For years, I had been talking about places I wanted to visit. Some time around March 2015, I decided that it was time to stop talking and start acting. I packed up my sister and headed to Cuba for a week, courtesy of some of the money I got from selling the car.
Cuba, Jamaica’s nearest neighbour (I think) had been on my bucket list for years but I had not seriously thought about going, mainly because my ex-partner had already been and wasn’t interested in going again anytime soon. But there was talk of President Obama lifting sanctions and I wanted to see the country before it became flooded with Americans. So off my sis and I went.
It was wonderful. We barely did anything for five days but it was still wonderful. My sister is not the adventurous type and is quite content to stay in or close to the hotel, wherever she is. I was so glad to finally be some place I had never been before that I was happy to accommodate that. Plus, I wasn’t very adventurous yet myself. For five days, we relaxed on the most beautiful beach I had ever seen in my life (yes, more beautiful than Jamaica’s beaches)…
…read (Joyce Meyer for me)…
…wandered out to buy souvenirs and see a bit of the town, and bonded.
Then I went back to Jamaica and continued to try and figure out what was next. It wasn’t too long in coming. Someone I knew who had been living in Ghana then Tanzania for several years and who had been inviting me to visit for almost as long (again, my ex-partner had no interest in going although my heart stirred with every invitation) told me that she and her husband would be leaving the continent soon so now was the time to visit if I wanted to, since I could stay with her – no paying for accommodation or food. I didn’t think too long and, with no job on the horizon and no-one holding me back, I told her that I would take her up on her offer.
Having decided, I wasted no time in starting my planning. I would stay in Tanzania for a month – because why go that far and stay for less time than that? – but I felt that this was a great opportunity to see a few other places, as well. Most flights to Dar es Salaam, the country’s capital city, go through Amsterdam or Istanbul so I figured that I should stop in those two cities for a couple of days each. After checking out flight routes and options, I decided to stop in Amsterdam on my way to Tanzania, then in Istanbul on my way from Tanzania. I thought that was that but then a few other considerations came up.
I wanted to see Alaska. In fact, I had dreamed of going to Alaska for years. I have a fascination with cold and beautiful places and Alaska represented that to me. The problem was that no-one I knew had any interest in going to Alaska. Even now, I’m still the only one of my friends with any interest in the place. Seeing as I no longer cared to be constrained by not having company to do what I wanted, I decided to add Alaska to my list. But I wanted to see as much of it as possible and it seemed like the best way to do that was to hop aboard a cruise. So I added that to the plan.
But I still wasn’t done. My friend threw in her two cents and invited me to visit her in Canada, as well. In all our years of friendship, I had never been to visit her there (she travels a lot back and forth to Jamaica for work so I always see her in Kingston) and, following my new life motto of, “Why not?” I added Toronto to my itinerary. Finally, I hadn’t seen Auntie in New York for ages so I checked in with her and added that city to my schedule as well.
After marinating on all of that for several days, checking flight routings and visa requirements, I got to work. I applied for a Canadian visa with much trepidation because you know how these embassies like for you to have a job before they even consider issuing you a tourist visa. Got it, no problem. I applied for a Schengen visa, also with some trepidation. Got it, no problem. I applied for a Turkish visa and that included no trepidation at all because it was an e-visa and all I had to do was complete my name and passport details in an online form then print off the visa. Easiest one I’ve ever gotten in my life. I didn’t need a visa for Tanzania (go, African countries! Letting Jamaicans in with no visa! Love you for it!) so I was all set in that regard.
Finally, it was time to start booking flights, accommodations and activities. I planned out the next two months of my life all by myself and did all of my own bookings online. Here was the plan:
- Fly from Kingston to Amsterdam, with a short transit stop in Atlanta
- Spend two full days and nights in Amsterdam, packing in as much activity as possible
- Fly from Amsterdam to Dar es Salaam non-stop (thank you, KLM)
- Spend a month in Tanzania seeing and doing brilliant things
- Fly from Dar es Salaam to Istanbul, with a transit stop in Amsterdam (I went left to go right but it was way cheaper)
- Spend two nights and one and a half days in Istanbul, packing in as many sights as possible
- Fly from Istanbul to Toronto, with a short transit stop in Amsterdam
- Spend a week and a half in Toronto doing brilliant things
- Fly from Toronto to Vancouver to catch my ship to Alaska
- Sail from Vancouver, British Columbia to Seward, Alaska, seeing and doing brilliant things along the way
- Ride a scenic train from Seward to Anchorage
- Fly from Anchorage to New York City, with a transit stop in Seattle
- Spend a few days in New York doing things I’d never done before in all the years I’ve been going there
- Fly from New York to Kingston
That was how I would spend mid-June to mid-August of 2015. I stopped talking about all the places I wanted to see and the things I wanted to do and I got busy actually seeing places and doing things. I decided to call that journey my “Epic Trip 2015.” I should have called it Eat Pray Love, because that’s what it unexpectedly turned into, which I didn’t even realise until it was almost done.
Oh, you want details? I thought you’d never ask.