A few months ago during Spring Break I had the lifetime opportunity to leave my dull life behind for a little while and head for the British Islands with friends and family. White sand beaches, boats and sunshine. No way I could pass that up! There was just one thing on the down side. Because I don’t get phone service in the islands, Boyfriend and I would be incommunicado for a whole week. We’ve never spent more than two days without at least saying hello, so a week was bound to be difficult. Until I started to have fun.
Nevertheless, I wanted to tell him everything I was doing, all the great details of the scenery, the people, the food but I was sure I would forget a lot of them after the week was done and I’d end up telling him “It was great!”. He’d hate that. So in order to fill him in later, I decided to write him a letter in the format of a diary, and send it to him by the end of the week.
I warn you, this might be sickeningly sweet and completely pointless all wrapped up in one. But it was one of the highlights of my year and possibly my entire life. So without further ado, here is a guide to the British Islands and a look into my strange relationship with British Boyfriend. Just as a bonus.
By mid morning, we made a pit stop at St. Thomas where we’d refueled the boat, grab a bite to eat and stretch our sea legs.
We spent most of the day there even though we didn’t do much. One thing I needed though was for certain: FOOD. I had a cup of steaming, fully sweetened coffee and a tiny pancake for breakfast. Even though I relished the buttered crisp edges and maple syrup soaked cake, it went straight to my feet in a matter of hours.
We’re at a fancy Marina, trimmed with a long curved line of cute little stores like coffee shops, boutiques, fancy pet stores and a gazebo type of restaurant called the Fat Turtle that plays a recognizable reggae song.
We sat down overlooking the ocean where all the intimidating yachts are anchored neatly next to one another.
I know you keep telling me to live a little, that I deserve a reward after all the hard work with the diet, but my hands trembled when I looked at the menu. Bacon & Cheese Sliders. Steak Sandwiches with Fries. Spicy Buffalo Wings. It was absolute torture.
I opted for something between decadent and healthy and sank my teeth into a veggie pizza. The gooey mozzarella cheese atop crispy dough was almost pure ecstasy after fourteen days of measured whole grain, non fat crap. But even though I was in pizza paradise, I managed to control myself and only have two slices. Evidently I have become the over sharing girlfriend that bores her boyfriend with all the mundane dietary details of her life. I recommend you leave me now.
I think I have a mental camera. Maybe we all do. But instead of remembering the day like a movie, I see it more like a photo album filled with snap shots of the day.
A weird looking guy with the strangest mustache I’ve ever seen. He was twenty-something and a spitting image of a hippy Dali; A Japanese family taking pictures of their young daughters next to an impressive boat; The cuddle worthy puppies that roam free at the fancy pet store and are always so glad to welcome you every time you come in. Even if you do it five times in a row. The way St. Thomas looks as you sail around it, the big houses perched up on the green mountains. The clear intense blue of the ocean that almost tempts you to drink the water. The burnt orange color the sky turns into as the sun sets behind the islands.
All of these things remind me of you; mainly because you’re the one I always go to when something remotely interesting or funny happens. I feel the need to text you at least ten times today and every time I realize I won’t be able to until Easter, it kills me.
But hopefully I won’t wish for Sunday too much and I’ll be able to enjoy every day to the fullest.
It’s a beautiful day in Tortola and I’ve easily become accustomed to the sound of seagulls cawing. My liking for this new background noise made me realize that I live in a tropical island where no seagulls reside. Hardly ever. A sunny, tropical island without seagulls… Guess someone made a universal mistake.
It’s a comforting sound however; their presence reminding me I am on vacation and the only thing I need to worry about is not over tanning.
I woke up to have sunny side up eggs with toast out on the deck, watching the people walk by the dock and looking at all the luxurious boats around me. As I dip a piece of toast into the pliant yellow yolk, I observe the names of the boats around me- Miss B. Haven, Knot on Call, Susie Q, Run Away, Revenge.
I wonder what possesses people into naming their boats the way they do. Is it the need for humor, to be unique? Or do they name it after someone they love? I figure it has to be similar to naming your newborn- most names don’t seem good enough and you want it to represent its personality.
I have a theory. I think boats should be mandatory for everyone and provided by the government. I’ve never met anyone who’s cranky on a boat. All things that go with it are good things- beach, frozen drinks, barbecue, reggae music, warm weather, tanning, shorts and flip flops. Who could possibly be miserable? It’s the perfect medicine for everyone.
I think I figured out what I want in life and that is to become one of those permanent vacation people. I’ll open up a smoothie or bakery shop right on the beach. I’ll have a rustically decorated house up on a hill overlooking the ocean. I’ll spend my days writing and cooking and the nights going to the local bar to listen to live acoustic music.
No big appearances to worry about or psycho neurotic people who think we all need to grow up and live in the “real world”. Just ocean and laughs.
We went to Jost Van Dyke’s today to the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. Water so clear you can see every detail at the bottom, fish everywhere and awesome local wooden bars with carved writing all over the walls.
This is where I discovered the messiah of drinks- the Bushwhacker. It sounds kind of dirty, I agree, but it’s the most delicious thing since someone discovered brownies. It’s like a milkshake for adults.
Everything is perfection, the rocky mountains, the white sand, the blue water pools try desperately to imitate. But I have to say what adds color to the whole scenery is the tourists. I don’t know what it is about them, but when they get to the islands they seem to wholeheartedly want to fit in, failing to realize their bright red tan quickly distinguishes them from the locals.
While paddle boarding along the shore, I saw this shadow moving underneath me. A sting ray! I got so excited I almost dove in to touch it. Everyone kept saying to be careful, that they’re deadly animals with their dangerous sharp tails. Poor sting rays. They got such a bad rep since Steven Irwin.
After a long day at the beach and a successful non red tan, we went back to the marina in Tortola where an unexpected challenge awaited me. We can’t shower in the boat because we don’t want to waste water. Therefore, the marinas offer you top notch showers. For three dollars, you get one token and for one token, you get seven minutes of flowing water. Seriously?! How did they even calculate that seven minutes was enough to cleanse oneself thoroughly? What if you move slowly? What if you like to lather rinse repeat and repeat once more?
Turns out it was more than enough time which goes to show we waste way too much water as it is. I was finished shampooing and lathering after minute three but decided to stay under the hot water until my time was up. I had already paid for it and damn it, I was going to use my minutes even if I was already perfectly clean!
Also…very strange, showering with rubbery shoes on and nothing else. It’s just wrong.
I don’t know how to follow that last statement.
The morning routines are becoming rapidly familiar and comforting. I wake up to the soft rays of light that glow through the tiny window in my cabin. I sleep for a bit longer before the sounds of people waking up and making coffee remind me it’s time to start the day. This is quickly followed by undressing and dressing in a two by two bathroom which is not becoming easier as the days go by. Next comes breakfast, the smell of butter and freshly brewed coffee proving to be too much of a temptation. My guilt is practically palpable.
But more importantly today was Dolphin day! It had been only a suggestion for the past couple of days so I hadn’t allowed myself to become excited. That was until I paid for my ticket and they slip a band around my wrist.
Then all the pent up excitement exploded. I became a five year old that had just discovered dolphins existed. I giggled without provocation, hopped and skipped around the place, terrifying every child and adult nearby. They must have thought I was some terminally ill person from the Make a Wish foundation. It was the only explanation for a twenty year old to be expressing such uncontrollable glee.
Minutes later, I was in the water with two female dolphins- Gaya and Esperanza. Before I knew it they were carrying me around, dancing and swimming with me. I was beyond happy. To be able to touch their unbelievably soft skin, to have them right at arm’s reach was a dream come true. I might need to reevaluate my dream job and opt for becoming a dolphin trainer. What could be better than getting up every morning and working with dolphins?
I wanted to stay there all day with them. But we had other things to do and more importantly, they would have escorted me out if I had clung to the dolphins.
We left Tortola for the day and made it to Virgin Gorda. The name literally means fat virgin. Why? I have yet to find out. Virgin Gorda is known for one of the most famous beaches and geological marvels ever: Baths. Its sand is grainer than Van Dyke’s, like the texture of brown sugar but with a lighter color and all around the shore are these humongous rocks piled on top of each other.
Gargantuan volcanic rocks that looks like pebbles God piled together a day he got bored.
What really makes it exciting is the trail accessible between the rocks that lead to the other side of the bay: Devil’s Bay. Passing through the narrow pathway, I only wish I could stay for hours between them and absorb all the details: the way bright sunlight peeks through the tiny spaces between the rock, the orange and beige tones of the stones, the sound of water streaming close by. I only thought of you and how much you would enjoy it.
After squatting, crawling, slipping and climbing, we made it to the other side and –you know me with my constant need for the dramatic- I climbed one of the highest rocks as a symbol of triumph. There I lied down while the sun warmed my tan skin and I thought how grateful I am for all the amazing things that happen to me each year. I was so overwhelmed with happiness, I prayed. I thanked God for all the amazing experiences e has given and I promised myself I’d never take life for granted ever again.
It’s been a day in which I’ve felt truly happy. I’ve made it to a place so beautiful and peaceful my troubles haven’t dared interrupt me. Every now and then they sort of tap me on the shoulder just to let me know they’re waiting for me when I get home. But strangely I don’t feel uneasy. I feel secure, ready to confront them and not worried I’ll make the wrong choice.
It’s Holy Friday and my catholic guilt is hitting me from all angles. A normal Holy Friday for us would be staying at home, going to mass, fasting and no meat. But here I am, at one of the loveliest marinas we’ve been to so far, Nanny Cay, eating steak. You would love it here. It’s very picturesque with wooden cabins painted with light fresh colors, a small ice cream parlor and an al fresco cafeteria that’ run by a large woman with a Creole accent.
I would love to stay here but we are headed for the island of the day: Peter Island. The “ride” there was shorter than expected. I was sure we would be surrounded throughout by nothing more than vast ocean. I was surprised to see how close islands are to each other, like neighbors houses you go visit for the day.
I haven’t thought of you as much as I did when I arrived to the Peter Island marina. Connected to a small but elegant hotel, the marina has the look of the perfect honeymooning spot with villas divided in four rooms, with their own private patios and hammocks overlooking the pool area and an al fresco lobby that becomes a sitting area with sweets and tea at four o’ clock.
Instead of stuffing my face with pastries that were not intended for me, we followed a path down a hill that led to a private beach with dark turquoise water. I got on the paddle board again and spent the rest of the afternoon in the ocean, zigzagging throughout the anchored boats and looking at all the details of the ocean beneath me. I saw another sting ray (I named him Sammy) and a turtle that remained motionless at the very bottom of the ocean. I was so excited I decided to wait around for it to come up for air. As far as I know, turtles don’t spend more than twenty minutes underwater so I stuck around against currents and the darkening of the sky. Finally she began swimming up but then decided she didn’t want air that bad and went back down.
I couldn’t stay much longer since it was practically night time and everyone was leaving. I spent the rest of the night eating great food and talking with friends. But even in the midst of the fun, I had an intense desire to talk to you, to hear your warm soothing voice. I wanted you to be there, walking side by side with me throughout the lovely resort fit for those soul-mate-believing, all-in-your face-with-our-love couples. I thought of kissing you and talking all night while we lay in one of the hammocks and then having a banquet of a breakfast in the morning.
I wish you were here.
I have a new hobby I probably won’t be able to continue once I’m back home. I sit out on the deck and throw crumbled pieces of bread to the water hoping the school of tiny fish that constantly surrounds the boat will eat it.
Sadly this doesn’t stop me. I already have a handful of bread and I rather keep throwing it to the ungrateful fish than toss it in the trash. I’m still hopeful they’ll eat it. Sometimes a big fish comes along to take a bite but then it doesn’t come back.
I think it’s been established that fish just don’t like refined carbs. Who knew?
But I have more important things to worry about than the nourishment of cold blooded animals. Today we are headed to Norman Island where we’ll go snorkeling inside the Caves, known for the variety of aqua life that resides in them.
I was beyond excited until a worrying feeling gradually took over me. I couldn’t really put my finger on it. It’s like when you remember you have to do something important but you have no idea what. I knew I had to be scared, my brain told me so, but I didn’t know of what.
And then I did…
This malevolent creature had been scaring me weeks before the trip began.. My whole life I’ve been told barracudas are highly moody and prone to attack so a close encounter with one of them is not exactly in my bucket list. I had managed to forget about them until now.
To add fear to my already scared shitless self, I just found out the Caves is where Charlie lives, a six feet barracuda that always swims around there. Always.
All the way to Norman Island I took deep breaths, the way you would while waiting in line for a rollercoaster. I wanted so much to say ‘fuck that’ and just hang in the boat while everybody else went on the swim of death. But I knew that if I didn’t get over my silly fears, I would regret it later on. I had to do it.
First I needed to figure out how I was going to jump into the 50 feet deep ocean. Since there weren’t enough snorkeling masks for everyone, we had to divide the group into two. I opted to go in the second round which would give me plenty of time to calm down and, more importantly, get drunk enough that I would synchronize swim in the water and not heed the deadly fish. Quickly I chugged a beer and two glasses of sangria, hoping desperately the buzz would hit before the first group returned.
As I waited, I watched how different groups swam towards the caves, including small children without a care in the world. That did it. If eight year old kids could defy barracudas, I was not about to be a coward.
That being said, when it was my turn to swim towards the caves, I hummed religious songs all the way there. It kind of got in the way of swimming and breathing. Once we made it, the amount of colorful fish distracted me as they followed a few feet behind. I was still jumpy, waiting for the barracuda to come out at any moment.
But we passed through cave one and nothing. Cave two, still nothing. I was beginning to feel silly for the semi tantrum I almost had. Where were the scary barracudas? I was a little annoyed they had decided to make me look like an idiot. But it looked like barracudas had left the area. The scariest thing I saw was a crab.
The water was deep but I could still swim almost to the bottom were giant rocks were covered with multicolored coral and the larger fish hid amongst it. I almost didn’t want to go back to the boat.
When we finished, I gave myself an imaginary pat on the back. I realized there was nothing wrong with getting a little scared as long as you didn’t let it stop you. Also, I’m pretty badass, jumping into possibly barracuda infested waters and coming out without a single scratch. Eight year old got nothing on me.
The rest of the day was spent drinking Bushwhackers, paddle boarding, getting lost and not finding the right boat while paddle boarding, seeing another sting ray (his name is Fred) and doing more badass stuff.
Close to the Caves, there’s a bar inside of a pirate looking boat called Willy T. Apparently there is a tradition in Willy T where you get insanely drunk, go up to the second floor, and jump off the back of the boat. If you go down naked is preferable. I didn’t have the time to get drunk or the self confidence to go commando so I decided to just go for it.
Once I was holding on to the rail and leaning forwards, the usual fear came back. For some reason, drunken strangers decided to get involved and began to cheer me on. “C’mon, ye can do it. jush jummm…p” or at least that’s what it sounded like.
I realized the more your brain says ‘okay, jump now’ the less you’ll feel inclined to. You just have to let go. After that, all you can do is curse repeatedly in your mind while gravity does the rest.
I would have jump a few more times but the sun was setting and we needed to go back to Nanny Cay, Tortola. I was glad to come back to my favorite marina, where we had a barbecue and a few beers while “Jamming” played in the background. Do I have to go back?
Woke up looking at my small surroundings, the cove of a bedroom I’ve gotten used to and the burnt orange light that comes in from the tiny window, and I realized it’s the last time I’ll be waking up here.
I never thought I would get used to sleeping in a boat but I feel so at peace here, so relaxed. I can wake up at seven every day and not feel tired because I didn’t stress about anything during the night. And even if I do, I get up anyways because I know whatever awaits me is going to be a lot of fun. I wish I could carry this perspective with me for the rest of my life.
It’s our last day at Nanny Cay and I’m looking forward to getting some ice cream at the Banana Parlor. I haven’t had ice cream in more than fifty days and in spite of all the delicious food I’ve had for the past seven days, I think I’m due a good creamy treat.
It’s just my luck, of course, that the place is closed because it’s Sunday or better yet, Easter Sunday. You’d think Jesus would resuscitate and say “Yay! I’m alive! Ice cream for everyone!” Damn ice cream shop doesn’t see it that way.
We decided to head back to Norman Island one last time where we had our last drink, played over sized Jenga and enjoyed the last day of vacation.
The whole day felt bittersweet. I couldn’t decide if I was happy to be there or sad to go home. It’s weird how people think feelings are like boxes you can label and organize. I’ve always felt they’re more like splashes of paint that mix and swirl together. Trying to name separate them all is as silly as trying to figure out why the world keeps going round and round.
I’m happy that I’m going to hear your voice in a few hours but at the same time I’m sad the days of beach and sunsets are over for now. Back to the real world, as they say. I hate how this phrase always carries a negative undertone. No one is every happy about joining the real world and no one ever says “Welcome to the real world” with a genuine congratulatory way.
I wish I could say I’m back at in the real world the way Alice would after leaving Wonderland. But the truth is, being back to reality means being away from fantasy and imagination, where all our dreams wait for us to play with them and keep making them bigger and bigger.
I want my reality to meet my fantasy. That’s all I could ever ask for.
All in all, the trip has been an incredible one. I discovered that in scary situations I always push through the fear and come out braver and better. Barracudas don’t really exist. Friends, true ones, are right in front of you sometimes. A day can feel like a year when you fill it with wonderful things and never ever wait until the next day to have the ice cream you wanted.
I love you immensely,