My Undying Love For Puerto Rico
Updated: Sep 20, 2018
Originally published on August 2, 2015 at LivingLaughingLovingToday.blogspot.com.
This past May I wrapped up my 6th trip to Puerto Rico in three years. In fact, it’s the only place I’ve traveled to since my first visit in June 2012. Not once have I ever grown tired of visiting—in fact, with each visit I only leave wanting to return even more than I did the prior visit.
Friends and family look at me like I’m crazy. They don’t understand why I never get tired of this tiny island, or why I would want to continue visiting when there are so many other beautiful places in the world where I could vacation. They don’t understand how one little island can capture one’s heart and fill it with so much happiness whenever I visit. They don’t understand how what was supposed to be one girls vacation turned into a desire to pack up all of my belongings and move there.
I’ll never forget my first trip, which had occurred not long after being laid off from my job. I considered it a bit of a getaway—a chance to enjoy life before returning back home and getting on the grind to finding new employment. We had our fun doing the typical touristy things, such as sitting under a beach umbrella sipping on a drink
on Condado Beach, going to Brava nightclub at El San Juan resort, and visiting Old San Juan. We even did a couple of non-touristy things such as visiting a couple of “locals” nightclubs and going to La Placita for dinner…but I knew that there was something different about this island that made it different than the other places I’d visited over the years. Something had captured me, telling me that there was more.
The morning we were scheduled to fly back home, I woke up and decided I wasn’t going with them. I called my family to let them know I’d be extending my trip. I then called the front desk and asked to keep the room a little longer, and called the airlines to rebook my flight for a few days later. I then wished my friends well as they packed up and headed to the airport. Considering I’d never once traveled alone, it was by far the craziest thing I’d done…but I was okay with it.
I spent my time alone walking the beach and listening to the sound of the waves as I exhaled all the stress, negative energy and thoughts that consumed my mind and inhaled nothing but positivity and calmness. I took the time to visit new restaurants and try dishes that I knew I wouldn’t find at home. I talked to other vacationers about their vacation experiences, and talked to locals about their lives and their goals and aspirations.
The day eventually came when I had to leave…but I wasn’t ready. To everyone’s surprise, I ended up extending my trip for a couple more days, in which I made more friends from the island. At one point, I even found myself looking at an available apartment, which I hoped to soon call my own. Eventually my vacation funds had dwindled down and it was time for me to pack up and leave for good—but I left knowing that it would not be the last time Puerto Rico would see me…and it wasn’t. My next trip eventually was booked for just a couple of short months later.
So, what is it about Puerto Rico that captures my heart the way it does? You know, I couldn’t even tell you exactly what it is, as each person experiences things in a different way…but there’s just something about this place that excites me and lights a fire in me. Maybe it’s the colorful scenery, the breathtaking sunrise and sunsets, the flavorful food, and the sound of people saying "Buen Provecho" every time you sit down to eat a meal. Maybe it's the warm nights, the rejuvenating breezes, and the sound of lively Latin rhythms everywhere you go. Maybe it’s the "unique" Puerto Rican dialect that sets it apart from every other Spanish-speaking country, the friendly people, and the close-knit families. Or maybe it’s simply the slower pace and “realness” of everyone and everything you see.
Since my first trip, I’ve met a number of genuine friends from the island that I now consider family. We keep in touch, and every time I visit I make sure I see each and every one of them. It makes me feel great to know that to them, I’m not a tourist, but I’m just another “local” who happens to live in the states. I'll never forget the day one of my friends greeted me with "Welcome home," because that's exactly where I felt I was. I’m still hoping that one day I can actually become a resident of this beautiful island, even if just for a short time.
I have more photos saved on my phone and laptop than I know what to do with: Photos from San Juan, photos from Luquillo and Fajardo. Photos from Arecibo, Orocovis, and Utuado. Photos from Culebra and photos from small towns that I don’t even recall the name. I’ve visited El Yunque rainforest, seen the caves at Rio Camuy Cave Park and have conquered "La Bestia" and other ziplines at Toro Verde Nature Park. I’ve visited Lago Dos Bocas and the Arecibo Observatory. I’ve gone sliding down the rocks at Las Pailas, have indulged in the tender lechón of Guavate, and have experienced some of the cozy “chinchorros.” I’ve experienced the beauty of the Fajardo bioluminescent bays, peeked over the mountainside at Cueva Ventana, and have eaten more pinchos and empanadillas than I can count in Piñones. Every experience and every photo has captured so much beauty, and so much culture—something that I can say I have never experienced during my 31+ years of life in the states.
I may have visited Puerto Rico several times already, but I’m not nearly done yet. I still have several other places to visit and things to experience, and I’m not just talking about within the larger cities and tourist areas such as Ponce, Aguadilla, Vieques or Rincón. I want to visit all of the tiny towns and cities and mountains in between. I want to see Puerto Rico for all it is—the beautiful beaches, the small towns; the good and the bad. I want to take it ALL in. Sure, people have their negative things to say about the island, even those with Puerto Rican blood who grew up there or have family who live there—but that will never deter me from visiting or feeling the way that I do about the island. Every place has poverty. Every place has unemployment and crime. Just about every place has some sort of debt…but I choose to be positive and look at the beautiful side of things, and Puerto Rico has awaken a side of me that I didn’t know existed—has given me an undying energy and a passion for something brand new. It has blessed me with friendships and experiences that I will never forget. It has given me something new to love, and trust me, I am completely in love—with Puerto Rico.
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