Updated: Jan 3
“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure. You have no idea of what is in store for you, but you will, if you are wise and know the art of travel, let yourself go on the stream of the unknown and accept whatever comes in the spirit in which the gods may offer it. For this reason your customary thoughts, all except the rarest of your friends, even most of your luggage - everything, in fact, which belongs to your everyday life, is merely a hindrance. The tourist travels in his own atmosphere like a snail in his shell and stands, as it were, on his own perambulating doorstep to look at the continents of the world. But if you discard all this, and sally forth with a leisurely and blank mind, there is no knowing what may not happen to you”.
- Freya Stark (Baghdad Sketches)
El Malecon La Esperanza
While visiting the Island of Vieques in Puerto Rico, I found contentment in the mix of structure and natural chaos. Natural chaos meaning things left as they are - the forest, the roaming horses in the streets, and the choir of competing nocturnal sounds while I slept.
Structure was in my lodging at the Tree House in the beautiful La Finca Victoria. My temporary home had three stories and a hammock in each room.
The first floor housed my outdoor kitchen and an outdoor shower. There is nothing quite as magical as taking a shower with the moon and stars as your audience.
The second floor was my living space, complete with interesting reads to pass time along with a most gorgeous view from floor to ceiling windows and a balcony. Its like the room knew I was coming and welcomed me with my most favorite thing in the world - books!
The third floor was my bedroom with my bed facing floor to ceiling windows that brought in generous rays of sunlight to kiss my skin each morning .
The view could inspire poetry.
Vieques in its most natural state was surrounded with rain forest like greenery - lots of it; and tall palm trees that seemed to go on forever. Vieques was wild horses roaming free in the street. It was a never ending stretch of sandy beaches and the clearest blue waters I’d ever seen. As I stood chest deep in the water at El Malecon La Esperanza beach, I looked down and I could see my feet and the waters floor. The locals where barbecuing on the beach and playing sensual music.
I began to dance, in the water; playfully. I found so much freedom in this place.
Being in Vieques reminded me of my visit to Jaipur, India - the new and the old existing side by side.
Growth and perseverance.
Could I live here in Vieques?, Yes, I could. The Island is rich with beauty, peace, and some of the kindest people I had the pleasure of meeting.
But could I drive in Vieques?
Let’s just say it’s an adventure I might not be too eager to take on. With narrow roads and horses in the mix, I think I’ll outsource the driving to a local.
Speaking of adventure, getting to the Island was an adventure in itself. After arriving at San Juan airport, I took a small 8 seater plane to the Island. The views from the plane were glorious. God took her time with this place. Now you may think the flight was bumpy since it was such a small plane but my experience was the exact opposite. We had a very good pilot who promised us a smooth flight in 30 minutes and he delivered.
I could write a lot more about my experience but I am reminded that this is a blog post after all; not a book.
Instead, I’ll summarize my experience with -
WHAT I LOVED MOST ABOUT MY STAY IN VIEQUES
The clear salt water beach at Esperanza. I could see the waters floor and the walk I took by the beach seemed endless. So much peace in that simple experience.
The wind chimes at La Finca. You could hear them at night over the other natural night sounds. Soothing. Whenever I walked past it I always felt the need to pause and just wait there. I believe that’s why they were created - to encourage a mindful pause to your day.
The practice of using multiple small cloth towels as opposed to paper napkins. This was a good reminder and lesson on waste vs sustainability. A practice and awareness I wish to include in my daily living.
My outdoor shower at La Finca. Nothing like bathing with the stars and nature as your audience. Each time I stepped in the shower I’d let my tiny resident lizard know “Yo, its my turn now, off you go”… and off he’d go.
Shrimp Mofongo at Bananas Restaurant in Esperanza.
The grace and kindness from the locals.
Morning yoga with our guide, Vicki, at La Finca Victoria.
My first experience of an Ayurvedic spa treatment. Bliss.
Chef Dossantos vegan breakfast creations. He is a true treasure at La Finca Victoria, in my opinion. You don’t just eat his meals, you savor them.
Every. Single. Bite.
And so ends my brief retelling of a travel experience that was a feast for my mind, body, and spirit. With each solo travel experience I don’t just get to learn more about the world, I learn more about myself. And you know what? I surprise myself. Every time.
** All pictures taken by me (Cheli Njoku). Please do not share without my permission**