Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Unless you live at the latitude of the Tropic of Cancer or thereabouts, February -- the shortest but the longest month -- will try your patience to the end.  And for those who have to park their cars outside and yet must get going early in the morning after a day and night of frost, ice, sleet or snow:  if you haven't gone postal by now you should get a medal.


Thoughts (and you have a lot of time for those, and they're mostly dark ones) turn first to a vacation getaway and finally in the hour of desperation, to moving somewhere that never sees single digits on the thermometer.  I don't know about winter vacations anymore; granted, some friends have successfully managed to make their cruise ship departure or connecting flight, but hundreds of thousands have been stranded and frustrated the past several winters.  And remember, weather-related problems are yours, not the airlines'.  I know we've already lost a day or two on trips that way, losing hundreds of dollars already paid for the destination lodging while paying $5 for a tiny tube of toothpaste at the airport convenience shop.

So I watch marathons of tropical island shows on television as a pathetic alternative.  One the other day featured a frozen Canadian couple from Edmonton scouting out then buying a home on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.  Being a television production, of course everything looked fabulous and you could almost feel the caress of warm breezes.  And they have you with the first shot of those gentle water vistas, in more shades of blue than you can name.

Sobering up, you do some research to see if such a move really would be possible, with a lot of due diligence and some rum-fueled courage.  Before our friend the Internet, there were any number of books on retirement or escape destinations; I still have two old ones about moving/retiring to the Caribbean.  They're all written by (1) travel writers who sell the shine and sizzle, or (2) real estate people who are just drumming up business.  These days you can find hundreds on-line writers who fall into these categories, plus the many investment/financial folks.  Their perspective is based on  making their own livings, not securing a worry-free major life decision for you.

So we investigate St. Lucia, which has natural beauty from beaches to mountains, is not arid, and is below the hurricane belt.  I started island searches years ago by first looking up over 100 years' history of hurricane tracks online, which is where you'll find the most popular islands all located (the triumph, as they say, of hope over experience).  So, for beauty and safety from monster storms, score two for this island.   After you look into the rest of reality there, all you can say is, those poor Canadians from Edmonton.  Despite the pictures, books, online travel essays and real-estate porn, the island is more like Newark than paradise.  The beach vendors are everywhere, all day and night, and they're aggressive.  To the cab drivers, you're just another sucker.  Robberies at knifepoint are a regular thing, and the word is they're not shy about using that knife, either.  The police are all related to the locals, so whose side do you think they're on?  You can figure that the cost of everything is crazy (yes, the toothpaste is $5), since unless it's bananas, it's all imported (there is very little property tax in the whole area, but that is offset by high VAT and all sorts of duties).  And even in Bermuda, one of the few wealthy islands, half of what arrives on the dock is stolen.

It can be done: Tiffany moved to Maui!

I guess (sigh) that you can have this or you can have that, but you can't have it all in one place.  We have local government that works, police that look out for us, and an average cost of living.  They even have palm trees at two of the riverside restaurants (yes, real ones).  And it topped 50 degrees as of yesterday while the sun made a reappearance, doing a beatdown on the snow piles.

So, never mind.  But next February, I don't think any of us can promise we won't be thinking escape!      

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