While we are out hiking the Camino de Santiago for the next few months, we’ll be featuring weekly house sitters here on our digital home. If you are interested in guest posting contact Sera at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can read all about our adventures on El Camino here.
So it seems to me that some people are exposed to travel by way of their upbringing and it’s just simply ingrained in them. Some take that exposure for granted. For some there’s nothing to it. But then there’s the rest of us, who are left with this disconnected understanding of, “How the heck does everyone pull that off?”
I grew up ‘traveling,’ sure, but it was more the road trip south, camping, skiing/snowboarding, visiting-family kind. Traveling abroad just seemed too far-fetched. I was too busy focusing on what to do with my life, never mind trying to figure out how to explore the WORLD. My parents themselves hadn’t been exposed to travel, and it just didn’t seem in the cards for me. I did an off-campus trip in D.C. for 2 weeks, but that seemed to me to be the extent of my adventures.
I honestly had no idea when, if or HOW I’d ever get my passport. The few times I traveled to Canada was before you needed a passport to get in. It wasn’t an urgent (or even a probable) thing in my mind. In hindsight, this makes me awfully sad! There is so much to see beyond the borders we grew up in, yet these borders were ROCK SOLID based on my personal exposure and I honestly didn’t even realize what I was missing.
Fast forward to February 2014, when I was deep in the midst of some pretty nasty winter doldrums. Yes, even in the sunny south of Savannah, GA – winter can get depressing, too! I’m pretty sure I’m solar-powered – OR – I was a bear in my last life and I’m still prone to hibernating.
My mom asked if we could schedule a time to ‘Facetime’ – something we’d not done before. They alerted me had both good news and bad. (Honestly, I don’t even remember the bad news.) After I was able to get them to put the camera on their faces instead of the cedar chest in front of them (seriously, they’re adorable), my mom gave my dad center stage. She. Was. Beaming.
My dad started, “Hey Ser! So, I may have won a trip through work and because Mom is traveling to Malta, she’s not able to go. Would you want to be my +1 to Jamaica?”
SIDENOTE: My dad got his passport 10 years ago to visit my brother in New Zealand while he was there on a school-related project. My mom got her passport for a trip to Mexico (with my dad) a few years ago and was only using it for her second time for this trip to Malta with her best friend.
And what did I do? I just started to CRY. Seriously? In the midst of the winter-that-won’t-end, I’m offered an opportunity of a lifetime to escape and go on a real-life vacation? And with my favorite person in the whole wide world who I hadn’t seen in 7 months? (We live 16+ hours away from one another.)
YES. YES PLEASE.
I was unprepared. I had 7 weeks to get my passport before our trip. I went through the motions. We expedited the passport just to be safe. It all felt surreal. I didn’t know how to even process what I was about to experience. I giggled when friends asked if I was excited. SURE! I didn’t quite know what to feel.
A new door had been opened and I had no expectations. Just pure excitement about stepping into a brand new unknown.
It didn’t hit me that I was really going on a REAL vacation to another country until I was in the air, on the plane, in my window seat. I went from seeing land, to just ocean. And then BLUE ocean. And then blue ocean, speckled with land and the most gorgeous gradient of color I have ever seen. It was BEYOND exquisite. This was just what I needed to re-awaken my soul.
I don’t remember who I sat next to on the plane. I took picture after picture out the window. The pilot was kind enough to give us a little geography lesson and point out Cuba, the Cayman Islands. And there it was. JAMAICA. Montego Bay. And best of all? I knew my dad was there waiting for me.
SIDENOTE: I’m realizing I can’t help but write this from a completely biased view. I fell in love and FAST. Never in my life did I ever state, “Oooh wow, I’d really LOVE to go to Jamaica someday!” but I can’t even try to hide my feelings for it now. Jamaica is the first love I’ll never forget.
We were supposed to send post cards. We were supposed to bring home gifts. But once we arrived and connected at the airport, my dad and I were on Jamaican time (I didn’t even know this was a thing!).
We were offered champagne upon our arrival at the hotel and brochures with all the things to explore. The colors, I can’t even begin to tell you about them. I mean seriously, this was the view of the sunset from our hotel:
Now imagine that in the daytime. I was awestruck. My dad and I were ready to take on every activity available to us. We played pool volleyball, we explored everything we could get our hands on and oh, how we laughed. We made friends with every person we encountered. After sleeping in until 9am the first two days, I told my dad we could no longer sleep with the curtains closed.
On day 3, after dancing until 2 am, I was awake at 5:45 and ready to rock. We took kayaks to an uninhabited part of the island and ran into a ship named “Victoria” from Copenhagen, Denmark. We rode bikes into town on roads with traffic whizzing by (in the “wrong” direction) and warded off a few local women begging to braid my long hair. My dad even learned how to wind-surf (I’m telling you – he is amazing!)! We went on a sunset catamaran cruise and went snorkeling out in the middle of the Carribean….
This is what life is about. This level of exploration should be a daily experience. This was just the wake-up call I needed to bring my energy back to life.
At night we’d freshen up and grab dinner, see some entertainment and eventually end up dancing the night away. Yes, my dad was out on the dance floor with me! We made friends with other vacationers and talked with the locals about what life was like outside of our well-preserved version of ‘Jamaica.’
As the trip came to a close, my soul was beaming with life again. I knew there were lessons I’d learned from this experience that would stick with me for a lifetime. While I understand there is so much more to see, I learned this sort of travel is truly about the experience. It’s about connecting with things outside of oneself. It’s about realizing how insignificant we are yet how powerful each moment can be, if we so choose.
I had more energy in Jamaica than I’ve had in a long time. Upon my return home, I (only half-jokingly) decided I’m a Jamaican mermaid because 1) the energy of the people there was contagious, and 2) I’ve always loved being in and around the water and was deeply reminded of this on my trip. I also decided to take home the concept of “Jamaican time.” It’s amazing to see how other cultures respond to the stresses of day to day life. “No worries mon!” “No problem!” “You’re on Jamaican time now mon!”
This was my dad and I on the last night of our trip.
Two months later, he still calls me and says, “Wagwan?!!?” (What’s going on?) We still answer each other with the phrase, “Irie mon!” (Good/excellent/ great, man!)
And best of all, this is just the beginning. This is just the beginning of my life without borders. I’ve got the fever and this isn’t one I’m going to shake.
THIS is exactly why I’m so honored to be working with Shannon and Eric for their Love on El Camino project. It aligns so perfectly with my very own love affair.