Image credit: Roger Wollstadt – CC BY-SA 2.0
Today marked the first anniversary of when I fled New York, with only one suitcase in tow. I smile when I remember my innocence back then. I believed that travelling the world was an easy feat, much less taxing than writing reports and sitting through client briefs. Although travelling was the best decision I’ve ever made, it would be irresponsible of me to pretend that it doesn’t involve hard work. You’re your own boss when you’re away, and it’s your job to inspire yourself to take the leap into each country. It gets easier as you do it more, but the nagging thirst for home comforts can still get the better of even seasoned wanderers like me. Each country offers beautiful sights, firm friends, and intoxicating lovers which can make it hard to leave. It’s your job to keep the experience at arm’s length; a true nomad cannot be tied down. Despite this rule of mine, I’m always in tears when I have to wish farewell.
It’s worse if I’m travelling from my apartment in South Manhattan. I feel existential angst when I’m faced with packing my empty Alexus suitcase. Fortunately, this emotion immediately dissipates when I fly or set sail to my next destination.
This time, my next adventure was the Caribbean and I chose to take a cruise with Cunard rather than a plane, because there were no international flights that went to the island. On that trip, I visited St Thomas, Dominica, St Lucia, Barbados, St Kitts, ending with Southampton in England where I planned to start a tour of Europe.
As the ship approached the port of Roseau, Dominica I gasped audibly, raising my camera to take a picture of my first sight of the island. I was not alone. Other tourists crowded around the deck of the boat, itching to begin our new adventure. The view of Roseau was like a fantasy, with conflicting layers of city and nature. Picturesque mountains lined the backdrop of the city and I could hear distant noises from busy roads. When I got off the boat I lifted my head up, smelling the sea salt breeze, laced with an unwavering smell of dirt and decay. Later on, I discovered that this came from the streets, throbbing with heat, extenuating the stench of rubbish and the putrid flesh of dead animals. I wanted to have a look around the city centre, and so I put on my Prada bikini, draped a shawl around my freckled back and donned some Versace sunglasses for the morning sun. I always found designer sun protection the best option for warmer climates. I shudder when I think of the $10 sunglasses I had before a TV network gave me my lucky break in my twenties.
As I strolled into the city centre, I passed houses that were victims of time. Shabby and laced with cracks, most of them were a faded off-white, but I’d sometimes pass a neon coloured complex. The absurdity of the contrast made me smile. I asked a woman in a jade green dress where the best place to shop was, and she replied in perfect English ‘You need to take a trip to the Old Market Square’. Nodding, I smiled, embarrassed by my short-comings. I do not speak a second language, yet Dominicans speak two or three.
Following the directions she gave me, I heard the Old Market before I saw it. It was a medley of chattering voices, laughter, singing, with several accordions playing. When I arrived, there were stalls upon stalls of juicy fruit, with mountains of mangos, bananas, apples, oranges and carrots. After browsing for a while, I bought two mangos. The man behind the stall cut them open for me with a hack knife. As he handed the fruit to me, its sticky juices spilled out from his hands to mine.
Roseau is called the Nature Island for good reason, with more marine preserves and forests per capita than anywhere on the planet. The following day, I decided to sample one of their natural wonders. I joined a group’s guided walk to the Emerald Pool in the blistering heat. Finding cover under the magnificent trees in the Morne Trois National Park, we trekked up a winding staircase, and my senses were attacked by the smell of green leaves, fresh water and thick mud. Slipping suddenly, I was saved from falling by a man in a striped blue and white t-shirt, who smiled at my clumsiness. Once we reached the pool, we began to strip off, throwing ourselves in the water. My once pale skin was turquoise in the mineral-rich depths. Diving into the pool, I looked around slowly, breath gathering in my chest. Squinting through the mist of blue water, I could see murky outlines of writhing legs gathering at the end of the pool. I came up for air to see why. The tourists were baptising their faces under a waterfall, as if they were renewing themselves in the eyes of nature. I joined them; peeling off the humdrum life I had forged back in the United States.
Sophie Rodgers is a New Yorker who decided to leave her job in 2013. Now a nomad, Sophie travels all over the globe.