We just got back from a wonderful family trip to Barbados. Just the other day, as I was floating in the magnificently turquoise waters, I couldn’t help but think back to all the trips I’ve been lucky enough to take to this special destination. I reflected on how each trip and island has represented a different stage in my adult life.
My girlfriends and I began yearly trips to the Caribbean in our early 20s. Back then, regardless of the particular island, my memories are of all-inclusive resorts with mediocre food and lots of frozen fruity drinks on the beach. The days were spent lazily gossiping, reading, napping and floating in the crystal clear waters contemplating our future careers and relationships while resting up for late dinners followed by dancing the nights away at various ‘discotheques’. When I flip through my old photo albums, I’m amazed at how little sun block we used, how we managed to coordinate large groups of friends traveling together and how we afforded it all! To this day, my best friends and I love reminiscing about our trips and still laugh out loud (and cringe) at the memories.
Once my husband and I started traveling to the Caribbean, it became a very different vacation. All-inclusive resorts were replaced with smaller, more luxurious properties. The food was better, the service more attentive and the evenings consisted of long romantic dinners instead of dancing to Top 40 international hits. I remember how nice it was to be away alone with him on Antigua and Anguilla, with long walks and talks on the beach, trips to the spa, watching sunsets while talking about our future.
A year and a half after we were married, we were back. This time, I was six months pregnant, excited to attend the wedding of friends in the beautiful setting of the Virgin Islands. We loved the experience of a destination wedding and had a blast celebrating with the happy couple. On this particular trip, however, there was a seismic shift for me. Maybe it was my maternity bathing suit or the virgin Piña Coladas or the fact that I was tired before I wanted to be. I knew then that a chapter had closed from my previous carefree jaunts to the islands.
Our next trip proved that I had been right. It was four years later when we traveled to Jamaica with our two and four-year-old daughters. Let’s just say that at that time, our kids were far from being good travelers. Our time in Jamaica included a double ear infection, lots of tantrums, tons of swallowed sand and a complete lack of relaxation for us. As much as I tried to make the best of it, I was scared to go back.
Time marched on and we returned, this time to Turks & Caicos, on a big family vacation. Back in the amazing water, we watched our daughters, (now three and five) delight in the pool and beach, and were happy that they had finally realized that sand was not meant to be ingested. We had the luck of having grandparents, aunts, uncles and their cousin with us, so they were entertained, sun-blocked and spoiled the entire time. The two of us were able to relax more and reveled in being back in this beautiful part of the world.
This past week in Barbados was our most recent trip. The girls, now 7 and 5, are great travelers. They quietly entertain themselves on flights with books, snacks and electronics; leaving us able to actually read or nap en route. They are confident swimmers and we’re no longer paranoid that they will drown at a moment’s notice. Our time was spent swimming, relaxing and watching our oldest master water-skiing for her very first time. We snorkeled with them as they discovered the beauty of the underwater world for the first time.
We took daily banana boat rides that had all of us squealing with delight. The girls can now stay up later without becoming overtired disasters, and we’re able to enjoy nice long dinners engaging in funny conversations where we learn so much about their friends and general thoughts on a huge variety of topics. Even though by the end of each dinner our little one was curled up in her chair sleeping, she was content to be carried back to the room, when we were ready to call it a night. The trip wasn’t perfect; they both got really bad sunburns, but with a trip to the local pharmacy and their good attitudes, we all got through it.
On our last day, we took a boat ride and swam with giant turtles and explored a shipwreck while swimming with beautiful fish of so many different colors and sizes. On the boat back, we started chatting with a couple in their 60s who turned out to be New Yorkers who had lived just a few blocks from our current apartment. They have two daughters with the exact same age difference as our girls; in fact, they were all born in the same hospital! They had moved out of the city when their girls were young, but they told us how much we reminded them of themselves on vacations when their girls were little. Their daughters are now 21 and 23 and seldom vacation with them. As usual, they counseled us on how ‘it goes by in a blink of an eye’. While we already know just how true that saying is, hearing it on a the day that could not have been more perfect, made me want to freeze the moment – and the whole trip – forever.
I know that this time with our girls is fleeting. I’m hopeful that we will have many more vacations in this string of islands, which have been so good to us already and have provided us with countless happy memories. I can’t help but think to the future and wonder how our vacations will continue to evolve, as the girls mature into teenagers and young adults and finally start traveling to the Caribbean with their own friends, significant others and eventually their own children.
I imagine a day when perhaps it will be me and my husband as the old couple on a boat somewhere on the turquoise sea, looking at a young family and traveling back in time to all our memories, while continuing to make new ones.
Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, Mina was an HR Recruiter for years. Now her time is spent happily juggling the demands of two young daughters while trying to expose them to the endless adventures the city has to offer.
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