Have you ever been in a place that is so far away, so unfamiliar, but when you breathe in and you look around, you’ve never felt anything that close to home? There is a certain confidence that adds to your mind and body when you feel so comfortable in a place you’ve never been. You can walk down the street, grab a stool at a local bar, smile at the person passing you on the sidewalk, and it appears as though you’ve done it a thousand times. You pull up to that place and your heart is all of the sudden overflowing, all of your pain, and stress, and struggles are suddenly just gone. You feel lighter, looser, and free. You get the feeling that in all of the other places you’ve been, you were never really yourself because in this place, and in this moment, you are exactly the person you were meant to be. You are at your full capacity.
My place is St. John.
The first time I went to St. John, I was probably around 12. I don’t remember everything about that trip, and when I look back on it I think I considered it to be just another vacation and I didn’t really connect to it. Last summer, 2014, my family booked a trip to the island, but I was working full time and I was in a serious relationship and I didn’t want to leave home. When my mom started planning for St. John 2015, I didn’t doubt that I was going for a second. I was still in that serious relationship, I had a full-time job, but for some reason there was no hesitation this time around.
The day of travel to St. John was definitely exhausting. Our flight was out of Dulles at 6am, and the car picked us up around 3:30am. I was in summer classes at the time, so of course I waited until about 1am to start my midterm exam. I think I got about a solid 20 minutes of sleep? We flew from Dulles to Miami, and then when we boarded the plane from Miami to St. Thomas, I couldn’t tell you what was wrong with the plane but I can tell you that we sat on the runway for an hour and a half, with no air (in Miami in July), and THEN they told us we needed to switch planes. I was sooooo cool, calm, and collected and definitely not homicidal at all. Once we landed, we had about 15 minutes to get our bags from baggage claim, get on a taxi to the ferry dock, and make the very last Westin ferry. When we got to the dock the ferry wasn’t there yet, because…island time…so my mom and I grabbed a corona and finally had a minute to breathe. When we got on the ferry, I was warned I’d get splashed if I sat on the top but I didn’t care. I took my seat on the side and peered over the railing as we set off towards St. John. The sun was starting to go down, and as soon as I was starting to feel like I caught my breath from the long day of travel, I lost it again. You can look at the pictures, you can hear the stories, but nothing compares to being on that ferry and coasting into St. John.
The week that I spent there with my family was nothing short of amazing. We did it all, we took a private boat to the BVI’s, where we did incredible snorkeling and of course stopped at Foxy’s and Soggy Dollar. We took our rental car to Hawksnest, Cinnamon, Maho, and Caneel. We had dinner at Asolare, we did happy hour at Woody’s and Beach Bar. We grilled hamburgers and hotdogs at our villa, and we picked up BBQ from Candi’s. I fell in love with every one of those places.
I can’t really describe the feeling I had the day we left the island. It honestly felt like my heart was broken. I felt sick to my stomach, and anxious, and all I knew was that I 100% did not want to get on that plane. While we were on the ferry I was talking to my parents about if it would be realistic at all to come back by myself in a few weeks, because the family I was a nanny for were going on vacation and I already had the week off. I knew it would be expensive, but the only thing that held me together was looking at flights and hotel rooms and trying to figure out if I could swing it. The day after I got home, I booked a flight and I booked a one-bedroom apartment and it was a plan. It was the first time I’d done something that spontaneous and something that big on my own. I was definitely nervous, but I just wanted to be there. I woke up around 4am the morning of my trip, called an uber, walked outside with just myself and my suitcase, and went off to the airport. Once I got to Red Hook ferry dock in St. Thomas, I was still pretty unsure of what the hell I was doing. Finally, when it was time to board the ferry I climbed up to the top deck and that’s when it hit me. Everyone I’ve talked to in the past few months that is moving down to the island that have never been there before, I always tell them to just wait until they’re on the ferry and hold onto that feeling forever. There’s no more room for anything to go wrong, there are no more steps between you and St. John…you made it. You made it to the bright blue skies and the clearest ocean you’ve ever seen. The wind whips across your face and the water splashes all around you and you’re speeding across the ocean but you’ve never felt so still. I was sitting there alone, smiling like a damn fool but I just couldn’t help it. I was going to my place.
I spent the next week just living, breathing, relaxing, exploring, drinking, swimming, tanning, talking, meeting new people and making friends. I woke up every morning, packed up all of my stuff for the day and went down to Cruz Bay Landing to have breakfast and coffee. I was in no rush, I had no where to be, so I just sat and looked at the people coming in off the ferry, the people coming to have breakfast, and the people loading into taxis to take off to their adventure of the day. When I finished, I would walk down to the line of taxis, decided which beach I wanted to go to, and went off to spend the day in the sun. One of the days I was there I went to Trunk Bay, and I was about waist deep in the ocean when I just started to cry. It wasn’t like a few tears welled up in my eyes; it was like full on sob, but also laughing hysterically because I had no idea why I was crying. That is just what St. John does to me…it’s so overwhelming that I’m standing in the ocean laughing and crying hysterically…alone…like a lunatic…but for some reason, it’s actually a good thing.
After every beach trip, I would go back to my apartment and shower and get ready for the evening. I would go down to Beach Bar to catch the end of happy hour and watch the sun set. I think that was my favorite part from my trip. I would grab a painkiller, walk down the stairs and into the sand, pull a plastic chair into a good spot, watch the sky change colors and try to hold onto the moment for as long as I could. Some nights I would stay at Beach Bar well into the night and do patron shots with the bartender, or walk over to Cruz Bay Landing and have a drink and listen to the live music, or go to Longboard to have my all time favorite STJ drink- a frozen painkiller.
It didn’t really matter which place I ended up, or what I ordered, because in every place there were relaxed, happy people who wanted to ask me about how my day was going, there were sunburned faces smiling when you sat down, there were overjoyed newlyweds, and there were tiny toddlers exhausted from the sun. In the nighttime, when the darkness fell onto the gorgeous beaches and breathtaking scenery, St. John was just as beautiful because the people that were there all share the same sparkle in their eyes. We all came from so many different places all around the world, but St. John brought us all there into that little open-air oceanfront bar to share stories of our different pasts, while making memories that we will all bring with us into the future, no matter which paths we take from there.
At the end of my trip, I had a different feeling on the ferry leaving St. John. The trip did exactly what it was supposed to. I was either going to leave thinking “Ok- I’m good, I don’t need to move down here” or, “There is no doubt in my mind that I’m coming back.” Spoiler alert: I’m going back.
The day after I got home I booked another trip, but this one is with one of my best friends. We will be in St. John from November 19th to December 1st, and I can’t wait for her to see and understand how I feel about that place. Mostly, I can’t wait to be back on St. John because that is when I will feel whole again. I leave a lot behind when I get on the plane but there are sacrifices that come along with following your heart and finding your passions. I know what love is, and I know what I’m passionate about, but being in St. John this past summer made that all much more clear to me. If there is anywhere in this world that will help me figure out who I am, what my purpose is, and what I have to offer this world, I wholeheartedly believe that my place is St. John. If my expectations are too high and I leave after a year just as clueless as I am now, the island is still a pretty decent place to fail miserably at finding myself.
I’m aware that a lot of people may not understand the depth or meaning of this post because maybe you haven’t found your “where”. If you haven’t, I pray that you find it soon because it will fill a place in your heart that you didn’t know you had. If you’ve never been to St. John, I can’t recreate the feeling that it brings, but I will do my best to give you a glimpse. But just remember, St. John is so much more than white sand and clear water, it is who you are and who you can become when you are there. Now I will make a cheesy attempt at showing you my place from my eyes, so click on this link and look at some of my favorite pictures of my where.
This is my all-time favorite photo I’ve taken from St. John. This is my petroglyph bracelet, which is a symbol that was found in caves many, many years ago and is now used as kind of an unofficial symbol for STJ. This is from my solo trip, and my bracelet is hooked onto a rock at Hawksnest Beach.
Here I am during the trip with my family- sunset over Maho Bay.
Sunset over Maho.
One more Maho sunset, with my amazing family.
This is me being sassy in Cinnamon Bay.
Another from Cinnamon Bay.
My girl Hannah & I outside of Beach Bar as the sun set on Cruz Bay.
Lemondrops at Asolare, looking over Cruz Bay.
THE Beach Bar.
My mom & I at the incredible Trunk Bay overlook.
On the last night of my solo trip, my last nightly sunset outside of Beach Bar on Cruz Bay.
And lastly, the view of leaving St. John from the ferry. It’s a hard place to leave.