I had this vision all planned out a year ago. I was going to rent out a 4 bedroom catamaran, invite several of my closest friends and sail through the British Virgin Islands during my 40th birthday week. But between hurricane Irma, hurricane Maria, severe news of a friend's family member, and another friend getting laid off, I had to set aside my dreams of wearing an eye patch, hook and searching for booty for another time. (See what I did there;)) If you know me well, you know that I hate plan B's. But I trusted the Universe. It just wasn't time. In defiance, I tinkered with the idea of a temporary self-exile. I thought of flying solo on an introspective trip to Norway. I wanted to go so far up in the north, dance with the auroras and talk to huskies about all my triumphs and defeats to date........ On the other hand, I also thought of visiting my very dear friend Meredith in Puerto Rico. We have such a deep spiritual connection, a few hours of reflection with her would quenched my thirsty soul. Because of time constraints and the issue of jet lag, I settled for the latter
Of course, my millennial friend Alayna, who also loves to travel, insisted on coming with me wherever I wanted to go. I was hesitant at first. This trip was shaping itself to be reclusive. Looking back, I don't think Alayna gave me a choice. LOL. It turned out for the best. I've always thought of myself as an open minded individual. But as I get longer in the tooth, my opinions solidify. I find that I say the word "no" more often. It's refreshing to be reminded how open my eyes once were.... and still are. Let's not exaggerate. Daddy still looks and feels like a Filipino Peter Pan. Ok? Sometimes, he just needs a reminder. But yes, that's her. She's a wide eyed, bold young lady who's dreams and aspirations reach beyond her own boundaries and limits. And I'm glad she came!
She said "as long as there's organic gluten free almond milk for her coffee, she's good to go." (insert side eye emoji here)........ She really didn't say that. I just wanted to clown her a little bit. lol!
And offffff we went. Alayna and I sat right next to Leslie on the plane. She's this lovely Puerto Rican lady flying back home after a vacation in Taiwan. PERFECT! Alayna and I cannot stop talking about our separate experiences in Asia. The three of us talked about the food she liked and the places she visited. She joked about her husband being in first class and leaving her in economy. And we also talked about her experience being home during hurricane Maria and the struggles her family had to go through during the aftermath. It was heartfelt. Electricity was out for more than a month. The cash she took out from their bank account was suddenly inadequate. Luckily, she had family members to fall back on. She relayed a few more incidents that happened to her family and community. But through her stories, there was always a feeling of optimism alongside. I didn't hear one negative comment from her about the American government and their neglect to fully fund the rebuilding of Puerto Rico. She didn't need to tell us. It doesn't take a genius to know that throwing paper towels at a crowd would not solve the underlying problem.
10. Black Sand Beach Reynisfyara, Iceland
When I talked about a top ten beach list I bet you weren’t thinking this beach would be on the list huh? Yes! You'll get my review of the best beaches I've been to so far. But there is just something magical about this beach adjacent to the village of Vic that I had to include it. I came across this beach in January, 2016. The roaring waves crashing of the black sand juxtaposed against the basalt columns forming a pseudo-pyramid and the view of Reynisdrangar just off of the water is so magical. Legend has it that the jutting rocks were two trolls pulling a three masted ship towards the shore. They were turned to stone when they got caught by the sun rising. On the east side of the beach there are more jutting rock formations in the ocean and a cave made out of the same basalt columns that gave me that eerie feeling. It’s exactly like watching the Lord of the Rings Return of the King. Be careful! The water is very strong on this side of the island. My tour guide forewarned our bus of tourists not to get too close. This Japanese girl, who didn’t understand much English from a conversation I had with her didn’t heed his warning. She went straight for the shore with her boyfriend immediately behind to take a picture. Consequently, the waves came in and pushed her to her hands and knees while her boyfriend ran away. Before I could even understand what was going on, my tour guide was already at full speed to grab a hold of her and take her to safety. One, I would dump that boyfriend if I was you gurl! Two, I was impressed. There are not a lot of people in this world that has that kind of a reaction time. If he acted a second later, another wave would have taken her down to Poseidon.
It was a sunny March Wednesday in Havana. Like a light switch, my spirits wake up and want to do cartwheels from the deep Winter slumber in New York I fall prey to every year. Showered and well rested, I walked to Hotel Nacional, the most famous hotel in Cuba where I intended on meeting my roommate Kwame. He left the day before and had not had any connection with me for two whole days because of opposite schedules. Wifi connection in Cuba was sparse at best. And American phone companies don't offer international plans in this communist country just yet. Needless to say, I was anxious to see if he got in okay. He doesn’t have a lot of foreign travel experiences under his belt. And Cuba was hardly anywhere near an all inclusive Sandals Resort. We agreed to meet at 4pm on the day I got in. As the doorman of the hotel courteously welcomed me in, I easily spotted my roommate sitting in one of the lobby couches dressed in a print button down short sleeve and matching shorts looking relaxed like he's been on vacation for weeks. He had his head down and legs crossed reading the Lonely Planet's Guide to Cuba; a seemingly basic book that will turn out to be our saving grace in a couple of days. I smiled. I was so proud of him. I felt like we were international spies that agreed to secretly meet each other in another part of the world at a specific time and he came through.