I admit it. I tend to over plan vacations. As my family can attest, I’m the guy that reads everything in the guidebooks and then sets a withering pace during our trips. Each day starts early and includes multiple pre-planned activities. Think Clark Griswold and the world’s largest ball of twine and you won’t be far off from my vacation agenda.
As we enter week two of this trip (not a vacation), something cool is happening. My checklist is growing shorter and I’m slowing down and letting days unfold rather than attacking them. And in that space, more serendipitous moments are happening. Yesterday is a great example.
“Hey where you going mon?”
Maddie and I were out for a morning run yesterday and decided to explore a new road up the hill from our house. As the road turned into a dirt trail, we bumped into Donnie. He was sitting on the side of the road, spliff in hand. We told Donnie we were just exploring. He told us he was the caretaker for Pointe Baptiste and that Alan was away today, like we should know Alan as someone important. “Follow me.”
Donnie is of Carib descent. Born here in the only territory in the entire Caribbean that the Kalinago people were able to defend from the onslaught of disease, military technology and cruelty ushered in by Columbus and those that followed him across the Atlantic. We followed Donnie down a narrow dirt path and into the opening of a large garden.
In many places, you would be crazy to follow some random guy smoking weed on the side of the road into the bushes. But Dominica is not many places. Sure there are risks here, but the vast majority of people that we have met are friendly, kind people that would seemingly drop whatever they were doing to ensure you are ok. Donnie was one of those people.
Donnie proceeded to give us a tour of the property that lasted well over an hour. He showed us each of the plants and trees in the garden and talked about their uses either as food or medicine. He explained to us the history of the estate, which was purchased in 1932 by a family that wanted to drop out of London’s high society and live a more simple life. That couple is buried on the property and their descendants, Alan included, still reside here, renting out a guest house and making chocolate that sells in the market in town. He walked us out onto the red cliffs of the point, showing us where to step so as not to fall and pointing out fissures in the rock that were only a few feet wide but ran down 25 feet into the darkness.
We really liked Donnie. It was refreshing to be around someone who seemed so peaceful and unconcerned by the things that keep me up at night when I’m home in Wisconsin. One of the great things about travel is seeing the world through other people. “Things that are natural and equal are good; things that are not are bad,” Donnie told us. We found out later that Donnie doesn’t own a pair of shoes. Yet he had no agenda and wanted nothing from us. He was genuine.
As we left Donnie and started running back to the house I said to Maddie, “that is exactly why I love Dominica.” And I’m glad we made that unscheduled detour that wasn’t on my checklist.