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                 I stared out the plane window into the heart of Port Au Prince, Haiti. As I stared at the buildings, my mind flooded back to the trip to India when I was seven and the many mission trips we had been on to Romania. I was thankful for having been outside of the country so much and to be going to Haiti at age twelve. I wondered how similar this trip would be to the other multiple trips out of the country I had been on.

             The plane landed and our team got on the bus, which would take us to our destination, the town of Neply. An hour and a half later, we drove through Neply with a population of 2,500. As our team walked off the bus to the place we were staying, it was like walking into a new world.  We were greeted by several Haitian children who rapidly spoke Creole to us. I tried to use the limited Creole I had learned at home to greet them, knowing I was probably pronouncing everything wrong.

            We pulled our suitcases and bags inside the gate to the courtyard, where the American hosts showed us our room containing multiple bunk beds and a few windows. Once seeing our look at the beds, they told us that we would be thankful for no comforters and only one sheet because of the heat at night. They also told us the use of Wi-Fi had to be limited and when taking a shower, to use as little water as possible. We settled down in our room a little wide-eyed, and I already knew this trip was going to be different than our others.

            That night, my friend ran up to tell me there were a ton of kids asking to play outside the gate. I walked to the gate where my friend had already gone through and I put my hand on the door to outside. Fear of the unknown caused me to pause and wonder what I was going to face outside. “This is what we came here to do,” I reasoned with myself, ”Fear will only lessen the opportunities out there.” With that, I pushed the gate open and stepped outside.

             Immediately, I was surrounded by masses of kids talking very fast Creole and expecting me to understand. A toddler came up to me wanting to be held and a younger girl came and began to braid my hair. “There goes my personal bubble,” I thought with a laugh.

            Over the next week, I began to cherish the time I had with these kids. I appreciated when a love-starved toddler I had never seen came up, wanting to be held. I loved talking and trying to understand the kids speaking Creole and I enjoyed taking quick cold showers after a hot game of frisbee. I found myself constantly wanting to be with these kids who were looking for love, attention, and my time.

            I had the chance to help with the feeding program for kids who didn’t have enough to eat, and help teach kids who were child slaves.  Between those events, our team spent the rest of our time playing frisbee, and soccer with the kids. Any spare time I had was out talking and playing with the kids.

            Then, one night after we finished playing Frisbee with the kids, it hit me; we were leaving early the next morning. As I gave the kids hugs, I tried hard to compose myself, at least until I got to our room. But when one of the little girls through her arms around my neck and said in Creole “Eden, I love you and want you to stay,” I let the tears come.  She sat up and asked me why I was I crying. I didn’t know how to tell her I didn’t want to leave and I wanted to stay right there with her, so I just said “Mwen reme ou,” which means I love you.

            The next day as I stared down out the window at the disappearing island of Haiti I had come to love, I thought over the time we had had with the kids. I remembered when we all swam in the ocean together, the endless hours of frisbee, sitting under a mango tree trying to knock off the fruit, and so many other memories.  If I hadn’t taken that brave step out of the gate the first night, those kids would just be faces, not my friends.  True, my heart wouldn’t break every time I thought of them, but I would wonder what would have happened if I had left my comfort zone.  Taking that step out of the compound made it a lot harder to leave but that step also changed my life.

 Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Inspiration Travel Writing competition and tell your story.


Lucaya Beach

Lucaya Beach

Cruises are popular vacation options yet not many are aware that a cruise is much more than being spoiled with luxurious accommodations, full board meals and entertainment on board. A cruise is also a great opportunity to discover and experience the culture and recreation of the different places included in the cruise trip’s itinerary. Holiday Cruise Line, for instance, offers land-based excursions on its Caribbean cruise itinerary.

Woman at Bahamas Beachfront

Jackie Finley, Holiday Cruise Line Representative, says, “Our cruise line offers a swim with the dolphins attraction that a lot of our vacationers get really excited about. It’s the sort of once in a lifetime thing that we pride ourselves on offering to our customers, and we think it goes beyond what people traditionally associate with cruises. I think, when people talk about cruises, they sometimes get caught up in the sea trip and forget that there’s a land destination on the other end of it. Cruises arrange a lot of very special entertainments for passengers. For example, our guided, horseback trail tour of the Grand Bahama Island is a great chance to see a wholly unique place. It’s a big part of what we offer.”

The Grand Bahama Island is a favorite travel destination. Make the most of your cruise trip by availing of these sensational tour options to the island:

Our Lucaya Beach Resort Pool

Our Lucaya Beach Resort Experience
Spend a day at the spectacular 4-star Our Lucaya Beach Resorts. This family-friendly property offers the absolute Bahamas get-away for adults and kids alike. A day trip will surely delight you, whether under the sunshine, on the pristine white sandy beaches, or in the crystal clear blue waters. Enjoy the plush amenities the resorts have to offer including fresh-water pools, Jacuzzis, swim-up bars, and many others. A sumptuous buffet lunch is in store for day excursionists, too. And, of course, there is the Village Market Promenade that offers fantastic duty-free shopping should you wish to bring home a souvenir to remember your great Bahamas island fun day by.


Swim with the Dolphins
Have fun with the dolphins at The Dolphin Experience Lagoon. Learn about these friendly sea creatures and play with them in the water. It promises to be an experience of a lifetime!

Snorkel Adventure Tour
Have a unique adventure and discover the underwater attractions around the island. Snorkel and marvel at the rich marine life and colorful corals of the Caribbean sea. The tour includes refreshments, use of snorkel equipment, and snorkel jackets and instructions by an experienced and professional staff.


Glass Bottom Boat Tour
If you prefer a relaxing sightseeing tour, sail onboard the “Ocean Wonder,” a 60 foot double-deck glass bottom boat. Take in the awesome beauty around the island and view its landmarks such as Cooper’s Medieval Castle, while
catching sight of the vibrant underwater world while enjoying the Bahamas sunshine. You’ll also have the chance to see the Brit’s Wreck submerged near Treasure Reef.

Horseback Riding

The Ultimate Eco-Tour
Get a closer look of the island’s beauty on horseback in just two hours. Take a guided trail ride through the endangered pine forest, see Cooper’s Castle, then meander along the beach and into the ocean.

Whatever you fancy, don’t miss out on the fun in store for you onboard and on land during your cruise! Happy cruising! :-)


Photo credits:
Lucaya Beach: Bing via Flickr
Woman at Bahamas Beachfront: ollie harrdige via Flickr
Our Lucaya Beach Resort Pool: ollie harridge via Flickr
Dolphin: Boris Kasimov via Flickr
Snorkeling: Michael Gray via Flickr
Horseback Riding: elaine moore via Flickr

A reporter was commissioned to create this in-depth article.


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It was 1984 when my husband of just over a year suggested Haiti as a vacation destination.  He had an acquaintance who recently returned from the popular Club Med resort and suggested I bring T-shirts for the Haitians. 

“They need clothing,” he informed me, “and they are grateful for anything you can give.”

I dragged my much too heavy suitcase outside.

“What’s in that thing, rocks?” my husband mused as he grabbed the big sky blue suitcase from my hand.  “You’re not going to need much clothing here, it’s hot as hell.”  I smiled to myself. 

Once in Haiti, all along the road on the way to our resort I spied Haitians hauling children in makeshift carriers on their back, others bore colorful fruit in handmade baskets, while still others balanced massive sacks of what might have been flour or rice on their heads.  Between the rows of tin shacks women were bent over in a single file washing clothes and pots in a stream. The smell of wood burning filled the air stinging my nostrils. It was their only fuel source for cooking.

 We learned that Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and the third poorest in the world.  The annual income of a typical Haitian was roughly a dollar a day.  Those statistics hold true today, 30 years later. 

The resort was a stark contrast against the extreme poverty seen during the ride over. Scattered about were three story bungalows that faced the beach. Pink roofs topped the bright buildings, each one a different color, as if a child opened a box of crayons across the welcoming blue sky.   

 The locals were allowed on the far end of the beach off the grounds of the resort. Every day they lined up hundreds of paintings facing the ocean, like soldiers guarding the coast. One morning, I grabbed my bag filled with items from my much too heavy suitcase. Taking out an array of new and gently used t-shirts I collected from family, friends and my own stash, a swarm of Haitians surrounded me. I started handing them out; one to a little boy who donned a tattered ripped red shirt as if a cat clawed at the front, another to a young man whose shirt too small for his frame showed his midriff and still another to an artist whose paint splatter made the shirt look like its own work of art.

Appreciative beyond words, the Haitians shook my hand, hugged me and flashed wonderful wide smiled grins.  Deeply touched, the warmth and honesty from strangers was something I never experienced before. In return I was gifted with a painting from an artist named Michelet.  In bright hot Caribbean colors, a familiar scene of women in their colorful garb tending their chores exemplified typical Haitian life.  To this day the painting adorns my family room wall.

Another day I was approached by a no nonsense Haitian woman, grinning with a smile as beautiful as the perfect sunrise, she was holding the hand of a little girl. While most tourists turned away, I eagerly met the woman half way, excited to find out what she was selling. The girl struggled to hold a basket filled with soft cloth filled dolls.  Brown fabric for the skin, the doll adorned a multi colored striped skirt and blouse and bejeweled dangling shell earrings. A matching turban covered the head as simple stitches of thread created the facial features.   

 “Would you like?”  she asked with that lovely thick Creole accent I’d come to enjoy, “You stick a pin when you want to curse someone.” She joked half-heartedly.

Smiling and giddy, I inquired, “A voodoo doll?” 

 “Yes,” her hearty chuckle made her belly jiggle, “you buy one?”

Handing her one dollar, the full price for the doll. I was ashamed to haggle. I then reached into my bag, and pulled out a few t-shirts. “Here”, I said,   I hope you can use these.”  She took my hand in both of hers. “Thank you, thank you” she kept repeating.  I reflected on how a few T- shirts could make someone so happy and I am not referring to the woman’s happiness, I am referring to mine. 

When my time in Haiti ended, I left the resort with an almost empty suitcase and a very full heart.  I set out on a vacation solely for rest and relaxation however, the reward from giving was way greater than what I set out to achieve.

 About the Author:

Sandra Ruyack is the Vice President of direct response fundraising for a consulting firm in Brewster, NY. As a short story non-fiction travel author and freelance food writer.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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Like many people, I have wondered if I could make a difference in someone’s life. I am just one person. I’m no hero. So what could I really do? I’ll tell you….

I met Mossa.

Mossa spends her life curled on an old foam-rubber mattress on the ground in northwest Haiti. Her one-room home has four cement walls that encircle her like a dark, cool, cave. There were doorways, but no windows. There was a table, but no chairs. Just Mossa lying on a foam mattress in the corner, where I imagined she’d spent a countless number of years.

There were bowls on the floor, like a dog’s bowls, and I was pained to see that they were empty when our mission group visited her one day. I wasn’t sure how often someone came by and filled them. I knew that she couldn’t care for herself; her body was folded up like a pretzel. One foot was behind her head. One arm was functioning, the other was shriveled and small; the result of a childhood illness for which she received no treatment. It hurt to look at her. We couldn’t help but stare. In return, she smiled up at us, happy to have visitors. We stayed the whole day.

This was rural Haiti. Clothes were washed by being beaten on rocks at the trickling stream. Electricity was non-existent and water was carried in water pouches slung over the back of a donkey. Small cinder block houses contained families of 8 or 20. Dirt footpaths lead to the church, where the minister ran a generator to power a few lights for the nightly service. I wondered how often Mossa was carried into sunlight. Who cared for her? Who fed her? What kind of life did she lead curled onto her foam mattress in a house with little else?

The folks in my group wondered what we could do to help her. Pastor Mike had an idea. If we could raise enough money, he would send a truck to town (3 hours away) and buy her a wheelbarrow. The price was steep by Haiti standards — $100.

Those of us with cash on hand eagerly pitched in. Pastor Mike sent a truck to town and three days later they returned with a brand new wheelbarrow for Mossa.

She cried when the pastor picked her up and placed her in it. He wheeled her two miles on dirt lanes to church on Sunday. Mossa was surrounded by her community, singing and rejoicing with the whole congregation. It was a beautiful sight and we felt blessed to have been a part of it.

I didn’t change the world by going to Haiti. But I did something to change someone’s life. I pitched in and helped pay for a wheelbarrow; something so oddly easy, but with tremendous impact. It only takes a small gesture to change the world for one person. Mossa taught me that. Here, I’d tried to change her life, but really, she changed mine.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

Lisa writing on the overnight bus in India
Lisa writing on the overnight bus in India

Winter 2013–Inspiration: A Place You Love invites you to enter its 2013 Travel Writing Contest with a $200 first-place prize and no fee for entry. The theme for the Winter 2013 contest is “Inspiration: A Place You Love.” We hope your article will encourage others to consider going to the place you love and travel more! Please see below for the full rules of our competition. Thank you for your participation in creating a growing global community of engaged travelers and concerned citizens. Writers of all ages and from all countries are encouraged to enter and share stories from any part of our planet.

THEME:  Inspiration: A place you love

THREE CASH PRIZES: 1st prize – $200usd, 2nd prize – $100usd, 3rd prize: Vagabond’s Choice – $100usd
First and Second Prize will be selected by the We Said Go Travel Team. The Vagabonds’s Choice Award will be selected through voting on the We Said Go Travel Facebook Fan page. All award monies will be paid through Check or PayPal in United States Dollars. The contest begins January 2, 2013 and ends February 14, 2013. All winning entries will be promoted on We Said Go Travel social media channels and the author names recognized as winners of the first We Said Go Travel Writing contest. Enter by midnight PST on February 14, 2013.


JUDGING: Richard Bangs and the We Said Go Travel Team
Richard Bangs, the father of modern adventure travel, is a pioneer in travel that makes a difference, travel with a purpose. He has spent 30 years as an explorer and communicator, and along the way led first descents of 35 rivers around the globe, he is currently producing and hosting the new PBS series, Adventures with Purpose.

We are looking for an article that “speaks to readers, transforms them and transports them either to a place they’d like to live or like to travel. Use “creative evocative writing that brings a destination to life” by combining “the tools of a novelist, the eyes of a journalist, and the general knowledge that comes from a never-ending education and a natural curiosity about the world around you—and its history.” When you are “capturing the essence of a place and engaging the senses,” you share your passion for the place you are writing about and everyone will want to read your writing. (Quotes from Travel Writing 2.0 by Tim Leffel)

Contests, Courses, Resources Page: Coming SOON! Know a great contest, course or travel writing resource we should have on our page? Add it to the comments or email us at

by Terrance Richardson

Royal Caribbean offers cruises to destinations all over the world. Book your next holiday on a ship and see some of the amazing places you’ve always wanted to visit.

Caribbean Cruises

With a name like Royal Caribbean, you know this is a cruise line that knows this area of the world well. With ships that visit destinations like the Bahamas, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Mexico, and more, you’re sure to have the holiday of a lifetime. Bathe in the azure waters, sun yourself on the white sand beaches, eat more seafood than you can possibly imagine, and take part in exciting shore excursions and water sports. It’s all part of the Royal Caribbean experience.


Imagine combining a fantastic beach holiday with city breaks and historical sights. You can with a Royal Caribbean Mediterranean cruise. Visiting destinations like Venice, Barcelona, Rome, Naples, Santorini, Sicily, Split, and Athens, you’re sure to get the best of both worlds.

South America

Indulge yourself and see the sights of South America. This vast continent offers everything from humid jungles to frozen glaciers, as well as beautiful beaches, ancient ruins, and chic cities. Begin your journey in Santos, Brazil, where you can relax on the beaches of this port city. If you’ve enough time, you can explore Sao Paulo, located about 50 kilometres away. Next, stop off in Punta del Este, Uruguay, where the beautiful elite love to party, then head to the thriving, exciting city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. End your cruise of South America in Montevideo, the quaint capital of Uruguay and the perfect place to unwind after the excitement of Buenos Aires.

Emirates and Oman

Dip your toe in the Middle East with this exciting cruise of the Emirates and Oman. You’ll begin your cruise in Dubai, where everything is new and bigger is better. Try everything from skiing indoors to riding a camel in the desert before setting sail for Fujairah, located on the beautiful Gulf of Oman. Next, your cruise will take you to Muscat, Oman’s capital and largest city, before winding down in Abu Dhabi.


If you’ve ever dreamed of a holiday to the Land Down Under, dream no more with this exciting cruise from Royal Caribbean. Choose from 11 to 16 nights onboard the Rhapsody of the Seas while you explore gorgeous Sydney, thriving Melbourne, and nature-filled Tasmania.

Canary Islands

You’ve probably considered a holiday to the Canary Islands, but have you considered taking a cruise there? Royal Caribbean offers a 10-11 night cruise onboard the Independence of the Seas for an ideal beach holiday.


 About the AuthorTerrance Richardson is a keen writer, explorer and musician. He is particularly interested in music in different cultures but is also a big food lover.

Parasailing over Jamaica
Parasailing over Jamaica

Think rum, reggae beats and full on sunshine–welcome to a holiday in Jamaica!

Sitting firmly in the Caribbean, this is the perfect destination for a chilled-out holiday to remember. Brimming with top-class all-inclusive hotels, this is a break that you may think costs the earth, but in reality, it’s more affordable than you realise.

Flights leave the UK regularly and I’d suggest making the hassle of long-haul flying a little less by pre-booking airport extras. I like to book an airport hotel prior to my travel day, meaning I get a few extras hours sleep. Another godsend of a service is airport parking, eliminating the need for expensive taxis.

The popular tourist resorts are based in the north, such as Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Ocho Rios is possibly the most popular, with the best stretch of nightlife and many attractions, such as Dolphin Cove. If you do one thing whilst you’re in this part of the world, then I’d highly recommend you visit here. You can swim with dolphins and learn all about these fascinating creatures. I swum with dolphins in Orlando, and it’s the single most amazing thing I’ve ever done.

Whichever resort you choose, you’ll be guaranteed stunning white sand beaches in the north, and who doesn’t love a beautiful Caribbean beach?

Time on Jamaica is generally about chilling out and letting life roll by without a care. The easy-going lifestyle and vibe of the island is really contagious and it will make you feel like your worries are a million miles away. I love the colourful atmosphere and the ever present music in the background – you can’t help but smile.

Of course, another way to make yourself smile, albeit artificially, is by sampling one of the island’s famous products–rum. I’d highly recommend a tour of one of the distilleries, and the Appleton Estate is popular one.

Another of Jamaica’s famous icons is of course the late, great Bob Marley. Fans of the musical legend will be keen to visit Kingston, and the Bob Marley Museum. This is a major must visit.

Jamaica is of course a beautiful island, and being part of the Caribbean, it would be hard pushed not to be, with thundering waterfalls, bright flowers and idyllic beaches. There are many water-sports available, including the famous banana boat and jet-skiing. I love water-sports, I think they’re a great way to cool down in the scorching heat, so give them a go. If that sounds a little too much like hard work, then be sure to jump on a boat-trip and check out the island from the Caribbean Sea


The sun setting doesn’t mean the action has to stop, and night-life on Jamaica is predictably laid-back and chilled-out. Many hotels will have entertainment if you don’t fancy venturing out, alternatively, the larger resorts have a varied choice to keep you occupied. Ocho Rios has the brightest night-life, yet Montego Bay has many bars and even a casino.

There’s nothing negative I can say about this vibrant, colourful island, other than maybe the length of time you’ll spend on a plane getting there.

About the Author:

Molly Austin is a blogger outreach assistant and writer for an English travel company.  As well as reading, writing and obsessing about travelling, she loves to eat, is a self confessed geek and spends way too much time online, you can often find her on twitter @molly_austin1


I trust lucky cat to help me make good decisions

Planning. Oh, planning. The bane of many a traveller out there, planning is the thorn in the side of the beauty of exploring new places for so many. Whether or not you’re a person who’s planning is simply booking a flight or bus to their next destination, or a person who likes to have their accommodation lined up well in advance as well as flights  booked several months ahead, it’s a necessary evil that needs to be dealt with.

When it comes to planning, I definitely fall into the latter category. I’m a planning nut who’ll try and figure things out as far in advance as possible, jumping on flights and scoping out things like festivals and potentially awesome CouchSurfing hosts or hotel deals faster than the airlines can charge me those pesky booking fees.

OK, so maybe I’m not quite that fast.

Seoul Subway
Should you just follow the path you've already set for yourself?

I’m heading around the world next year, departing on March 27th, 2013 to be precise. Planning is like crack to me, and I approached the whole idea of scheduling my trip with absolute glee. I decided exactly where I wanted to go, when I’d be there, how long for, and I’d be travelling with my partner. All sorted.

Or so I thought.

My partner and I had initially planned to travel together but this is no longer possible. He’ll just be graduating university or doing an internship and be thrown into South Korea’s viciously competitive job market. Taking time off to travel simply isn’t an option here. So, that’s the first thing that went kaput. I’m travelling solo.

I trust lucky cat to help me make good decisions

The act of planning for a round the world trip, of course, involves a heck of a lot of research. I wanted to go to Africa first and do a safari in Zambia. From there, I’d head through Malawi, down to Mozambique, and fly out of South Africa.

However, when I dug a little deeper, I found that the end of March is a bit of a dodgy time for safaris in Zambia – you’re not really guaranteed to see any animals. Malawi is easy enough to travel in, but crossing the border into Mozambique seems hellish – and not to mention, Mozambique is absurdly expensive. Then, South Africa. The only place in South Africa I have any desire to visit is Cape Town, but all the cheap flight deals I could find – and the best connection from Mozambique overland – operate out of Johannesburg.

Saklikent Gorge in Fethiye
Hopefully I'll climb up and reach the light.

I’ve scratched all that now. I’ll still go to Africa, but I have absolutely no idea where. West Africa? Ghana, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso? Perhaps. Maybe Ethiopia. Somewhere undiscovered and completely different, like Eritrea? Or maybe I will do that safari in Zambia – but that’s an experience I want to share with my partner.

As I mentioned before, I do have my first flight booked. However, it’s for the USA, not Africa. I’ll be starting in Boston. I asked for advice on where to go in the eastern USA, and received lots of tips and advice on where to go. People commented, “why aren’t you going to California?” Not enough time, I replied.

Then I found an amazing deal to San Francisco. I booked it. So yes, I’m going to California.

Grits are disgusting.
Also, I'll be trying grits despite my initial disgusted first reaction.

From there, I’m off to Colombia – a country I’d planned on visiting almost last on my trip – and after that, Canada. Canada wasn’t even on my list to begin with, and I disappointed a few of my Canuck friends by telling them I wouldn’t be going. Then, it was announced that TBEX 2013 will be taking place in Toronto and, on a whim, I booked a flight from Bogota to Toronto.

Burger B Seoul
This pulled pork deliciousness happened the first time I met bloggers in Seoul. I'm hoping more deliciousness will continue at TBEX.

All this confusion and organised chaos only covers the first two or three months of my trip. I thought I had things down, knew what I was doing, but then I understood something. I understood why people travelling always tell you not to plan too far ahead. Why they tell you that it’s best ifyour plans have some kind of fluiditiy to them.

Things pop up that you don’t expect and you’ll find amazing flight deals or information on things like fantastic festivals, over-the-top visa requirements, inclement weather or seductive foodporn that will change your plans entirely.

Grand Park Seoul
Leave your feet dangling off the edge

So, what am I doing after Toronto? I’m thinking of visiting Montreal. In terms of a country I’ll be going to? I have absolutely no idea. Nothing is planned. Nothing is set in stone. Everything is wide open.

Maybe I’ll decide on something a couple of months down the line. Maybe I’ll decide when I’m in Canada. Who knows?

I’ve yet to hit the road, but I’m already understanding that the best plan to have is to keep your options and your mind open – and to have your finger on the mouse when you find that irresistible deal to somewhere you hadn’t considered before.


About the author: Tom Stockwell always had his nose stuck in an atlas as a child, and pretended that the stairs in his home were a magic carpet whisking him away to some faraway country that he’d seen on the map. Now, he’s travelling the world and has taught in Korea, explored snow covered beaches in Poland, partied at Sydney Mardi Gras and almost thrown up from trying durian in Kuala Lumpur. You can keep up with Tom’s adventures through his blog, Waegook Tom, via Facebook, and by following @waegook_tom on Twitter, too.

Joan Weinthal Clayton offered to share her perspective on one of our favorite island spots! We cannot wait to go see J2O!

Some might call me a skeptic but I never thought I believed in love at first sight until I stepped off the St. John ferry in 1984 and arrived on island for the very first time.   Greeted by splashes of bright colors, tranquil turquoise water and friendly St John locals, I was immediately transformed.  As I stepped into the eclectic community of Cruz Bay, I was welcomed by swaying coconut palms, sea grapes and the aromas of fresh island BBQ.  Happily there are still only 4,800 friendly year round residents to greet you, no commercial franchises, no airports and not a single traffic signal.

St. John nicknamed “Love City” by its residents is located about 3 miles east of St. Thomas and 4 miles south of Tortola accessible only by convenient ferry service.  This tiny island is only 19.61 square miles. More than 75% of St John is protected as a National Park.  Snorkeling and hiking trails, native plants and trees, historic ruins and archeological dig areas retain their natural beauty and are protected for the future enjoyment of all.  In fact, St. John is home to more than 140 species of birds, 22 mammals, 740 plants, 50 types of coral and 7 amphibians.

In my view, St. John is the perfect destination to merge adventure and relaxation.  I always enjoy the slow pace, no worry atmosphere that brings me to St. John back year after year.  With little or no advance planning you can paddleboard, snorkel, windsurf, play tennis, hike, kayak, parasail, or plan a sunset horseback ride.  Don’t miss whale watching (Dec-March), a spa day, fishing, champagne sunset sails or a leisurely day of island exploration.  Better still spend a few days or weeks trying to decide your favorite of the more than 50 beaches that have been declared amongst the most beautiful beaches in the world by Conde Nast, National Geographic, Caribbean Travel and Life and Islands Magazine.  This view is shared by beach connoisseurs and travel professionals throughout the world.  I heartily concur!  In fact, I have spent the last 25 years trying to find a more perfect island.  In my world, it simply can’t be done.

In 2008, I made the best decision of my life; I bought a piece of the island.  J2O, The Penthouse at Grande Bay Resort, is a beautiful new resort condominium located directly on Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI.  From J2O I never tire of the sunsets and panoramic views spanning the turquoise waters of Pillsbury Sound, the distant cays of the BVI, the evening lights of St. Thomas and the breathtaking flowers and greenery of the hills above town. Imagine a penthouse hideaway, just a few short steps from the fine dining, shopping, water sports, and beach activities that makes St. John the premier destination in the US Virgin Islands.  Less than a 5 minute walk from the ferry dock, J2O at Grande Bay Resort is the perfect location, combining convenience and privacy.

Just a short walk from J2O at Grande Bay Resort, visitors will find a shopping paradise.  Mongoose Junction showcases the beauty of Caribbean island architecture. You will find fabulous shopping, galleries, and great food.  Shop in shaded comfort for locally made jewelry, gifts and resort wear.  Wharfside Village, just steps from your front door, is a unique shopping, dining and entertainment area.  Brightly colored, Caribbean style buildings nested in the heart of Cruz bay are filled with gifts and local artwork that are sure to remind you of your stay on St. John.

St. John also offers endless possibilities for dining.  From local BBQ to beachfront fine dining, St. John will not disappoint a single member of the family.  Starfish Market, the island’s full service market, is conveniently located for all of your at-home dining and entertainment needs.  At your request and for your convenience, we can make arrangements to provision J2O at Grande Bay Resort for your arrival and stay.
Check out the website for details and contact information.  We are happy to share our special offers, last minute deals, and multi-week discounts throughout the year.

So yes, after 25 years and countless returns to St. John I can say, without a doubt or moment of hesitation, I really do believe in love at first sight!


Have you been to the Virgin Islands yet? What is your favorite island spot? Tell us in the comments below!