Hello my friends! I’m writing this post from an undisclosed mountaintop location in the U.S. Virgin Islands, whence I have decamped for four days of Not Being in the Midwest. It’s currently raining, which is why I’m inside blogging rather than outside drinking yet another coconut thing (full disclosure, I have a cup of coffee with coconut milk in it next to me though) but I don’t care — it sounds great, hammering on the roof, and it’s confirming my sense that it was a good choice to only book a boat tour for half a day today since we had a beautiful morning out on the water and snorkeling, and got back before the storm started up.
I gotta say, money is flying out the door like there’s no tomorrow — basically because we’re eating out a lot — but it’s ok. I’m having fun! And the food’s really good. I don’t like seafood, but I do like fish, and I’ve eaten some terrific fish dishes.
That said, even though I’m kind of wincing in advance at the final total, there are definitely ways to make this, if not as cost-effective as a weekend on the couch at home, at least not prohibitive. Here are some of the things I’ve tried to do:
1) Know people who know people, and keep the rent low. This is a lot of the secret of my normal monthly budget actually — once you cut that big ticket item, housing, down by hundreds of dollars, things look better. Similarly, by traveling with my friend and staying with her brother (who lives and works down here) I cut hundreds of dollars off the cost of lodging, making the trip plausible on my tight budget.
1A) Plus, he’s driving us most places and taking us to really cool free places we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to go (like a more or less private beach that his boss got us on the list for yesterday.) He’s also taking us to places to eat that are less touristy and therefore cheaper, although food in general is *really* expensive here. A full deli sandwich was $14 yesterday (I split one with my friend) and when we went to the grocery store I happened to see that the kind of oats I usually buy for $3.20 were $6.50. Whew.
2) Fold cool activities into each other — like the boat tour, which we paid for (this is the biggest thing I’ll spend money on during this trip, aside from food; it was just the three of us and a captain, and we paid $120 each) but included two snorkeling stops, so I’m inclined to call those free 🙂
3) Get into nature, and window-shopping. I like to walk/hike, and it’s totally free.
4) Attend religious services. We went to one this weekend in one of the island’s oldest and definitely coolest buildings, which I don’t think we could have seen otherwise.
5) Don’t buy souvenirs. I mean, I get it — not everyone is going to be cool with this. Maybe you’d rather eat/drink less, and buy jewelry or whatever. I’m pretty happy coming home with exactly zero new things (OK, maybe a few pounds gained back) and some pictures on my camera.
5A) But do bring supplies. I didn’t want to check a bag, so I only brought the sunblock I have that comes in a 3-oz container — I probably should have brought more, and avoided having to buy some here. I definitely should have brought anti-itch cream, face soap, and a few other things…it didn’t occur to me how expensive everything was going to be here.
6) Don’t worry too much about stuff. Have dessert. Have the coconut whatever. I’m on vacation in the Caribbean! I’ve never done this before and I probably won’t do it again for years, if ever, so I might as well enjoy it!