Guest blog post from Clara Wiggins, author of the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide...
When I was asked by Kim to write about out time living in St Lucia, I have to admit that at first, I was hesitant. I have written about the island before, quite a few times. But most of what I have written has tended to fall on the, should I say, negative side: not because there is anything wrong with St Lucia itself but because as a parent of two small children I found it a very tough place to live.
Then I gave it some thought. Actually while I have focused on the down side of island-life I have forgotten or ignored the fact that there was, of course, an upside. You might get used to the beautiful views and constant access to the Caribbean Sea but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. And actually living as I do now in a city a long, long way from the coast (Pretoria in South Africa), I could really do with getting under the warm sea a little more often.
Yes sometimes I don’t want to admit it but there is a lot about St Lucia that I miss. So, now that I have the reason to do so, here are my top ten things about living on the island:
1 – The Views
Round every corner another stunner. The Pitons (pictured) are of course the island’s most famous landmark. But there was plenty other sights to feast your eyes on from stunning beaches to lush forests.
2 – The Sea
Of course it’s hard to go anywhere on an island as small as St Lucia (just 27 miles long and 14 miles wide) without seeing the sea. I have loved water ever since I was a small child and learned to snorkel while living in the Philippines. Then when I was 30 I learned to dive – and haven’t looked back. I managed to dive a few times in St Lucia while the children were in school, but we also spent a fair amount of time swimming, paddling, and snorkelling in the beautiful, clear, warm Caribbean. Unfortunately my eldest daughter hated the sea or the beach – which has been the subject of some of my more negative stories about St Lucia!
3 – The outdoors life
Coming as we do from an island like England with very unpredictable weather patterns and a lot of rain, being able to be outside so much was a real bonus. Although the island was a little too humid for comfort, it was really nice to feel the sun on your back on a daily basis. And to be able to plan outdoors activities every weekend.
4 – Coconut Bay
When you live somewhere as small as St Lucia, it’s not just important but vital that you find somewhere to run away to every so often. Given that the area we lived, worked and played in was so tiny, and that leaving the island was so expensive, the best option was an All Inclusive hotel in the far south of the island called Coconut Bay. It was still only about 25 miles from where we lived but the roads weren’t great, so it took a couple of hours to get there. Thus, it felt like a proper trip away. And once we were there we could blend in with the tourists and pretend we were on holiday. The free-flowing cocktails had absolutely nothing to do with the reason why we loved it so much, oh no, nothing at all….
5 – Proximity to Florida
Going to Coconut Bay was relatively easy compared to the other place we went to when we really wanted to get away from it all – which was Florida. Nevertheless, we still managed to go there three times while we lived in St Lucia and loved every minute. It helped that my brother-in-law lives near Miami so we had a good reason to go, but we would have visited anyway with our kids the age they were. I don’t know if they realise how lucky they were to get to experience the theme parks in the low season when they weren’t too busy – but for me, the coast and beaches were even more special.
6 - Swimming
We were extremely lucky to have swimming pools in the gardens of both the houses we lived in on the island and so my children were in the water pretty much every day from the start. They also had swimming lessons and so began a lifelong love for the sport. They are both still swimming and also now competing – I hope it is something they both carry on with as it is not only an excellent sport for health and fitness but also a good way to meet people out of the usual school “cliques”.
7 – The school
When we first arrived in St Lucia we visited the local school where most of the expats sent their kids. We were slightly confused, where were the toys (bearing in mind our children were still pre-school age)? Why were they using little mats on the floor to do things with beads and bricks? What was all this about using knives, unsupervised? It was, of course, a Montessori school – something totally new to us. But it was also the only recommended school for children the ages that ours were, so we went with it.... and I am glad that we did. It took a little getting used to (there were a few unusual St Lucian customs alongside the usual Montessori oddness…), but in the end it gave my children an excellent start to their school lives. Like the daily swimming, we are still seeing the benefits today.
8 - The people
I have to be honest here – St Lucians were not the friendliest people in the world. However, there are always exceptions and we definitely met some interesting people and made some good connections. But what I really appreciated was the chance for my children to mix with so many different cultures – they had friends from all over the world and also from St Lucia itself.
9 – The sunsets
I will let the photo speak for itself on this one. Needless to say, we had scenes like this almost nightly from our balcony.
10 – Diving
I first learned to dive waaaay back in my late twenties when I was travelling in New Zealand. I had many a dive holiday after that and carried on when I lived in Jamaica, until I had to stop due to pregnancy. So to be able to take it up again when we moved to St Lucia was wonderful – even if it did mean I had to fit the dives in around the children’s school hours. The diving in St Lucia certainly isn’t the best in the world but it is good enough for someone who hadn’t dived for a few years. And just to be under the sea is always special…
So there you have it – my top ten things about living on an island, which I thought I didn’t like! Writing this list was actually quite hard. I have focused so much on the negatives of our experience in St Lucia that it is a while since I thought about the good things. But in the end there was plenty that made us happy and in fact there were many things that didn’t make the list like: the people who came to visit us (getting people to come to the Caribbean was actually quite easy!), the lime tree in our garden, the cocktails, the resorts we visited at the weekends, the snorkelling…
Would I go back though? For a holiday, certainly. To live? No, probably not. As beautiful as St Lucia is, it was just a little too tiny for me. Some people just aren’t cut out for small island living. I think I am one of them.
Clara Wiggins is a British writer and author of the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide. Her writing mostly focuses on expat life, parenting, families and travel. She currently lives in South Africa with her husband and two daughters – where, due to the vastness of the country, they are a lot happier than when they were in St Lucia.
For more on St.Lucia, click here to check out this travel guide from the UK's Telegraph.