During summer in the industry I work in, it’s easy to work 10-12 hour days, 5 days a week; and 5 or 6 hour days on weekends when the office was closed, in order to actually get some work done.
The last two summers in a row I found myself in a situation where not only was this my schedule, but I was also doing it without an assistant or without an assistant AND having to train a new employee new to the industry during this crazy-busy season.
After summer was over and goals were met but before clearing up the rubble that was my office, I was completely and utterly exhausted.
Costa Rica was calling me. I considered how desperately exhausted I was and thought maybe I wasn’t up to zip lining through the jungle just yet. I have to admit, I was also a bit intimidated going because I was going alone to a place I had never been before. It was a little scary just thinking about it!
I decided to book a cruise, instead. I had never been on a cruise before, either. The idea that there are lots of people around you all the time and no one needs to know you are alone made me feel like I could do this and be okay. Port excursions are offered, so you can sign up for things that you are interested in at the different ports, be in a group, and feel safe.
I chose to depart from New Orleans because I had always wanted to go there; so why not make it part of my trip? The destinations I selected were Jamaica, Cayman Islands, and Cozumel. I was SO excited!
I scheduled my flight to arrive in New Orleans early to give myself time to explore the city. I took a walking tour where we met at a local cafe. A local musician was playing jazz. I enjoyed the music with the crowd while having my personal favorite chai latte along with a local favorite, beignet.
The tour covered historical sites near the infamous Bourbon Street and Jackson Square. I love this kind of history. I took tons of pictures of the architecture, the trees, beautiful streets, and people wandering around.
After the tour was finished and we all dispersed, I found myself with no idea where I was or how to get back to where we started. Panic set in for a moment. I stopped in a few gift shops and picked up souvenirs, and headed towards where I thought the port was located. It was approximately 3:00 in the afternoon and I found myself knee-deep in the Bourbon Street stench and a growing crowd of people.
I felt the panic inside rising again. While trying to maintain the “I’m not lost” look, I casually went into another gift shop and tried to find my GPS location. I was going in the opposite direction. I decided the smartest thing to do was to call a cab and have him take me to the port. I’m so glad I did, because I had the port location wrong, too.
“Wow, I am so NOT an experienced solo traveler! What was I thinking?!?” kept running through my head.
We traveled for two days on the ocean before reaching Montego Bay, Jamaica, the first port. I spent most of those two days sleeping. Sometimes on deck, getting a sunburn; sometimes in my comfy cabin, listening to the sounds of the ship and ocean. It was completely relaxing and perfect.
In Jamaica, I chose to tour Rose Hall Manor. A supposedly haunted mansion of a “white witch” slave owner with a reputation of brutality. The home and property are old and beautiful; just my kind of thing. There was also a beautiful view of the ocean from the front of the property. I enjoyed watching the little lizards, too.
The next destination was Georgetown, Grand Cayman. Out of all of my ports, this is the one that I was least excited about. Georgetown turned out to be my favorite memory from the entire trip.
For my port activity, I chose to swim with dolphins. I’m not the best swimmer ever, so this also seemed alike it could be a little problematic.
To get to the swim location, my group was in this twisty-turny path/line through tropical trees where there were beautifully colored tropical birds. The line wait wasn’t like your typical wait-in-line kind of thing. It was so beautiful that it was actually an enjoyable experience, and gave me time to take lots of pictures. It was fun and interesting to watch the animals.
While we were on shore getting ready for the water (swim suits, life jackets, instructions), the dolphins were playing in the water. Jumping up, chasing each other, it was so much fun.
The dolphins were “trained” to know that first we (the humans) would all be in a line in the water with our hands palm-down above the water, and the dolphin would swim under our hands so we could touch him. Then we changed our hand position to below the surface of the water, palms-up. The dolphin looped around and let us touch the underside of his body.
Next, one at a time, we (the humans) got to experience the dolphin posing with us for a picture. First the dolphin would kiss us on the cheek, then we would turn and kiss the dolphin on the nose. Then the dolphin would turn upside down and take the person for a short ride to the dock, while the human hangs on to his fins.
The dolphin was in love with me, I swear it. He did the cheek kiss, nose kiss, go to the dock routine for everyone; except me. He kissed my cheek. I kissed his nose. I guess the dolphin wasn’t ready to leave yet. He kissed my cheek again, so I kissed his nose again. Then he kissed my cheek again! I laughed and kissed his nose again. The tour person on the dock finally called out to the dolphin and the dolphin turned upside down and took me for a ride.
The dolphins are not held captive. The location is open to the ocean, so they can go whenever they want. The dolphin swim was the most amazing thing I think I have ever experienced. I highly recommend it to everyone!
In Cozumel, I took a ferry transfer to Playa del Carmen followed by a bus ride to Tulum, to visit ancient Mayan ruins. This was the port I was most looking forward to. I just love this history stuff! It was so interesting and I loved wandering around the ancient, crumbling structures. Then I spied the beautiful white sand beach and perfectly blue water below the cliffs. Wow, was it gorgeous! I took a little side tour of my own down to the beach. There was no way I was going to be this close to that and not experience it first hand.
That being said, I also fell behind my group – which is ok, expect I also decided to go back to the meet-up spot for the bus a different route than we came. You’ll never guess what I did (note sarcasm). I got myself lost. I thought I knew exactly where I was going, and then suddenly I was approaching a major traffic road and had no idea where my bus was! That feeling of panic I experienced in New Orleans came right back. There were not a lot of people around though, so I just slowed my pace and looked around to get my bearings and found that I had come out opposite of where I thought I would. I made my way back to the meet-up location with a little extra time to pick up souvenirs.
I did not want to go home. My view on life is different. This trip put the wanderlust in me. I will figure out how I can make traveling to new places a regular part of my life.
My plan is to start with Central America and the Caribbean Islands. I definitely want to go back to New Orleans and spend at least a few days there. There is so much to see and experience. Solo travel or not. I now feel more secure in myself, knowing I can make these kinds of trips, have more fun, without being so afraid. I’m going!