A Young Family in the West Indies

Taking the Crucial Jump

We quit our jobs, sold our stuff and moved To a Tropical paradise. That’s what we’d all love to do, wouldn’t we? We all want to take a break from work, be free to move anywhere and experience life in our dream location, wherever that is. But is it really possible? Do you really have what it takes to let go of your stable income, sell the things that are tying you down and set up home in a foreign land? And if so how do you do it?

Adventurers all have those fears of failure. We’re all scared to give up our income and sell the clothes, cars or house we love. The thought of moving somewhere we’ve never been before, thousands of miles from our friends and family is terrifying.

It wasn’t like we had been extremely adventurous before, but somehow we were that different couple who could take chances together or apart. Originally from Norway, I’ve also lived in Switzerland and France. Christian had been living in Germany and Austria as well as Norway.

My husband and I moved to the Caribbean island of Nevis with our two children, ages three and a half and five close to a decade ago.

Leaving Oslo

Before moving to the Caribbean, we lived in Oslo, Norway, where we had our own real estate business. We were ‘flipping’ houses and apartments.

It took us many years to build our business earnings up enough to not just survive, but thrive. The Oslo housing market was booming at the time. We would turn cheap, rundown three- or four-bedroom apartments into high-end, stand-out properties. At the same time we renovated the houses we lived in, and sold them at a profit after a year or two. We were slowly building up our savings, and were taking lots of chances, but if you don’t take a chance you can never win.

We were lucky enough to have already seen our paradise. We had come to Nevis on a cruise ship many years earlier. The island that was stunningly beautiful, pristine, untouched and welcoming. The island kept calling us back, so we returned to Nevis for holidays each year and sometimes twice a year. It was just the place that felt right for us. At that time my parents built a second home on the island.

After some months of debating about taking the risk of shutting down our business we decided to move to our paradise. We knew if all else failed we could always come back and start over. Yes, we’d be back to square one but at least we’d have some great stories and unforgettable memories to fuel us into old age.

So we started to look around for places to invest in on the island. We were looking at different options. One option was to buy a piece of land and build two houses, one for us and one to sell. But when we found out that the 16-room beach side Inn at Cades Bay was for sale, we couldn’t resist. It took a lot of effort to buy it. So we took out big loans and bought the place. We invested everything we had built up in Norway. But we were now hotel owners, managers and restaurateurs, for the first time in our lives.

We sold nearly everything we owned, starting with our home, which was one of the oldest houses in the best part of Oslo. It had a huge garden with full of different types of fruit and roses. The house was a dive when we bought it, but we’d spent two years of hard work and money renovating it. It wouldn’t be easy to replace either because the house with sun, privacy, a pool and a lovely garden. Plus there was an emotional attachment.

I had grown up in this area, soI had felt I was finally home, after moving seven times before buying there.

It wasn’t just me and my husband whose lives were going to be turned upside down: it was our children. Selling the house was hard but it was harder still to sell my children’s toys, especially for them. We kept about half a container of belongings including family photos and some very special pieces of furniture. We sent a few treasured personal items in five boxes to Nevis, with which to start our new life.

As young as our children were, this move was also potentially about us being the type of irresponsible parents who would move their children from a beautiful stable environment on a wild trip into the unknown. A lot of family and friends said we were crazy to move to an island, but we did the only thing we could: developed a thick skin and kept our eyes firmly on our dream.

How we moved to our tropical paradise

We picked Nevis because Nevisis the heart and soul of the Caribbean, an exotic tropical volcanic island with an abundance of palm-fringed beaches, warm sparkling water, English-speaking and life-loving locals, a wealth of land and water based activities, a great choice of delicious international cuisines and a background soundtrack of soul and reggae. Another plus was helping our children to grow up bilingual. They arrived knowing only two words of English and in only two months, they were fluent.

Most of our friends and banking facilities couldn’t cope with such a vague destination: many didn’t know where Nevis even was. But life went on and people started to get interested in this paradise of ours. They have kept coming to visit and they have understood that it is possible to live a normal life on an island a thousand of miles away from Norway.

Our children have now gone to five different schools and have been getting good grades. They are also learning French and Spanish. The school system is good enough, but we had to make some decisions during the way. They have been home schooled by Canadian and French teachers and they have gone to a Montessori school. Their next step on the school journey is to take the ferry every day over to the mother island, St. Kitts to continue high school over there.

The children love the Nevis life and they have learned to play tennis, golf, swim, sail, waterski and dive. They have learned to recognize and name most wildlife in the sea and appreciate the delights of good fresh food.

Best of all, Nevis’s wildlife exceeded our expectations. We not only constantly see donkey spiders akin to a tarantula and monkeys, we also get them in our gardens. I regularly have to escort errant wildlife out of our house including giant bugs such as cockroaches, beautiful humming birds and even bats. Sheep, goats, cows and donkeys are also to be seen all the time in the wild. They normally enter our garden and eat our delightful lawn and flowers.

Life in Nevis is just delightful. It has the perfect environment for my children to grow up in that is away from stress, shopping, unnecessary needs, traffic and pollution. It’s Paradise.

So why not try it yourself. Don’t you see how easy it can be?


NEDDA WIENPAHL is originally from Norway. She’s designer, developer and a restauranteur in Nevis, St. Kitts & Nevis. Her son Christopher is now 14 and daughter Lympia is 12.