We’re in our final days of living stateside. Technically we’re homeless but the wonderful community of family and friends we have has allowed us to couch surf until we take off to PR. Backyard BBQ’s and lazy summer days with family and friends only continue to confirm the fact that we are so fortunate to be able to have this opportunity to pick up and go. We hope to have many more of these enjoyable days as our mainland connections come visit us on the island of enchantment.
We’ve been getting a lot of questions about the island, our intentions while there, and our feelings about going - considering how much the 2 of us have moved over the past 6 years this sort of move isn’t all that daunting to us, but I can see how it might be from a less nomadic person’s perspective. Below I’ve attempted to answer some of the more common questions we’ve gotten over the last few weeks and some we’ve had to really think to answer ourselves.
Do you need a passport to go? Only if you’re not a US Citizen or if you’re flying in from another country. US Citizens or flights from within the US don’t have any customs requirements to visit Puerto Rico as it is a US Territory.
Do you need to apply to live or work in Puerto Rico? Again, if you’re a US Citizen, nope! Moving to PR is just like moving to any other state. The difference for work is the income tax you pay. Because Puerto Rico doesn’t have official representation in the US Congress, Puerto Rican residents are not subject to federal income tax. With that said, we’ll be consulting a CPA to make sure we file correctly next year since we’ll have lived half this year in the states and Alejandro will be working as an independent contractor.
What is the closest mainland state to PR? Puerto Rico is about 1000 miles or a 2.5 hr flight from Miami. The island is situated at the point where the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean meet. The closest island nation is the Dominican Republic.
Can you get all the essentials and comforts of home? Like anywhere, Puerto Rico has metropolitan areas and rural areas. With the island being only 100 miles long by 35 miles wide, all of these areas are within a day’s drive. Our initial home, in Carolina, is within the San Juan metropolitan area and is very close to many shopping areas and stores including Bed Bath and Beyond, Walgreens, CVS, Dave’s Famous BBQ, Walmart, and Costco. Since we are big proponents of supporting the local community we are very excited to try local varieties of fruits, vegetables, and meats. I’ve already researched the farmers markets and fish mongers in the area. If you’re interested here are some I plan on exploring initially - Rio Piedras Farmer’s Market and Marqueseria Atlantica. I’m sure once we’re on the ground we’ll find more places to explore…we’ll keep you up to date on what we find. Where Alejandro’s family property is, in Rincon, is a little more rural. Think beach/farm community with a small downtown and no traffic signals. There we will have smaller grocers and stores but there is still a farmers market, an organic grocery store, a local hardware store and Mayaguez is a city of about 85,000 and about a 45 minute drive away (without traffic).
Is it safe? Like anywhere else, there are pockets of the metropolitan areas you should be vigilant in and be aware of your surroundings, but its not unlike being in any other metropolitan area. Crime varies from city to city just like it does on the mainland and occurs with less frequency in the rural areas.
Do you have to know Spanish? Knowing Spanish is not a necessity to get around in Puerto Rico but learning it will help you tremendously if you plan on living there. Many Puerto Ricans speak english to one degree or another. I’m using Duolingo to improve upon my Spanish and luckily Alejandro is fluent.
Are you anxious about going? While I’m anxious to get TO Puerto Rico and not be living out of my backpack I don’t have any anxiety about going. I’m excited for the new adventure that awaits us and I’m truly looking forward to soaking up the sun and seeing what path we will end up on. Excitement yes, anxiety no.
What are you going to do? This is a question that really has no answer. I plan on exploring, learning the culture, the environment, and the people. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the various environmental programs happening throughout the island and hope to be able to get involved with some of these groups. We will also be assessing the work that needs to be done on the property, meeting with lawyers, submitting necessary paperwork for the property and enjoying the occasional coconut.
Can you find sushi? Yes! Don’t worry, we will research and report back and will have recommendations for those that visit.
Where is all your stuff? We’ve managed to consolidate or sell most of our stuff. Many of our friends have been the lucky recipients of kitchenware, plants, baking items, furniture, and even clothes. The things we did keep (nicer kitchen items, mementos, records, a few pieces of furniture) have been packed up and are in my mom’s garage. Depending on where we end up or how long we stay here will determine when we reunite with these possessions. For now, we’re taking 5 suitcases and 2 backpacks that contain mostly clothes and essentials. Even though we move pretty often, we’d been in our apartment a year and half and its amazing how much you collect in a short period of time. Even just the amount of change we found throughout the house was incredible! Note - most banks won’t take loose change and some won’t even take rolled change…we had to settle for Coinstar taking their 10%…
How will you get around? This is mostly a question we get from our San Francisco friends. We haven’t owned a car in years since we never needed one in the city. We’ll be renting a car using our airline mile points for about a week and we have already searched online for some possible locations to buy a car when we get to PR.
Will your phone work there? Yep! Cell phone use in Puerto Rico is the same as if you’re in the mainland. Our phone numbers will remain the same and we hope to continue getting phone calls and text messages from everyone!
What’s the weather like? Puerto Rico has some of the most consistent temperatures year round with highs staying in the upper 80’s and lows in the mid 70’s. Hurricane season ranges from August through October with a major hurricane gracing the island around every 7 years.
What clothes did you pack? This was a pretty difficult question for me to answer while I was going through my clothes. Being used to summers in San Francisco its was very difficult for me to part with my summer sweaters and jackets. I gave away a lot, packed a few in storage, and brought a couple that I just couldn’t part with. Taking a sweater everywhere I go is going to be hard to give up initially but I’m sure I’ll acclimate to island temperature very quickly. For the most part my suitcases are filled with shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, skirts, and dresses - pretty much the items I only got to wear on occasion in San Francisco.
What has been the hardest part of this move? This is a loaded question. Leaving our friends and family that we see on a regular basis will definitely be the most difficult. In terms of practical changes we’ve had to make I could say deciding which clothes and household items to keep and what to give away; I could say all the trips to Goodwill when our things wouldn’t sell on Craigslist…but the most difficult moving task we’ve faced is changing our address! Addresses in Puerto Rico are often very different than here in the states, with your address being a kilometer distance on a particular road in a barrio within a city. Even putting in a request for a change of address with USPS proved challenging. We’ve had to call pretty much every vendor we have bills with to change our address and even had to close a few accounts that won’t accept an address outside the 50 states. Some changes will have to wait until we have a PO Box in Puerto Rico that we can use as an address since our kilometer number doesn’t work for some businesses. For those of you wanting to send mail, we’ll update you with our PO Box information once we have it.
Will you miss San Francisco? Absolutely!! SF has been my home for many years and will always be one of my favorite cities. I have wonderful friends and great memories of the bay area and will always consider it a part of me. We might live there again, we might not, but we will always return for visits.
I fully expect questions from ourselves, from family & friends to never end during this adventure and indeed I welcome them. If you are curious about anything related to Puerto Rico or our move in general don’t hesitate to ask us in the comments and we’ll try to answer as best we can. Hopefully as we discover Puerto Rico we’ll be able to answer a lot more questions and we’ll definitely keep you all informed of what we learn!