Roseau, Dominica.

The only Lonely Planet guide I have ever returned was for Dominica.  My sister and I were planning to go and then Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017.  I finally made it there.

My friend Sami was meeting her mom and friend.  When Sami told me that she has a Dominican friend who was going to tour us around the island, I jumped at the chance.  There is no better way to see a place than through local eyes.

Titou Gorge - Dominica

Being from Canada, I have traveled extensively through the Western Caribbean, but as a tourist.  This trip to Dominica, my crew were all from the Eastern Caribbean.  I felt like one of them, a kindred spirit.  I used to visit the Caribbean and be in awe at the contrast to my home country.  On this trip, I marveled in the similarities to my new home in Barbados.

The crew: Jil, Maria, me, Sami, Carol - at Cascade Falls

I now understand that stopping on the road (not to the side of the road) is not just a Bajan thing.  I appreciate that friendliness and warmth are characteristic of the Caribbean, as well as crap customer service.

The Pharmacy - roadside stand for fruit and natural concoctions.

One of the ladies on the trip is from Tobago, as is Sami’s family.  She has been living in the States for the past thirty years.  I could sense her connection to the Caribbean and her deep understanding of how it all works.  Yet, I could feel that she operates at a higher speed – her speech, her movements, her expectations.  This is an energy that I know so well as a North American but find myself no longer able to embrace.

Dominica is hilly and lush.  You would never know that a Class 5 Hurricane tore through it less than six years ago.  It is bigger than Barbados, with only 60,000 people.  Except for the town of Roseau and the area around the airport, it is like driving through a large national forest, and the roads are really good!  The rainforest is dense, and the water runs swiftly.  Waterfalls are a marquee of the island.

This was an opportunity to stretch my legs.  My life in Barbados revolves around paddling in the Ocean and working my upper body.  The weekend before, on Whit Monday, I did a warm-up in Barbados.  The Coast-to-Coast Hike (East to West) took four hours.  The island that I thought to be flat had some big hills!  Steep enough that Erin, Lorena, and I were pretty quiet for the first couple of hours as we put one foot in front of the other.

There is something triumphant about reaching the top of a rise or a mountain.  I miss hills and mountains.  But when I walked out onto the beach on the Atlantic side of Dominica and heard the crash of the waves and smelt the salty air, I thought of my home in Barbados.  I now miss the Ocean more than I miss land.

Rosalie, Dominica - Atlantic Coast

And so, it seems that I have come to know the pace and vibe of the Caribbean.  I am still a visitor, trying to be respectful and not overstep my boundaries with those that have grown up here and have it run through their blood.  But I understand it in a way that I could never 2 ½ years ago.  While I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself Bajan (yet), the Caribbean is my home.

Overlooking the Caribbean sea - SE Dominica coast.