I just looked back at this blog and all the times I mentioned,”Zoe and I are moving to the Virgin Islands”. Life has been really strange after we totally fudged up our trip to the Virgin Islands; we both did not plan on being back in Ann Arbor this fall; we prepared for everything imaginable except coming back home. Since then we both have been floundering around trying to get a grip on our job situation and what to do next with our lives. We were both ready to start our lives over on a tropical island removed from all the problems of Michigan, but instead we found a whole new array of problems and realized we had left something good behind.
So,.. what did we lose from this trip? Zoe and I have come up with a few things.
We lost a lot of money from the Botanical Villas and the resulting trek we were forced to take travelling around the islands for adequate housing. Taxi rides on St. Thomas and St. John cost anywhere from $12 – $35 a trip and were the only solution to getting around with the amount of luggage we were carrying (we had two 50 pound bags, one 25 pound bag, and two smaller bags around 10-15 pounds each. Had we known that the hostel we booked was abandoned and deserted we wouldn’t have brought our entire life’s worth of luggage with us and would have been much better off.) The second day we were there we went to the only hotel we knew of on St. John which happened to be the Westin, and even with Zoe working out a sweet deal with Westin corporate over the phone it was still around $220 for one night and half a day. The following day we were able to do a little better searching on the net and found a Best Western near the airport for $99 a night which made us feel better about our money situation, but we still had to deal with Elsa, our beloved hostel owner, who we paid $575 for a miserable little shack on the side of a mountain. The supermarket was insanely overpriced on some items and insanely under-priced on others. A gallon of Vodka is the price of a gallon of milk in Michigan, whereas milk is double the price of what it normally should be. Ferry rides cost about the same as taxi’s and a little extra for our luggage. Combine all these prices with last-minute airline tickets home for both of us and our luggage and you’ve just spent about $575 (hostel) + $1600 (tickets, food, hotels, taxis) = $2,175. Bummer.
We lost our stability; specifically our apartment and the two jobs that supported us for a year in Ann Arbor while we prepared for our trip. I worked at Trader Joe’s as a sign artist, a truly awesome job where you are paid to draw, advertise, and design cool 3-D artwork, and Zoe had a great job at Cafe Zola. Although it felt mundane and monotonous living the same day over and over again to make rent and make a paycheck it was very secure and stable. We could exist in that state for another few years, provided we travel to far-away lands every winter to break up the cold Michigan weather.
We wasted a lot of our time as well in preparing, going, and getting back. We had been planning this trip for 8 months; almost since the first day we moved to Ann Arbor last September. After working for a whole year towards a goal it is a real momentum killer to have it all amount to nothing and actually cost you a great deal of money. Our confidence has been shaken and we both feel like we’re wasting more time trying to get back on our feet. It’s kind of like feeling sick to your stomach for no real reason, or like having your purpose in life stripped away. I’ve never felt anything quite like that before and I find it extremely unwelcoming.
Although the above problems are bad, one of the worst (and perhaps because it is the most surprising) is the loss of credibility with my parents and friends. Leading up to our trip we both felt so sure of ourselves and righteous and were not afraid to say it to our many co-workers, families, and friends who did not have the desire or will to try what we did. Upon returning, with our pockets empty and our hearts crushed a little, we have been met with a mixed criticism from those that couldn’t understand why we were going. One of the biggest changes I have seen is with my family, and I can understand up to a certain point. At our Virgin Island Going-Away Party some of my family were in tears and my friends were still shaky as to understanding why Zoe and I were going. I believe that our families and friends really love us, and because of that, we caused them all a great deal of unnecessary pain by “pretending to leave forever” and then coming back really soon. I think that abused trust has turned into a kind of resentment once we returned home. “I told you so” and “Apparently ‘leaving forever’ meant a few weeks” are some of the statements I’ve heard from friends and family after returning. I also know I kept some information about our trip a secret from my parents because I thought they would discourage us from going in the first place (my parents are extremely protective). I violated their trust which has also turned sour.
To plan that long and that much for a life-changing trip that failed miserably and then having someone you love take what little they know about the experience you had and throw it back in your face is extremely hurtful. At least we made an effort to try and live our dream. We both know now,”yup, the Virgin Islands are not for us” and we can continue with our lives. Many of our friends have supported us in our return and have empathy for our situation. For those that don’t I don’t know what it would take for them to understand unless they made a similar pilgrimage into a bungled plan such as us.
It is a dizzying array of emotions, most unpleasant.
Someone wise once told me that people become the most angry and frustrated when things don’t go the way they expected them to, as opposed to people who never had any expectations at all. If you go on Survivor and expect $1,000,000 and you wind up with $25,000 you will be furious, whereas if you had no expectations and end up with the same $25,000 it seems like a much greater prize. I have found this saying to be true in my lifetime (Survivor included). I think that Zoe and myself have both been suffering from this condition; left with a bitter taste in our mouths from a wonderful dream that was proven to be anything but.
I am a firm believer in the idea that you make your own mood, and there are plenty of great things going on in our lives that we can stay positive. We both are stronger and wiser from the experiences we shared on the islands. We have a great network of friends and family in the Ann Arbor area that will let us stay with them until we are back on our feet. There are plenty of jobs for two young kids who are willing to work hard for their money. And of course it’s fall in Michigan, a beautiful time of year to witness with crisp cold air but not too close to winter to discourage the summer sun from shining.