It was not the dream trip we thought we had planned. Even still in the plane to St. Croix, USVI, I had expected to see expanses of lush green palm trees gently swaying in the salty island breeze, buildings bursting with tropical colors, maybe even locals to greet us with complimentary island gifts like how I’d seen some travelers receive upon arriving in Hawaii. It was none of these things. Henry E. Rohlsen Airport was flat, dry, and humid. The only color as far as my eyes could see was a sad, plain tan and the scenery was more of the same. There was, to their credit, a few hopeless looking plants dotted here and there, but overall the first impression was lonely and depressing.
I remember my dad and I looking at each other with huge eyes, neither of us wanting to say anything. We had purchased this trip just the two of us, almost on a whim. How could we admit that we just blew all our money on the worst trip of our lives? Once we purchased an outdated rental car, our hearts continued to sink like rocks in our chests as more and more of the island unfolded before us. Driving through Christiansted was like driving through an abandoned and long forgotten town. The houses were more similar to remote shacks and the sun seemed to hang like a burned cinder in the sky, beating down on the dead world around it. Somehow we found our living quarters at Cottages by the Sea (there weren’t many street signs) and immediately sat to order dinner at the onsite restaurant called the Beachside Cafe. It was then, looking out onto the vastness of the glassy pure blue water, drinking in the quiet and delicate sounds of birds chirping faintly and the waves crashing onto the soft, grainy shore, breathing in the clean air and letting the gentle warmth of the island envelope my body, it was then we began to slowly realize how amazing this trip was going to be.
No, it was not going to be our little version of Hawaii or Florida. No, it was not going to be the trip we imagined inside our heads. It was going to be better. No annoyingly loud and obnoxious tourists, no hustle and bustle and sense of urgency that a more populated area might give, just the slow roll of the Caribbean with it’s endless sky and endless sea. We did a lot things on that trip. We rode on horseback with a nice small group around the island and even in the water at one point through Paul and Jill’s Equestrian Stables. We ate flavorful dishes in the little town just outside the cottages at places like Rose’s Dream Cuisine and Polly’s at the Pier on Strand Street. We met wonderful locals, such as Rose herself, who welcomed us into their home. We explored less traveled parts of the island and discovered wonderful views and even some places of history like the Whim Plantation and sugarcane ruins. Looking back, the adventures and activities we did were amazing and so fun, but when I think of why I loved that trip so much and why I want to return so badly, I think of the little mesh recliners, the empty beach, the sun kissing my skin, and the spray of ocean water dusting my toes. It was not my dream vacation, it was better.
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