

Meanwhile, I have been covering some shifts at Cafe Fresco. Fresco is owned by our friends Damon and Yonka Maynard – transplants from nearby Maryland. Delicious food made with the freshest of ingredients and generous portions! Check them out if you get to St Croix! http://www.cafefrescousvi.com

One last thing about how I spend my days – planning the next voyage or two.  I have spent many hours searching the cheapest airfare for our trip to Ecuador which will be in April.  There was also time spent figuring out the cheapest way for us to get from home to JFK at the end of January when we leave for our next housesit in Spain.  Yes, it would be easier to leave from Baltimore or DC, but the airfare out of  JFK was $300 less/person.  That extra $300 each will allow us more money when we are actually in Spain. The most cost-effective way from home to JFK would be to use Megabus from Harrisburg, but the schedules didn’t coincide. Looks like we will be taking Amtrak from Harrisburg to NYC.  Then the Long Island Railroad from midtown Manhattan to the airport in Queens.  The flip side of that (when we return in March) is we take the LIRR back to Manhattan and then the Megabus from NYC to Philly where we will catch another one to get us back to Harrisburg.  Many logistical hoops to jump through?  Yes, but this cuts our travel expenses to roughly $60 each and we avoid paying airport parking fees, tolls and gas.  Parking alone would be over $450.  Oh, I failed to mention that I scored us a free hotel room right by the airport on the night of our return.  Thank you AAAdvantage Award points!!

Hey Diella, would you bring me another Presidente, please?

 

Fairly mundane, right? Since we have been here so often, we haven’t been doing much of the touristy stuff. Sunday is almost alway beach day with our friends Damon and Yonka and their kids. A great way to recharge before the start of another work week for all of us!

We had a great time doing those touristy things when our friend Chris came to visit from Pennsylvania!  It’s always fun to show someone new the amazing things that St Croix has to offer!

Sailing to Buck Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginnings

The fact that you’re reading travel blogs tells me you’re dreaming of that alternative lifestyle which is so prevelent in today’s media. It’s the dream man, the dream. Traveling to those far away, exotic places. Everyone has the dream, they’re just different. It may be Asia, Europe, even South or Central America. The point is that practically everyone shares this dream in one way or another. I’ve been chasing it for years and I am getting closer all the time. For Cheryl and me, the allure of third world countries seems to scratch that itch. Maybe it reminds us of our childhood, a simpler time – not to mention the economy making way for that next trip.

imageMy first trip was to the Caribbean back in 1994. A friend had the opportunity to take their band down and play some venues in St. Croix, USVI. That friend invited me down for a long weekend to check it out. While there, I was able to get around and see some of the sights on this 23×7 mile island paradise.

As the plane began its descent and we emerged through the clouds, I could see St. Croix in its entirety. The vibrant green carpet covering the mountainous spined island contrasted against the aqua blue of the Caribbean Sea. Breathtaking! As we drew closer, I could see the houses of various affluence dotting the hillsides. Upon exiting the 747, the warm humid air washed over my air conditioned, hermetically sealed, sardine canned body. My flight mates and I walked down the 1960ish rollaway stair to the tarmac and made our way to baggage claim. The last time I walked on a runway was in the Air Force back in the 70’s. Sharing the concrete floor with chickens and small lizards was a new experience. With the addition of the Cruzan rum stand offering free shots, I soon realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. The livestock may have been unsettling to some, but I loved the time warp back to a simpler time. An old black man was sweeping the concrete with a broom. A Cruzan woman pushed a cart and offered locally made trinkets. The cab drivers gathered outside sitting on mismatched chairs and boxes in a corner close to their 15 passenger vans. Again the warmth reminded me of my cooler acclimated clothing and I ducked into a restroom to zip off those long legs and sport a tee shirt.

 

imageThe gang was waiting with cold beer and a couple of jeeps to gather me and my backpack and deliver us to downtown Christiansted. After getting settled, an offer was quickly accepted to tour the island. We four wheeled our way west to Fredricksted. “Left side!” yelled one of the guys. It takes awhile to get used to driving on the Brit side of the road. When we made Fredricksted, we began bar hopping and my friends introduced me to many bar and restaurant managers which would prove very useful in the future. Like the US, St. Croix is a melting pot and peeps turn up from everywhere. Fred was from Indiana, Diana Wisconsin, Tom was from PA. Each owned a bar and each had an interesting story of how they got here.

In the southwest corner, Fredricksted (like Christiansted) has an old fort which once protected the bay from imageinvaders with a cache of cannons and now serves as a museum on protected grounds for tourists to enjoy. Also, Fredricksted maintains the large pier for mooring the 10+ cruise ships per month that list St. Croix as a port of call. After several stops on the west side , we proceeded through the rainforest to the north shore and Cane Bay Beach. On the way, we stopped at the Domino Club to give the beer drinking pigs a non-alcoholic beer. That’s right! Just hand them the can and they puncture it with their tusks and drink it down. How bizarre! Continuing on to Cane Bay, we found more venues and once again introductions were of interest to a traveling musician like myself.

Three years later, Cheryl and I ran into a young man at home tending bar who had roadied for a band that played in St. Croix. I was able to get the contact info of a woman who owned a bar on the east end. I called that bar owner and she not only gave me some dates to play, but picked Cheryl and me up at the airport and found us a place to stay. It was an easy first trip. Everybody spoke English, US currency, free place to stay, and I made enough money to pay for the trip. Little did I know that this was all Cheryl needed to embark on a long list of travels and trips that have continued for over twenty years!

I frequently return to St. Croix simply because I can pay for the trip by playing and singing at the various venues I learned of during that first trip. Each time I return I learn something new, meet new and interesting people, and see the island from a different point of view. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this in St. Croix on our 17th trip! And, of course, not our last.