Michal is an ideal travel partner–adventurous but laid back, thrifty but generous, and funny but thoughtful. She is a kindred spirit, and we share many passions, including a love for both traveling and writing. Here is her take on our vacation to Puerto Rico in December 2014.
I’m an experienced traveler.
Self-indulgent as that sounds, it’s true! I’ve lived in France, Greece, Turkey and Italy and have learned the painful lessons that come from overeager and excessive packing, trusting the cute gypsy child in the metro and cringe-worthy conversations elevated to trainwreck status by crippling language barriers. I have spent the night in an airport with rioters setting taxis on fire just outside, been proposed to by a traveling musician and an olive oil merchant and survived the horror story that is a socialist hospital late at night. I own almost every Rick Steves book and I Duolingo three languages a day at work while I surreptitiously check for good flight deals.
Somehow, for some inexplicable reason, Puerto Rico caught me unawares and unprepared.
I’m going to go ahead and blame the holiday season and my decision to go on too many Tinder dates for my distracted state prior to our departure.
Tricia is the most fun in the world, so I was in good company for the wacky adventures this island brought our way. Despite the extent to which I have traveled all over the world, this trip opened my eyes to the reality that travel is a lifelong learning experience, and that every trip you take makes you better prepared for the next one! So with sheepish chagrin I bring you my top three Puerto Rico takeaways:
- It should be mind-numbingly obvious that you should plan around rainy days, and also that it, ahem, rains quite often in the rainforest, but of course I didn’t think to make a Plan B or Plan C in case of a torrential downpour. Our original plan was to take a tour of both the El Yunque Rainforest and see a bioluminescent bay that night, but with the rain that occurred on day 2, our hike was canceled, leaving us incredibly mad and also, unsure what to do with a four hour block of time. The Caribbean has temperamental weather, come to find out, and if you’re going to visit Puerto Rico, it’s best to have several plans set out beforehand for each day so you can make the most of your time instead of having to panic, almost cry over some terrible coffee and regroup while you try desperately to find some wifi. Most of the trips I go on last several weeks, so the times I’ve run into inclement weather, I’ve always had more time and flexibility to see what I wanted to at a later date. With this being a much shorter trip, I didn’t even think to plan ahead more thoroughly to maximize our time.
- People don’t pick up the phone in Puerto Rico. Kind of like Europe, people here are on their own timeline. They can’t be bothered that you are bothered about something and need information, so again, getting as much planned before you go is crucial. In our haste to redeem the time we lost on day 2 of our trip, we spoke to at least 6 different people about whether or not they thought the Camuy Caves would be open after the rain, and every single person had a different opinion. “Of course it will be open, it’s only a little rain.” “Don’t waste your time, it will be closed because our island was practically flooded last night.” And despite phone numbers being listed on different sites for things like Camuy Caves, we never got anyone on the phone to actually ask the only people who could tell us for sure whether it was worth our time to rent a car and drive out there. We almost decided not to risk it, but in the end we did because we talked to several locals who are familiar with a variety of tour companies with the inside scoop. Getting a variety of opinions paid off because the park was indeed open! So just because you get a no from one person doesn’t mean that’s the end of the story. Keep on asking, and utilize the network that the hotel staff have. They know people in high and low places, all of which could give you the information you need.
- Before you give up, use the 2 More Minutes Rule. There were several times that in our tiredness and desperation, we almost gave up and turned around. But we said, “okay, we’ll drive a little further, maybe it’s just up ahead” and sure enough it was! At one point we almost turned around because we were only using a map instead of our iPhones (adventurous, I know) and felt for sure we had passed the town we were looking for. But given a little faith and a few more minutes, we found it. Had we not given up after driving the wrong way down one road and tried the other way, we wouldn’t have had to trespass on someone’s land to see the ocean, but instead would have found the luxuriously enormous parking lot, bathrooms and pristine beach that were just over the hill in the opposite direction. And the night we arrived we almost just slept in the airport out of exhaustion but we reached out to that one last hotel and sure enough, someone picked up the phone. When you feel like quitting, try one more time, because fortune favors the tenacious.
All this sounds so Negative Nancy….go to Puerto Rico!!! It’s beautiful, and in December no one is there so it’s the perfect time to go. It’s cheap, easily accessible to all our Texan friends and a refreshing change of pace. We drank the best mojitos I’ve ever tasted, met incredibly friendly people everywhere and kayaking at the Bio Bay is going to go on my list of Favorite Travel Experiences. If you like being stunned into silence by the beauty of the natural world and also scaring outdoor-activity newbies with your kayaking paddle, that excursion is for you. You can rent a car for, not kidding, $6 a day, and why would you not go eat at the restaurant that brought the world the pina colada? Hilarity of our slight misfortunes and all, it was a stellar trip, and one I would highly recommend.
For more of Michal’s intelligence and wit, check out her Christian feminist blog, From Eve to Me.