A Writer’s Journey to St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

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A Writer’s Journey to The Island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands

A Writer’s Journey to Paradise

The island of St. John, the smallest and most idyllic of the three United States Virgin Islands, is only 2 hrs flight time from Miami. A perfect haven for writers and artists, the language is English, the currency is the US dollar and no travel visa, passport or inoculations are required for entry. The island is best known for its dozens of post card perfect white sand beaches, turquoise bays with colorful corals, rainbows of tropical fish and sea turtles and its green hills. Only nine miles long and three miles wide, two-thirds of the island is a U.S. National Park filled with hiking tails, so its spectacular beaches will remain that way for generations to come.

The island is accessible by ferry from the airport on the larger island of St. Thomas, just a 20-minute ferry ride across Pillsbury Sound, where hundreds of pirate ships are buried under the turquoise blue waters. Our trip is scheduled in May, after the winter tourist season ends and well before the island residents batten down the hatches for hurricane season, which runs July through November. St. John is  almost deserted in the Spring, assuring a tranquil and relaxed environment. The  island has no big cities, shopping centers or nightlife, and no cruise ships in port, there isn’t even a stoplight on the island. If you love crystal-clear water, palm trees and peace and quiet, then St. John is the perfect place for you.

great_roomThe Writer’s Journey Class

Regardless of whether you choose to do a Full 10-day Writing Journey Class or a customized Private Writing Retreat on St.John, this time is a chance to take off your watch, turn off the phone, step out of your everyday life and dedicate some time to getting your work done in one of the most beautiful, peaceful places on earth. The goal is simply to focus on your writing life, without distractions or procrastination. In the Full 10-Day Writer’s Journey we will meet as a group once a day for a few hours to talk about the craft of writing and investigate multiple techniques for working with memory, personal history, observation and imagination. We will also talk about our progress and to read to one another from our on-going pages.  The rest of the days are free for writing, reading, sleeping, dreaming, swimming or snorkeling at one of the island’s white sand beaches. Max will schedule two one-on-one sessions with each writer, one at the beginning of the retreat and one at the end, to discuss your specific project and goals.

Maybe you have started a story, poem, writing project, novel or memoir but stopped or stalled in frustration. Maybe you are hard at work in the middle of a writing project or maybe you would simply like a quiet and spacious time to focus on your own reading and writing. Together we investigate all of these options and rediscover the pleasure of writing both about and from the depth of our own lives. The goal is to challenge you to engage fully with the act of writing, dreaming, deep relaxation and enjoying everything that the island has to offer. Each student will be encouraged to begin to imagine a body of work and to create patterns in their own lives that will sustain their writing practice long after the Journey is over.

UnknownTravel to the Island

From your departure city you will fly to the island of St. Thomas, where you will take a 30min taxi ride across the island to Red Hook ferry dock. Then you will get on a ferry for the 15min ride over to the island of St. John. You arrive at the ferry dock in Cruz Bay on St.John where Max will arrange to pick you up in a rental jeep which will be available to the group to use over the course of the Journey. There are many major airlines that fly to St. Thomas, most of them taking travelers through either Miami or San Juan, Puerto Rico. American Airlines has the most routes and the most flights into St.Thomas, but Spirit Air, United and Delta fly there as well. Estimated travel costs vary depending on your city of departure, but book your flight as soon as possible to find the best rates. Sites like kayak.com, orbitz.com and expedia.com may be the best way of finding an affordable flight. Upon registration Max will provide information on the best routes from your home to the island.

Please note, when booking your flight, try to arrive on St. Thomas as early in the afternoon/evening as possible, the US Virgin Islands do NOT observe Daylight Savings Time and the last Ferry to St. John leaves at 11pm. When booking your return flight, do NOT book a flight that leaves St. Thomas before 11am, you will need time to get back to St. Thomas on the ferry.

gazebo_diningHousing on The Island

There are hundreds of private apartments, houses and villas for rent on St. John. The full 10-Day Writing Journey includes housing for all participants with a private room and private bathroom in one of the island villas, which Max will book. Sharing the rental costs for a private house is by far the nicest style of accommodation for the least amount of money. Villas cover the whole range of accommodations from the very basic to the uber-luxury. All the villas we rent come with WIFI and AC in the bedrooms. Villas have a fully equipped kitchens, large, comfortable living spaces and are fully furnished with all linens, sheets, towels and beach accessories. Common areas either have AC or they are cooled by ceiling fans in each room and by the trade winds that enter through the many windows and doors.

BeachatduskMeals and Dining

St. John’s surprisingly large selection of restaurants run from open-air spots for casual barbecue or burgers to air- conditioned hideaways for Continental cuisine. There are 4 grocery stores on the island, as well as numerous open-air cafes, restaurants, and places to eat. Food tends to be pricey on the island, about the same as it would be in New York or any major US city. Those staying in rental villas will have full kitchens and will shop at one of the local grocery stores. If you have specific food items, spices, power bars, supplements, etc that you require, you should plan to bring these things with you from home.

IMG_1452Getting Around the Island

St. John is a peaceful, non-commercialized paradise and getting around the island is easy. Cruz Bay, the major town where the ferry docks, is on the west end of the island facing Red Hook in St. Thomas. It is connected by well maintained paved roads to most of the bays and beaches. It is a 30min drive over the mountain to Coral Bay, the small town on the even quieter east end of the island.

Most people travel around the island via rental car or Island taxis. These are large colorful trucks with padded seats in the back and permanent canopies to keep off the rain. The more passengers on a taxi, the more affordable the ride. Roads on St. John are small and winding, so cars very rarely travel over 20mph, but they do drive on the left, which can take a bit of getting used to. Although the steering wheel on rental cars is in the traditional place for US drivers, on the left, which helps. “Rush hour” on St. John is when a herd of donkeys or goats is grazing in the middle of the road at 8am, other than that you aren’t likely to encounter much traffic.

Shopping

St. John offers imaginative shops with distinctive quality jewelry, unique international and local crafts. The island is home to many talented artists who work in a wide array of mediums and modes. Meet them and see their work at the island’s art galleries and artists’ studios. St. John’s three shopping areas, all within walking distance of the ferry and each with a personality all its own, are attractions in themselves, offering delis, bistros, restaurants, cafes and bars along with the shops. (http://www.stjohnusvi.com/stjohn.html)

Registration
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All Journeys and Private Retreats on St. John are open to writers in any genre. Registration for Full 10-Day Journey is limited to only 4 individual writers, in order to maintain an intimate and productive working group.  Tuition includes a daily class session, 2 private meetings with Max as well as a private bedroom and private bathroom for each student in a villa overlooking the ocean. Tuition also includes a 4-door rental jeep for the use of participants during the week of your stay. It does not include round-trip airfare, meals, ferries and taxis. Tuition for the Full 10-Day Journey is $3800 and a $600 non-refundable deposit is due upon registration. The non-refundable deposit holds your place in the class. If you require a Payment Plan please contact Max as soon as possible. Once housing is booked, students are responsible for the entire tuition. If you need to cancel, your tuition will only be refunded (minus the deposit) if we locate another student to take your seat on the Journey. We would love to have you join us for this Journey, but please make sure the class dates and deadlines work for you before you register.

THE NEXT JOURNEY TO ST.JOHN WILL BE IN MAY 2020

If you are interested in a Private Customized Retreats Max will work with you to determine what time of year works best in your schedule and what type of  accommodations will be most comfortable and affordable for you. We will also work together to customize our daily work together to move your writing life and/or writing projects forward with productivity and purpose. If you are interested in setting up a Private Retreat to the island of St. John please click here for more information.

For more information just drop Max an email at hollowdeckpress@mac.com.

A Note on Hurricane Irmaria in 2017

In September 2017 two immensely powerful category 5 hurricanes (Irma and Maria, locally known as Irmaria) devastated many islands in the Caribbean, also impacting the small island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands. Hurricane Irma brought winds of over 200 mph and there was a lot of damage to property and to the environment. Thankfully the unofficial motto of St. John is “Hold my beer, I got this” so the hardy islanders got right to work clearing debris, rebuilding and bringing their island back to life. A year later the shops and beaches are open, the water is clean and bright and the houses and businesses are being rebuilt stronger than before. Our two island hotels, The Westin Hotel and Caneel Bay Resort are slow to reopen, but they are being renovated and will be open soon. As the St. Johnians like to say, “Soon come!”