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!

Saints in St. Maarten_St. Martin

Every year for my birthday I make it a habit to go somewhere warm and fun and a great distance away from that place where I live.  This year’s trip was no different.  With bags packed, research on which rums to bring home, I board a big bird and set out for the little island with two distinct personalities St. Martin (French)/St. Maarten (Dutch).  Little did I know when I started my trip that this place would win over my heart before I let.  I booked what I thought would be a nice room at a resort in Simpson Bay, but it turned out to be so much more.  The property was very cozy and my “studio” was one of the biggest accommodations that I’ve stayed at to date, complete with a full kitchen, king size bed, pull out sofa, dining room table and balcony with a great view of the dutch side and the ocean.  The beach and ocean with its calm waves was just a two-minute walk out of my front door and down the stairs.  All this for a little more than $500 for the week!  Unreal!

I spent most of my holiday on the island; however, I did take an opportunity to visit two of the neighboring islands, St. Barths and Anguilla, (will blog them later) and enjoy more caribbean flavor and culture.  Since I am trying to be a good girl, I utilized the two sticks that God gave me to get around quite a bit, but quickly adapted to taking a local bus when I wanted to go into town (Phillipsburg) to shop and eat or to the French side to catch the ferries to the other islands.  Like a number of islands in the caribbean, US currency was widely accepted; however, this is the one time where US change was actually accepted.  Go figure.  And getting around on a bus only costs 1.50.  Who wouldn’t explore at that rate?

Before my trip I actually linked with a local who offered to show me around.  Little did I know she would show me the ENTIRE island.  For almost five days out of my seven-day trip she would come pick me up at the hotel and off we went.  Journeying from one beach to the next.  Visiting Loterie Farm on the french side to take in a live reggae band.  Spending the night before my birthday at Cherie’s Cafe in Maho Village for what had to be the MOST hilarious sketch comedy performance I have witnessed.  Going to Phillipsburg to get a Johnny cake (okay, that was her, not me).  And just taking in the culture and vibrancy that this small island had to offer.

Food?  Oh, how could I forget that.  Even I, the pickiest person on earth, found the most delectable dishes all around to sample.  Fresh fish was everywhere to be had.  Rice and peas is my favorite and I got my full everywhere I went.  I ate until my hearts content; however, I ate clean (okay I had some junk here and there).  And I didn’t have to spend an arm and a leg for a decent meal either, except the one time I ate at the hotel.

So, the most important thing…. rum.  Yes, like all of the islands I’ve visited there is no shortage of rum to be had.  Of course, one of the more popular rums on the island is the famous Guavaberry rum.  Let me just say this.  This rum is nothing to play with.  You must definitely be wearing your big girl panties/big boy undies, if you are planning to consume this as it packs quite a punch.  My friend (the local) had some at her house and let me try it.  Woiiiii. I  think it cleared my sinuses, made my eyes pop out of my head and made me see starts— and I only had a small shot!  Gosh.  A bottle of this tonic will run you $17 on the cheap end upwards to $24 is you buy it at the famed Guavaberry store on Front Street in Phillipsburg.  There are number of flavors, not just Guavaberry, and you can sample them all at the store and determine which one you want to purchase.

On the day of my departure we took one last scenic tour of the island.  Visiting the one of the beaches frequented by the locals so that I could get one last look of that gorgeous blue water.  Then visiting a nice bar near the airport so that I can take in my last frozen tropical drink while watching the idiots who are riding the fence to experience the famous airplane jet blast.  You have to look this up, but there are people who get rush standing at a fence waiting for a plane to take off so that they can ride the blast from the jet… even though there are signs on the fence that warn people of the dangers of doing this.

I could go on and on for days with stories of things that I saw, places and visited and people I met on the island.  But, the most important thing is that this was an awesome birthday trip and I will definitely return as SXM has taken the top spot for the caribbean islands I’ve visited thus far.

Till next year SXM!