In Michigan, its very common for people with the financial means to take a break from the long winter for a sunnier, warmer place each spring. The steady stream of cars headed to Florida the first week of every April causes traffic jams around Atlanta and gives snowbirds incentive to drive all night long, checking Facebook posts giving traffic reports from friends further down the road.
We had never been those people. Our children had never been to Disney, Sea World, or any of the sandy beaches of the Southern U.S. After the urging of a friend, we finally planned a trip to San Francisco. It was so fun that we decided to combine everyone’s birthday and Christmas gifts the next year to finance a trip to Costa Rica.
We were hooked. The third year, while looking for affordable flights, I was taunted by a great deal to Nassau. Our daughter, Hana, had always wanted to swim in clear, turquoise water and our son, Jesse, had taken surfing lessons in Costa Rica, so this was a perfect plan.
It WAS a perfect plan…except that conditions on Nassau are not good for surfing. With extra research, I learned the place for surfing in the Bahamas is on the Family Island (or Out Island) of Eleuthera. The connecting flight would be an extra $600 for all four of us, but I found a 3 bedroom vacation rental in Gregory Town for only $112 a night, making the trip affordable. We didn’t know exactly what was ahead, but were excited to find out.
Making the connection in Nassau, we were thrilled to walk out onto the runway to board a propeller plane for our flight to Governor’s Harbor. The plane was older, but felt nostalgic, like boarding an old school bus. A group of school children were on the same flight, adding to the realization that we were in a totally new kind of place.
Our first week in Eleuthera was amazing! The worries of not knowing how we were going to find our rental car contact, and then our house, fell away as we learned that life is quiet, slow, and personal here. As directed, we asked for “Stanton Cooper” upon walking out the airport. He appeared immediately and walked us out to our burgundy Impala. He filled out the receipt with our credit card number on it, we stuck it in the glove compartment as instructed, adding it to the pile of previous receipts. With instructions to keep on the left hand side, a dash board of warning lights blinking, and no working seat belts, we were off.
The week that followed was epic. We snorkeled in the harbor in front of our apartment, and were stopped mid-swim when a resident hollered that a shark was nearby. When we got back to the edge of the water, she followed up with “Please swim any of our beautiful beaches, just not here today.”
We drove up and down the Queen’s highway, and sandy two tracks, with the windows wide open, and static-filled tunes from the A.M. radio. We discovered where we could get groceries, found beautiful and completely empty beaches, discovered a love for conch and grouper fingers. Hana and I, watching people file into church for Easter services, put on the best clothes we had and joined in at the last minute. Walking in town, days later, a gentleman brought it to our attention with a smile, that he had seen us in church.
Except for camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we had never experienced so much time without the clutter of traffic, advertisements, and other aspects of mass-consumerism. It was a magical week of the simple life I remembered from growing up in rural Michigan. People in Eleuthera still wave when you drive by. When the water plant is down, waiting for a part, neighbors help neighbors, and share what they have. Everyone was friendly, even to us outsiders. It’s the kind of thing that never left my heart from childhood and, here, I can share the same with my children.