As I mentioned in my newsletter, one of the best things about going on vacation is coming home. It is great to be home from my 10 day Caribbean vacation and I cannot imagine this winter if we had not had it.
When I vacation, or travel or do just about anything I am usually out to improve myself, to grow to develop, to gain insight, but on this vacation I was determined to do nothing of the sort. This vacation I was just going to CHILL, not answer emails or check my voicemail and I was very clear that I had no intention of doing anything that even resembled thinking at all.
This was no small task and despite my best efforts I did have a couple of epiphanies but for the most part I would say my mission was accomplished.
One of my greatest vacation satisfactions was finding a book to read for my adventures. “Eat Pray Love” kept jumping out at me, in the airport, at the Walgreens in San Juan, but to read that would go against all of my new vacation principles. I WILL NOT DEVELOP MYSELF! And so it was the tantalizing cover of “The Other Boleyn Girl” and its stunning portrait of some beautiful man (Henry the 8th apparently) with his arms draped around Natalie Portman and Charlotte Johansson, that grabbed me and asked me to take it cruising.
They had me at page 3 when the 13 year old Mary narrates a beheading while referencing her marriage which had occurred the year previous. Combine 12 year old brides, the politics and grandeur of the English court, the role of women as pawns in their families’ quest for status and power and my new found awareness that the church of England was founded so that a king could get rid of his wife of 20+ years and marry some girl who might give him a male heir and I had 700 pages of guilty pleasure that lasted all the way to the president’s club lounge on the trip back to Ohio.
Many of my favorite moments from the trip included coming back to the cabin after a full day of activity (we were in a balcony suite on a princess cruise) opening the sliding doors to our deck and the ocean, climbing into bed with the sun streaming in and the sound of the waves in the background and reading or napping until dinner. YUM!
This was our first full fledged vacation with another couple and it was the perfect arrangement. Our dear friends Scott and Natalie joined us for 2 days of chill-time on the beach in San Juan and a 7 day cruise of Antigua, St Thomas, St Lucia, Barbados and Tortola. We had adjoining balconies that we could open to each other which kinda made it like a sleep over.
One of the many perks of cruising is the 24 hour complimentary room service, so we started each morning with fruit and coffee delivered to the balcony for a little early morning lounging before we hit shore or went for a full fledged breakfast. Eating was WAY too big of a past time on the ship but for one week a year it was very fun – between the room service and the pizza stand and the 5 course nightly dinners that are all part of your package it was pretty much 7 days of overeating, feeling uncomfortable, swearing it will be different tomorrow and then doing it all over again.
Our first island was Barbados and it was one of those experiences where you get you are not in Kansas any more. I found the whole thing a little unsettling as we were driven through town and witnessed poverty along with the types of scenes you might see in big-city slums. Even at the beach my husband was solicited 3 times to buy drugs, right among the little tiki bars at 11:00 in the morning. The water was that gorgeous aqua blue and we had a blast playing in the waves, but all in all, my gut feeling was that I was not safe and I will probably not return.
All of the islands were beautiful, and all of them left you with that subtle reminder that much of the rest of the world lives quite differently than the average North American. At one point I did the math to realize that the cost of our trip was several year’s wages for many of the people we witnessed on our travels.
We went Zip lining in the rain forest at Antigua – for those who are unfamiliar, zip lining involves a hefty harness, cable stretched across substantial gorges and platforms situated on either side of the gorge from which to launch. It was way-fun, one of those things that you know if something goes wrong then you are totally toast but barring that it is nothing but pure exhilaration.
We went dolphin watching in St Lucia which was fabulous. To see what these animals can do, the way they launch themselves feet out of the water, they way they would race the boat and use our wake as an amusement park. It was stunning. Not to mention I got to see flying fish – And I am not talking jumping fish that look like they are flying, I am talking FLYING FISH. They would launch themselves away from the boat and go for 100’s of feet, looking like a dragon fly or humming bird, skipping across the waves. It was like watching evolution at work, leaving me to question, are those really flying fish or swimming birds? Very cool!
Another highlight was a day we spent on a virtually deserted beach that Jeff and his family used to frequent when he was a child. It is so fun to watch him return to his youth, he has such an affinity for the place. We all loved the quiet, calm bay, the white sand, the snack gal and drink guy. It was like owning an island for the day.
Other highlights – Jeff loved hanging by the pool on the ship, we watched a movie on the deck at night in lounge chairs, Natalie and both got massages in cabanas on the deck, and after our nightly dinner that usually had us closing down the dining room at 11:30, it would be off to bed to rest up for another day of play.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the trip – other than finishing my 700 pages of delight -was for Jeff and I to identify our vacation preferences. Jeff was our travel guide, planning most of the excursions, making sure we caught ferry’s, waking us up at 7 am to make sure we did not miss a moment of the action. As it turns out, while he was very good at this, it was a bit more responsibility that he really needs on a vacation, and as for me, “7 am” and “vacation” should never be uttered in the same sentence. And so next time, we will likely find a quieter spot, with less to do, less activity, less food, and less things to see. All I really need is the sunshine, a drink, a good book and great company and I’m set.
When I get a chance I will share about the unexpected epiphanies, one which was delivered when I swallowed about half of the ocean while wave jumping and the other from a quiet moment resting at the spa pool while a lovely woman brought me drinks and cool towels.
But for now, I just wanted to share the basics since so many wanted to know. It is not so much to tell but I am grateful that we have the opportunity to take the time and the resources to fund a little sun just in the nick of time.
I love you. Enjoy the coming of spring and the lengthening of the days.
P.S. While this blog entry does not do it justice, I had to mention that Jeff took amazing pictures and found great joy with his new camera. The picture of the bed at the top was a cabana at our hotel in San Juan and I think this image is the most beautiful creation. Hobbies and art a very good thing. I look forward to sharing more of his creations with you. HUGS!
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