F'ing off to the Bahamas

 I have no idea how to start to this post - partly because the real story here is not about the Bahamas at all. So I can either write about why I really f'd off to the Bahamas for 3+ weeks or I can write about how glorious the Bahamas was and how I feel 30000% better. You all think you want the latter, but everytime I have sat down to write this post, the former bleeds in so... it's probably going to be some vague combination of both. 

I bought a one way ticket to the Bahamas leaving December 1st about a week before I left. How did I choose the Bahamas? I googled "amazing places to paddleboard" after an awesome experience in the Florida Keys (need to write that up still...) and the choice came down to either Thailland or Bahamas. Thailand seemed far away and I've always wanted to go to the Caribbean so ... Bahamas! 

Harbour Island, Starfish Bay

Oh wait, then I needed to pick an island - the Bahamas is a string of islands. Abaco? Nassau? Eleuthera? Grand Bahama? Again, not a lot of thought here - I saw an ad for the "Pink Sand Beaches of Harbour Island" and figured that might be an unforgettable place to start. Eleuthera it is. My plan was to book only 7 days of Airbnb at a time to keep things flexible. 

There's about a million white girl moments that ensue. I bring only $100 in cash with me, not realizing Eleuthera is a mostly cash based system. I forget to convert the cash I had; fortunately, the Bahamian dollar as USD are used interchangeably. I walk from the airport to the ferry dock (3 miles) carrying my luggage and inflatable paddleboard, too nervous to take a taxi. I go to the grocery store and I'm so horrified by how expensive everything is (not used to island prices) that I only buy cookies. I had some crucial work calls I needed to make that night / next day and the internet wasn't great. There's a dead cockroach in my room that I learn later isn't dead, just sleeping. 

Paddleboarding dreams

So the first three days, my thought process alternates between "it's nice that it's warm here" and "wtf am I doing here?". I felt uncomfortable, stressed, and started to look for tickets to Florida (back to safety) 

But then I started to talk to my Airbnb hosts and put together my paddleboard to take to the beach. The pink sand beach is surreal, like truly mind blowing how stunning the turquoise waves are crashing against the pink sand. The paddleboarding (once the wind calms down) is unbelievable - I see fish, reefs, etc. My hosts are a delight - they both are school teachers on the island and their kindness starts to make me feel more comfortable on Harbour Island. 

I figure out my millions of white girl moments. I find an ATM and get more cash. I find great, cheap local restaurants to eat at and swallow the nasty pill that milk is just eight dollars a gallon on a tropical island. I walk every morning, write in the mid morning, and paddleboard in the afternoons. I start talking to people - I get invited to play volleyball on the beach and laugh about tarot cards with some of the other guests. I want to snorkel but don't want to pay $65 for a mask, but then I happen to find one in sand at the secret starfish bay on the paddleboard #BahamasProvides

Finding joy in a lot of different places

My week on Harbour Island starts out chaotic and jarring, with stressful interjections from work (this is going to be a running motif), but after a few days, it fades to a pleasant life of breathing in, laying on beaches, and taking back control. When I arrived, I was very ill still, both mentally and physically. But throughout the week, I found myself growing stronger day by day (instead of weaker) for the first time since July. 

I find myself strong enough to quit my job - I do that and the internet cuts for 2 days (and cell service, lol), plunging me into internet-darkness right when I very much wanted to talk to people. It forced me to deal with it myself - to find the strength inside that I really didn't believe I had anymore to navigate the turmoil and consequences of my decision. It forced me to say "OK well... I am going to go paddleboard". 

So after a week, I contemplate staying to continue the healing process. But my host Will convinces me to go to the main island of Eleuthera by saying "if I had one month, I would spend it driving around Eleuthera and exploring all the caves and beaches". Exploring... I wasn't sure if I had the energy for exploring but I would try. 

Eleuthera was my favorite. It was wild - a rugged and beautiful island about 50 miles long with one main highway that cuts through the island. There's seemingly dozens of microclimates on Eleuthera - forests, dense brush, desert, etc. I saw things like forests with crabs everywhere at the base of the trees (no water in sight though!), flawless beaches, open caves that looked like they had been punched out by giants, turtles, fish, reefs, sea caves, etc. 

Cathedral Cave

At first, I was also uncomfortable in Eleuthera (again!). I rented a car and (blessedly) my car-renter drove me back to Governor's Harbor with him (where I was staying). They drive on the opposite side of the road, which was a first for me. I ate a place where I felt like everyone was staring at me. I got to my Airbnb, and it was a dream - a loft about 200 feet from the ocean with an outdoor shower and the basic essentials I needed in a simple studio set up with amazing hosts whose travel stories made me look like a tame resort dweller in comparison. 

Whereas Harbour Island forced me to disconnect and begin to reset, Eleuthera challenged me to be brave and to push myself. Eleuthera was like the friend that says "you got this" and then cuts the ripcord. I planned my days around a morning beach walk, writing and breakfast, and exploring a different quadrant of the island. 

sunset walks too 

Every beach was different - rocks, smooth, pink, tan, turbulent, calm. Every day I talked to a different person or people that brightened my world a little more. Every day I walked farther, I paddled more, and I lived more - I saw all of these incredible things that I can't even describe. I did things like paddleboard in Seahorse National park, sticking my head (with the mask) in the water for hours as I looked for wild seahorses (I found two!). I laid naked on lighthouse beach with no one in sight for hours. I saw wild sea turtles and finally became more comfortable swimming with fish. 

Seahorse National Park! 

I would run into the water on every beach and just float, staring at the sky and appreciating the moment for what it was. 

Floating, this time I was dumb enough to do it with my phone in hand

Unseen in the instagram photos is how brutal my nights were, dealing with fall out of leaving my job (can't talk about it here) and the toll it took on me, mentally and emotionally. Sleep intermittently, walk to release in the morning, paddleboard to calm, and explore to heal. 

Found a sea cave while paddling

Then, my amazing week on Eleuthera was up, but I wasn't ready to leave. I booked another 4 days in Spanish Wells, an island on the other side of North Eleuthera from Harbour Island, on a recommendation from a few random strangers that "oh, Spanish Wells is nice". I returned my rental car and made my way to Spanish Wells (a few more white girl moments ensue). 

Spanish Wells is a small island (~2 miles) that is where the white Bahamian population lives (opposed to Harbour Island which is mostly tourists and Eleuthera which is ... real). Spanish Wells feels like Key West and has the nicest grocery store that I encountered on the trip (most of the other groceries were just marts) and best internet. My rental on Spanish wells was a centrally located studio with some rocking chairs. 

At this point, I'm starting to dread the following week which is going to be the last official week at work for me. Adventure bestie Claire, at this point, decides between my IG stories looking phenomenal and the impending week I had looming, she should come join me. She only plans to stay the 18th-20th, but even as I'm writing this now, Claire is still there (ahahaha). I change my stay till the 23rd. 

Spanish Wells was a different kind of healing. I had found my footing in Eleuthera, and Spanish Wells was about using everything I had learned about the Bahamas (wake up early for walks, when it's too windy to paddle, etc.) to experience my days fully. But also having the confidence to do nothing - that laying on the beach or floating in the ocean or reading a book were all very ok and very much a part of recharging for me. 

Claire gave me soooo much crap for this weird long sleeved half shirt

As I alluded to at the beginning, work was interwoven into the fabric of my weeks in the Bahamas, but fortunately I had come far enough to address what was being asked of me. Claire was there for me at the end of each day, and we'd bar hop or eat a dinner of fried rice or sit on the porch and drink terrible white wine I bought. Whereas my previous weeks were about living and healing, this week on Spanish Wells was about surviving in a way I could look back on and be proud. And I did! 

(and I saw a manta ray jump out of the water while I was paddle boarding and some of the most incredible offshore reefs!!!) 

On the 23rd, I flew back home. I was exhausted and sad to leave, but also, happy, vibrant, and ready. I could have stayed for months in the Bahamas, easily. But it was time for me to see family and begin the next adventure. 

Overall, you'll notice this post is different than my other adventure posts (and even the current one I'm living in Argentina ATM). How? I didn't really do anything in the Bahamas. I didn't plan my days around accomplishing something or even explicitly seeing a feature/destination most days. Instead, I was just OK with myself - forgiving myself when I laid in bed and did nothing and enjoying the moments when I did. The culture in the Bahamas gave me the space to do this (no one really asked what I did each day or 'the beach' was an acceptable answer) and I healed, tremendously, because I gave myself the space too. 

I'll be back Bahamas <3 

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