Being a Tourist in the Caribbean – Part 2

 

View From Ladera Resort

View from Anse Chastanet Resort

An Extraordinary Opportunity

I think that is how I would characterize the tropical islands of the Caribbean. The choices offered are many.

Cruises:

There are different ways to see the islands. One way people choose is cruises. We saw the reality of cruises whenever we stopped in a capital city. In those major ports the cruise ships arrived and disgorged passengers. The tour operators waiting on the dock were often aggressive and we knew there were others who were gentler. And often we saw the passengers make their way through the duty free shops over and over again. It seemed rather pointless. There was generally a failure to touch the soul of the island and its people. 

Romance and Mystery – More Than a Vacation

We had researched the islands before committing to build but the adventure of actually staying at resorts just happened. We accepted it as an opportunity and a gift. Two resorts utterly intrigued us beyond the small cozy resort in the north where we stayed when we were building our home.

In fact, by seeing the different resorts, we experienced St. Lucia in depth. One evening when we were traveling with our builder, Wayne, he took us to dinner at Anse Chastanet. It is in the southern part of the island and was built up a hill with a stunning view of the pitons. Sunset comes early in the Caribbean—every day all year, because it is relatively close to the equator. And that evening we had a delightful dinner in romantic dim light with a group of people Wayne assembled. They were from all over the world and generally were there on some kind of business. The conversation was truly interesting. The feel that evening is hard to convey. Cozy, warm and so much more.

Another special favorite was Ladera Resort which is nestled between the pitons. The view is truly enchanting and there are no walls on the room on the ocean side. It is a form of rustic. Without a wall on the front there is a special intimacy with the pitons and the larger tropical environment. The quiet is enchanting and the experience enhances companionship. The staff was warm, it was quiet and felt so pleasing. Such resorts are rare and need to be sought.

And then there are the day to day experiences being out and about. One year we were on the island for New Years Eve. The party was fun and, I should say, the local people, even the expats living on the island were unrestrained. At midnight the bartenders jumped out of the bar opening it to the guests. I had been standing by the water and looked down into a boat featuring a couple making love. It was a rich evening.

Doing Research:

Even though our initial experience on St. Lucia engaged us, we did research before we committed. At the time there was a monthly newsletter covering each island in turn. I finally called to talk to one of the authors. The information I received led to confirmation of St. Lucia. Now, of course, it is possible to do research on line. But, above all, we still recommend people get into the richness of island life. It need not be complex but requires seeking environments beyond what largest resort chains offer. But also its best not to be naive. Balance is best. There are many inviting options.

Reality of Island Life

It all requires common sense and often a sense of humor. At the time we often traveled on Air Jamaica. The landings were flawless and one time I commented on the one just experienced to the Jamaican man sitting next to me. He responded, “Yes, they do much better now that they are not drinking.” He was, of course, teasing me. 

On another flight to Montego Bay they passed out a newspaper with the headline, “Eight Hour Gun Battle in Montego Bay.” Of course it had ended before we arrived. Naturally such a thing is not a common event and we have gun battles in the States as well.

Getting out into island life does, however, require not being naive. Simple caution and being realistic is indicated. But isn’t that a fact of life?

Since our experience led us across the Caribbean, in a later post I’ll share the view we gained of other islands.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Being a Tourist in the Caribbean – Part 1

 

Asking What’s the Point

Maybe this is an idiosyncratic viewpoint, but perhaps it is good to think about why one is traveling and where one is traveling. Is this a vacation designed to sit by the pool and read or are you interested in really getting to know the location? Asking those questions opens not just the purpose but possibly the world.

The Caribbean for Us

My wife and I had spent many years going to the Maryland shore in the summer to be at the beach with our four children. When at last they were grown, we had a broader set of possibilities. Yes, we had done things like taking them on a really neat vacation in Northern Ireland, but now we could travel and design adventures just for ourselves.

But what happened was not quite on our plan. I had been in a catastrophic accident when someone drove his SUV in my driver’s door which sent me into years of surgery. At last came the ability to travel. We had business in California and went on to beautiful Hawaii. It was terribly far from the East Coast and we thought about seeking tropical options closer to home. We had friends who were considering a location for their boat in the Caribbean. We joined them when they went to look for land to build a home base. That took us to the island of St. Lucia in the Windward (eastern) Islands.

What did we know about St. Lucia? Nothing. Why were we going? For an adventure with friends. And so we were trekking into the back of the back as well as developed areas. It was an eye-opening experience. St. Lucia at the time was developed, but not highly. And, we could get in touch with the island people who were quite friendly.

Recognizing Potential

On the first trip we went to a mid-size resort our friends had chosen. We thought there would be night life. There was none. A band played but no one showed up. A day gamboling in the sun robs you of energy and if you are there on a honeymoon or in a passionate affair then evenings afford other pleasures.

Over time we experienced many different kinds of resorts. We saw large resorts and cozy inns. Either we stayed or we found it desirable to see what we might advise people about. Why was that? Because our friends didn’t buy land, we did and then we built a house. As described in another post, we ended up renting the house we built when we weren’t there and that led to a rental business including several islands. We needed to be able to advise people.

We much preferred the cozy inns and cottages or villa rentals. They came with the opportunity to know the local people better and to experience the depth of island living. Of the larger and better known resorts only two intrigued us.

Diversity of Resorts:

Some of the larger resorts are those of well advertised large chains. On occasion we had reason to stay in the northern part of the island since that was where we were building our house. Sandals has three resorts at the top off the island. Being waterfront they have next to no views except of a flat ocean. The glorious mountain views were elsewhere. We were told they discouraged people from leaving the resort. What a terrible shame! They advertised drinks available at all times. What that means was they circulated with water and soda which decreased demand for beer and wine.

The small inn in the north, where we stayed, was cozy, engaging and close to wonderful restaurants. Happy hour was a treat. One evening I became attentive to the music they were playing and was told it was the music of the French islands. The name of the music became the name of our villa. There were so many opportunities.

As to tours, we recommend taking a day tour of the island. The cheaper alternative is a minibus with 16 people inside. Clearly getting your own driver for a personal tour would be our preference. Yes, it is more expensive.

A Rich Environment:

I’ll leave it there for this week. Part 2 will be posted next week.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Building an Unplanned Business

 

Do you have a life plan?

It Just Seemed Like a Good Idea

The house was finished and we had it furnished. But we weren’t going to move in full time. We had our clinical practice near Baltimore. This was a vacation home and we thought it would be a retirement home someday. We had okayed first to build a cottage but our builder, Wayne, had sold us on the idea that we might want to rent it so we went larger.

How Did That Happen?

We hadn’t actually thought a great deal about the rental process and so we didn’t think about it until the house was set up and furnished. At that point, when we inquired, we learned we were too late for wholesalers to handle it that season. With no other options we decided to simply advertise it for short term rentals in the Baltimore Sun. The winter was filled what felt like almost over night. That was easy!

What’s Next?

In fact we had more people who wanted a vacation in St. Lucia than we could accommodate. In effect people were standing there wanting to know where we could put them. Ooops! So, in desperation we called the real estate company that was managing the house for us when we were away. We found out it was not a problem.

Taking Another Tour

So we went on a tour of other houses that did short term rentals and booked in the people who were interested. The commission was respectable. So we looked around and found other places to advertise rentals. It proved not to be a problem. We had houses of all shapes, sizes, and costs we could offer.

Americans Like to Explore

We learned something else. Americans often don’t want to go to the same place year after year. The Europeans tended to go to the same island year after year and spent a month to six weeks. But Americans were asking “Where else can you send us?” So we crossed the strait and took a look at Martinique. We absolutely loved it. The French were very friendly and the island just as beautiful as St. Lucia. It even had its own active volcano and we stayed at the most romantic resort we had ever seen on the edge of the rain forest. But many Americans didn’t want a place where English wasn’t the first language. On to other islands.

One After The Other

It was so interesting. Each island we went to was different. Our advertising budget was expanding with our clientele. So, we added St. Martin/St.Maarten (French and Dutch), Barbados, and the Cayman Islands. We looked at Puerto Rico and the Turks & Caicos Islands but by then had enough inventory.

A Major Change

We were running the short term rental business on the side along with our clinical practice helping stepfamilies. But along came the insurance companies of managed care. They had found that they could effectively block mental health related practices and save money. Our model for stepfamilies was specific and they basically would not accept it. The mental health field was being torn apart by the insurance industry. So, regretfully we closed our practice and devoted full time to building our villa rental business. 

So Much For That Life Plan

It was an interesting experience. We assumed we would retire from our practice. But we fell in love with a Caribbean island, stumbled into building a house, rented it and, finally had a full time villa rental business. Both of us had always thought you built a life plan but in this instance good fortune, life insurance company depredations and an attractive opportunity sent us in another direction entirely.

Do you see a major redirection in your future? Would you like one?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Caribbean Reality

 

Let’s take a break from our land of conflict.

Dreams Versus Reality

The Caribbean is a land of dreams. Beautiful islands, lush waters, jungles and happy, welcoming people. That is what we see. Reality is always different. Not that it isn’t lovely but the experience of life is complex. We had been seduced and were building a home on a beautiful island with which we had fallen in love.

Complex History

As a tourist what you see is a bewitching landscape and the lush experience of the moment. In fact the Caribbean is complex with a fascinating history. The islands had tribes that came from South America followed by colonizers from a variety of countries including Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands. They fought each other and made islands their colonies.

St. Lucia went back and forth between Britain and France fourteen times. The locals speak a French based patois along with English. When we came to St. Lucia the patois did not have a written form but, by the time we left, it was written and, if you spoke some French, you could read it. The accent was the problem. Many of the island people had been enslaved and slaves were imported.

What We Expected

We expected we would make friends with the locals and we did to a limited extent. But mostly expats or arriving foreigners related to each other. The indigenous people had strong family connections.

We also expected that life would be easy and it was not, as we learned our way around a country with far more problems than we had assumed. Electricity worked well enough except when the utility by mistake sent 440 volts into our 220 volt house. A large dam had been built to supply water and when they turned it on they blew the mains in the capital. We had a terrible struggle getting a reliable supply. But finally an Irish friend of ours gave me the map of the island water system and I was able to secretly go out and open and close valves so we got water most of the time. At least we did after I had to threaten suit in an island where people never sue. At first we had no water. We got mains installed after I threatened suit but as our Chinese attorney said, “You may have mains water but there will be no water in the mains.” In time there was water in the mains after I snuck out and opened the right valves.

We lived in an open environment which was lovely except for the bugs, rats, crabs (200 feet above sea level!) among other critters. But we also had darling birds who ate lunch with us.

Other Realities 

The island was a democracy with a small legislative body and a prime minister. In fact it was ruled by a few very wealthy families. Each of them owned a significant slice of the island. Electricity was produced by a utility which burned oil from Venezuela. In the distance from our house we could see the peaks of mountains where there was an endless supply of wind from the Atlantic Ocean. They could have generated electricity by wind power but the ruling family did not want that.

In short, it was much more complex than we had expected and the learning curve was steep.  It was essential that we learn the ins and out and be tenacious. We had thought to retire on the island some day but learned some harsh lessons. The health care system was not good and if there was a serous health emergency the solution was to hire a plane and be flown to Miami or Martinique. When we left fifteen years later, after having had a wonderful adventure, we had survived. Our attorney said, “You lasted longer than most.”

What he meant was that people who did what we did, coming to the island and buying or building a home, found the island challenging at many levels. Most fled within a year or two.

In Conclusion

These are some of the highlights and realities. I’m glad we did it, and we proved ourselves to be adaptive survivors. These are just a few of the many issues we faced but there were also numerous rewards. These islands are beautiful and each of them are different. I’ll go into descriptions of other islands in a later post. The climate is beautiful and the summers can be cooler than the continental United States. Winters can be ever so cozy and with adaptability the social scene can be rewarding. In all though, it is essential to be flexible and ready to face numerous challenges. We are glad we had the adventure.

Would such an adventure interest you?

If you want greater detailing of the experience there are numerous posts on my https://caribbeandreamblog.com . 

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Dreams Versus Reality

 

Let’s branch out a little from this world of fraught political realities.

The Caribbean is a land of dreams. Beautiful islands, lush waters, jungles and happy, welcoming people. That is what we see. Reality is always different. Not that it isn’t lovely but the experience of life is complex. We had been seduced and were building a home on a beautiful island with which we had fallen in love.

Complex History

As a tourist what you see is a bewitching landscape and the lush experience of the moment. In fact the Caribbean is complex with a fascinating history. The islands had tribes that came from South America followed by colonizers from a variety of countries including Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands. They fought each other and made islands their colonies. Which often meant slavery.

St. Lucia went back and forth between Britain and France fourteen times. The locals speak a French based patois along with English. When we came to St. Lucia the patois did not have a written form but, by the time we left, it was written and, if you spoke some French, you could read it. The accent was the problem. Many of the island people had been enslaved and slaves were imported.

What We Expected

We expected we would make friends with the locals and we did to a limited extent. But mostly expats or arriving foreigners related to each other. The indigenous people had strong family connections.

We also expected that life would be easy and it was not, as we learned our way around a country with far more problems than we had assumed. Electricity worked well enough except when the utility by mistake sent 440 volts into our 220 volt house. A large dam had been built to supply water and when they turned it on they blew the mains in the capital. We had a terrible struggle getting a reliable supply. But finally an Irish friend of ours gave me the map of the island water system and I was able to secretly go out and open and close valves so we got water most of the time. At least we did after I had to threaten suit in an island where people never sue. At first we had no water. We got mains installed after I threatened suit but as our Chinese attorney said, “You may have mains water but there will be no water in the mains.”

We lived in an open environment which was lovely except for the bugs, rats, crabs (200 feet above sea level!) among other critters. But we also had darling birds who ate lunch with us.

Other Realities

The island was a democracy with a small legislative body and a prime minister. In fact it was ruled by a few very wealthy families. Each of them owned a significant slice of the island. Electricity was produced by a utility which burned oil from Venezuela. In the distance from our house we could see the peaks of mountain where there was an endless supply of wind from the Atlantic Ocean. They could have generated electricity by wind power but the ruling family did not want that.

In short, it was much more complex than we had expected and the learning curve was steep. It was essential that we learn the ins and out and be tenacious. We had thought to retire on the island some day but learned some harsh lessons. The health care system was not good and if there was a serous health emergency the solution was to hire a plane and be flown to Miami or Martinique. When we left fifteen years later, after having had a wonderful adventure, we had survived. Our Chinese attorney said, “You lasted longer than most.”

What he meant was that people who did what we did, coming to the island and buying or building a home, found the island challenging at many levels. Most fled within a year or two.

In Conclusion

These are some of the highlights and realities. I’m glad we did it, and we proved ourselves to be adaptive survivors. These are just a few of the many issues we faced but there were also numerous rewards. These islands are beautiful and each of them are different. I’ll go into descriptions of other islands in a later post. The climate is beautiful and the summers can be cooler than the continental United States. Winters can be ever so cozy and with adaptability the social scene can be rewarding. In all though, it is essential to be flexible and ready to face numerous challenges. We are glad we had the adventure.

Would such an adventure interest you?

If you want greater detailing of the experience there are numerous posts on my https://caribbeandreamblog.com .

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Magical Tour

 

Where have you been that enchanted you?

Making a Beginning

In St. Lucia we had found a glorious lot with stunning views and a builder. Now it was time to focus on what to do. We thought to build a modest vacation cottage and found a Canadian builder by the name of Wayne who had come to the island and ended up marrying a St. Lucian woman. He stayed and built a business. For us it was like having an American colleague to plan with. After all Canadians were just like us except they said ”aboot” and “eh”. (No offense Canadian friends.) Wayne suggested we go on a tour to look at various types of homes and to get to know the island. It sounded good to us.

Beyond Belief

When you come to a tropical island like St. Lucia, very often you station yourself in a large resort, maybe take one tour and there is no in depth exposure. Since we had been looking at land we were already beyond simple tourism.

Wayne had just imported a Mercedes sedan from Martinique and we set off. Since St. Lucia had been a British colony, they drove on the wrong side of the road. Wayne was then on the wrong side of the car as he drove. But then a little disorientation helps break people loose from tired perspectives.First we toured houses on the more developed north of the island. He barged in and we looked around. There were many different types of houses.

Into Another World

Then he took us south. The north is lovely, with wonderful beaches, a myriad of restaurants and all manner of resorts. It is much more developed and the capital, Castries, is nearby. But when we went south we went into the lush interior which includes the rain forest and toured the area of the Pitons, They are the two towering mountain remnants of the volcano that once ruled the island.

We passed through banana plantations and the lush quiet of the rain forest. From time to time we passed a man carrying a machete. We had to get used to it because that is their primary tool in agricultural work. They nodded and usually gave us a shy smile. If we were walking, a man might gently come forward and softly ask “May I speak with you, Sir.” At first we thought they probably wanted money, but, in fact, they just wanted to meet these venturesome strangers.

I was utterly enthralled by one lush mountain valley. There were huge boulders on the plain clearly indicating the monumental volcanic explosion millennia ago. At the end was one small house. Wayne took us in to see it for our thinking. There was a woman inside tending a fire. He talked to her briefly. She seemed to accept our presence without comment. On we went through plantations and one mysterious valley after another. The quiet was notable and it never felt threatening which was surprising given that it was a strange new world.

A Brief Stay

Later Wayne took us to Stonefield Estate which was his plantation. The pool had a stunning view of the pitons and it came complete with a parrot. Mac was the plantation manager and when we asked the parrot where he was the bird would crane his neck and scan the area. There were so many endearing features and we were being drawn in deeper.

Upon Return

When we returned to the north of the island we settled down with Wayne to talk construction. We told him we only wanted a starter cottage we might expand later. He nodded and then suggested we might want something a little bigger because we might want to rent it out when we weren’t there. That was intriguing. He suggested three bedrooms, each with their own bath. And then of course to rent it we would need a pool. And how about putting a cottage with a pool in the plans. Just in case—for the future.

Gulp! He said we didn’t have to do it all at once. He could begin and as we found funds he could continue. We were hooked on the island and the developing adventure. We purchased the land, went home and began to send money. This was just the beginning.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Adventure in the Caribbean – Pt 1

 

That Life Plan

Most of us would like to believe that we have a life plan. As I look at my own life and the lives of the people who came to me for counseling, I have to say it seems we have a plan but very often it does not play out. Life gets in the way and stuff happens. That is not to say that this is a bad process because the twists and turns can be rewarding each in their own way.

A Terrible Twist of Fate

I call it “ultimate determinism”. There are many people who believe that whatever happens to us is of our own making. In short, we determine everything that happens to us. My contact with my clients and life in general leads me to declare—rubbish! What matters is what we do with life events.

I was coming home from the office one August night. We had dreadful problems with the elevators in our building and we often waited a long time for an elevator. On this night it came at once. By that happenstance I was a bystander at a head on collision. A speeding SUV hit the pickup truck in front of me, bounded off and swerved back directly in my driver’s door at high speed. And so I was thrown into what I called “The Pits of Hell” with six years in and out of surgery at Baltimore’s Shock Trauma.

Life Returns

At last I was mobile and my wife and I went to a professional meeting in California. We decided having gone that far to continue to Hawaii. I’m a sun person, my wife not, but she loved it and said if we could find us such a place she would gladly go. On the flight back I drew circles on the map of the world. The six hour travel time in the air we were enduring could take us to places like Teheran or Buenos Aires. Not to my liking.

We shared the experience with some friends who told us they were going to a small tropical country in the Caribbean called St. Lucia. They were devoted sailers and wanted a home where they could sail year round. We took their invitation to go with them to look at land.

How Interesting

The island was luscious and the people welcoming. We toured, we looked and they found nothing suitable. But we were very interested.

Back at home we began a research. At the time there was a small publication which monthly discussed each Caribbean island in turn. We studied them and at last I called and asked to talk to one of their staff. Her assessment was detailed and interesting. She told me not to go to Guadeloupe because the “natives were restless at the time” but we might like French Martinique although it meant investing in the Euro. But number one on her list was beautiful St. Lucia.

Just to Take a Look

We decided to go back and look again on our own. This time we studied the costs on the island in more detail and took different twists and turns. Land was affordable by comparison to such places as Barbados—by a very great deal. It also had the advantage of being English speaking.

A real estate agent introduced us to a builder from Canada who had married a Lucian and settled in. He was reassuring and it was like dealing with an American who said “Eh” and “Aboot”. And then one day we came to a hilltop with stunning views. The lot was affordable, we were hooked and we bought it. And so began a fifteen year adventure we had never expected.

Much more to come.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt