"How do you like it here in Barbados?" he asks, setting his drink on the counter beside me. I mentally trip over his accent and offer one of those small ah yeah definitely kind of smiles you give someone when you’ve said “what?” too many times.
He sees through the smile—of course—so he laughs and starts speaking faster, needling me with his elbow before I finally catch the word tourist and manage a quick quip to try and defend myself.
It’s a lost cause. On this island? I am a tourist.
An Argument for Spontaneous Adventure
My trip to Barbados was anything but planned. The spontaneity of it all began when my friend from home and I were doing work at a local New York library. She looked at a few flights, mentioned wanting to visit the island again despite having been there only two months ago, and asked if I wanted to join her.
You’d think I’d require some cajoling. Y’know—“C’mon it’s only one week! A quick vacation! You’re ahead of your work schedule! Blablabla”
But no. I shrugged my shoulders and said "I deserve to live." then looked at flights myself.
Really, the truth was that I hadn’t gone out of the country since September and I barely count trips back to Greece or Cyprus anyway—that’s family. For Barbados, the only thing I needed to be sure of was my training schedule and tutoring gigs. After a week or two finalizing those schedules, I booked a redeye flight that was set to leave March 7th.
Of course, things change.
The Monday before my flight I went to get my nails done with my friend whom I was travelling with. She was set to leave later that day, and I would meet her Wednesday. While chatting we discussed the weather. Yes. Very basic, boring conversation with my friend of ten years. Anyway, we realized a noreaster was supposed to hit Tuesday night and that my flight would likely be cancelled. Leaving any later would be a waste of my time and money.
“You should just come on my flight,” she joked. Her flight was a redeye, too. Only a two day difference. I tapped my phone-screen, checked the time. It was about four o’clock and her flight was at midnight. I was not packed, was unshowered, had to get homework done for my Korean class, complete a quiz for my Bilingual Education class. One of my students has state-exams in a month, and wanted extra tutoring that I was going to speak with his parents about the next day…but that was a conversation I could easily accomplish through text.
“Eh why not?” I said. “When we get back to the house I’ll call JetBlue.” Cue absolute craziness.
I managed to pack in an hour, was stuck waiting on phone-call after phone-call with both JetBlue and the booking-site I’d used, not to mention doing as much homework as possible so I could leave only online assignments to do in the mornings at Barbados.
But by 7pm I was sitting down to dinner with my family, my things by the door so I could book it out of the house and make it to JFK by 9.
I only share this kind of ridiculous story because I’d been thinking a lot about spontaneity lately. I’ve always had a difficult time learning how to live life with both abandon and ambition. In my mind, all that I want to do, see, and experience requires meticulous planning. I mean…at the age of five I accidentally stabbed my eye with a pencil because I wanted my handwriting/homework to be perfect so I could get a check-plus and finally be student of the week. (Long story, I was demonstrating my teacher stamping my homework with the check-plus. Could not use the led side down or it would ruin my homework.) As you can tell, that meticulous planning and over-concern with the perfect journey to success often left me blind.
Living life with abandon and taming my ambition—experiencing life spontaneously while keeping an eye on my goals—has always been difficult for me. Maybe I could say this trip was an exercise in spontaneity. An exercise not in reckless devil-may-care antics; but in living life as it comes to me. In the end, I was prepared and sorted out all of my obligations without any problems. Even my online tutoring I was able to do from the Airbnb where we stayed.
I think when I kept shrugging my shoulders, saying “I deserve to live.” I meant something else. In beautiful lives, there’s spontaneity, there’s serendipitous adventures.
So I think I meant, “I deserve spontaneity.”
And so do you guys.
If you've got time for some other excursions here are a few places we'd been to and/or considered!
*Some learnin' for ya. The George Washington House is a tour of the 1700s plantation home visited by George Washington. So...Unfriendly reminder that America was built on the backs of slaves and by the rules of people who believed it was okay to own others as property. Whoops okay I'll get off my soapbox.
In all seriousness it's a harsh reality of visiting the Caribbean that many people like to ignore in favor of beach trips and luxury cruising.
Five Day Itinerary Expanded + Photos
Tuesday was a slow but beautiful day. We got in at around 6am and took a cab to our Airbnb where we slept for another hour and a half.
By around eight am we hit the road for a meal, grocery shopping, and a morning beach walk. My friend showed me One Sandy Lane—a beautiful apartment building that apparently hosts Rihanna when she visits her home island. Then we walked along the West Coast beaches and I just took the time to enjoy the feel of some sand between my toes. My heel’s been injured lately with plantar fasciitis, but I was careful not to stress it too much.
After getting our groceries back to the house we set out again for the East Coast and Andromeda Gardens. This was originally a private garden cultivated solely for the owner’s pleasure in gardening, but has become one of the tourist attractions on the island. It’s absolutely beautiful and filled with flowers, tress, and fauna from all over.
Oh and while walking through the gardens we learned that a Palm Tree IS NOT A TREE. (mind blown)
After the gardens we made our way to Bathsheba and Cattlewash. Beaches on the East Coast are not to be taken lightly. The waves are rough with harsh cliff-sides surrounding the scenery. You could easily drown or be knocked against rocks, so we simply walked around taking photos. It’d been so long that I’d spent any time in nature, though, so this was exactly what I needed.
On Wednesday we originally planned to exchange our car after sunbathing a little on Pebbles Beach. Along the way we ran into someone my friend had known when she lived here (and had actively attempted to avoid); but he ended up helping us. I’ll call him Al for now…
Not only did Al talk with our car rental company, but he showed us the way to Crane Beach, Sam Lord’s Castle, and a freshwater spring. The best part in all of this was the way he showed it to us as a local, though. There were hidden treks he brought us on, led the way by some absolutely stunning forests, and even told us stories about what it’d been like growing up in the area. Kite-competitions, coconut tree climbing, and finding the beautiful shells normally sold to tourists in more commercial areas.
He didn’t expect anything either. For some clarification: Al spent a lot of time last fall trying to flirt with my friend, but after we dropped him off at his place he called out “Hey, if I don’t see you girls again just know that I hope you enjoy your vacation. Stay safe. If you call me, that’s great. If not, then we part ways after a fun time.”
By the end of the night we picked up another friend, Caro, at the airport (she’s actually a life and style blogger based in Trinidad!) and we proceeded to have one of those typical vacation nights out on the town.
On Thursday we got to Animal Flower Cave. The cave itself was closed due to rough waves…but…well…I’ll let the photo speak for itself…
Afterwards was a simple evening on the beach, another night out.
Friday was originally supposed to be a hiking day, but we decided to get burnt instead. We made it to the beach by about noon, I sprinkled a bit of sunscreen on me. Just a sprinkle. A little dab. (my biggest regret). Once I realized I was starting to fry, my friend took me on a Bajan bus—a loud white van with Caribbean music blasting—so we could get smoothies. We visited a few lifeguards she knew at a different beach then walked the boardwalk all the way down to the Hilton. When we made it back to our towels Caro met up with a blogger from Barbados, we took sunset pics like the #basicbitches we are, and all got a rum and punch.
Dinner was at Oistins…
So every weekend the fishing town of Oistins has a fish-fry. On Friday I swear everyone we met up with asked “Oistins later?” It’s the thing to do. Earlier in the night tends to be packed with tourists and later are mostly locals. For about 15 USD I got a HUGE serving of flying fish, sweet potato, and macaroni pie.
Macaroni pie was my favorite. It reminded me of pastichio—a Greek dish. Actually, everything about Oistins felt like my childhood growing up in the Greek-American community. It was a Bajan Panigiri that seemed to happen weekly rather than annually; and seeing a Bajan pastichio? I can't help it—most people can't. We compartmentalize and comprehend the world by utilizing our previous schema, aka we adapt to new experiences by relying on our old ones.
So as I sat under a tent of florescent lightbulbs—the plastic chair prickling my sunburnt thighs—as I watched children dance on stage to Caribbean music—I felt home.
Saturday and Sunday
Well Saturday I felt quite dead. No photos to show haha We’d had a late night on Friday, my sunburnt got me a fever, and I tried rallying for a boat-party that we’d gotten tickets to earlier. Because we were running late for the boat-party we didn’t really have proper meals either.
The boat party, despite my sobriety, hunger, and illness, was fun. Every second it seemed the DJ asked who liked soca music** and if there were any Trinis on the boat. Consequently, his questions got crazy cheers from everyone on board.
By the evening, I opted out of another night out on the town. When the other two girls left I stayed in doing homework, editing photos, and watching a movie.
Sunday, my last day, I spent on the beach before making the flight back home.
**for the record I now really like soca music and here's my favorite one I heard while in the Caribbean:
I have to say I don’t know where to put this next thought so it’ll go here. A quick closing.
On Wednesday we dropped off Al just as night settled. Around the corner was a bright pink chattel house with warm light pouring out from the open windows and doors. A man sat on the small front porch, his wife behind him smiling as they chatted and she helped him with his dreadlocks. Our car was stuck for a little with some traffic, and I couldn't help but think of what an amazing photo it would be...
Yet that felt invasive, making a spectacle and object of people as though I were in a zoo.
When really the moment I was witnessing seemed so incredibly intimate and full of love. It was one of those moments that made my heart ache for all the beauty I’d yet to see in the world.
So I didn’t reach for my camera, my friend drove us forward, and I craned my neck to get one last look at Love.
From guides to rants.