CariTrip: More than Beaches and Rum Punches
Every year, thousands of travellers embark on EuroTrips. Me? Sign me up for a CariTrip.
Don’t get me wrong, being raised on a small island in the Caribbean I've always wanted to travel the world. Each and every continent to be exact - even though Antarctica's temperatures are quite questionable. When I was younger, I was always captured by the stories my family members would relay about all of the sites they have visited. Pictures of my grandparents riding camels in front of the Pyramids or my aunt at the Colosseum. The photographs were surreal, almost too good to be true.
When I should've been doing my homework or enjoying my summer break, I would stay up until the sunrise binge watching videos on Greek mythology and learning about Indigenous cultures in Mesoamerica. All I have ever wanted is to experience the places I grew up admiring and simply continue to learn.
At times, this dream has felt unrealistic and farfetched. However, travelling the world does not necessarily mean going half way across the world. One thing that I've come to learn is that even the places closest to you can offer new perspectives and unique experiences. Somehow, no matter how far you roam, there is nowhere closer to your heart than home.
For me, the Caribbean is my home. My heart and soul. Where I always feel the most at peace.
My love for our region really began in grade five while preparing for our GSAT exams in my favourite class, Social Studies. This is the year that I was drilled on the names of all the nations in the Caribbean. Their locations, capital cities, flags and basic facts were wired into my brain. I learned what an archipelago was, differentiated between the various Antilles and recited which islands belonged to each. From the largest to smallest islands, I don't think I missed one thing.
As the lessons came to an end, we were all assigned islands to prepare a Powerpoint presentation on. My country was Guyana and as much as I was excited to use snazzy animations and fonts on my slideshow, I remember this being one of the first assignments I loved doing at school. As I learned the histories of each Caribbean nation throughout my classmates presentations, I became enthralled. What looks like a small area of the world map were so large in my eyes. Likkle but tallawah as we'd say in Jamaica. It was then that it became a life goal of mine to visit every Caribbean nation in my lifetime.
When I talk about my goal of completely a CariTrip with people, responses usually vary based on where they're from. With foreigners, I know that their fascination is typically coming from a different place than mine as their idea of the Caribbean is the beach and rum punch filled package presented to them by the media.
However, when I speak to fellow Jamaicans and members of Caribbean countries, 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?”
As someone who has now visited six islands in the Caribbean, I can attest that not one has felt 'the same'. France is not the same as Spain, neither are Thailand and Cambodia or Kenya and Nigeria. During my studies, I have become friends with people from Barbados, Dominica, the Bahamas, Antigua and Trinidad and while we bond over our similarities, we are all unique in our own ways. Our proximity within the region does not define us or make us a monolith. Our similarities and our differences are something to explore and celebrate.
Through this blog, I hope to document and share my travels as I work towards completing my goal. It's time that we stop overlooking the region we live in. I just hope that over time the barriers that prevent us from freely travelling within the region will diminish and that we can all continue to connect and share with one another as a region.
Here's to tapping into my 9-year-old self sitting in my classroom learning about her neighbours who are so similar but so different than her. I may only be a small percentage into my CariTrip and it may take a LOT of time, but I know that it will certainly be worth it.