04 May 2012

The Evolution of an R&R

One of the perks about being an expat aid worker (aka one of the ways our employers attempt to keep us from going even more crazy than we already are) is the fact that every so often - 6 weeks, 2 months, 3 months, 4 months depending on the organisation - requires you to leave for R&R. Rest & Recuperation. 

For those of us who are single, without families and want to evade paying taxes back home by not being in the country, often this time is combined with annual leave and used to visit any myriad of the interesting random countries that surround us. And sometimes even the ones that really just are not convenient to get to at all. Because the world is our playground. 

By the way, it has been my experience that those who have families often use this time to engage in a little 'R&R&R,' as coined by my old colleagues. Rest, Recuperation, and Reproduction. Literally. 

And of course, one always wants the next country on the list, the next stamp in the passport and all that stuff that makes us feel somewhat well travelled or feeds our adventure appetite. 

Well, today I booked my next R&R. As in, the flights are purchased, I am researching accommodations and activities, but mostly I am flying by the seat of my pants (British or American - doesn't matter). 

But instead of just announcing where I am headed - which is pretty crazy, let me tell you - I need to tell you the process of how I got here. Because its a good, long story. 

It was agreed upon many many months ago that my next R&R would be scheduled for the first 2 weeks of June. I scheduled it far in advance to give myself plenty of time to decide where I wanted to go, to find a travel partner, and to organise. And so I set out to do so. 

The initial plan was Cuba (I mean what American does not want to try to sneak into Cuba through the back door!) and either Puerto Rico or Costa Rica. I hadn't decided. But I researched Cuba and found out all the ins and outs of how to travel to this country, while breaking US policies. And its actually quite simple (ask me by email if you want to know). 

However, I was still looking for a travel partner. After talking to people who had been, also after looking at the laws around being an American in Cuba, I decided that I need to go with someone who likes to go out and have a good time and is non-American. You know. Just in case. And I did also decide on Puerto Rico, because it was closer and offered some good options for scuba diving. 

Problem. Could not find someone to go with at that time. With my housemate planning to go in September, when I am next due for an R&R, and me not particularly feeling comfortable in a place I cannot speak the language or use the ATMs by myself, I decided to change to another couple of islands where I could understand the people. 

Guadeloupe. Found here.
Enter Guadeloupe. A country with a volcano, Jacques Cousteau's underground playground, beaches and apparently amazing French food. That speaks French. Done. Decided. Hmmm. What other country can I add to that? I know! Sint Maarten / Saint Martin! A French side that is filled with relaxing beaches and sophistication and a Dutch side filled with places to go out and city living. Deal. Sorted. 

But you know the Caribbean? Yeah, its not cheap. Not at all. There are not really a lot of cheap places to stay - well there are, but they are difficult to find - and there is little to no public transport especially on the smaller islands. 

So when I was looking at what the options were, it was looking quite expensive - car rentals, hotels, food, and still countries where there was the potential that I would do less relaxing of the mind and soul than more. 

I was still convinced. I talked with people who had been to both, started getting an idea of what to do, and how to do it. Then finally, I began the process to book tickets. 

Now this was where I got stuck. After much waffling about, and a few credit card mishaps, I ended up booking a return flight from Sint Maarten to PaP. And that was it.  Haha. Well, its a start!

A start to rethinking the whole process. And talk with some friends. And think. And review. And revise. And I did. So what did I end up booking today? 
Sint Maarten. Found here


In non-airport code language, that is Port-au-Prince to Curacao. Curacao to Amsterdam. Amsterdam to Sint Maarten. Sint Maarten to Port-au-Prince. 

Oh. Well that makes complete sense, right? 

Yeah, not really. Well, in anyway, I am thrilled about all of it. Getting some Caribbean beaches, some European flavor, some easy living, some relaxation, some relatively safe walking and some culture. All in 2 weeks. 

And hey, they have hostels in Holland. And I have friends to visit. Oh, it's gonna be a great time!

Don't worry though, Guadeloupe, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica! I'll get to you! Eventually!

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