ARUBA for the first time – but are we cheating on our true love!?!

ARUBA for the first time – but are we cheating on our true love?

Writing this at 6am on a plane headed south from Chicago. Hubby and I woke up at 2:30am to head out and do one of our favorite things, which is quality time on a beach, snorkeling, exploring and disconnecting. We have stayed on Puerto Rico, St Thomas and St John. All three islands have beauty, but we have progressively fell more in love with St. John on every visit. Read about one of our favorite adventures in prior posts St. John the three R’s

In October 2016 we traveled to St. John for our 3rd stay. We decided on the Westin – a departure from our usual quiet villa stay – but wanted to experience the hotel vs. a self catered villa stay. As we enjoyed the properties beauty, different kinds of villas and amenities and we pondered -Was it time to think about a long term commitment and coming back to our happy place year after year or even permanently? Knowing that buying our own home may not be an option at this point we decided to look at what other kinds of accommodations we could consider or invest in and decided to take in the timeshare presentation. We did not buy – but took them up on an offer via a pre-paid stay and come back in 2017 as we research and think about it a bit more. But in a minute the world can change……

Hurricane Havoc

We watched You Tube videos of the destruction, saw Facebook posts about the devastation and tried to do some small act that could help from our safe harbor near Chicago. Hurricane season 2017 is one that will never be forgotten on these islands. Islanders discovered that one hurricane beat down is bad, a second one is simply horrific. We have followed those stories of dread, devastation and destruction along with the resilience, recovery and love. Sharing from all parts of the world including celebrity’s and common people – All with one mission – Be Love.

We felt a bit guilty putting together a plan for a December trip this year. Our only solace came from posts by NewsofStJohn and the frequent sharing about recovery, hope and coming back. We are committed to heading back in 2018 or early 2019. We will bring more family and spend more than we have in the past. We may go twice once things are up and running.

This year we decided to head a little further south to Aruba, once upon a time this was an island I had at the top of my travel bucket list – The anticipation in discovering a new destination is building, but our thoughts do turn to our love for Puerto Rico and the USVI as they were truly the places that put this love of the Caribbean in our hearts.

Aruba for our first time. We have fun to chronicling our first visit to any destination as it is a way to share insights with other travelers, and have a written record of our meanderings. As we board the plane and get closer to Aruba, we are somewhat melancholy. Happy to be going away together, but missing the usual anticipation that goes with our giddy joy around visiting St. John.

In St. John we know the curves and switchbacks, the bumps and pot holes, the smell of the mangroves as you drive through Coral Bay. We remember the smiles from the staff at Skinny Legs and the laughter rolling out of the doors of bars in Cruz Bay. The furry donkeys, beautiful fish and coral, stingrays, turtles and perfect beaches. Trails through national parks walking us through time and history. The memories that used to fuel our excitement about seeing her – now bring worry and anticipation about how she may be recovering. But we are keeping watch – waiting for her and the sweet people there to feel ready to see us again. We are coming back, our trip to Aruba is a detour not a departure from our first true island love. Aruba has some very stiff competition to win our hearts.

Tags:#STJ #HurricaneIrma #HurricaneMaria #NewsofStJohn #ARUBA #StJohnUSVI

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The world is yours Sweet Girl

She left Florence on Friday, there were tears, and laughter and hugs.  The new friends she had met were going their own way too.  She made a special trip to the API office for one more request, help with getting a taxi at 4am for her trip to the airport.  She asked for a picture from the wonderful API advisors that had brought joy, organization and guidance during her time there.  Memories were made with people she did not know 34 days ago and she was feeling lucky to have met them and shared this short snippet of her life together.  Her social media posts have been a farewell love letter to Italy and it warms my heart to see her happiness and enthusiasm for more travels.

I was given a gift from this experience as well.  I saw my youngest child grow into a woman that is acting upon her dreams and planning her next adventure.  I found that API as a travel abroad company is a great investment.  The money she used did not come from me, it came from her own hard work the previous summer.  She included me in discussing her choices around what company to go with, what country to visit, how much time she should spend (a semester vs a summer) and how much will all of this cost.  She made the decisions and I am proud of the planning, thinking and choices she made.

My homecoming gift to her was a poem I wrote her and printed on one of my favorite pictures of her in Florence, her apartment in the background.  I thought she could hang it in her college apartment this fall to remind her to follow this dream as she fulfills another dream of becoming a nurse.  She is happy and that makes me happy too.

Your beauty is your soul

Never lose your love of wandering

There are vast experiences that await you on this blue ball we call home.

Getting to know past and present people who change your mind – about good, evil, beauty and history.

Swirling -Skipping -Twirling -Tripping 

The world is yours sweet girl.

Making good choices and balancing mama emotions – Why API Study Abroad?

Daughter Alone in Italy ……..My Sweet Girl is my youngest child.  I have three other children that are in their 30’s.  They have jobs, homes and families. There was a twelve year gap between them.  Each time I have watched one of them set off in to their life I have had those mother pangs of extreme fear, overwhelming love and dread for all the things that could potentially go wrong.  The world is a scary place and it can be overwhelming to think about a young lady alone on a street in a strange city – it can be downright debilitating to think about if that girl is your daughter. My older children had taught me something about my parenting.  The key is making good choices.  My sweet girl is pretty good at choices.  In my earlier post Survival Day I talked about the way she plans, considers and thinks ….a lot.  

She has wanted to travel for years.  As a young girl she would march confidently through the airport pulling her child size wheelie bag.  Once she heard that she could travel abroad in college she was sure that would be her plan.  The first semester at her university she visited the travel abroad office and attended informational sessions about the programs available.  It was there she found the API Study Abroad Program.  It was a good choice.

This is not a commercial for API – I am not being compensated, I am feeling very thankful for this program.  I’m hoping that other parents that are anxious will read this and know that finding the right program not only thrills your student, but it also calms your parental jitters about watching your child literally and figuratively walk out into the world.  API had communicated throughout the entire process.  They have sent me emails with extensive information as any parent would want, but their communication with the participating travelers is where much of the parental relief is found.  The have been very clear with the students about where they are going, what is expected and what the students should be doing to prepare for the trip.  The API on-site contacts in Italy are helpful, patient and fun.  The students have a resource with them to advise and guide – but not hover over and watch these “adult” students at every moment.  There are many activities offered from walking tours of the city and campus to cooking classes and group dinners the first week.  The program is well thought out, engaging and has put my mama emotions at ease. 

This past weekend the group went to Rome. They rode a train passing sunflower fields along the way.  My sweet girl said it was very crowded, very hot and she loved it and will return someday.   She visited the Vatican, stared at Michangelo’s work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and walked the streets visiting fountains and piazza’s.  She is wandering the world – She is happy – She made a good choice her first solo trip abroad. 

Sharing a walk through Rome  in the pictures below.  Enjoy.

Survival Day – Walk around campus and Now we are cooking…..

She is organized, she takes comfort in having a plan and thinking through what she will do.  And at times she over thinks things.  Orientation week has a “survival day”  a day that she was looking forward to attending. It was a way to get her bearings, understand her surroundings and mentally go through what her week would look like once class started.  She attended with the group – and at the end the trip sponsor offered to walk them around campus.  

There was only one student that took her up on the offer – My sweet girl.   She was able to find where her class will be, see spots on campus that are in the “must visit” category and understand more about life on a campus in Italy.  All provided by her own private guide giving her valuable information, helping her understand where she is going, and explain who she will be getting to know as the culture unfolds around where she is. 

When we talked she had just returned and was resting before heading out with the group to a cooking class that would be their  dinner.   Take a look at all the deliciousness …….

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Bruschetta
Pasta
Dessert with Chocolate and Cream
A cooking lesson

I am feeling so happy that she has so many activities to participate in.  She wants to try everything and attend every activity and event.  She will be starting her history of Florence class on Monday, but at this moment she is headed to Rome and the Vatican.  And I am looking forward to more pictures, stories and fun.

Crossing the globe on an award ticket in coach.

My sweet girl is traveling to Florence on a 33 day educational adventure through her travel abroad office at her university.  For this program students pay tuition, room and board and travel separately. Booking flights was up to the student. We had some miles that had accumulated from travel and credit card points and we wanted to help her defray some of the flight cost by using an award ticket. She needed to fly from Chicago to Florence, Italy. 

We looked at flights and tried to figure out the best route while meeting the expected arrival times set by the hosts. The only way to make it work would be doing several flights. The itinerary was Chicago – Cincinnati – New York JFK – Zurich – Florence.  Staying true to my motherly ways – I worried, checked flightview regularly through the day watching over each travel leg of the itinerary as it was completed.  

The first 2 flights went by quickly and easily – all is going great.  Her layover at JFK was 3 hours – where she had her “last cup”  of Dunkin Donuts coffee – posting on Snap Chat and sending us a text to announce this fact.  She boarded her plane to Zurich, took her economy seat and watched a circus of other travelers follow her boarding to economy.  

The texts started just after her – “we are boarding!” Message.   It read – I’m going to be late .  My message back – Why?   She explained that there were about 50 people in a group that were making the flight late.  They would not sit down in their assigned seats, could not get their luggage stowed and the flight attendent even looked at my daughter and said she had been flying for 10 years and never seen it this bad.  

Next message – What if I miss my flight in Zurich – Next message – Can I call you?  Of course the answer is yes .  The crazy tour group had delayed the flight long enough that some of the crew had timed out – so there was a need for them to wait for new crew.  This was going to cause the plane to arrive at 9:30 in Zurich – vs the original planned 7:55am.  I had Hubby (the international travel pro) talk to her.  We had booked the Zurich to Florence flight with 5 hours time between them. She was scheduled to leave at 12:15 – so she should make the connection with no problem.  He explained in the voice he saves for moments just like these.  He said she was talking it through in a calm way, was not rattled by all of this.  He told her to text when she landed in Zurich, but don’t worry about communicating once she was off the plane – just get to your plane to Florence.   Just as they were saying goodbye the pilot announced they were leaving the gate.  We did the math – and knew she would be just fine.  But of course I did check flightview about an hour later – just to see where her plane was in its journey.  

During the night I woke up twice – checked my phone and when I did not see a text I visited flightview again and saw that her plane had landed on time in Zurich.  At the time I checked I knew she was collecting her bag, going through customs and finding her gate for Florence.  It was 3;30am. 

Arriving in Florence
Flying to Florence from Zurich
Swiss Air Breakfast
 

I fell back to sleep and woke at 7:30 – a notification came through before I even got down to the kitchen to make coffee.  She was there and sharing her ICloud photos folder.  I was relieved, excited and happy.  Let the adventures begin!

Disney December – Finding a shiny dime.  

Once upon a time, there were three friends, Vagablond, Jo Jo and Deb who met at bible study.  We were raising a combination of 8 children, changing diapers, managing careers and families.  We all moved through our lives putting family first, surviving divorces, deaths and illness, celebrating births, remarriages and being a survivor.

 Our reconnection began when Jo Jo suddenly lost her husband.   We made it a point after that to find mornings to meet for breakfast.  It was a comfort and we realized that we were still able to make each other laugh.   Women having supportive and good friends really does matter, it is about that connection that ranges from “we are so adorable” to “Ok – check my behavior on this- Am I being too _______????”   Losing a girlfriend connection from the past and then rediscovering the love, camraderie, support and honesty you had is one of the great gifts of the Universe.  

The idea to visit Disney together came from a conversation during one of our breakfasts.  We were talking about vacations and how visiting Disney is always a thrill.  Deb had a story about Disney at Christmas and how beautiful, fun and even spritual it was.  I was shocked – in all of the marketing and commercialism around what Disney does I wondered how they would align to the politcal correctness that surrounds us and still bring the message of hope from Jesus’ birth.  

How does Vagablond answer any question?  Why Travel of course – and the trip planning began!#DisneyDecember

Las Vegas the Vagablond Way!

A trip to Vegas – you never have to ask me twice!   Hubby found a great deal- it does involve viewing a timeshare- but we love Hiltons- so it should be fun.   I’m in sales and marketing and I actually get a kick out of watching people sell, experiencing a pitch from the other side of the desk and learning from the sales people that probably have one of the hardest sells on earth.   

Our plans include Hilton Grand Vacation on the strip, Penn and Teller, Jeff Dunham and any other entertaining thing we can find to do.  We like to gamble, but not lose money- so we will see how much time we spend at the tables.  We are taking the 18 year old daughter for just one night- then Wednesday night she is off to Phoenix for her own adventure- but it will be very cool to see her eyes light up when she sees the strip tonight when we land.  

Stay tuned…….can’t wait to reconnect with one of my favorite cities!

One of the best parts about an island vacation is the conscious decision to relax – sometimes it is on a beach, other times it is with a cocktail.  If you are staying in a beautiful location, a villa, a hotel or even a campground on St. John there are ample opportunities to be active, but also times when just “chilling” is the best way to truly enjoy the surroundings and your vacation.

We started this day with a wonderful breakfast of steak and eggs.  We have had some very good meals while on island – usually using our own kitchen in Eminence on High, the villa we rented from  https://seatopeakvillas.com/EminenceOnHigh/.  After breakfast we talked about the plan of the day and several options came up – but something about the cool pool, sunlit patio and some chilled island cocktails was calling, ” Vagablond….stay home!”  and so that is exactly what hubby and I did.

Floating in the pool
Floating in the pool

View of Coral Bay from patio

We lounged by the pool, we called hubby’s mom and dad in Florida to congratulate them on 68 years of marriage    and said a little prayer that we would be given that same time to be together. We celebrated our life, our family and the happiness we feel when we are able to just “be” together.
Later that afternoon we took a short drive through the roads near the villa. We found the trailhead for the Bordeaux Mountain Trail and decided that trail which starts 1150ft above sea level – and leads down to Little Lamshur may be a trek for another day.
That evening it was dinner with family at the villa – we had slow roasted a pork loin with pineapple mango salsa. It was at this meal we hooked little brother on sweet potatoes cut up and roasted on the barbeque grill. He found out that a food he thought he hated is actually pretty good. Only a couple days left and we are already sad to be leaving.

Island Vacation 2015 Day 4

St John is full of trails and beaches. There is a number of places to rent snorkel gear for the week so we headed to Coral Bay to check out Crabbys.
Crabbys Coral Bay
It’s a small shack of a shop that sells and rents various kinds of water sport gear. A woman fitted all of us, and we paid $40 each for the rentals and we were on our way in 20 minutes.
We headed out to find a beach and a spot to snorkel where we may see some turtles.

We took off via Rt 10 headed toward Annaberg, this road goes up and over the center of the island and while Coral Bay is on the south side the north side beaches are easily reached in about 20 min. We landed at Maho, the first beach you reach when coming from Coral Bay. There is a parking lot, but if that is full, there are cleared areas between the trees where it is easy to pull off and park. The beach is just a quick hop across the road, so bringing chairs, coolers and other items is quick, easy and requires very little effort. We found a shady spot under the low hanging sea grape trees and set up our chairs and cooler and set out to enjoy this beautiful beach.

The beach was populated but not crowded, there were several boats attached to the buoys and the bay had a number of snorkelers already floating with their tushes peeking out of the water. It was easy to tell where the underwater life to see was by watching where the snorkelers would dart off to next. Some of our group stayed on the beach to take in the view, a couple others donned snorkel gear to explore.

The underwater world was full of sights! We saw several Sea Turtles, a large Sting Ray and a variety of tropical fish. The best part of snorkeling is the feeling of being in an actual aquarium with the fish that I’d watch for hours as a kid.

Then it was time for some football! The first playoff game started at 4pm local time so we all headed down to Skinny Legs Bar and Grillfor a burger, beer and big screen. This place really demonstrates the St. John vibe. Relaxed, friendly, and you immediately feel at home. The benches were a bit hard and had no backs, so we decided to finish watching the games back at the villa. Another good day on the island.

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