It has been a beautiful and cozy winter.
My time learning how to snowboard and drawing inspiration from the winter landscape in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains has come to an end. These past months have brought to the surface memories of snow covered landscapes and life in a francophone community from my childhood in the maritimes. The ski hill outside my window is still white, mostly, but the slushy surface does not reflect the light quite in the same way as the colder crystals from only a couple of weeks back. Warm, sunny afternoons paired with grey, rainy spells are eroding my winter wonderland. I am not a fan of this particular, halting transition from winter to spring and I have decided it is the perfect time to go wandering again.
I am on my way to Cuba where I will eventually rejoin the Fairwinds. I last left the boat in Ireland six months ago, but since then she has crossed the Atlantic and has been sailing from island to island in the Caribbean. My excitement at the chance to explore this brand-new-to-me part of the world can barely be contained, bubbling under the surface as I arrange details: flight; visa; casa particulars. Eventually my thoughts get around to the contents of my pack. I lay out what I think will be comfortable clothing for the tropics and realize that my summer wardrobe consists of 1 pair of cutoff shorts, 1 t-shirt, and 2 tank tops. Travelling light is my thing but not quite this light.
It has been over 5 years since I experienced more than a handful of days in a row of truly hot weather. As I shop for a few extra pieces of clothing to help me get from one laundry day to the next, I start to wonder about the heat. And the humidity. And my tanline-free pale skin. Feeling a bit cold has never really bothered me, but I start to worry about how I will adapt to the heat.
I sweat. There is no way to delicately describe the rivulets of liquid which pour from hairline to heels at the slightest bit of exertion even in a moderate climate. And I burn, making thick, zinc based sunscreens and hats necessary additions to my travel gear. I look at the growing pile of items laid out on my bed and shake my head at how much of it is dedicated to keeping me cool, protected from the sun, and smelling good. What is the point in choosing to visit a part of the world where I am convinced I will be physically uncomfortable?
The answer is culture and beautiful natural landscapes, much like what has drawn me to most other travel destinations. There is this image in my head of what life in the Caribbean must be like, built over years of exposure to colourful images of people dancing with abandon, groups of lively musicians, birds painted like rainbows, orchids growing in trees, hibiscus bushes covered in blooms, and grass huts lining white sand beaches bordering an azure coloured ocean.
My parents’ National Geographic catalogues stored in a wicker basket next to the toilet for a bit of light bathroom reading, travel magazines on coffee tables in doctors’ offices, posters taped to the windows of travel agencies have all built up an expectation of what I am about to experience to a level beyond what I felt prior to leaving for a year in Europe.
Intellectually I know I should reign in my enthusiasm to give the Caribbean and its peoples a chance of creating their own first impressions. But I fear the damage has already been done, that the fantasy has such a firm hold and I will struggle with keeping a film of disappointment from tainting reality. Perhaps knowing this helps to explain why I am incredibly grateful for the chance to rejoin as part of the crew on the Fairwinds. Sailing off the beaten path in Norway, Scotland, and Ireland was an unbeatable experience, I hope this style of travel will help to counter balance my prefabricated notions of life in the Caribbean.
I will do my best to bring you along for the ride with first hand experiences over the next few months of travel, tho updates may come at irregular intervals. Apparently it is best not to expect regular nor reliable internet connections, particularly in Cuba. Sign up for my newsletter if you have not already done so, and I will send you a quick word when there is something new to peruse at Regenevieve.
Sending best wishes,