Travel is Adventure

I took time away from phones, computers and the 24/7 demands of business during my vacation in Barbados.

I love the ocean, fresh fruit, spicy food, the freedom and sounds of the Caribbean, tree frogs, the crashing waves, hot sand under your feet and the afternoon rain. Getting off the plane felt like being home. My body relaxed as the heat surrounded me and the breeze rustled through the palm trees.

The first three nights, we stayed on the Atlantic side with rougher seas and rocky shoals. It was a challenge every day to manage the waves, but it forced me to compete with the ocean, to push myself. I needed my body to feel the strength of the water and get my energy flowing again. We were close to a tourist area with long stretches of beach where we would walk from one place to another. Along the way, there were stalls selling t-shirts, dresses and lots of bric-a-brac for the residents of the hotels, but in between there were the artists—and some were very talented.

The Artists

Sometimes the most interesting people are the ones you meet along your way, randomly and unexpectedly. We passed a stall where a man was hunched over his table focused intently on building a cricket pitch on a small piece of wood. I stopped and started talking to him. I asked him about his art and his appearance. He had tattooed every inch of his face with Christian crosses to show his devotion to God. He made wire people, putting them into dioramas of real life situations based on the requests of tourists from the local resorts. His view of the world was barely under control with glimpses of his manic reality popping through in our conversation. But I have a habit of not turning away. I looked him in the eyes as we talked, and he liked being treated as a human being. We talked about religion, spirituality and humanity. He was intelligent, had read a lot and had a big heart. People don’t see that in a person like him. They won’t spend the time; they are afraid or repulsed. His mind was trapped in a chaotic world created in his overactive brain, but he had found a way out through his body and sculptures.

We moved to the west side of the island on the fourth day. The Caribbean Sea is calmer, clearer. The hotel had great food and fresh fruit—something I was craving. As we walked through the hotel to the pool area, there was an artist, a Rastafarian. He had a photo realistic style, with vibrant colours and a shot of surrealism around the edges. I stopped to talk to him, discussing his art, the subjects he concentrated on and specifically a painting that I saw that was different from the rest. It was of a Barbados monkey eating a banana. It was in dark tones with an aura around the outside and a serious look on its face. It felt like the monkey was looking back at you, studying the viewer. I bought the painting after explaining to the artist what I saw in it, the spirituality of the animal and the feeling that it was looking through me. We started talking about faith, Rastafarianism, the Lion of Judah, the herb and the belief in a higher being. Our conversation lasted a long time and it was deep. I mentioned how the monkey had an aura, how his energy was flowing around him like our discussion. And the artist explained in detail his reason for painting it—the power in the animal; its unhurried, contemplative view of the world—and how his art was a reflection of his soul, his beliefs.

We connected in those moments through the dioramas and the picture. The artists and the tourist were one. We had something in common: an appreciation of each other, dreads, crosses, belief and the art. We were not so far apart or in such different worlds as it may have seemed.

The Sea Turtle

On the fourth day in Barbados, I went to the ocean early. Every day, I was swimming from dawn to dusk while trying to avoid burning in the sun by dabbing on lotion and hiding, in intervals, under an umbrella when I wasn’t in the water. The west side of Barbados was calmer but the reef was overgrown and dying, like many coral structures in populated areas. In some parts, garbage littered the bottom under rocks. I even saw a full set of men’s clothing, laid out as if the body had just disappeared suddenly. It was not enough to get out of the water, but enough to be ashamed of what we do to the earth. I remember diving in the Caribbean when I was young, the colours and schools of fish were bright and plentiful. Now they were dull and monochrome. It was nice to feel salt water, but the wildlife was pretty tame. I have dived with sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, turtles, barracudas, dolphins and whales, and none were around. Just small schools of silver fish darting in and out as the waves rolled over them.

Along the beach, there were restaurants, hotels and homes. Large homes with gates and plantation style buildings. In the ocean near us, there were Jet Skis zooming by, sail boats anchored and tourist boats with glass bottoms, offloading first time snorkelers to get a close up look at the decay.

We snorkeled for miles along the coast, and then back, slowing down by the boats, then swimming around them. Everyone else was focused on the world directly in front of them; they were occupied. My friend surfaced and pointed to the area she was in. There was a turtle! I dived down to search for it. The sand was being kicked up by the waves so it was hard to see, but then through the cloud, the sea turtle appeared—small as sea turtles go, about the size of my chest. She slowly went up for air, sticking her nostrils just above the surface of the water, then went down to swim in front of me. She was calm, not hurried. She ignored me and the student divers who didn’t know she was there. (I think they were concentrating on not drowning.)

It was a spiritual moment, being one with the sea and the turtle, losing myself in the motion. We swam together for what seemed like an eternity, breathing, diving and watching each other. It was a simple feeling, not complicated at all. The drama of work was gone. The flow of nature took over. It was just what I needed.

Years ago, I was in California. As the sun was going down—a beautiful twilight—the dying light sent streams of bright colours across the water. People were walking and talking on the beach, going about their lives. Offshore frolicking in the waves was a large pod of dolphins. Yet no one on the beach noticed. Seeing the dolphins was amazing; being the only one that noticed them was bizarre. In Barbados, I felt that same feeling: being one with an experience, an event.

The people I met, the things I was able to do and the amazing connections turned my vacation into an adventure worth having.

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