Written by: INGA EMMA
Between work, fun, and competing in triathlons, I find myself flying to other islands quite frequently. I travel so much that when filling out the required immigration documents, I often run out of room in the itty bitty space that follows the question, Where have you visited in the last six weeks? This is not a problem I’m complaining about, let me just stress that – travel off my island (even if it is just to visit another island) does wonders for keeping Rock Fever at bay.
When most people hear about my frequent jet setting, their reactions are generally rooted in envy: How marvelous! How glamorous! What a lucky lady you are! And I will not argue there; I am lucky. Though I must be honest – the term “glamorous” is not really accurate, mostly because we are quite limited in our airline choices down here when trying to get from island to island.
Essentially, there is only one main airline that services the southern Caribbean islands. Sure, if you are traveling to a much bigger island (say, the United Kingdom), you’ve got British Airways and Virgin Airlines to take you there; and if you are headed stateside, American Airlines or Delta will do the trick. So yes, we do have large airlines that fly out of here. But the type of travel I do mostly – the decidedly unglamorous kind – is rock to rock and for that, you are sort of stuck. There is but the one. This marvelous airline is known affectionately as “Leave Island Any Time”, or “Lots of Islands All the Time” or, the less affectionate, “Luggage Is Anywhere Today”.
Flying with this airline is always a bit of an adventure. Questions that normally would not cross your mind on regular flights keep you on your toes throughout your island travel day:
Will I reach my destination today?
Will my luggage?
How many islands will we be stopping at before we reach the one on my ticket?
Does the aerosol spray that they spray down the aisles actually do anything?
Is it sprayed truly to kill creepy crawlies, or is it a secret anti-fart formula?
Only recently did they institute an assigned seating policy. Historically, it was a random free-for-all. You’d be wrestling your carry-on down the narrow aisle, scanning the rows in desperation for a place to park. Empty seats were inevitably at the other end of the plane, already crowded with hand baggage and often could not be reached without crawling over a sleeping passenger.
My most memorable trip was the year two of us decided to journey from Grenada to Antigua. We were headed there to race aboard the Petite Martinique sloop Saavy at the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. For those of you that are a little rusty on your Caribbean island geography, Antigua is 342 miles to the north of Grenada. Most seasoned air travelers would expect a total travel time of about an hour – tops. And yet, it took us about nine. It is true we spent a solid four of them chilling on the ground in St. Vincent, but we were also treated to stopovers in Barbados and St. Lucia (New passengers! New friends!) before finally touching down in Antigua. Let’s just say it’s a good thing we hadn’t checked any bags.
Recently, my island hopping has been centered around traveling to compete in a couple of triathlons. Trust me when I say, adding a bicycle to the island flying experience is a whole new level of stress. If I am to successfully compete in a triathlon, it is pretty imperative to have my bike make it to the same island as I do. This wouldn’t be nearly as stressful if I were traveling to more bike-friendly cities, but alas, in the Caribbean, bikes aren’t easy to come by. Therefore, if the bike doesn’t make it, my trip is essentially for naught before I’ve even heard the starter’s horn. (This may finally offer an explanation to those of you that travel in this region who may have seen minor celebrations happening when some seemingly normal adults see their bike box on the baggage carousels!)
Considering this, you’d probably think that other sports that only require the presence of the athlete alone would be better suited to the Caribbean. This should not be too difficult, you might think. After all, besides island hopping and baggage woes, the people still get to the destinations on their tickets, right? Well, that’s a yes and sometimes, a no.
I attended an inter-island boxing championship last weekend, which ran into a little bit of a hitch – the boxers from Antigua and Barbuda were MIA. Where might they be? Did they feel that the competition was so tough that they should just stay home? Did they get lost from the airport to the ring? No, not quite. More like LIAT left them at some obscure island en route. My money is on St. Vincent.