What to do on an island

Coleman. St. John, USVI.

Coleman. St. John, USVI.

There's lots of things to do on an island. There's also lots of things to not do. Typically, I'm there for the not doing. I'm a man of leisure after all. But dang! Doing nothing is getting hard!

For the last week or two, I was on St. John. It's a U.S. territory which means that, among other things, normal AT&T data rates apply (unlike the much better named LIME network which covers most of the Caribbean but involves international roaming rates).

So your phone on St. John works exactly like it does at home. This makes it easy to check in on things. Stay on top of a few issues. Touch base to keep things moving while you're gone. It allows for travel in a way that wasn't remotely possible just a decade ago.

And that's a friggin' bummer bro!

Regular travelers know there are a number of ways to fine-tune the features on your phone: Only receive calls from certain people, eliminate all incoming data, etc. Feel free to Google the options (if you're a total nerd). For the rest of us, I recommend this:  

Bring Limes Tech Tip!

  1. Go for a long morning hike to a beautiful area (e.g. Ram Head, Saint John, USVI). 
  2. Take lots of unnecessarily selfies, in square, panorama, and video formats.
  3. Make your way back down to the water (e.g. Salt Pond Bay) where you've left a cache of snorkeling equipment.
  4. Wade into the water. Savor the coolness. Slip on your fins and mask. 
  5. Decide where to snorkel: Reef or grass? Fish or turtles?
  6. Notice the clarity of the water. It's unbelievable. You'll never ever get used to it.
  7. Realize that your phone is in your pocket.

Phone problem solved!

Now here's a few pro tips if you're really looking to maximize your enjoyment of the above plan: 

First, see if there's a primary provider of cell service on the island (in St. John it's AT&T). Then make sure the phone you're dunking is the only one in your group which uses that service (the rest of my family is with Verizon which won't help you at all on SJ.)

Second, go to an island where electricity, wifi, and cellular service are prone to random outages (which is to say, any island). This will limit your opportunities for alternative solutions.

And then... ENJOY!

Honestly, not having a phone was fantastic. Instead of calling ahead to see if a place was open, it required physically going there (like some kind of a caveman!) and talking to someone.

Weaving around one of the most beautiful places in the world, Jeep windows down, local radio at wild volume, shoes in the back (probably, who knows), old-school paper map flapping around. These are not bad things. 

I'll admit that I did miss having a handy camera. And an infinite jukebox. And a flashlight. But that's all I missed. That was it. That was completely and entirely it.

Sea urchins. Because why not, that's why.

One of the best parts of travel, at least the way I put trips together, is all the time there is for random whatnot. I'm a big fan of random whatnot. Random whatnot is the best kind of whatnot there is.

I've spent entire afternoons crafting artisanal (aka homemade and a little crappy) swizzle sticks from pieces of sea fan. I've rubbed Coors Light aluminum pint bottles with beach sand for hours because I thought it would be cool to have plain silver canteens. I've also done things that some might consider a waste of time.

So okay. Here I am in St. John, surrounded by my family and some of the most beautiful land and seascapes I've ever seen. And for whatever reason, I decided it was really important for me to photograph sea urchins. Like, all of 'em. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Which I guess is maybe the point. 

Anyway, here's some pictures of some goddamn sea urchins.




Been naked much lately? Me too!

St. John, USVI

St. John, USVI

I'm currently perched on a cliff above the waters of Kiddel Bay, on the southernmost edge of St. John, USVI.

I should probably mention that since I've been here I've been naked. Quite a bit. As a jaybird. As the day I was born. But I'll get to that in a minute.

We arrived to St. Thomas late Sunday afternoon. Spent the night in Charlotte Amalie, grabbed a bite, and had a generally fine evening. But we were just staging, actually, for Monday morning's ferry to St. John. 

It seems I'm the only person I know who hasn't been to St. John. Its popularity as a travel destination is what a vexillologist would call a red flag. I would call it the same. (A vexillologist is a professional flag maker. I am just a guy with a strong distaste for tourists.)

But we're here anyway, my family and I, based on reports of a kajillion killer shore dives and hiking trails for days. 

Straight off the ferry, we bought a bag of genips (aka skinips on Grenada, aka chinups on Carriacou, aka spanish limes on google), and we pointed the Jeep to the remotest corner of the island we could find. From Cruz Bay to Coral Bay to the end of the paved road to the end of the dirt road to here.

So far, I have to say, the place has lived up to its reputation. Stellar reefs and deep-water boulder fields. Shark, turtles, tarpon, 'cuda, rays, cero, squid, plus all the reefy regulars flashing every color in the crayon box.

But this isn't a freaking travelogue. You're here for the nudity.

So okay. Down here, as it turns out, I'm the early riser in my family. No idea why. Given my taste for late-night rum, this is a goddamn miracle, not to mention a troubling indictment against the up-and-at-em-ness of my squad. But I'm not complaining because it means dawn is entirely mine. And these dawns have been especially good.

I've mentioned that I recently became a fan of early morning yoga. I wouldn't say yoga is entirely "my thing," at least not in the same way that, say, the sound of the ocean or being a smart-ass are my thing. But I like yoga enough that on my first morning here, it's how I decided to greet the day. There's an overlook next to our place that seemed perfect. I carefully considered what I needed to bring with me. But slowly I realized I didn't need jack shit.

Happiness, I'm convinced, is the result of reduction. Of removing everything that's not absolutely necessary so you can focus on what is. In the case of yoga, all you really need is you. Or in my case, all I really need is me. And so that's what I've been going with. Just me and the sun and the sea.

It's a helluva thing when the waves are crashing against the rocks and the sun is pressing warm against my skin. Birds are flitting all around me and singing like I'm in the scene from that old Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah movie. Except with less racial stereotypes and more dangling and flopping.

I have to say it's a great way to kick off the day. Especially when it's followed by some time in an outdoor shower. Of course my teenage boys think the whole thing is weird af. Mostly because, you know, the whole thing is weird af. But I'm going to stick with it while I'm here.

They're sleeping at that hour anyway. And. I so rarely get a chance to drive life into the corner, as Henry David Thoreau put it, and reduce it to its lowest terms.

At least not without the cops showing up. 

144 Days Ago

On a truly crappo day in early February, I put together the details for a dive trip. Scheduled for late June. I blathered on about it at the time, naturally, as I do. But now it's June. Now we're packed. Now we're almost on our way. 

The timing isn't the best, as it turns out, with lots of work related whatnot afoot. If I hadn't already planned it then, we wouldn't be going now. But it was planned then. And as such, we're going now.

The packing is complete (see photo, it didn't take long), Heading to St. John Sunday morning. In the meantime, I'm thinking I might start planning for something 144 days for now.