When I left Boston 4 weeks ago it was 20 degrees with 6 feet tall snow drifts on the ground. With very little sleep the night before; I get up at 3am so I can catch my 5 am flight. My clothing is laid out and I don a brand new pair of waterproof boots, fleece leggings, a long sleeved t-shirt, and my wool coat; something that I picked up in England weeks before. Still in a sleepy haze I check out of my hostel and contact Uber.
I arrive at the airport so early that TSA isn’t even open yet and neither is DD (Dunkin’ Donuts) or Starbucks; it’s like a virtual ghost town. There is one store open so I grab a coffee and a danish that cost me $10. There should be some sort of rule about airport price gauging. I take my over priced goods, have a seat on the floor and stretch out. It’s going to be a long day.
A few hours later I am boarding a plane to Puerto Rico. The question I have gotten for a year is, “where are you going to next?” This time, when I tell them Puerto Rico, looks of dismay come over their inquisitive faces. The follow up question is, “Oh are you going to help with the hurricane relief?”. I immediately say no and begin to explain.
I have nothing to offer Puerto Rico. I am not an electrician, or skilled laborer but what I do have is time and a little bit of money. This is what I can offer Puerto Rico. My accommodations are a local airbnb, I can take Uber, I drink, eat, and shop local. The biggest thing any of us can do is come to Puerto Rico and spend money.
After being in winter and in Europe for so long I forgot what humidity is and what it does to my hair. Waiting on my ride at the San Juan airport I begin to sweat and realize how inappropriately dressed I really am. Unlike yours truly, there is not a pair of long pants to be seen, and no one is dressed in black. Color is everywhere, along with smiles, happy greetings and controlled chaos at the arrivals pickup.
At that moment it was easy to forget that just a few months ago two category five hurricanes roared across this island, causing havoc in it’s wake. Massive amounts of damage ensued, power outages, and water shortages. A lot of the island is up and running but there are still areas that can not be reached and they are still without power, a luxury that my never return; if it does, it will be years. Talking to the people of Puerto Rico you can hear the stress in their voices as they relive the trauma of waiting out the storm.
Luckily where I am, Luquillo Beach, is in order. The power may go off for an hour or two, you drink bottled water but there are restaurants open and airbnb’s ready to welcome guest. When I first arrived I ventured down to a local restaurant which sits by the water. The bartender, whom I found out later was actually the manager; after the storm, the restaurant went from 30 employees to 10. He asked me if I was on vacation. I explained my lifestyle. With a smile and emotion behind his voice he said, “Thank you for coming to Puerto Rico”.
At this very moment I am sitting in the same bar, eating french fries, drinking a cold local beer, and watching the surfers. Last night I went to the local pizza place for take-away, and on Saturday went to the local farmer’s market. When a place depends so heavily on tourism a natural disaster can hurt the local economy so much that it may never bounce back. When I decided to come to Puerto Rico I asked the right questions: do you have power, access to water, are roads clear, and are grocery stores open? Because that is all you really need. Don’t shy away from a place because of what others say or what you see on the news. Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean need you, they are waiting for you, with open arms, smiles and warm greetings.
I began this writing last week. The next phase was to head to Germany for the month and continue the journey of traveling, pet sitting, and teaching English. The plane ticket was purchase; on the day of departure I woke up early, and with a heavy heart began to pack. There are other guest where I am staying, American’s running away from the northern winter. I am telling them how much I really don’t want to go to Germany and my thoughts of living on this island have consumed me.
About that time my friend and guest house hostess text me. She is wondering if I truly want to go to Germany. In my head I don’t want to exhaust my welcome in her lovely guest house, Love. Soul. Beautiful; I need to make more money which can be done more easily Europe. Even with this, I just did not want to leave. Molly comes up and says we can make a deal for me to stay. So, with that, I don’t get on the plane.
Today is Monday, I was suppose to leave on Saturday. Since then I have been looking at apartments, figuring out logistics for some things that are in South Carolina, and powering back up the photography business. I have also been offered paid house-sit/pet-sit jobs for the future, the Bougie to Budget: Travel Guide business has picked up, and lastly I have started a gofundme campaign to help upgrade equipment so Wander Woman will sore. I can’t believe I am writing this from my new home, Puerto Rico. Never in a million years did I think this would happen. Come to Puerto Rico, you just may never leave.