What a crazy month this one was. I transitioned from my Central American spring into my North American summer by tropical island hopping north-bound, from Roatan to Grand Cayman to Bermuda. That was the first half of the month. Then, after a quick spin around Upstate New York, I was island bound again, this time of the quaint New England variety: Martha’s Vineyard.
I was surrounded by friends and family at every turn. As much as I love my big solo backpacking trips, it was nice to fall back in the fold. My schedule may have gotten a tad hectic — er, that’s an understatement — but it was a great month of hitting the road nonetheless.
Where I’ve Been
• Six nights in Roatan / Honduras
• Seven nights in Grand Cayman / Cayman Islands
• Four nights in Hamilton / Bermuda
• One night in Albany, New York / USA
• One night in Hammondsport, New York / USA
• One night in Corning, New York / USA
• Three nights in Rochester, New York / USA
• Two nights in Ithaca, New York / USA
• Two nights in Albany, New York / USA
• Five nights in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts / USA
• Meeting Rika! We’ve been fawning over each other’s blogs for years, making our long-awaited in-person meet up so much fun. We went dancing, we went diving, and we did a whole lot laughing. I can’t thank her enough for hosting me in Roatan.
• Getting to check out the beautiful Beach House and Barefoot Cay boutique hotels. Last time I was on Roatan, I was basically broke and my ex and I were paying $5 each per night to stay in the spare room of a local divemaster. Don’t get me wrong, that was a blast — but it was nice to come full circle and see how things have progressed for me.
• Squid, seahorses, eagle rays and DOLPHINS in one dive! Even if nothing else had gone right all week, getting to see dolphins underwater for the first time — and to share that moment with a great diving friend — was the highlight of Roatan.
• Batabano. I looked forward to this day for so long I wondered if it had any chance of living up to the hype. It did! Daytime dance party, a rhinestone and feather extravaganza of dress up, and non-stop soca music in the streets — I loved Cayman’s own Carnival. It inspired me to make it to more Carnivals around the world — I officially see trips to Trinidad and Rio somewhere in my future.
• Hangin’ with Heather. We’ve been talking about me coming back to Cayman for years, and while the trip wasn’t without snafus, I was so happy to unwind for a week with a good friend after months on the road in hostels and hotels.
• Falling head over pink shorts for Bermuda. Though it wasn’t in the original plan, and adding an extra destination definitely turned up the month’s hectic levels a few notches, I’m so grateful the Hamilton Princess hired me to come check out their major overhaul and the amazing downtown Hamilton food and nightlife scene. This island totally blew me away — I’m dying to return already!
• Playing good tourist for a few days. I wasn’t doing much traditional sightseeing or activity-ing on Roatan or Cayman, but I made up for it in my four days in Bermuda — diving, beach hopping, taking a SUP yoga class (drinking champagne with my fellow yogis on one of their porches after the class was a highlight of the trip) and hopping onto a scooter to explore the island. I did more in three nights there than I did in seven on the other two islands, and it kind of makes me think this is how I want to travel more in the future, at least on shorter trips, as I transition back into having a home base — work at home and actually just travel while traveling, instead of trying to both at once.
(Of course, I’ll be juggling note-taking and photography and social media that can’t be avoided in the moment unless I want to create great content later, but I think that will be fine as long as I put aside the rest of the photo editing, post writing, accounting, pitching etc. until I’m home again, and prepare blog posts to go live before I leave.)
• Hitting the tarmac on the first of three road trips I’d take this summer! While it had a painful start (more below), once I got going I could not have been more thrilled to spend a week exploring my home state. Best of all? Having my own set of wheels to get from one place to another. It’s hard to believe how many highlights were crammed into one week, like…
• Realizing I DO love wine while vineyard hopping on Keuka Lake. I always thought wine tours were something fun to do and that wine was something fun to drink but had never really found my wine that I could just straight guzzle by the gallon (you know, if necessary.) That all changed on the Keuka Wine Trail, where I realized that semi dry Rieslings are my jam and took joy in stuffing my trunk with various cases of vino. Should I be concerned about what a life breakthrough this felt like for me?
• Time with my sister. With a spread-out family it can be hard getting quality time in with everyone, but I’m so grateful for my time with my big sister Margaret. I’ve managed to get up to Rochester three times in the past four years, and I always cherish these trips. Here’s hoping for many more.
• Running a 10K! Honestly, there were times in my life when I could barely run a mile let alone cross the finish line on a 10K — not that I ran the whole thing! Some periods of power walking got me through. Still, it was such a feeling of accomplishment… you know, after the feeling of vomiting subsided. It was something nice to share with my sister, too.
• Glamping it up in Ithaca. A press release about this new luxury campsite is what kicked off the planning of this entire trip, and it lived up to the hype. I’m always excited to see other people excited about bringing fun and creative things like this to Upstate New York — it makes me proud to hail from Albany.
• Popping into Albany. I spent just three nights in Albany in this period, basically passing through twice to unpack, do laundry, repack with different clothes, and hit the road again. But even this small taste of being home was wonderful, and gave me a preview of the amazing summer ahead. A welcome back dinner with all my closest hometown friends really warmed my heart.
• Getting my little baby puppy back! (Okay, he’s ten.) I can’t begin to tell you how good it felt to walk in the door and see that dog’s tail wagging. I wish I’d worked out a way to bring him on my Upstate New York road trip, because bringing him to Martha’s Vineyard was, as always, beyond a blast. I love taking responsibility for my little munchkin and going Full Crazy Dog Lady again — not to mention, it gave me an excuse to write another edition of Tucker’s Tales.
• Arriving back on Martha’s Vineyard. As soon as we pulled the car onto the ferry I knew five nights wasn’t enough — I wished I was staying ten. I’ve been talking BB’s ear off about this island since we met, and finally getting to introduce him to it and show him my family’s home was really special.
• Playing host on the Vineyard. My friends Matt and Liz (along with their wonderful roomates) open their apartment in Brooklyn to me on the regular, and so I was thrilled to finally repay their hospitality. I planned the perfect long weekend itinerary — if I do say so myself! — and put one personalized twist on the classic Vineyard hits by bringing my bike-loving friends on an epic ride across the island.
• Getting rich quick. We found $50 on the floor of a bar in Oak Bluffs! Is it sad how excited I got over that?
• Checking out great island restaurants. A “Where to Eat in Martha’s Vineyard” guide is definitely on the docket after hitting so many spots on my dining bucket list this summer. My mom isn’t a big fan of what she calls “fussy food” and vastly prefers to eat at home, so it was fun to have a few fellow champagne brunch fans around to indulge with.
Corning and the Finger Lakes
• Transit hell. Getting to and from Roatan borderlined on a nightmare. I thought I beat the system by splurging on a flight going from Copan to Roatan — all I had to do was take a bus from Copan to San Pedro Sula, a cab from the bus station to the airport, and then a flight directly to Roatan. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. The San Pedro Sula airport was one of the most disorganized I’ve ever traveled through, and so I was already on edge by the time I reached the tarmac. And I swear, when I saw the plane, for the first time in my life I considered turning around, eating my losses and taking a bus instead. The thing looked like it was perhaps manufactured in the era of the Wright Brothers — old, decrepit, and highly likely to fall to pieces in mid-air. But the thought of a night in the world’s most dangerous city brought me to tears and so I got in my seat and tried to breathe deeply — not easy with no air conditioning and a stifling tropical heat. The good news is, we made it in one piece, if a rattled one. The bad news is, to the overwhelming unaddressed confusion of every single passenger, we unexpectedly landed in La Ceiba to switch planes, which meant I’d barely saved any time in transit at all. What was meant to be a breezy splurge turned out to be an expensive anxiety attack.
Mind bogglingly, my return was even worse. I’d booked an early morning flight from Roatan to La Ceiba, where I was connecting to my international flight to Grand Cayman. Nice and smooth, I thought! Until a bizarre storm hit Central America, pelting Roatan with rain for days and only growing stronger with each passing evening. Rika and her friends advised me to get off the island as soon as possible and wait out the storm on the mainland, lest I get stranded there and miss my second flight. It was sound advice (especially as it turned out, flights and ferries were suspended the morning of my originally planned departure) but it came with a warning — watch your back in La Ceiba, reputedly the murder capital of Honduras. The extremely helpful local who helped me change my flight at no cost also begged me to lock myself in a hotel room and not leave unless necessary, a warning I heeded as it was preceded by the story of his own personal kidnapping there. He assured me that he was unharmed as he was held for two days while his professional captors emptied all his bank accounts, but we both agreed it would be an unpleasant way to end my trip nonetheless. I got off the island just in time, but my short flight was a tear-inducing wreck of turbulence in which I saw other passengers praying and making the sign of the cross. We did make it across to the mainland, but instead of spending my final night in Central America toasting to a Caribbean sunset on Roatan, I spent it holed up in an overpriced yet still shit-tastic business hotel in the unglamorous transit hub of La Ceiba, trying to will the torrential downpour to pause long enough for my flight to take off the next day. Upping the stakes was the fact that there are just two direct flights from Honduras to the Cayman Islands per week, and if mine didn’t take off, I’d miss Batabano — the festival that was bringing me back in the first place.
Yes, I made it in the end — but damn, was it a roller coaster to get there.
• Weather blues. The nasty weather in Roatan and Cayman was a bummer beyond my transit woes. Tropical rain is charming for an afternoon but a little less cute two straight weeks later. This Vitamin D addict was definitely starting to feel a little down in the dumps by the time this particular storm blew over.
• Batabano costume drama. I spelled it all out at the end of this post, but suffice it to say that our feathers not arriving, the lack of communication over their delivery, and the refund battle that ensued was not exactly the festival fun we were looking for. The upside is that we got a full refund from the credit card company, but I would have happily paid in exchange for the costumes we ordered delivered in a clear and timely fashion, and no bad blood between us and the organizers.
• Camera drama. I was terrified when I realized both my dSLR and my underwater housing setup would need replacing immediately upon return to the US. Not only was it a financial squeeze, but I was super stressed about getting through my final destinations — especially my paid assignment in Bermuda — with both acting finicky. While my s100 did me a serious solid and waited until after my dive to take it’s final shutter flutter, it caused me a lot of anxiety along the way.
• Falling ill. I’m almost embarrassed by how often and how seriously I was sick this summer, though upon reflection I think it was my body’s way of begging me to slow down. My last night in Bermuda I developed a horrific case of strep throat. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t breathe without feeling like I was swallowing knives and my entire body ached with pain. While it waxed and waned, it took me weeks and several expensive rounds of antibiotics and homeopathic cures to finally kick it — just in time to come down with a sinus infection.
• A wet-wipe welcome home. No joke — I got puked on on my flight back to the US. Yup — this was not my month for air travel. I was flying straight into Albany, which was a blessing, but meant that I had to hop on a teeny little commuter plane in Newark to get there. From the moment we left the runway to the moment we touched down again the plane was bouncing through turbulence like we were on a sadistic airplane trampoline. I was shocked when I started to feel myself get motion sickness (it’s rare for me) but it turned out I wasn’t the only one — moments later I felt the vomit of the woman in the seat in front of me fly through the air, hit the roof of the plane, and land on my seatmate and I. The apologetic flight attended yelled from the front that there was nothing she could do as she was strapped into her seat by the pilot’s orders. At least it made for a funny story?
• Road overload. I admit it — I was dreading leaving on my road trip. I’d literally been back in the US for about twenty-four hours, and back in my childhood bed for one night when I had to turn around and leave again. I knew when I accepted the Bermuda job that this would be the downside, but between travel fatigue, a fresh case of strep throat and my excitement over being home it was pretty hard to rip myself out of the house again. I ended up pushing my departure until the evening, which resulted in a four hour drive through pitch darkness. While it was brutal, in the end I am so glad I went — all was forgotten the moment my big sis knocked on my door the next morning.
• Spring cold snaps. I was pretty pumped as I flipped through my weather app in the days leading up to my US return. And then I landed. Temperatures dropped from the idyllic 70s to the not-as-nice 40s overnight, which made some of our activities — like, um, sleeping in an unheated tent — a tad more testing. On the bright side, it did give me a chance to participate in all time favorite activities… bitching about the cold!
• No dogs allowed. While being in Martha’s Vineyard was a dream, leaving wasn’t quite so idyllic. We had a morning ferry off the island and BB had a might flight out of Boston, so we were looking forward to a day in the city. That is, until we realized the majority of it would be finding parking spots and getting laughed at for trying to bring Tucker with us anywhere. Turns out, Boston is not a dog friendly city! We made the best of it by forking over a fortune for a lot and eating takeout burritos in Boston Commons but my exhausted three hour drive home in the dark later had me teetering on the edge of sanity. I’m sensing a theme here — almost all my lowlights this month were transportation related.
• Hellos and goodbyes. This isn’t so much a lowlight as it is a fact of life — dating on the road is weird! This month saw me saying goodbye to a new love interest in my life and saying hello to an old one. I have nothing but good things to say about my brief adventures with The Lawyer, who I first met in Guatemala and who I had a final fling with in Bermuda. While our lives were headed in very different directions — he, a corporate job and a mortgage and me, self employment and intentional homelessness — he’s an absolute gentleman and we both have a beautiful story about the brief time for which those lives intersected.
Meanwhile, Bearded Bartender and I were both bound for summers in the Americas, and it was pretty exciting to put ourselves in the same place again and see what happened…
Y’all, I am just plain embarrassed to share my budget this month. The grand total was $2,934, minus my business expenses. But that’s not what I’m ashamed of. (In my defense, about $450 of that was out-of-pocket expenses in Bermuda that I was paid a generous per diem for. But still.)
I’m embarrassed because the gross majority of that total was food, which clocked in at $1,304. I think that breaks a new record for me — yay? The full first thousand was crazy expensive meals in Cayman, Roatan, and Bermuda — for example, a $200 food bill at Barefoot Caye, a $90 on a grocery run in Cayman, etc. The Caribbean is not cheap. But the thing is, in Bermuda I was on the job and in Roatan and Cayman I was being pretty generously hosted by friends, and so I wanted to treat them to as much as I could. Really, I don’t regret it. What goes around does come back around — the friends I brought to Martha’s Vineyard spoiled me rotten as well. But still… eek. That is literally my budget for the entire month, sometimes.
Anyway. Next up was flights at $379 (I got on eight planes!) and other transportation at $393 (including a $171 round trip ferry ride to the Vineyard, a lot of gas, one bus ride and a two airport taxis). Entertainment clocked in at $327, including a scooter rental and cave entrance fees in Bermuda, a failed dive and a movie date in Cayman, and booze everywhere. The miscellaneous category (which I might as well rename to “trips to Target” for months I’m in the US) totaled $227, health and fitness came to $148 ($60 of that was registering for my run, and the rest were bills related to the strep throat), and spa and salon tipped the scales at $102. Accommodation, amazingly, was my smallest expense at $54 — the cost of one unexpected night in a La Ceiba hotel. Otherwise, I was generously hosted by family, friends, and on work assignments.
I had a pretty dry month for hustling. I was skating by on affiliate sales and some SEO stuff when the Bermuda assignment swooped in and saved me. Still, while I clocked insane hours trying to keep up, mostly they were spent on tasks that don’t directly earn me a paycheck, and thus the month closed as my second lowest earning of the year. But hey, that’s self-employment — and I’m learning to ride out the rough stretched with my eyes fixed on the finish line.
Health and Fitness
I can’t quite say this is the healthiest I’ve ever been. Honduras turned me into a sloth, and Bermuda was way too much of a whirlwind to consider exercise (at least beyond the SUP yoga class I took), but I did try to course correct in Grand Cayman by swimming laps and starting to run again. I even went to a yoga class at my old studio!
Once I returned stateside things didn’t really improve — while I was active with kayaking, biking and hiking, I certainly didn’t see the inside of a gym for this entire time. Still, I can’t talk too much smack about myself in a month that I ran my first darn 10K.
The main thing I struggled with in this period of time was body image. I began obsessing over my weight to a weird degree as I mentally prepared to return to the US, and it really got to the point where I was consumed with my appearance. It was a humbling reminder that self acceptance will be a lifelong journey. One thing that helped? Parading around in a bikini at Batabano, where I was reminded that confidence can come at any size.
Several months stateside, including trips to Tennessee, Kentucky, Los Angeles, Martha’s Vineyard, NYC, and Albany!
Thanks for coming along for the ride!
Since I left home for my Great Escape, I’ve been doing monthly roundups of my adventures filled with anecdotes, private little moments, and thoughts that are found nowhere else on this blog. As this site is not just a resource for other travelers but also my own personal travel diary, I like to take some time to reflect on not just what I did, but how I felt. You can read my previous roundups here..