Turks and Caicos - Sounds So Sweet
You dive. And you seek a storied place in the sun - as an expat. The plan? Make it painless. South Pacific? Too far, too remote. Central America? Possible linguistic, attendant political and business challenges. Australia? Maybe too much like home. Then you remember a dive trip from years back: Turks and Caicos - aka TCI - a British Overseas Territory with a siren song for expats-in-waiting.
Consider viz bordering the limitless realm, 80-degree average water temps, a 7,000-foot trench with some of the best wall diving anywhere, a crazy abundance of upwelling marine life year round and a compact collection of friendly islands with enough topside mojo to keep life interesting. And it's all within a couple hours of the States. Oh, and then there's the matter of taxes - as in no property, no capital gains, no inheritance and no income taxes.
It's a little like the cautionary cliché, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Maybe. But in the case of Mitch Rolling, a former Iowan who came to TCI on a lark in 1980 to become a musician, life has indeed been sweet.
"My original plan was to write and play songs, learn how to be a rock star, then leave. It was super affordable back then, and I could just focus on playing," recalls Rolling.
By 1983, and without a Top-10 hit, he turned to diving to make ends meet and eventually became a divemaster at Blue Water Divers - "a seemingly innocent decision that had major implications."
After 10 years, Rolling bought out the owners, renovated, replaced and reworked virtually everything in the dive shop's arsenal.
"I got tired of holding things together with duct tape. But I learned as I went - compressors, boat engines, marketing to hotels, hiring good people - it was all a major learning curve."
In 1994, Rolling obtained his Permanent Residence Certificate and settled into his ideal lifestyle of diving and playing music with his band, High Tide.
"TCI is all about friendships - it goes hand in hand with living down here. It's funky with its tapestry of cultures, European customers and Americans."
Words of wisdom? Rolling offers: "If diving is your passion, don't wait. If you think you have to wait for all the pieces to fall into place, it will never happen. Just do it."
Blue Water Divers (grandturkscuba.com) on Grand Turk has three skiffs with 6-10 diver capacities that visit more than 25 moored sites, including wall dives one-quarter mile offshore. Providenciales' Dive Provo (diveprovo.com) visits sites all around the island and accommodates full-day trips to distant areas of Molasses Reef and West Sand Spit. From April-December, the 120-foot Turks and Caicos Aggressor II (aggressor.com) pampers 20 live-aboard guests with a week of diving along West Caicos and French Cay. Find general information through turksandcaicostourism.com. For more on residency, visit liveturksandcaicos.com and escapeartist.com.