Sola In Anguilla

Dec 1, 2013 by

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The ferry docked and people filed to get off, grabbing bags and hands of assistance as they went. I clutched the man’s dark skinned hand and smiled at him as I stepped foot, officially, onto the island of Anguilla.

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Only hours before, I had come from Saba, a wonderful pearl of an island where I spent a week sleeping in the jungle, listening to frogs at night, scuba diving with sea turtles, and drinking beers with new friends while playing backgammon. My ferry from Saba left early in the morning. The rough waves did me no favours for the mild hangover I was experiencing thanks to those new friends keeping me out late with the Presidentes flowing freely. I focused on the horizon and sat silently, as the ferry lurched up and forward and back and sideways, and I was assured by the captain and his help that “this isn’t even that rough.”

Our ferry arrived in Sint Maarten, and to catch my ferry to Anguilla, I had to get to a different port on the other side of the island. To get there, I hitched a ride with two Rastafarians. That is a story for another day.

In Anguilla, I went through customs and stepped outside the building. I was alone, and all the other travellers seemed to be familiar with the area or with friends, with family. I looked around. There seemed to be a taxi line, or an organized bus system, perhaps for people staying at resorts. I wasn’t sure. I hadn’t planned past my arrival.

A man approached me.

“Taxi?”

I told him where I was staying, and he told me the price. Eager to get settled, I accepted, and off we went.

With a place to drop my bag and put up my feet for a while, I soon felt recharged and ready to get out. There was likely a lot I could have done there, like walk down to the beach and explore the touristy side of town, but I was hungry, so I decided instead to seek out some snacks. I also needed to find a bank, so that was my mission for the afternoon: snacks and money. With naught but vague directions from the lady at the guesthouse and a camera in my pocket, I ventured into the bright sun and down the dusty path.

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I had come to Anguilla for a friend’s wedding. She was planning the wedding of a millennium, and since she was one of the only friends I ever discussed weddings with when we were young, this was not a wedding I was going to miss. I sent her a message when I arrived, telling her I had arrived early to the island, but knowing how involved her wedding was, I didn’t expect her to be available or to even get a response. I imagined her knee deep in last minute details and preparations. To my delight, she told me to come to their villa at the resort. Close family and friends who were already on the island were gathering for a dinner and pre-wedding-week celebration. In my premature wisdom, I did not burn myself out that first day walking too much, trying to see everything. I was here for a wedding, and after that first night, I learned that Indian weddings are irrefutably events of endurance. So thankfully, all I did that first day was walk to the bank and get snacks.

It wasn’t a groundbreaking day of sightseeing and intrepid adventuring. I didn’t see things most travellers set out to see. I walked by brightly coloured homes and goats tied up in yards. I saw simple and beautiful churches and basic, local grocery stores, food stalls and elementary schools. I went to the bank.

People watched me as I walked down the street not entirely sure of where I was going, knowing full well I was not from there. Try as I might to fit in and not attract too much attention, my being From Away was unquestionable. And no one made me uncomfortable and never did I feel in danger. I was just a curiosity.

I was reminded that day of how happy I am when I travel alone. This summer’s journey was divided among various friends and my boyfriend (who I was blessed to travel with), and while those experiences with those people are ones I wouldn’t trade for anything, being by myself, wandering around on my own in a completely foreign place, is one of the most freeing and liberating experiences I have ever known.

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22 Comments

  1. Anguilla looks adorable. I would love to wander around those streets!!

  2. Wow! Colleen it’s so picturesque and those goats are adorable… think they’d let me bring one back?

  3. Wow it has SO much character!!! Definitely want to visit!

    • Colleen

      Oh Andi, you would love it there. I know how you love the Caribbean. I think this place would really speak to you. We stayed at the Viceroy fyi… a great, luxurious spot that would suit you, I think!

  4. I totally agree. Even when I’m with my family or friends, I try to find a way to wander alone at least once, even if I’m not actually doing anything. Especially while not doing anything. That feeling is like a drug.

    I hope the wedding was wonderful!

    • Colleen

      That’s introversion at heart, isn’t it? I think we are more similar than we realise!

  5. Zhu

    I can relate to the feeling and yes, “liberating” is the word that describes that feeling best!

    • Colleen

      I live for that feeling. It’s what keeps me traveling and seeing the world!

  6. A girlfriend of mine that I work with loves to travel overseas alone. At first it drove me bonkers but I’m always concerned for anyone’s safety. Then I came across more and more female travel bloggers (you being one of them) who does this very little trepidation! So, I still get a nervous tic for you girls to be safe but I’m getting more used to it by now 🙂 What was interesting about the buildings is that everything looks closed up. Was that just due to the time of day, Colleen? I know firsthand about a hangover and, for me, it was deep sea fishing on rough waters the next morning. Oy vey. I’m so glad you made it to your friends wedding! Enjoyed this very much as always, our friend! 🙂

    • Colleen

      I’m glad you’re coming around Mike. After all… solo female travel is not the problem with the world. I appreciate your concern. 🙂
      And yes, I did notice that too about everything looking closed up. I think it was the time of day, because nothing felt uninviting and there were people walking around, so I’m sure it was just a way to keep the heat out.
      My friend’s wedding was spectacular. I can’t wait to share more…

  7. I can’t wait to hear more about Anguilla! I know shockingly little about that part of the world as most of my travel knowledge and research revolves around Asia and Europe, but based on how colorful Anguilla looks, I need to know more!

    Also, I’ve done a very little bit of solo travel, but most of my travel experience has always involved at least one friend. Based on those few moments of completely solitude, however, I’d have to agree that there is little else that is quite so liberating or exhilarating (maybe diving…).

    • Colleen

      Ha, my knowledge of Asia as a whole is probably a negligible fraction of yours!
      And yes, diving really is special. I understand why people find it scary…. but the peace that you find under and around all that water is something else. It’s so worth giving it a try.

  8. Your Spanish is getting better Colleen I see 😀 :D! 🙂
    That is a very cozy and charming village – a place where I need to be right now :).

  9. Beautiful photos. A blogger friend visited Anguilla earlier this year as a day trip from St. Martin but had just blogged/posted pictures of the incredible beaches there. This was really nice to see the other side of Anguilla, the one where many travelers never venture.

    • Colleen

      Thank you Julie! I’m glad I could show a different perspective of the island. I think a lot of people go there to take photos of the beaches (I met a guy traveling who I bumped into again on the island and he was there just for the beaches), but yes! There is so much more to see!

  10. You have this annoying (good) way of bringing me near tears at the end of many of your posts. I’ve never traveled anywhere foreign alone. I want that feeling.

    • Colleen

      Oh, Katie! Thank you. I’m so flattered.
      I hope you get to do a crazy solo trip sometime. It really is unparalleled.

  11. I have only travelled alone a few times, and sometimes I love it and sometimes I don’t like it at all. In Samoa I loved it, but in Australia and Fiji I would have preferred company. I guess it all depends what sort of head space you are in at the time.

    • Colleen

      I think you’re right. I think it comes down to headspace but can also come down to the place. Some places just aren’t very conducive to refreshing and liberating solo travel.

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