Travel suspends reality. Tests you. Tempts you. Teases you.
Adventures entrench you. Leave you wanting more.
Soak it up. Breathe it in. Sigh.
Snap. Back to reality.
Real life sets in. Routines resumes. Was it just a dream?
Just back from another wonderful vacation in BARBADOS. This year’s trip was a little different from last year. Here’s last year’s account and it will most likely reveal why us girls partied a little harder this year. These 80-year-old party animals put us to shame last year.
Rest Up Before You Go South With Grandma and Grandpa – Last Year’s Trip to B-Town
Olga is an 80 year-old, 90 pound, knobby-kneed, tanned to the core, one-liner queen. Carl is a 75 year-old, chain-smoking, rum-guzzling, ex-dancer. Val is a roly-poly, curly haired woman who uses a fro-pick for her perm and a compact mirror to reapply red lipstick in fifteen minute intervals. These are a few of the people I spent last year’s spring break with.
Last year, my sister Alex, my cousin Mallory and I decided to visit my grandparents in Barbados. We realized it wasn’t going to be the typical all inclusive student spring break that most were headed off on, but I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say that we were not expecting spring break class of ’49.
Well, they didn’t waste any time. Day one and we were off on an all-you-can-drink rum punch extravaganza upon the Cool Runnings catamaran cruise. Along with our group of twenty 70 year plus firecrackers, with the exception of “the girls” (me, Alex and Mallory), we were joined by another group of twenty who were in and around 30-years-old. They were an attractive bunch of friends, all from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Now, if you think like me, you might assume the younger group would be the more liberal ones, but you mustn’t be fooled so easily.
That other group ended up being quite conservative in comparison to my grandparents’ group and I couldn’t help but smile. I love the company of my grandparents and all their friends. Our group was drinking non-stop; my sister even had Mount Gay Rum poured straight “into her trap” by my grandfather’s friends as my grandmother snapped photos. Our group was dancing up a storm and some ladies even got on the stripper pole. I know, I’m sorry to give you the image of 80-year-old women throwing their legs up on a pole, but in all fairness, those ladies were way more flexible than you could have ever imagined! And Carl, the “ex-dancer,” was no ex-dancer that day. Carl got out on deck, and grabbed “the girls” on the way to show us his moves. He’d shake his shrivelled little hips, winding and grinding, then grab onto the railing, looking like he’s about to keel over and die, then take a drag of a cigarette, wash it all down with a swig of rum and be good to go again. I couldn’t help but laugh. I didn’t know if I should be dancing with him or helping him find a place to lie down. Olga was busy putting the crew men in stitches, recounting endless tales of blacking out from too much rum, to having allergic reactions to strawberries that gave her hives everywhere… even under her boobs (yes, she included actions). Her stories were made even better by her poor grammar and slow drawl. Val continued to reapply her red lipstick. Granted, most of our group didn’t swim with the turtles but it was hips, knees and backs that kept them from it, not their spirits.
When we disembarked the catamaran at the end of the day, my grandparents were beaming. Everyone was rosy-cheeked and squinty-eyed, but they weren’t ready to end the party there. It was off to Scotty’s Bar next. Carl had already fallen flat on his face when getting off the boat, “because of the sun.” Using slurred speech he assured us he does this every weekend at home, so it must have just been the sun. Or, he was just wasted! But, as I passed Carl in a heap, and saw my Grandma giggling with her girlfriends, I realized, this was way better than any all inclusive I had ever heard of. My grandparents and their friends really know how to throw it down and enjoy themselves, probably better than a lot of 20-something-year-olds I know. They have a lot of experience.
Perhaps it’s the sun, or spending your time in one of the most beautiful places in the world, but spending time with such content people was restorative. This group of friends have wisdom and experience and are leading lives that satisfy them. To spend my last spring break with such genuine people was inspiring. Their kindness was infectious, their openness was refreshing, their unlimited stories were charming and their steadfast ways were hilarious (whether it’s them being stubborn or just not hearing one another, I’m still not sure). My grandparents and their friends are so young in spirit and if they’ve instilled anything in me, above all else, it’s that I want to hold onto the vigour they hold for life and the enjoyment they take in it. You don’t need a tight body to throw ‘em back and laugh until it hurts. You don’t need your original hips to shake it like Carl. And you don’t need youth to appreciate life’s treasures. If anything, I can see that that comes with age. This was most definitely not the last of my travels with 80-year-olds.
Lessons learned: walk slower, talk louder, and go to bed earlier.
–Come on back to check out our stories from this year-
Day Twenty-Six (Saturday September 26th) Scared of missed opportunities. Be open and don’t stop listening.
How many times in a week, or even a day, do you make eye contact with a complete stranger and your first response is to break it. For comfort’s sake I believe most of us are guilty of this. I say guilty because making eye contact with complete strangers might not be such a bad thing after all. Every rule has its exception and I’m sure this is no different so be sure to read your strangers accordingly!
So I was off on an 8½ hour bus ride traveling to NYC solo. I had never taken the bus to New York before but as life goes, I decided to try something new. Actually, I thought I’d test myself and see if it was even possible for me be still for 8½ hours straight (no bus ticket was booked home). Turns out I can and could do it again, especially after the encounter I stumbled upon while heading to New York.
Fate/destiny/providence; call it what you’d like but it’s something I’ve grappled with and a topic I have yet to come to any solid conclusions upon. Most people, when they board a plane or a bus or whatever the mode of public transportation may be, hope to avoid the following people: those who smell bad, those who take up more than their fair share of seat space/do not understand the social graces of personal space, and finally, those who fall under the category of ‘Chatty Kathy’. Call it destiny but I happened to avoid all of the aforementioned.
After being warned by an American customs officer to sit near the front of the bus, I threw that advice to the shit-can and proceeded towards the back to find a cute older woman who looked decent enough to share a seat with. Once settled with my book and iPod, me and stranger across the way caught eyes. Now, here’s where I would usually look away and break eye contact, especially with an attractive male. Locking eyes with a stranger can be completely invasive and uncomfortable, and then there’s that whole look away because you don’t want them thinking you’re interested in them bit. But in my new found openness for doing things that scare me, I didn’t look away and instead gave a friendly smile.
Here is where the two thoughts of school come into play. First possibility is that there is absolutely no significance to this encounter whatsoever. So I smiled and was open enough to talk to an attractive stranger for 5 hours… Big deal, people do it all the time and it means nothing in the slightest that I was able to carry on this exchange for an extended period of time. Perhaps I should just start referring to myself as a Chatty Kathy!? Second notion is a bit more romantic in the sense of destiny. Perhaps it was fate that I chose to take the bus, and fate that I chose that bus time and fate that I chose that seat near the back… All these variables came together for an opportunity to surface and the chance to meet someone amazing. No matter what the case, no matter how many variables came together, it was all dependent on me being open to the opportunity to meet someone new and perhaps step out of my comfort zone for a moment.
Yes, I’m sure I could have continued to read my pretention novel (Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises) and watch the TV shows my sister was so kind to have put on my iPod, but instead I expanded my horizons and met a staggering individual who supplied me with endless conversation. So, are chance encounters such a chance? Perhaps they are, perhaps not, but it is most definitely dependent on what you do with these “chance opportunities”. So put your pretentious novels away and your technology bits down because I’m sure you wouldn’t want the regret of a missed opportunity.
Now go face a fear; do something that scares you!
 It’s a long story (mine not Hemingway’s) and my first time ever reading Ernest Hemingway. I really could have read it in private rather than the public sphere… but I guess I’m just a pompous asshole.