I'll tell you what's wrong with them - absolutely nothing. They've got it all figured out. Their priorities are admirable. Their lives do not focus on the heft of their wallets or accumulation of material possessions. They value life. Living life. Being happy. Enjoying friends and strangers alike.
Several locals with whom I chatted said they'd come down to visit and stayed, they were staying for an indefinite number of months or the plan from the start was to reside for a set period of time then someday venture somewhere new. Jeff, our favorite bartender at our resort, plans to leave St. Thomas in six months, head west to South America then brave the brutal Alaskan climate. Jeff is from Michigan. And I could have his itinerary all wrong as I was 2 or 3 double rum and cokes deep on our last night. What is it like to be a nomad? Is it lonely? Fulfilling? Do they document their experiences via journals, photos and videos? Do their families come visit? Do they never plan to settle? Without roots intact, does a person feel completely liberated? These are all questions I should've asked. But after a day of sun and rum-infused cocktails, the journalist in me had retired pour le jour.
The islanders really are amiable. One unforgettable interaction that particularly grabbed my attention, made me giggle and ignited my animosity for Americans was at the ferry station in St. Thomas. Cathy, a good friend of my mother, walked up to an attendant and, without greeting, inquired about the approaching ferry. He answered, "Good morning." My mouth dropped. I laughed. I watched them interact. Cathy is a warm woman, very friendly and full of life. But she just forgot to greet the man as a human, as a friend. I would have forgotten, too. There it was. That much needed knock in the noggin begging us to Slow.Down. I feel like society has completely eradicated any sense of humanity, any sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. We are the same species. Sure we may have different origins, opinions, beliefs, appearances, intellects. But when you boil it down, we are the same. And we should be friendly towards one another, just like the ferry attendant was to Cathy. We should communicate as friends. This is the idealist in me clawing its way through layers of pessimism and cynicism, ambushed by an overwhelming optimism for life and all beings.
There's a wonderful sense of community on the islands. It feels like a small town with regulars and friendly small talk. Recreational fields provide land for athletes. A barista in Charlotte Amalie knew Jeff, and we shared a moment embellishing a man that I hardly knew and with whom she spent a lot of her free time. Friends.
Animals are respected on the islands, which is a custom I happily witnessed in Costa Rica, too. Wildlife mingle with tourists and locals. No hands, feet or mouths are shooing away the iguana who approaches you as you slam down, in my case, a breakfast burrito on St. John (the first of three bbs consumed during my trip). Roosters and their chicks roam the land without reprimand. Leash-less dogs trot along the beaches. Cats roam the resorts. It's beautiful.
In late June/early July I will return to the Caribbean to celebrate Hudson's big 3-0 with his mother, father, aunt and hopefully her boyfriend. He's a lawyer, hence he schedules all vacations as "tentative." We won't be aboard a cruise ship, because we are not cruise ship people. And we are not staying at a resort, though this is always an excellent choice. Instead we are chartering a catamaran. We will sail from island to island, experiencing life on a boat in one of the most gorgeous places on earth. Soaking in the sun, the sea, the life. Who knows if I'll return...