After weeks and weeks of planning, the time was finally here for our family vacation. This year, I decided to take my four younger kids to the US Virgin Islands. None of them had ever been on a plane before, much less out of the States, so this was big for them…and for me.
Last Saturday, we drove to Orlando to catch our flight to St Thomas. The kids were excited and had a million questions along the way. When it was finally time to board the plane, nerves started setting in for some of them. But, they were good to go once take off was complete. After a little over a three hour flight, we landed in St Thomas. We gathered our bags and headed to our car rental pick up location. From there, I navigated the mountain roads while learning how to drive on the left side of the road. I succeeded and we safely made it to Margaritaville Resort, where we’d be spending the next five days in paradise. To the kids’ surprise, my boss/friend and her son were waiting there to join us in all the fun to be had. We of course, immediately checked out the beachside pool for a swim and grabbed a margarita. That’s where my son located coconuts that had just fallen on the beach, and worked to crack them open. The kids all took turns drinking the coconut water and eating the meat of it. All this excitement was followed up with us walking a trail from the resort to a nearby beachfront restaurant. The food was outstanding and the tide was in, so the large tarpon were swimming right up to the deck steps. My son even went in and splashed around with them, and then proceeded to dance around the deck and entertain other patrons. There, they had a rock garden where all visitors wrote their names or a message on the rocks and left them for others to eventually see. We of course followed suit and all left our stamp on the island.
Sunday was a day for exploring the island and doing some shopping. My kids and I visited the downtown shops and street tents, picking up some handmade chocolate treats and souvenirs along the way. Then we headed back to the resort for a mountainside swim in the infinity pool. As we splashed around and took in the amazing view, we enjoyed daiquiris (Virgin for the kids) and margaritas. Swimming was followed by a Carnival/Luau style show at the beachside stage. The kids loved the fire throwing and dancers. We then enjoyed a group dinner at Margaritaville’s on property restaurant, which I do have to say, was probably a low point of the trip. The food was nothing to write home about and very overpriced. We finished out the night with some more swimming and drinks.
We woke up early on Monday and made our way to the boat docks, where we chartered a boat to go snorkeling for the day. Captain Judi and Cam of Breakaway Charters took us to two beaches along St. John, where we had the opportunity to swim alongside sea turtles and view beautiful reefs. They also provided us with a great continental breakfast, small lunch buffet on board, and open bar. In between stops, they pointed out celebrity homes along the beach, including Kenny Chesney’s…whom they spoke very highly of. We also learned a lot of history of the islands and the pirates. We even learned that the fog that we thought was blanketing the islands was actually dust blowing over from the African Sahara. Our last stop of the day was at Lovango Cay. This was absolutely the most amazing snorkeling site. There were thousands of fish swimming amongst us, and their colors were so beautiful. The reefs were so vibrant as well. It was truly like swimming in am aquarium. It was such an amazing and fun experience. In fact, no sooner did our feet hit the dock, were the kids asking when we could go again. After cleaning up, my kids and I hit a local spot to grab dinner, and then went back to the resort for them to go off and enjoy the amenities on property. I stayed behind and relaxed in the villa. And by relaxing, I of course mean doing everyone’s laundry.
On Tuesday, we went and visited Mountain Top, which is the home of the original banana daiquiri. I’m typically not a fan, but did try one at my friend’s urging, and I have to say that it was really good. The best part of this place though was the view. From the deck out back, you get stunning views of Magen’s Bay, the British Virgin Islands and surrounding St Thomas. From there we went to Tree Limin’ to go zip lining. All the kids were super excited, while my friend and I relied on a little liquid courage to help us with nerves. Our guide, Leon was super funny and helped keep us all at ease. The first course was a little nerve racking, but after that one was out of the way, the rest were fun. The last course was the kids’ favorite. This was the one that you could “Superman” on and hang freely. Some of the kids hung upside down or dangled in a dead-like state coming down. Basically doing anything to make everyone below laugh. We followed this adventure up with pizza in Red Hook, and then back to the resort for more swimming and a last night sleepover at my friend’s room. The kids stayed up all night playing games, making virgin daiquiris in the margarita machine, and having arm wrestling matches. It was a great way to end the trip.
One of the strangest, but coolest things of the last night though, was us finding a 47 year old Bible on the beach. It looked like it had endured some storms, but was in tact and pages were still good. Whomever it had belonged to, had elephant eared some of the pages, including 1 Corinthians 13. This was an old King James version, which doesn’t reference Faith Hope and Love for that chapter, but instead, states Faith Hope and Charity. I felt like it was a sign. It was telling me to push harder to make my foundation/charity a reality for so many that may need it. That Love needs to be spread through my community and beyond by way of love and caring, and my charity can do that. I think we were meant to find that Bible.
We hated to do it, but Wednesday afternoon came and it was time to leave paradise. We gathered all our things, returned the rental car, and checked in at the airport. We made it through customs, but came to a crashing halt at TSA. We stood there laughing as we knew they were questioning the baggie of sand in my son’s backpack. Sure enough, that’s what they pulled out and tested for drugs. As they handed it all back to us with a smile, we thanked them and proceeded to our gate where we said goodbye to our friends. Once on our plane, the pilot informed us that we would be making a stop now in San Juan for fuel. The kids got excited for this bonus of now being able to see Puerto Rico, and to say that they’ve at least been there for an hour or so. Ironically, that was where we were originally going to go for vacation, but then my assistant at work had mentioned the islands and I changed it up. We finally made it back to Orlando…way later than hoped, and made our way back to my car. As I drove us home from Orlando that night, I reflected on the week we had. How it was truly a blessing to be able to make these memories with my kids. The only thing that would have made the trip better was if my two adult daughters and my son-in-law had been able to come too. It was so much fun spending this time with the kids and watching them conquer fears and try new things. Seeing and hearing their excitement each day was a true gift. I cannot thank God enough for all his blessings, as well as the strength he continues to give me each day to endure this life and its challenges.