The Caribbean

The jumbo-jet engines whirl down as you make your way down the tarmac and as if in some movie, the sound is cut and all you are left with is the visuals of a foreign land that you studied through the pamphlet of the travel guide.

You soon realize those artificial pictures of the promotional material in the pamphlet pales, in comparison to the sensory messages that are being delivered to your brain. Splendid! The place is simply splendid! And just imagine you are still on the tarmac. You are so ecstatic to be here; that it almost feels as though your first official act as a first time tourist should be to emulate the Papal custom of kissing the soil as a blessing and sign of respect.

But the glaring sunlight heats up your face in this Caribbean destination, causing your unaccustomed eyes to squint. If you had only knew how essential a pair of eye-worthy sunglasses are, you would have surely brought them, along with a good brand of suntan lotion. No more tanning booths for you! Vacationing in the Caribbean is the real deal.

Somehow the long wait to get through customs does little to faze you; because you are busy trying to understand what is going on in your new environment. You make funny faces as you slowly tilt your head either direction, as if trying to tune into the local dialect of the people.

At first, their language translates into nothing more than incessant buzzing to your ears. And even though they are speaking English, your brain looks for word associations that you are familiar with, in order to understand what they are saying. Your keen observations pay off as you step to the immigration counter. There is a smooth exchange with the customs officer. With your baggage checked, you hail a taxi to take you to the hotel.

Staying at an international hotel has a homely feel to it as you are able to calm the nervous energy a bit. It has been a long flight and a short nap to revitalize your body is a good idea. It suddenly occurs to you to look at some local TV. This will give you some great insight into the customs of the people.

One of best sources to tell you about the place is the hotel's bartender. Besides being able to fill you in about places to see and the best times to be there. The bartender is more than likely to be a local with connections to other people, like yourself, who can help you ease into your vacation without a hassle.

Networking with like-minded individuals is the key to a speedy and successful acclimatization. Because safety is always an issue in some countries for tourists, especially when you stick out like a sore thumb. In case you have not noticed... the hotel is also your cultural cocoon where you can take your time and learn about the exchange rates. So when you go shopping you will have a fair idea about the cost of things.

Forget about all those preconceived ideas you had about the place (and ditch the brightly colored shirts!). Stick to the city areas (more so at night time unless you have a trust-worthy guide) and window shop a lot with the intention of meeting people. Say "Hi!" to them and they will definitely answer back with a smile. Talk to the locals and ask about the different ways to get to and from the hotel. This is useful because you will also come across other useful landmarks and places to visit.

Do not be surprised if they ask if you enjoy their local cuisine and entertainment. If you have not tasted the food, except through the hotel restaurant, then this is the perfect opportunity to arrange a dinner date. As a safety precaution, ask your new friends to meet you at the restaurant. And prearrange with the hotel to take you back home.

At the end of your dinner date you would have a better sense of the country than any internet search can cough up. Congratulations! You are no longer a tourist virgin to this exotic land of fun in the sun.

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