Back Down Memory Lane – 2015 in Review

So 2015 was an interesting year for me.  I completed my first full year on a new job that did not provide enough leave for me to travel once per month, but I was still able to get some trips in.  I attended my second and last Carnival in Trinidad.  Hate that it was my last one because I went with a REALLY horrible travel group and wasted thousands traveling with them (can you say major lesson learned).  The experience was slightly salvaged because I was able to link with others who had better vibes.  But if I had it to do it all over again, I would have gone by myself in a heartbeat.

At the top of the year I set a travel goal of visiting 6 new caribbean islands.  That goal was accomplished this year as I visited St. Martin/St. Maarten, St. Barths, Anguilla, Puerto Rico, USVI and BVI.  Although Jamaica has always had my heart (and always will), there was a new favorite caribbean island – St. Martin/St. Maarten.  What can I say, the ease of getting around, inexpensive food, rum and accommodations, and the friendly people made the trip so enjoyable.  With these six islands off the list, I project that I will be finished with my 2nd bucket list of visiting all of the Caribbean islands in 1.5 years (God willing).

I took a few domestic trips to Tampa for Rum Fest, Miami for Carnival and North Carolina to hang with the country folks.  No flights were missed during my travels this year, which is definitely a plus.  However, I did have a shift in loyalty for air carrier and hotel chain.  I spent a lot more time and a lot less money traveling on Southwest when possible (the majority of my domestic travel was on Southwest) and my hotel loyalty shifted from Hilton to the IHG group.  Who knew that the Holiday Inn could be so fab at a fraction of the cost I was paying for Hilton brand hotels.  Don’t get me wrong, I still like Hilton, but I have learned to use my dollars more wisely.

I met a lot of really kewl people during my travel and even met a special someone.  In addition to picking up several bottles of rum from each new Caribbean island, I picked up quite a few life lessons.

  1. You can be very happy with very little.  Money buys things, but not happiness.
  2. It’s okay to allow a man to pay for dinner and to treat you like a princess.  They don’t all have hidden agendas.
  3. Sometimes language barriers can be overcome with a smile or a wave.
  4. Life is meant to be experienced.  Grab your passport and become a citizen of the world.

2015 was a great year and I cannot wait to see the adventures that await me in 2016– God willing (I already have four new islands on the books and am setting a goal to visit 8 new islands, if possible).  See you when the ball drops!  All the best!

Bathing in Beautiful BVI

I recently had the privilege and honor to take a visit the beautiful caribbean destination of the British Virgin Islands.  The flight from Puerto Rico to Tortola is just under 30 minutes and during that short time, you can see some of the most magnificent views of the island and the ocean.  During my journey I had the opportunity to dine at a local restaurant for breakfast in Road Town.  This is one of the major areas of BVI frequented by the tourists and the area where ferries and water taxis are based.

After dining at the local establishment, I set out to find my obligatory shot glass and just take a look around the area.  I found a nice shop owner who gave a me a $2 discount on the shot glass and also gave me some good pointers for navigating the area.  After chatting with the local for a minute, I made my way over to the ferry terminal where I booked a roundtrip ticket to the island of Virgin Gorda, home to the world famous Bathes.  What an experience!

The total travel time to Virgin Gorda takes approximately 40 minutes by ferry and is a pretty smooth ride.  Once you dock, there are taxis waiting to take you to the park housing The Bathes.  The entrance fee for visitors is only $3 and, after paying the entrance fee, you take a 10 minute walk to what can only be described as the most breathtaking views known to man.  The first area is typically the spot where most people set up camp and hunker down, but if you actually venture into the Caves and take another 5 or 10 minute walk, there is a more secluded beach area which is where I headed.

Having trekked through shallow water in the Caves, climbed a few ladders and used a rope to traverse some rather large rocks, I arrived at the spot that would be my little slice of heaven for a few hours.  There were only three other people on the beach at the time I arrived which made it the perfect spot to relax away from all of the tourists.  I enjoyed bathing in the sun and enjoying my life.  Every 45 minutes or so I would take a dip in the ocean and let the salt water just roll off my body before returning to my spot on the beach to soak up the sun again.

I spent only 4 hours at The Bathes before returning back to the dock in order to catch the 3:30p.m. ferry back to Road Town.  The ferry boarded around 3:15p.m. and left promptly at 3:30p.m.  Having spent a few hours lazing in the sun, I was quick to fall asleep on the ferry as the waves just sang me the sweetest lullaby.  Again, the ride only took 40 minutes and I made it back just in time to find a local cab to return back to Tortola.  I would definitely return again to BVI just to relax at The Bathes again.

A few tips for first time visitors.  The one-way tax rate from the airport to Road Town is $28.  Quite steep.  However, the local tax rate is only $5.  Of course the representative at the tour desk will not volunteer that information.  If you decide to visit The Bathes, you actually do not have to go to Road Town to catch the ferry, there is actually a service at the airport that will transfer you to a nearby dock and transport you to The Bathes from that location.  I am not sure how long the ride takes from that location or the cost of the trip, but it is another option, especially if you are trying to stretch dollars.