Cari-Trip: More than Beaches and Piña Coladas
Some people Euro-Trip. I want to Cari-Trip.
Don’t get me wrong, being raised in the Caribbean I've always wanted to travel the world. Each and every continent (even though Antarctica's temperatures are quite questionable). But at times, I feel trapped and it feels so unrealistic. Travelling does not have to mean going half way across the world. One thing I've learned is that even the places closest to you can give you a new perspective. When I was younger, I always found it so ~cool~ when adults would speak about all the places they have been. Pictures of my aunt at the Colosseum and pictures of my grandparents riding camels in front of the Pyramids. The photographs were almost too perfect to be true.
It motivated me to always want to test my limits and learn about new cultures. At 13 years old, during my summer break, I would stay up until the early hours of the morning. Not doing stupid teenage shit, but binge watching Youtube videos on cultural events and artefacts across the world. From the Aztecs to Greek Mythology to Anne Frank, I spent endless hours soaking up information during the literal peak of my most dorky years. I wanted to see the places in magazines, movies and Youtube videos which were not as familiar to me. It wasn't for #aesthetics or Instagram likes, it was for the actual thrill of it.
Yet, somehow, no matter how far you roam, nowhere is closer to your heart than home. Trust me, that is cringer to type than to read, but it's so true. It's those safe places embedded in our veins, the music we hear, food we eat and conversations with real life people that we have. It is ridiculous how close Jamaica is to my heart; it is my home. The Caribbean, however, is my soul; it is my fortress. #deep
In Grade 5, back in 2007, we were literally drilled on the names of all the islands in the Caribbean. Their locations, capital cities, flags and basic facts were wired into our brains. We studied what an archipelago was, and where we could locate one in the Caribbean Sea. We differentiated between the various Antilles and recited which islands belonged to each. From the largest to smallest islands, I don't think we missed one thing. I prepared for a presentation on Guyana for weeks, excited to finally make my own Powerpoint presentation and use ~snazzy~ animations (it was 2007 ok??). It was a part of my primary education, one which formed me, my mindset and ideologies and the way I would develop to later perceive the world around me. For that I'm so grateful. It truly made me feel grounded. It was my foundation; one which made the small area of (what can look like) dots on the world map, so powerful to me.
When I tell people that I want to visit every nation in the Caribbean (before I leave this good life), the responses usually vary based on where they are from. When I tell a foreigner, they genuinely seem interested but their fascination is sometimes coming from a different place than mine. Their idea of a Cari-Trip is a long vacation; a time to visit new beaches, sip on margaritas, get a bronzed #balibodyworthy tan and live the island life. Mi nah lie, that would be nuff of my Cari-Trip, but it's not the only thing that it's about. On the other hand, when I speak to West Indians, there are mixed reactions...some understanding, but others confused and uninterested.
“Why would you want to visit other islands that would be so similar to your own?”
This rasssss question often leads to me feeling ridiculed for simply wanting to travel to other Caribbean islands or mainland territories. For once I wish people would stop screwing up dem face and hear me out. Listen, I'm not trying to waste time, money and opportunities, but just because these countries have similar cultures to my homeland’s doesn't mean that I should not want to visit them all.
I will PHYSICALLY give money to someone who has ever heard someone scorn a person from France for travelling to Germany. If you question when a person from Japan just craves to visit Thailand, slide into my DM's for your monetary reward. It's waiting.
I believe us West Indians (and many people) often become way too accustomed. We become trapped in the regular routines that we perform daily, see the same places everyday and often get bored as life begins to feel so rass monotonous. We forget to open our eyes and see what is in front of them! Even though we may not do it on purpose, we ignore the rich cultures and heritages that we have. We come from similar beginnings, yes, with colonialism and its harsh regimes leaving a cruel stamp on our countries. But this (hella disgraceful) aspect of our history, is an important one which forms a part of our powerful identity. We are in each way unique...colonies from African, British, French, Dutch, Spanish, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern descent, all combing to create diverse cultures. Cultures we should proudly celebrate and explore!
No matter how alike our territories, we all have something different to bring to the table. Some have mountains, rivers, waterfalls. (#sorryTLC #gochasingwaterfalls) While many may have black sand beaches, others have white sand beaches...multiple visual choices depending on one's ~aesthetic~. Past these nations’ appearances there's something much deeper; rich cultures. We speak multiple languages, bear different skin tones, and all have such unique experiences. Whether an island or inland country, it's so important to not place the Caribbean as a homogenous entity. When we do this, we unintentionally reduce the significance of the heritages, freedoms, rights, traditions, and more that many have so boldly fought for.
In my visits to Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, The Cayman Islands, Anguilla, Saint Martin and Sint Maarten (a short but mighty list), I've been able to spot so many differences on literally just a surface level. I didn't even have to try. But I do want to dig deeper. Each country has different social, political, economic climates. Neighbours, like Haiti and Dominican Republic, can be so close in proximity but polar opposites based on the shit (I'm @'ing at you France and the tectonic place under Haiti) each have underwent throughout history. This fascinates and pushes me to fulfil my Cari-Trip goal. I want to tap into that 9 year old sitting in Grade 5, learning about her neighbours who are so similar, but so different than her. I may only be a small percentage into my Cari-Trip, and it may take a lotttttt of time, but I know that it will certainly be worth it.