Note: Bug Bytes are simple snippets, quick thoughts. Thanks for reading.
During our wedding trip to St. John last month, we stayed in one of two suites in the Joy of Life Villa, perched high on a hill overlooking Coral Bay. Our hosts were Karen Vahling and Jeff Bowers, and I have to write about them because they truly were hosts with mosts.
Karen and Jeff were most accommodating, most helpful, and most fun. From the time they met us at the foot of their hill in their quiet village to lead us back to the house so we wouldn’t miss the turn, they demonstrated that they care about the people who stay with them. They provided everything from a glass-bottom kayak to snorkel gear, beach chairs, and an umbrella to condiments and booze—all free of charge.
They brought us fresh papaya from their garden, more than once, and they took us on an island tour, during which we learned a few things about the history of the place and got to sample cocktails from breweries and island bars.
Karen is an adventurer, a kindred spirit. She moved to Coral Bay a quarter century ago from a small town in Illinois and lived on a 20-foot sailboat in a quiet pocket of Coral Bay that first winter. She says it was one of the best times of her life: “I was young, free, and had nothing to my name but a backpack and my treasured Scuba gear.”
Karen often looked up to the hillside, longing for the view from up above. There were few hillside roads back then, so homes didn’t dot the landscape as liberally as they do now.
Through the grapevine, Karen heard that there was a lot for sale on a hill. There was no road, and two rather scary dogs guarded the bottom, so she couldn’t bushwhack up to take a look. Over a week’s time, she befriended the beasts with hot dogs and then walked up the goat trail to see the 1.2-acre parcel. She bought the land in January 2000 and held the hope of building the fantasy villa that exists today.
Construction began in 2009, and then began again in 2017, after hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged the island. Jeff, a talented builder from Michigan, has put in all kinds of muscle on the property, and both Karen and Jeff have graced it with special touches from landscaping to fine architectural details and décor. The two met about five years ago, not long after Jeff moved to the island.
Joy of Life is open year-round. In the spring and summer months, a caretaker looks over the property while Karen and Jeff travel and promote the villa with their branded RV.
It’s a grand life I emulate. Jacques and I look forward to visiting them again some day!