I can remember exactly how I felt when I first stepped foot on my rock. It was pure ecstasy – the warm sun kissing my face, a delightful breeze whipping my hair into knots (I was determined to get dreads the “natural” way), the sweet smell of marijuana and nature, the unending colors of deep blue and turquoise that sucked me right into a trance, and the feeling of getting baptized as I dunked my head under the crystal clear water. I reveled in it all for awhile, then life set in. And not some ordinary life of comfortable (dry) sheets, constant air-conditioning, and clean floors. No, not that life. It was the rougher around the edges kind – the life of bugs, sweat, and simplicity all sprinkled with a layer of grime also known as island life. At some point, I took my rose colored glasses off, chucked them onto the floor, stomped on them like a two year old throwing a tantrum, and buried them in the backyard.
Somehow, I managed all that without quite realizing what I was doing. It took me a little bit to realize that my rose colored glasses were missing. But with each tourist and island newbie I’ve been encountering lately, I’ve slowly unearthed the remains and glued my glasses back together again.
Just the other day, I found myself examining a tourist. He was sitting on a rickety, handmade picnic table while sipping a Bud light and chowing down on some Johnny Cakes. As he listened to the Crucian man tapping away at steel pans, he allowed his snow white skin to soak up the sun with a big grin on his face. As he sat there in what appeared to be pure bliss, taking in the beauty that surrounded him, I imagined he was probably thinking, “Wow, how lucky are these people to live in a place that some of us only dream of visiting.” Or something of that nature.
It was in that moment that I dusted off those long forgotten figurative frames and copied this young fella, soaking up the sun, sipping on a lime ‘n coconut while shoulder dancing to the island beats in the background.
We “locals” can be pretty darn proud of (finally) obtaining such an accomplishment as local status that we suddenly feel that we have some entitlement to make fun of you tourists. Bad driver? Must be a tourist. Driving on the right hand side of the road? Has to a be a tourist. Lost on island? Yep, another pack of tourists. Stopping at every little bend in the road to observe the magnificent views? Tourists. Wearing an “I love St. Croix” t-shirt? Tourist all the way! However, as much as we gawk behind your backs (or the rear of your rental car), we are often looking upon you with envy, wishing we were still experiencing our island for the first time, all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed!
So I guess the lesson for me has been to never stop being a tourist, no matter how “local” I become. Go on a vacation in your backyard, welcome the tourists near and far who wander along the Danish brick-embellished streets, and marvel alongside them at the beauty of the Caribbean Sea. It’s my vow to, from here on out, let my inner tourist shine and embrace the beauty we are all so lucky to experience every day. Who’s with me?