Tag Archives: Travel

What I Love the Most About Jamaica?

IMG_2033.jpg

I carry a million pieces inside my heart of the faces I have seen, the sights I have absorbed, and the lessons I have carried. For a vacation destination, I pick new places to add to the over-brimming chest of treasured memories instead of returning to the same place each time.

And yet, here I am, along the sandy beaches, the bamboo trees of Jamaica eating at the same restaurants, staying in the same resort, climbing the same waterfalls. But why?

I realized the reason why today when I and Sahir were battling the thundering, slamming onslaught of Dunns river, climbing atop slippery boulders.  My nervousness stemmed from two reasons. One, my husband and I had to split. So, it was just me and Sahir. Second, he was an eight-year old I fiercely protected and just taking care of myself was a task as I am not athletic, never had been and the source of all my adventures stemmed out of companionship with my husband and without him, I was unsure of my sure-footedness.

So here we were. Dunns river had made its way to the beach. The cool water blasted itself into the Caribbean Sea, it came smashing down boulders as tall as four feet. Sahir and I started.

I glanced back at Ali who was taking care of my little two. I followed Sahir but ten feet in, the water roared in maddening fury, it rumbled in trembling seizures, and the water threatened to release the grip of my trembling feet along an almost vertical climb of the falls. Sahir whimpered. I whimpered. I glanced back. Sliding down the falls was not an option and going above made me want to cry.

At that instance, a set of sure hands reached for Sahir. Two girls (teenagers) held him as I mouthed a thank you. Suddenly I realized, taking care of Sahir was not a problem any more. He had already brisked away good fifteen feet from me. The problem was me. I hollered from behind and asked the locals to wait for me. I would never catch up, I was sure of myself.

Another set of hands, grabbed my hand and took me along. They did not leave our sides the whole journey, lifting Sahir in pools more than three feet deep. Some of them did not know each other, but they formed a chain with me and my son, and I knew then why I crave Jamaica anew each year as though it was a whole new destination.

Sure, Jamaica has the beaches and all-inclusive heavenly retreats. But that is not why.

Sure, Jamaica has the green, calm rivers amongst its lush green mountains. But that is not why.

I return to Jamaica because of its people. Midway, we stooped to carve our names at the river bottom, on stones. One girl wrote, Tori 2018. A boy wrote, Gary. Sahir wrote his name. Tori smiled and said, “Next time you come, look for your name.”

I smiled.

I was here seven years ago when I had climbed the Dunns River Falls with Sahir, an eight-month-old infant and all I had to fend for was me. And, here we were seven years later. Maybe, in seven years we will return to find Sahir’s name who visited Jamaica as an infant, now as an elementary-school-aged kid, and who knows in the future as a teenager.

I love Jamaica for its people, for its laid-back culture, for people idling on the street, for children wearing blue school uniforms walking from the school in the evening, for colorful hats, for simplicity known to so many few. The place has endured and yet, if you peek into the eyes of any of the locals you sense true happiness. Back in our car, in the parking lot of the falls, a family opened champagne and cut a birthday cake atop the trunk of their car. They lacked the fancy-themed birthday parties, the luxuries people in the west get accustomed to. The broken shacks along my window on the ride back showed the brunt of countless hurricanes, and the endurance and perseverance of the people who hold stranger’s hands assisting them through the falls unconditionally. I lack a photo with them or the knowledge of their names or their lives or their tribulations, but I will carry them in my overloaded heart and pray they keep their joyful, giving spirit intact through the long, meandering journey of life.

Ya Mon, Jamaica!

IMG_8002

Vacation Right

IMG_00021 IMG_00051

There is a lovely paradox surrounding a vacation, the hunger for it and the anxiety of it. This love like the other “person-to-person” love comes with a dent.

The paradox begins while packing for a long, much-anticipated vacation. The stress of packing the right gear…at least for those of us who do not have a genie or a paid help or a super-organized person who loves us dearly and has the time to pack for us.

Surviving the packing challenge, leads to the second layer of the paradox. As you fly above the clouds, there is a longing for the comfort of the home you left behind – the smell of cocoa, if you will, the touch of your mattress or the luxury of having everything at your fingertips at a moment’s notice. We leave it behind to live from a suitcase in hope of a better, grander place. We hope the flight above the clouds will land us on to something spectacular and powerful enough to expel our pain and our sufferings in one happy jolt or a slow-absorbing tonic. But what if the lofty expectation fails to deliver?

But it will fail to deliver, certainly.

Because the expectation of bliss is based on a faulty premise.

Lo and behold, the plane touches down and life remains, life. A clap of lightening and a roaring thunderstorm welcomes us, or if the sun is shining brilliantly, something happens with the reservation we thought we made months ago, or you know, life happens.

The expectation surely fails to deliver because we cannot run away from life.

And as expectation meets grim reality, the beauty of a vacation takes hold and reveals the real reason why we vacation and wait for it.

We vacation to spend time with the people we love twenty-four seven. Period.

We vacation to notice, I mean really notice, the smile of a loved one with undivided attention. Period.

We vacation to fall in love again not with Earth but with people we hold dearest to us. Period.

And if we are lucky, in the middle of our vacation (the right way) with our kids, or our parents, or our friends, or people that fit in no neat bucket, sometimes, just sometimes, the clouds part to reveal the beautiful, blue skies, the lakes, and the snow covered peaks. And you behold them with your loved ones. Without them, the view is barren. And with them, even cloudy skies are breathtaking.

So “Vacation Right.” Vacation to fall in love with people again and to never take them for granted in the hum drum of existence. Vacation Right.

The Woman With Friends

friends

Our day trudged along like an old lady. Our gait mimicked the fatigue of a long winding day as we sauntered into the Himalaya restaurant of Plattsburgh, NY. Just a couple of weeks before we arrived in Plattsburgh, two dangerous fugitives meandering their way up to the Canadian border had been shot, one dead and other caught alive right in our vicinity. With this knowledge fresh in our minds, we slouched in our chairs in the middle of a painstakingly long wait for our Tibetan food. Sigh!

As we waited in our outdoor seats in downtown Plattsburgh, I observed an American restaurant next door. A waitress who wore heavy facial makeup brought two big Beer mugs to the family seated across to us. Perched up with two fat books, a young lady, wearing black slacks, sat alone with an empty plate and empty glass. She had already finished her meal. Hurriedly, she signed the check, got up and marched away. My snoopy gaze followed her out of the restaurant, and found its anchor on three women across the street. The one in the middle, pregnant in her homestretch, was wearing a striped beige and brown dress. She was thrusting a stroller carrying a girl that appeared to be around 4 years old. The young girl lay limp and uninterested in her surroundings. Something about them enraptured my attention and I sat there gawking quite unabashed. Why was I fascinated by them?

Maybe because they represented something innocent my adult life had sacrificed. Center of conversation, the pregnant lady, in the middle of a long theatrical narration, slouched forward and shook her head left and right. The response from her friends was one of deep compassion as they shook their heads acknowledging her tribulation.

As for me? My fascination took a turn, I now gazed in envy. The women had what I ached for, close girlfriends in the same town as me, whom I met every other evening; I emptied my heart full of problems or vice-versa. And, here in Plattsburgh, New York, were three women doing exactly that. In front of my eyes, flashed images of the support they provided each other and specifically to the woman in the center with the baby on the way and another child in the stroller – who seemed most vulnerable of them all. Was I right to judge what I saw?

I was about to find out for myself when the woman in black, pulled out and lit a cigarette, taking big gulps, savoring each inhalation of the black guck. And, now I raged for a whole another reason. I turned to my husband.

“Look at that woman; she is smoking in front of a pregnant friend of hers and her daughter!”

The response of my husband was trenched in philosophy hinged on society, and the marketing campaign of cigarette companies. And, as though there was nothing more wrong with my outside world then I witnessed what was “the more than worst” thing in my opinion.

The smoker in black, hung the hand holding the cigarette on her side, and gazed straight ahead. With that, she quite unassumingly, stretched her hand near the lady with a child. And, to my dismay, expecting lady’s hand reciprocated and seized the cigarette with same sly dexterity. Hesitating, she took the cigarette, put it in her mouth, as her eyes closed in relief and she puffed her own big black one.

Agony! They didn’t linger there longer and started to walk towards the red light. The cigarette had exhausted their conversation. And, very soon they disappeared around the bend of the street with the vulnerable woman guarding the baby inside her womb with a cigarette in her mouth, puffing along the way.

Not believing the transformation of events, I ignored the waiter that brought our food. Was I right now to worry for the strange lady’s unborn child? Was I wrong to judge the quality of their lives by what I saw? Regardless, I learnt a valuable lesson that day as I glanced at my children – never judge a book by its cover – things aren’t as they appear to be. And, I learned a smaller, not so obvious lesson as well-to count the blessings in my life.

Escape from Chicago…

Have you ever woken up with a longing to take your car and just drive away? Have you ever just wanted a plan/itinerary ready for you to run with without your spending any time on research? And, what if you can have that plan free of any cost ? Read on…

From various trips I have taken at various times in my life, I have compiled for such enthusiasts a road trip, where you escape the big city traffic and go to something quite opposite…nature and seclusion. Here is a plan that is budget-friendly, vetted on the peak July 4th time with hotel, restaurant and of course attractions recommendations. If you reside near Chicago you can take this plan as is, or take pieces of it…My hope? To save you time and if nothing else, give you the pleasure of visiting these places without having to move an inch from your couch. Below is the overview of the trip including distance in miles, cost, and tips. At the end, you will be able to click on START and then go from Day 1 – Day 10 on subsequent pages.

TRIP: Chicago – Glacier National Park, Montana at Canadian Border and back via the Rockies in Colorado…

Route

Distance: ~4000 miles
Cost: ~$3000
Tip #1: Get an annual national park Pass for $80 before this trip[available over phone or the first national park on trip – Badlands, SD]
Tip #2: Drive the most fuel efficient car, and get AAA membership
Tip #3: Best time to do this trip – SUMMER MONTHS
Tip #4: Pack a jacket!

There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
there is rapture in the lonely shore,
there is society where none intrudes,
by the deep sea, and music in its roar;
I love not Man the less, but Nature more.
Lord Byron

This is one of my favorite road trips of all times. It ranges from rugged Badlands and carved mountain sides, to majestic range of the Rockies featuring turquoise blue lakes, weeping walls, erupting geysers, bison, bears, and Antelopes!

My aching longing for this trip is how beautifully it removes you from the world by taking signal out of cellphones, tablets and drawing you so close to loneliness that you are forced to reflect and take in the calmness of being fully present in the immediate surroundings.

Here is overview in pictures and click on start at the bottom to begin. All days are linked. You can also access this itinerary in the menu “Plan Travel”..Enjoy!

IMG_1039 Badlands National Park
IMG_1065 Mount Rushmore, SD

IMG_1177Montana

DSC_10041Glacier National Park, Montana

IMG_1530 IMG_1537 Yellowstone

IMG_1645Teton National Park

Start =>