A Week in the Caribbean

July 2009

Last week I returned from an eight-day cruise through the Caribbean. My travels are typically done on foot, through old ruins or misty mountains, so it was a change of pace being on a floating fortress. Each night the thrum of the engines made me think of space travel. Each morning I’d climb on deck to watch sunrise over the undulating blue… and see our latest destinations emerging from the haze. Actually, it made me a little sad. Where are the mysterious islands and lost civilizations for us today? How can we be Scylax or Marco Polo, pushing into the shadows that gather over our maps to bring new worlds to light?

My girlfriend and I tried pushing out of the tourist traps of each island. San Juan, St. Thomas, Antigua, Tortola, and Nassau where I reunited with my good friend — and college alumn — Yorick. He is a vast repository of information, and as we walked his home island he discussed the invisible Bahamanian culture war of traditionalists versus technologically-savvy entrepreneurs, the ebbs and flows of the criminal underworld, and the history of pirates and privateers and governors (and sometimes how people were all three.)

Yorick. I know him well.

I’m blessed with very creative, ambitious friends who combine traits often considered diametrically opposite: Rationalist and dreamer. They need not be in conflict; in fact, I would argue that we are trained to divide them from each other, when the root is the same. Personally, I find no difficulty in being a “rationalist dreamer.” I can watch the sunrise over the Caribbean Sea and understand, on a scientific level, why the colors are refracting and unfolding the way they do. Yet this doesn’t cheapen my aesthetic appreciation for the blush of red, blossoming gold, and velvet purples. The same thing with the stars I watch at night. I know they are simply fusion engines in space. Yet I can also see how they form pictures to tickle the fancy… and I like to imagine if something out there is looking at our own star and wondering the same thing.

I keep a leather-bound travel journal wherever I go, and the pages are looking appropriately weathered. Maybe I’ll upload some of it here, in time. Mark Twain once wrote that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” Even if there are few places left to explore for the record books, there are always places for us to explore for ourselves. And there’s much to be said for a wonderful traveling companion.

Now reading: The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra and Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.

Now watching: Heaven, Run Lola Run, and The Princess and the Warrior (on a Tom Tykwer kick — a very talented director with vision and stories to tell.)

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