I have been working on this post for over three days now. It might be that I am still on “island time”, or it might be that I am trying really hard to get this just right, I’m not sure.
Either way, I hope it has been worth the wait.
I am fully aware of the fact that I severely overuse the word “awesome”. I use it multiple times in a day, in an hour even, to describe all sorts of things, people and situations, both large and small. But I don’t care. Sure, I could choose words that make me sound more sophisticated and worldly, but “awesome” is just so… awesome.
What a privilege to live a life so full of awesomeness, that any other word just doesn’t suffice.
For example, I just recently returned from an 8 day trip (sans kids) to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
It was the trip of a lifetime.
And yes, I’m going to say it.
It was awesome.
And amazing. And beautiful. And relaxing. And fun. And awesome. And many, many other adjectives that I could spend hours listing. But I won’t because I have some photos to share! The hardest part was deciding which of our 800+ photos to include!
The reason behind the trip is that my niece Nicole was getting married. When she and her fiance first announced their plans for a destination wedding my heart secretly broke because I was pretty sure there was no way we’d be able to afford the costs of such a trip. How could we possibly?
But yet, how could we not? How could I miss my niece’s wedding? I just couldn’t. After several months of fretting, discussing, stressing, and planning (and many associated stomach aches), somehow, some way, Erik and I conned his sister into caring for our kids, my sister into caring for the dog, a neighbor girl to care for the cat and water the yard, (it takes a village to go on vacation!) and we managed to get our giddy-with-excitement selves to that gorgeous tropical island for Nicole and Bryan’s wedding.
Even after sixteen hours of travelling through the night (and about 1 hour of sleep!), it felt like a dream but Erik and I still had giant grins on our faces when we finally arrived on the island.
A group of 15 of us–family and friends of the bride and groom–rented a villa next to the smaller villa where the bride and groom stayed. (Other guests stayed at various hotels on the island.)
Here is one view from the upstairs balcony at the villa:
Not bad, huh?
(Perhaps the word ‘awesome’ comes to mind?)
The wedding took place on the villa grounds and looked like something straight out of a bridal or travel magazine.
Nicole’s (and Bryan’s) attention to detail and many personal touches throughout the wedding and reception made the day so, so special and memorable for everyone in attendance. It was apparent how thankful they were for us all being there. I just hope they know half of how thankful I was to be there. I only wish our photos and this post could do justice to the entire experience.
I was taking care of some last minute business just before the ceremony and when I walked into the room where Nicole was waiting with her parents and saw her for the first time, she literally took my breath away and brought instant tears to my eyes.
She was absolutely stunning.
From the moment her dad walked her down the aisle,
to when Mike, my nephew, read “The Art of Marriage”,
and all throughout their self-written vows, I was pretty much a blubbering mess during the entire ceremony.
Nicole and Bryan are such a gorgeous couple!
And after over 14 years together (they are high school sweethearts too!) they finally became Mr. and Mrs.
The reception was beautiful, intimate, meaningful, and so much fun. We cried, we laughed, we danced, and the night may or may not have included more than one person losing their pants as well as more than one person playing the leg guitar.
(I’m not mentioning any names, but this guy may have been guilty of one of the above.)
I felt so fortunate and honored to share in this very special day of love and celebration.
After the wedding festivities, true vacation mode was in full effect. Sleeping in, lounging in/by the pool,
or on the beach,
going for walks,
talking, laughing, eating,
and drinking until late into the night were regular occurences.
With Kristin, an ex-bartender in the house, our cups were never empty.
That fact led to nights like this:
I quickly fell in love with almost everything about the island.
I love the heat and humidity (honestly!),
(even though it fogged up the camera lens more often than not).
I love the warm ocean water,
I love the beaches,
I love the flora,
and the fauna.
The food was expensive, but the booze was cheap.
(Seriously, rum is cheaper than bottled water.)
I am pretty sure I drank way more alcohol during this trip than I have during the entire past year combined. It turned out okay because as the island is not overly vegetarian/gluten-free friendly, I ended up eating a lot of salads. It’s all about balance, right?
Another of only a few not-so-great features of the island are the roads.
They drive on the left hand side (freaky), the roads are really narrow, windy and hilly, the locals drive like maniacs, and there are very few street signs. Sitting in the back of a crowded van in such conditions does not bode well for someone like me who easily succumbs to motion sickness. Ugh. Getting around was an adventure, for sure. (Maybe that is why the booze is so cheap!)
We did fun, touristy things like a snorkeling cruise,
(We saw sea turtles! Sting rays! Colorful fish! Coral! Donkeys on the beach! …And I only got a little seasick.), and we took a ferry to St. John, toured the island (gorgeous!) and visited an old sugar plantation.
The best part was when the park gardener gave us a tour of a garden full of local plants and fruits.
We tasted soursop, genips, mango and fresh sugar cane.
It was awesome.
We had so many good times with the whole group,
in smaller groups,
just Erik and I,
and I even fit in some quiet alone time.
It was awesome.
But with as much as we did, and as beautiful as the island is, what truly made this trip as awesome as it was, was the people we got to share and experience it all with. I am pretty sure we would have had just as much fun together if we were camping in someone’s backyard. That is how amazing they all are.
Thanks, you guys. It was a trip I will never forget.
(Photo props to Erik, Kristin B., and Chet!)