About

Our journey from Texas to St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. Our several year plan from planning a move, finding jobs, and building a house in the islands. That was how we started the blog, but we have now completed the house, or mostly at least.  There is always something more to do.

When we started the blog, Emily wrote most of the posts.  You will also notice that she did not use our names.  She was worried that her law firm in Dallas might find out she was planning a move.  Initially (2006) we decided on a 10-year to get to the islands.  That goal was quickly condensed to five years and in the end we were here in St. Croix within two years.  Early in 2008 we came down for vacation and Emily spoke with a law firm and they basically asked when she could start.  She accepted and our lives were forever altered.  She was in the middle of getting her yoga teaching certification so we delayed her start date until she was finished with that and after she was able to take the USVI bar exam.

We had plans to build immediately, or at least shortly after arriving, but upon arrival the US and the world economy tanked.  What money we had shrunk quickly to 50%.  So while we never stopped planning, talking, and thinking about building we also didn’t stop looking at houses that were on the market.  In the end, we never found that perfect house so we pushed the construction.  From the time we hired our architects, Design Lab, it took nearly 14 months to break ground.  The construction estimates from builders came back at nearly two times the amount we expected.  So we spent months making alterations to the plans to get within a more reasonable budget.  Getting our construction loan from Scotiabank also slowed us down considerably, probably adding 4-5 months to the process.

We broke ground in late December 2010 and moved into the house at the end of January 2012.  While we stayed within 5% of our budget, it did end up taking longer than expected to complete.  Our contractor, who we hired to build the shell, told us he could complete the shell in 5 months.  In the end, the shell took about 10.5 months.  Some of that due to the rain we had, some due to the contractor. I controlled the finances and procured all the materials.  Emily and I also did quite a bit of work.  We also had a friend, Jouni, who helped out for five months with all the finishes.

We are excited to have made it through this process and are happy with our wonderful new home.  There are definitely things I would do differently if I were to do it again, but I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon.

Chad Walter
Chad was born in Pennsylvania and moved to Texas after graduating from college.  Shortly after his arrival in Dallas he met his future wife Emily.  Chad’s main passion in life outside of his love for his wife, 3 dogs, and a cat, is soccer.  Chad was lucky enough to get to play for the USVI national team for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in 2011. When he is not playing soccer or working on the house he spends time in an HR function for a Fortune 500 company.

Emily Shoup
Emily is a full-blooded Texan and never lived outside of the state prior to moving to St. Croix.  When she met Chad she informed him she would never leave her beloved state. Part of this statement was targeted at the state of Pennsylvania, but mostly it is due to her love of all things Texas, including UT.  While she spends a large part of her day in the role of attorney, she refuses to be defined by it.  Emily would prefer to spend her days baking and doing/teaching yoga.  As a certified instructor she teaches the occasional private class.  Emily also spent three plus years on the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center board of directors.  Somewhere in that free time she manages to train for the occasional marathon and is learning to speak italian.

65 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi,

    Nice Blog. Congratulations on your move. What would you say to someone from the East Coast who was looking to live a simple life on the island? I have heard a vehicle is required to get around and a return ticket is a good idea. Do you see employment as difficult there as is it in other parts of the US?

    Hope to hear from you.

    Best regards.

  2. Emily:

    Just stumbled upon your blog this evening in doing more research in preparation for my 2nd visit to STX this year. Like you both, STX has been on my personal radar for several years for many of the same reasons you mention in your early posts.

    I’m an East Coast sailor who’s bare-boated extensively in the BVI’s and The Grenadines, and am now looking to set up my new “base camp” in St. Croix. Will be on island the week before xmas, and would love to pick your collective brains if you’d be willing to meet for coffee or adult beverages one day. Staying at Carambola but will have a car and happy to meet at the place of your choosing.

    Looking forward to hearing back from you and btw… love your blog!!

    Matthew Tove

  3. Matt, we would love to meet up with you when you arrive. I will send our phone in an email.

  4. Laura and Matt, if you guys haven’t already found the moving center, check it out here: http://www.vimovingcenter.com/talk/list.php?4

    You can get all your questions answered and then some.

    Employment can be difficult, yes. If you are able to work in the tourist industry you should be fine.

    I would consider a vehicle a necessity. There is public transportation available (taxis, buses) but I personally wouldn’t want to rely on them. Some obviously do though.

  5. Thank you so much for continuing to update this blog. I encountered it some time ago and come by from time to time to check on your progress. I think it’s a wonderful resource! I’d like to do this sort of thing (move to an island…) someday too, of course, would wouldn’t?… and while you’ve certainly had to overcome obstacles along the way, you are at the same time sharing such valuable information for others.

  6. My office is going to be relocating to St. Croix in about 3 months and from what I’ve heard there’s not much to do for a single 28 years old. I read the blog that you wrote back in 2007 about how there’s no where to get tattoos on the island and a few sketchy places in St. Thomas. (I have quite a few pieces myself and would like to get more) Have you had any luck with finding a good artist down there? I’m from Chicago so I’m used to really high quality work and extremely sanitary conditions. I hope you’re new home is coming along! SO happy you started this blog!!!

  7. Hi Alexis – if you are an outdoors type of person, there is a ton of stuff to do here. I am so much more active than I ever was in Dallas! For some reason, when we transferred the blog over to this new format, some of the comments to that post did not come with it. I was chastised by another reader because apparently there is a “private” person here who does tattoos. I still don’t know who that person is or anything about him. Another reader posted that she got a tattoo at Ruel’s and it’s one of her favorite tattoos. All that being said, I have not gotten one since moving down here so I can’t really say anything about the quality of the work down here. I do see a lot of people with tattoos here though! Let us know when you get here and good luck!

  8. Hi Emily-I feel like we have met before, but I sure know your house. I am the crazy lady who walks with my kids in a tandem double stroller past your house on a regular basis and my boy always wants to play on the equipment. We have been gone a month in Texas (austin) and noticed TONS of progress when I passed it the other day. Congrats! I get these types of emails all the time and would LOVE to link your blog because it is a totally different “view” than what I blog about.

    Good luck and I hope our paths cross soon! Next time-I’ll stop when i see you at the house-
    anna holley
    thebarefootmom

  9. Hi Anna, please stop by and officially introduce yourself if you see Chad or I at the site. Please do link to our site, that would be great. We will add a link to your site as well when I get some time to add a link section on the side nav.

    Emily

  10. Emily, great blog and extremely helpful. My wife and I own one of the lots in the same community and are saving up to do some building ourselves. This was extremely insightful. We’d be interested in any contacts and/or tips you may have on the building process. Love that there’s the new Home Depot, BTW!

  11. Chad and Emily,

    WOW! Your guys are A-MAZE-ING and your house is beautiful. I read every single page, every single comment and asolutely enjoyed it. I clicked on every picture looking at everything, I am so blessed to have gotten to see the island through your eyes. I have been wanting to do a vacation somewhere and I enrolled in Scuba Classes 3 weeks ago, somehow I stumbled on your site and now know where I am coming next year after I graduate from Scuba Class.
    I truely believe you both should write a book about the ins and outs of moving to an island, both of you write so well.

    Thank you once again.

    Kevin W,
    Dayton, Ohio

  12. Thanks for the comments Kevin and good luck with the SCUBA class. Most SCUBA certification classes allow you to do the pool work near your home and the certification dives down here in St. Croix which might be a good option for you.

    Chad

  13. We are 50 something, want to build in St. Croix, keep condo downtown Fort Worth, enjoy! Without telling what you spent . Do you think we can build 1800 sq. Ft. on beach lot for $250,000? We are pretty simple, not fancy. Is building so hard, or just slow?

  14. Hi Lisa. Honestly, I think it would be impossible for you to build for that price, even something simple. General rule of thumb here is $250 sq/ft and up if you are doing concrete construction, which you need to do here. Have you already purchased your land?

    Chad

  15. I love reading your blogs and keeping updated on your progress there! It looks so beautiful and I hope to make it to visit one day. I missed the House Hunters show due to a mission trip to Kentucky but I have been watching for a re-run. We just got back from jamaica and had a great time spending the days between the beach and pools (my kind of vacation and it looks like you have made it your life)! Take care!

  16. Hi there from Georgia. I’ve read your blog on and off for a while. The house looks great. The hubs and I could be your Georgia counterparts – I’m an attorney and he’s a software engineer. We’ve traveled the Caribbean for over 10 years now and often talk about relocation. We’ve spent very little time on St. Croix – mostly St. John, which is crazy expensive to build or buy. I’d love to get some basic advice on 1. the legal community, 2. your list of pros and cons.

    Unlike you guys, we do have two kids. I know private schools run about $20K/year. Wondering if you have any on-island friends with kids and if it is possible to make that work? Any email address where I could send a few questions? Mine is attached to this comment. Thanks and enjoy your lovely home!

  17. Hi Alissa. I can’t speak for Emily, but I would imagine that the two biggest cons to practicing law in the Virgin Islands would be having to retake the bar exam and the salaries for attorneys are lower here. A way around the lower salary may be to open your own office. But not sure I would advise that you do that immediately. I will have Emily reach out to you, she can give you better insight into the legal community.

    As for private schools, I think $20K a year is about right ($10K per child). We do have friends with kids. All of them seem to send them to preschool and then to private school.

    Email on the way.

    Chad

  18. Hi guys,

    We stumbled on your blog and enjoyed reading about your adventure. We moved to STX from the Grenadines the day after Omar. We had designed and built a beautiful villa there in 2005 but the island turned out to be a bit to small and confining and very difficult to travel from. We had previously owned a property on St. John and decided to give STX a try. Our villa in the Grenadines was also recently featured on HHI…and we sold it to the owners in 2008! Prior to relocating ot the Grenadines, we were in the I/T and Law professions in the States. After relocating here, my wife also volunteered at the AWC for the first year. Since arriving on STX, we have been busy renovating an old estate here on STX.

    Look forward to meeting you someday and continued good luck with your adventure on STX!

  19. Hi, Emily & Chad!
    Mike and I met you when we visited St. Croix in the summer of 2011. We were looking at properties with Kim Lucas and enjoyed a lovely dinner with you at Savant. I was watching t.v. the other night and clicked on our TIVO to discover your episode on HHI. I see now that is must have been a replay, but nonetheless it was so fun to see you and to see that your home is finally finished. So happy for you! We hope you are doing well.

    We have not given up our dream of living on an island and still stay in touch with Kim. Mike recently sold his Pet Supplies Plus business, but I have a few more years in my position until we can make a big move. Your cottage/guest rental looks perfect. When we return for a visit, we will have to see if you have availability.
    All the Best,
    Teisha & Mike Kothe

  20. Hi Teisha and Mike, we remember having dinner with you. Much has happened with the house building since then. Let us know when you make it down this way again.

    Chad

  21. I’m enjoying your blog and also caught you on HHI. My husband, teenage daughter and I are looking to relocate to St. Croix (also from the DFW area). We first looked at St. John’s but are not sure it is for us. Any recommendations on what areas to live in? We sold our house in the DFW area already. Thanks very much!

  22. Hi Ann and Stephen, have you been to St. Croix? There are many options for where to live. Much will depend on what you enjoy, where you work, do you want to be close to schools, etc. We chose mid-island because it was very central to pretty much everything.

  23. Hi Chad & Emily,
    I am such a ding-dong. I did not think to check back on the blog after leaving you a note in April. I thought a reply would come to my email, and when I did not see a reply, I figured I must have not entered a note correctly or you were busy. Good thing I am not in the technology industry! I see now that you did reply. Shoooot!

    We came for a 2 week visit in July. (I looked on VRBO but your cottage was booked.) While on the island, Kim showed us the house next to yours, 71, I think. Mike and I were tempted to knock on your door and say hello! We found a property we are interested in purchasing, but we have some questions about how the island has changed since Hovensa closed. Would you mind emailing privately so we can ask you a few things? Here is my email:
    Hope you are well and we hope to hear from you!
    Teisha & Mike Kothe

  24. Congratulations on your adventure, Chad and Emily.
    My wife Cheryl and I are considering a similar move in the next few years (from Frisco, TX to St. Croix). Most of our experience with St. Croix has been with our little ones at The Buccaneer. We enjoy that area. What can you say about the acquisition of Hurricane insurance for purchases and new build? How about the relative value of building versus buying? IOW…did you get more for your money building or were you more focused on obtaining what you wanted?

  25. Hey Ric, hurricane insurance is very expensive. I think we pay about 1.5% of the insured amount annually and we have a 10% deductible. As for value of building vs buying, that has obviously changed. We were looking at the height of the market here in St. Croix from 2006 through 2009. We ended up building because we got the house we wanted and what we wanted would have cost more, at that time. Now, I think it probably makes more sense to buy, if you are able to find what you want in a house. Compared to 5 years ago your money will go a long way here towards a very nice house.

  26. Thanks so much for the information on your blog. I am an attorney in Dallas and I share your love for Texas. Emily — How did the USVI bar exam compare to the Texas bar exam? I can’t imagine taking a bar exam again as I haven’t been in “test taking” mode for the past several years. Good luck to you both.

  27. I saw your episode on House Hunters. Your house turned out very nice. My husband and I are seriously considering moving to St. Croix in the next couple of years. He can work remotely, and I am not sure what I will do. I now work as a legal assistant in one of the top firms in Austin. I was wondering if a job market exists for support staff in the legal field in St. Croix, and I thought you might have a good idea. Thanks for any info!

  28. Hi Emily and Chad,
    My husband and I have just begun to research moving to St. Croix and I came across your website. I’m kind of bummed that we missed your HHI episode…we love that show and even my 6 year old is addicted. Anyway, one of the things that seems to keep popping up is the high crime rate. We live in Atlanta so we are certainly not sheltered, but I’m wondering if it is as bad as some of the other blogs I’ve read have made it out to be. It seems to be one of the few negatives so far.
    Lisa

  29. Hi Lisa, they have been running our episode about once a month lately so you should be able to catch it soon. Normally they will post the schedule in advance on this page: http://www.hgtv.com/house-hunters-international/a-caribbean-quandary/index.html

    Crime rate, yes, it is high and I won’t make excuses for it, but other than my trash bin going missing we haven’t had any first hand experiences with it. Much of the crime you read about is concentrated near the public housing projects. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t happen outside of those pockets, but the large percentage remains there. What are the reasons? That is a bit difficult to answer but the economic landscape here isn’t favorable to those that don’t earn a decent living because the cost of food, electricity and housing is very high. In addition we don’t have enough jobs to go around. But I think we are beginning the upswing. We have had a few EDC companies arrive on island over the past 6 months and now that Hovensa is shutdown I think there is more pressure on the governor and senators to attract more business to the island.

    So to answer your question, is it as bad as you are reading, maybe, yes, and no. It is all a matter of perspective. Those affected by it firsthand are likely to have a louder voice.

  30. Hi Emily and Chad,
    I really enjoyed following your story on transitioning to St. Croix. Do you mind sharing how much it cost for construction of your home? It’s beautiful!

  31. What a great blog! My husband, 2 small children, and I are seriously considering moving to St. Croix in the summer. Like you we are early 30’s and know no one on the island. My husband is in construction and I was formally a pastry chef but am now a yoga instructor. Do you feel like there are a good amount of people our age with young children to connect with? Do you know if the elementary schools are good? Also are there good yoga studios or is it just resorts that offer it to guests. I would like to teach yoga full time but don’t know if that is possible on the island. My husband and I have considered opening a Vinyasa yoga studio there because we can’t seem to really find any studios online in St Croix. Do you know if there is a need for a studio? Thanks so much and your site has been great!

  32. Hi Karen, have you been to St. Croix before? I would assume so since you want to move here.

    All of my responses are opinions only, and not fact, as your perspective may be completely different. First of all, I don’t think it is possible for you to work full-time as a yoga instructor. Part-time, yes. There is a demand for yoga here, but it is a small island and most yoga instructors have other jobs. All of them that I know at least. There are some yoga studios, but none of them have a schedule where they have classes all day long. Usually it is only a few a day. And maybe that would work for you.

    As for schools, most people arriving here from the states send their kids to one of the private schools. The public schools would probably be comparable to inner-city US schools. As for people in their thirties with kids, yes, of course. We have a bunch of friends with kids. I am uncertain what a good amount would be but it is likely you would find them through your children’s schools. I know there is an online/offline group called Tamarind Moms that do outings for the kids and that would probably be a good group to hook up with once you arrive.

    Chad

  33. Thanks so much for getting back to me Chad! Thank you also for the great information. I hope it works out for us to move there because I think it would be a wonderful adventure for us and our kids. I kind of figured I wouldn’t be able to work full time in yoga, just wishful thinking. I would probably try and work at a resort as a pastry chef also because there seems to be a good amount of nice resorts. The only real hesitation we have is we are worried my husband, who is in construction, can get a job in either construction or maintenance. He is a superintendent right now for a large company so we know that he won’t find anything to that pay scale but hoping he can find something. I guess we will see with a little more research and time if this adventure will actually happen. Again, thank you so much for your help and have a great day!

  34. My husband and I want to move from Alabama to St. Croix. Our biggest concern is how do we find jobs and is it best to have a job before going or just selling everything and giving it a shot? We too, hope to move within 2 years. Your thoughts of how best to proceed would be appreciated.

  35. Hi Daphne, people are different and have different expectations. I don’t know what kind of work you guys do. I personally wouldn’t come here without a job, but many people do it without problems. So many factors go into those types of decisions, in the end you are going to have to make the decision that is right for you. Have you been to St. Croix before?

    Chad

  36. Yes, St. Thomas and the BVI. I’m an executive assistant and my husband works in the commercial fire protection/sprinkler industry. I’ve saved your cottage rental info and may look at trying to book for next year.

  37. My husband has the opportunity to move his business to St. Croix and we will be moving there at least part time. Would be very interested in building a home and loved your home. What was your budget for your home? Just trying to get an idea.

  38. Approximately $350/sq ft not counting the land. More if you want to throw in solar/wind electrical generation.

    Chad

  39. Hey Chad & Emily my cousin has bought land down there and is getting me to help keep an eye on things once the construction starts. My question is, would you refer any of your contractors besides your Plumbing and Electrical contractors, also what kind of extra charges did your builder John come up with and in the end would you refer him.

    One last question, that pre-mixed plaster was it worth it.

    I’m 2 years late but congrats on your final product, the pool area is fabulous.

    Take care and thanks for doing this blog, I learned a lot. Loved your very insightful point about having hallways, will pass this on to my cousin.

    Boots

  40. Boots, I would definitely recommend our architects, Design Lab, and would likely recommend our electrical contractor (Jimmy Adams) and our plumbing contractor (Mike Sissem). There are many things we did ourselves or hired friends to help out with. In the end I didn’t get along with John but the work he did was still high quality.

    The pre-mixed plaster saved a little time, but the plaster guys weren’t used to it and we had to redo some of it in small patches. They simply didn’t mix some batches properly I believe.

    Chad

  41. Hi! I love reading your blog.
    I am planning to move to STX, a matter of fact it would be in late march.
    I am leaving my company of 20 years to work for a new company that have a contract with the resort areas.
    We will run fiber optic wires and link everyone together faster and better.
    Once i get there and settle down i plan on bringing my family here, maybe to stay or visit?
    Tell me more about the island living and traveling to island to island.

    Thank you,
    Fonsi

  42. Hi there,

    Hope you’re both well. The place looks amazing. Question, we’re considering buying a plot of land in St. Croix. I’m trying to gauge the cost of building out there. Of course there will be a million variables, but could you give me some estimates? 3 bed 3 bath – 6 bed 6 bath, minimal, basic to more luxury?

    -William

  43. William, you can read through some of the other comments. What you are asking is very vague and I would only be guessing at numbers. You should talk to an architect.

  44. Hi Fonsi, in terms of island living you should research some other blogs and sites or come visit.

    Chad

  45. Chad & Emily,
    Seems like you have been on St Croix about 4 years. Susan and I are Southern California, which has some similarity to Austin in perhaps the lifestyle and weather. We are probably a bit older than you and Chad, but we do and think younger. We are ready to go offshore and get away from California, but don’t want a huge upward learning curve with a new language, and become foreigners in a new land. St Croix (Judith’s Fancy area) seems like an excellent compromise, but there is now so much information out there that it makes it difficult to decipher the real pros and cons.

    We can accept potential hurricanes, and crime is even here in So Cal. We do not believe island fever to be a factor, and we have resources to retire in Judith’s Fancy. But beyond that (retirement time) we’re in a bit of a quandary.

    Know you both are busy, but we’d greatly appreciate any solid comments you might offer that might realistically affect our decision to move onto St Croix. And to answer your first question, no…neither of us have ever been there.

    John & Susan

  46. Hello Emily & Chad,

    I stumbled upon your blog when doing research on moving to the US Virgin Islands.

    I’ve only read a few months at the beginning of your blog and I’m hooked on reading about your adventure. I am very interested in moving to St. Croix. I read that you guys really wanted to be on the north shore, what was your reasoning behind that decision? Was it personal preference?

    I have yet to visit the island, but am planning a trip for this fall.

    Hope to hear from you soon!
    Victoria

  47. Hi Victoria, yes the choice of St. Croix’s north shore was simply personal preference. It is more developed and closer to where we wanted to be (near town and near the things we like to do).

    Chad

  48. Hi Emily and Chad,

    I am a potential student for Barry University PA program in St. Croix. If I happen to get accepted, I would be 22 years old and hopefully looking for a place to live with friends. I’m currently from the east coast and I am nervous about the commitment, as I have heard a lot of mixed reviews. Classes for this program are held in Sunset Shopping Center in the center of the island.

    For someone who could potentially be moving to St. Croix for about 28 months, where would you suggest living? I hope to be living with fellow students, but am unsure whether that can be confirmed. How would you rate the security on the island, and would you be worried for a single 22 year old female?

    Please let me know what you think!

  49. Hi Chad and Emily,
    Just watched your show on house hunters. We have always talked about moving to the USVI. Seems to be a good choice for us due to we are young and need to work. We feel the USVI works due to not needing a work visa and permit. I am a pilot / aircraft mechanic and my wife is a accountant. I feel there would be work for us there.
    What suggestions can you give to someone wanting to make the move there? The life style, restaurants, cost, etc?
    We enjoy diving and beach time. So I believe this would be a place for us to live.
    Any comments would be great. Hope to fly over the end of the year to check things out.
    Thanks for your time.

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