1. Research and Preparation – Learn as much as possible about the possible locations to move to and consolidate my possessions to an amount that can be shipped as inexpensively as possible
2. Exploration – spend 2 months traveling to the possible locations conducting more hands on research by feeling out day-to-day life, talking with people who have already done what I will do, and talking with some government officials about the processes. The final decision on which location will be my choice will be made during this phase.
3. Final Preparation – return home for final preparations before the move and to set up shipping of 1/3 of my possessions and my dog
4. Acclimation – Live in the location for 6 months, settling in, working if at all possible for an employer, and researching niches for my future business. It is during this phase that my decision to make the move permanent will occur.
5. Commitment – Move the remaining 2/3 of my possessions to the location, receive necessary permits, start a business, and live the life of my dreams.
For the Research and Preparation, I began by listing the Caribbean locations that I could potentially relocate to. Using safety and English speaking as primary objectives, my list was reduced to 13 islands and the Caribbean coast of Belize. The goal was to further narrow the list down to the choices that were the very best (for me, personally) utilizing criteria that are important to being able to make a living and quality of life. The information I need to narrow this list is available, but not necessarily easy to find. I utilized the Internet and whatever literature I could find to answer most my questions.
The Internet is a very tedious research tool. I have spent hours and hours digging for accurate information. There are a lot of different versions of statistical information. I found that I rarely could trust information from tourism sites, at least when it comes to the serious realistic information I needed. These sites definitely seem to ‘hype’ information to their advantage in order to woo tourists. I found that official government websites were best for statistical information and message boards pertaining to each of the specific locations were best for everything else. Message boards are Internet sites that bring together people with questions and people with answers (often locals). If I want to know about Grenada, I can find a lot of information by searching through years of questions and answers on a Grenada Message Board online.
The chart I
created from the answers to my questions helped me clearly compare the
possible locations and is shown below with my leading contenders at the
top and those eliminated as possibilities towards the bottom. The
information I found is not warranted to be correct and is only the result
of my personal research.
Abacos, Bahamas I 10,000 130 76 - - scrub 120,000
Aruba I 69,000 - - 1.5B 21,700 scrub
Caymans I - - - *** *** - -
Turks C - - - - - scrub -
and St. Maarten are French and Dutch sides of the same island, the stats
are for both sides together
This ‘apples to apples’ comparison eliminated many of the possible locations. For instance, I am looking for a location with beaches and mountains, which eliminated Antigua, The Bahamas, Aruba and The Turks due to their usually flat and scrubby terrain. I am also looking for a fresh cultural experience with kind people that would most likely be open to an outsider, which eliminated The Caymans, due to their money oriented culture, and St. Lucia, which is getting a reputation for overpopulation, poverty, and cocky attitudes.
Since I plan
to start a business, I will need a location that has a clear policy about
emigration, obtaining residency, work permits, etc. Most Caribbean
countries have strict policies about keeping most of the local jobs for
their local people. In general, they do not want you coming to live
there unless you clearly have something to offer (unless you are a doctor
or engineer, this usually means money). As an example, I eliminated
St. Kitts because they require a $35,000 upfront fee and a $250,000 real
estate investment to achieve residency before you can start a business.
I sadly moved Dominica, the most beautiful and unspoiled place I’ve ever
seen, down the list because they require $50,000 for residency and similarly
moved Belize down the list because their government has a nasty reputation
for red tape, lost paperwork, and missed deadlines.
The number of annual tourists and the amount of money they spend are also critical statistics for my future business. Tourism usually provides the #1 source of income for the Caribbean nations, so I’ll be looking to provide a service or product to these people, more so than to locals. Poor (literally) Belize shares 1/3of the annual tourist dollars that St. Martin receives between three times as many citizens as St. Martin. Belize was pushed down the list for this reason; St. Martin went up. Additionally, Dominca’s rating went down too because of low tourism and a lack of infrastructure. Of course, I consider ‘getting in on the ground floor’ to be an opportunity, but, as pioneering as I am in spirit, I don’t have the capital to create the infrastructure necessary for tourism, nor can I wait 10 years to make a living while the roads, policies, and services necessary are formed.
Aside from Belize, which is more Central American than Caribbean anyway (I was considering the barrier islands off the East coast of Belize), the possibilities for my move are relatively small places with small populations. This is attractive to me. They are places I can understand and ‘grasp’ quickly and efficiently. They are places I can maneuver in and make the connections necessary to have a business. They are places that have just recently been opened up via technological advances in communications, namely cell phones and Internet, which will allow me to stay in touch with my stateside friends and family, as well as provide the ability to import any needed items more quickly and efficiently than ever before.
My research has reduced my 1st choices to three: Grenada, St. Maarten, and Tortola. I have been to St. Maarten twice, but never to the other two. While I’m preparing for my upcoming travels during the Exploration Phase of my plan by getting my possessions together and making travel plans, I am reminding myself that vacationing is an easy thing, but living in a mostly poor foreign country, far from friends or family, where I am going to be culturally different from 80% +/- of the local people, where work is hard to find and pays little, and hurricanes can destroy all that you have built, is a difficult thing and will take all of my skills and determination to be a success.
My research has revealed there are a thousand real-life reasons not to move to the Caribbean. I am going to have to really want it to make it happen. Alas, I am in love with the Caribbean. And that, combined with my knowledge that the only path to real joy in life is to do something worthwhile to me, is enough to motivate me to push forward to determine if that ‘in-love’ feeling is really true love, the kind that lasts a lifetime.
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