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!

St. Thomas USVI is best served with a Painkiller

Okay, I know what you are thinking after you read that headline… hmm, she must not have enjoyed it.  She must have needed a strong drink in order to endure.  No, no, no.  Not so.  St. Thomas is such a beautiful place, full of wonderfully friendly people, epic beaches and gorgeous views.  However, there is also a spot in town where you pour your own drinks.  Yes, you heard me right.  The bartender sets you up with the chaser and you pour as much local rum (Bones) as you want until your heart is content.  I chose to indulge in one of the local favorites– a painkiller.  I didn’t have any pain when I arrived in St. Thomas and darn sure didn’t have any when I left, but I was feeling irie.

During my visit to the island I window shopped at several of the hundreds of duty-free stores in town.  The only thing I purchased during the window shopping tour was some coconut water, a shot glass, and two small bottles of vodka.  While I did not journey over to the beach by the Marriott, I do know that if I decide to do so next time, it will only cost $7 to take the ferry over from town.

With respect to food, I dined at a great local restaurant (Glady’s Cafe) where the food is not only flavorful and the portions are awesome, but it is also at a good price point.  The local dish is Fungi, a combination of okra and corn meal (similar to Cou Cou from Barbados), and, although I love okra, I decided not to forgo the experience.  I also sampled their local fish dish which, once again, had so much flavor.  I will definitely return to Glady’s when I make a return visit next year.

Of course a visit to the caribbean is never complete without me visiting the beach.  What can I say?  I am a summer baby and we LOVE sun, sand, and water.  I chose to visit Emerald beach which is located within walking distance from the airport.  The water is one of the MOST amazing colors of blue that I’ve every seen (not exactly like Anguilla, but close).  Just spending time letting the sun bake my already gorgeous skin tone while listening to the roar of the waves.  What a perfect way to spend time on a beautiful island.

Things to note.  If you want to fly from Puerto Rico, it is only a 14 minute flight.  Barely enough time to strap into your seat and recline it.  Taxis are not really expensive on the island.  You can expect to pay roughly $6pp to get from the airport to town where all of the duty-free shops are located.  The shop owners in the duty-free shops always want to give you something free for stopping by (a bottle of water, a soda, a glass of rum or even a piece of jewelry).  It never hurts to look, but if you truly are not interested in visiting a particular shop, a simple “no thank you” will suffice.  No need to be nasty.  Also, shop owners are willing to negotiate.  If there is something that catches your eye, ask for a break in price.

Even though USVI is a US territory, it is definitely more caribbean in nature than US.  The friendliness and vibrancy of the environment sets it apart from any other state or territory.  Definitely one of my top five favorite islands at this point!