Every so often I receive a message from a stranger curious about my travel habits. The inquirers are usually Caribbean women fascinated with the idea of traveling but who think this lifestyle is beyond their reach for one reason or the other. I usually provide a brief response explaining that “I love traveling so I make it a priority”. But what does that really mean to someone who believes it’s practically impossible?
Currently, I’m mapping out my 2019 travel itinerary and budget while employing several strategies to get more bang for my buck. So I wanted to put the proverbial pen to paper to squash some of the myths that prevent Caribbean women traveling, and also share a few tips to help them travel further and more frequently (without going broke).
Myth #1: Traveling is too Expensive
True story: Travel ain’t cheap.
But that doesn’t mean it’s out of reach – even for Caribbean chicas dealing with unfavorable exchange rates, pricey flights and non-refundable visa fees. Of course, you do need to have some form of disposable income for globetrotting to be a part of your lifestyle, but it doesn’t need to be a whole lot.
How to deal:
- Take advantage of package deals offered by local travel agents. Many of them have great deals for destinations within the region and beyond.
- Sign up for a credit card with a miles programme.
- Stay loyal to an airline to accumulate frequent flyer miles.
- Make your reservations through an online booking engine like Expedia that offers points-based rewards.
- Do your research and shop around for affordable eats and experiences while on the ground – Airbnb is a great resource affordable accommodation AND authentic, budget friendly activities.
Myth #2: Frequent Flying is for “First World-ers”
Reality check: A Caribbean passport can take you just as far as a first world one.
It might be easy to forget that when you’re scrolling through Instagram, bombarded by travel related posts from North American and European women of all hues who don’t have to deal with the hurdles Caribbean travellers encounter. They’re snapping up last minute deals and dodging visa applications like pros while we’re left paying triple the cost to jet off to the same destinations and handing over fees for visas we’re not even certain we’ll be granted. But we shouldn’t let this stop us. There are several websites to help us find flights for our budget and there are many countries in the world that don’t require citizens from some West Indian countries to get a visa.
How to deal:
- Pick a destination that doesn’t require citizens from your country to get a visa.
- Bonus for Trinis: LoopTT’s list of 116 countries Trinis don’t need a visa to visit
- Plan far enough in advance to benefit from cheaper flights and sign up for flight alerts so you’re in a position to snap up any deals that might arise.
- Make Kayak Explore your best friend: it’s the perfect tool if you’re not attached to a specific destination and just looking for cheap flights from your island to…anywhere in the world!
Myth #3: You Need Company
Fun fact: Solo travel is trending!
Roughly 1 in 4 people are expected to vacation alone in 2018, and a large chunk of these solo roamers are women. Join them! The fact is, sometimes you’re ready to roll when no one else in your life is. So just go! Solo travel is one of the most empowering and liberating experiences you can have. Doing what you want, when you want, without having to worry about anyone else’s preferences or expectations may sound selfish, but it is also quite cathartic. On top of all of that, you get to meet and bond with complete strangers in a manner you never would have if you were in the company of your family or friends.
How to deal:
- Book an organised tour where you can meet new people who are interested in the same activities as you are.
- Sign up for an interactive class that forces you to engage with strangers – dancing, cooking, mixology.
- Stay at a hostel (if you don’t mind shared accommodation) as many people who stay at hostels are solo travellers looking to make new friends.
Myth #4: You Don’t Have the Time
Good news: You don’t need that much time.
Minimal vacation days? Maximum familial obligations? There are so many things that require your time and limit your mobility. Unlike many first world countries where sabbatical leave is a common practice (that allows employees to take an extended absence from their jobs with the understanding that it will be waiting for them when they return several months later) many of us are working jobs with a month’s worth of vacation leave that we can rarely take all at once. While this means you may not be able to indulge in months-long treks around the globe, you can still have a truly rewarding travel experience in just a few days.
How to deal:
- The Caribbean calendar is chocked full of long weekends, memorise those that apply to your island and book mini-getaways around them to maximise your time away while minimising the need for vacation days.
- Stay close to home. We live in paradise, literally. If you don’t have time for long-haul flights halfway around the world take the opportunity to visit neighbouring islands, many of which are less than 2 hours away.
#5: It’s Not Normal
Correction: It is!
The idea of hopping on and off planes every few weeks/months is still a bit of a novelty to many within the Caribbean. There remains this expectation that as women we need stability in our lives – stable job, stable relationship, stable home. All of which are all well and good. But stability doesn’t look the same to everyone. For me, my spirit always feels more settled when I’m exploring a foreign land than when I’m at home. However, I often note a layer of concern from many people inquiring about my travel habits and the fact that I seem more focused on hopping on a plane than getting a new office job to replace the old one I hated; or, y’know, getting married.
How to deal:
- Ignore anyone who makes you feel like your desire to travel is somehow irresponsible, irrational and irrelevant. Do what feeds your soul, settles your spirit and makes you happy!
Long story short, you can travel within a reasonable time frame and budget if you save, plan and sacrifice. Yes, as Caribbean women we face obstacles that our first world counterparts don’t, but don’t let this deter you. If you’re in love with the idea of travel, you CAN make it happen. Just use some of these tips that I’ve shared with you and do enough digging to discover a few tricks of your own. Hopefully, you’ll resolve to travel more in 2019 and join the growing number of Island Girls In-Transit already out there wandering the world.