Imagine it being six in the morning and you step outside of your door and there’s a gorgeous crescent moon, roosters singing, and a perfect breeze; then BOOM, it’s sun up and it’s 80 degrees.
This is a solo trip I’m calling a Writing Retreat to celebrate my recently published novel and the new year, so I correspond with my boyfriend to let him know there ain’t no hard feelings, I just need a trip to Aruba to be replenished. It’s easier to convince him since this will be my second time there and I have a pretty good gage on the safety of the country. It’s sustained by tourism, has something like a zero percent unemployment rate, sits below the hurricane belt, and I’m practically flying for free so I’m not doing much more persuading than that. He thought it a bit tenuous and I’m sure he had more reservations than he spoke on, but I’d already silently decided on being more selfish in the new year. In my mind, this is what will sustain my idea of hedonism, since traveling is my greatest vice. My 21 year old self and 2018 are in a nascent state and I’m taking vigor in the autonomy I have in being a millennial American, taking my first “me against the world” trip. There is a lot of privilege in this and I can’t say I am not proud of being able to use the hashtag #blackgirlstraveltoo on all of my imminent Instagram posts.
My boo kisses me out of the car around 4 A.M. the day of travel, and TSA is, surprisingly enough, a breeze. I check-in with the gate agent to receive my official boarding pass and enplane the Boeing 747 with my carry-on companion.
The layover from Chicago into Orlando is only an hour, and it isn’t until the later half of the three hour flight into Aruba do I begin to think, “what am I even going to be doing here by myself?” This nervousness doesn’t last as we prepare for our final descent and I remember the fresh water source and heat wave I’m flying straight into. Having flown over Nikki Beach into Reina Beatrix Airport just two months prior, I felt a sense of ease knowing I would be able to quickly connect to some WiFi, hit the Duty Free for a refreshment (it ended up being a Whiskey drenched weekend), and have the airport staff quote me a safe taxi ride into Noord.
“Boroncana 120,” I told the driver. Through corresponding with my Air BnB hosts, I knew the apartment to be just about a mile from the high rise hotel strip where I’d stayed during my first visit.
My driver’s driving reminded me of my own how he maneuvered the streets like he’d built them and I was surprised to realize I hadn’t lost service once leaving the airport and could still talk and text with low speed data. God got me. I sent texts back and forth to my mom and best friend until we reached Boroncana and found my sought for number, 1-2-0 after taking a left at Rancho Notorious, following the first sand road to the right, and taking a left at B122.
The home was incredible; a gorgeous, gated, yellow and brown three story home with plush grounds. One of the palm trees in the yard even had coconuts hanging from it. Monica, who I later found out to be the hosts’ cleaning lady, welcomed me into the backyard where my studio apartment was positioned and equipped with everything I need- AC, lawn chairs, clean towels, a mini fridge, a full dresser, a blender, pots and pans etc. I stowed my things away in the drawers, rearranged the furniture a little more to my liking, and stepped out to check out the pool area.
A Canadian couple came from the opposite side of the main house and greeted me with an excitement I wasn’t expecting. We exchanged names and handshakes and after freshening up, I prepared to leave for the grocery store with Veronica, my host. Bengie and Nova invited me to join them for drinks when I return. “Don’t be afraid to come chill with us,” they laughed. “You eat fish?” “Hell yeah,” I said. “I’ll be back soon.”
I shopped for fresh fruits, water, shrimp, pasta, and vegetables to hold me over for the weekend because I wasn’t sure how much I’d actually be getting off of the property since I hadn’t rented a car. Veronica’s husband, Roe, picked me up from Super Foods and when we returned to the house, Bengie and Nova’s offer still stood. I greeted them by the pool where they had Sauvignon Blanc on ice and they offered me some extra salmon they were getting ready to put on the grill.
We hit it off instantly over similar music tastes and home environments- them being from Toronto and me being from Chicago. We ended the trip with polaroids together, sharing cases of beer on the beach, whiskey and tequila shots, and exceptional hospitality for their last weekend on an island that feels like a second home for all of us. God keeps me in such good company, and, needless to say, I’ll be joining Bengie and Nova for their fourth consecutive year together in Aruba next December, and I’m already stoked about it.