Photo Credit: Neena getting married in Jamaica
After Losing Her Fiancé While Vacationing In St. Maarten, This Black Woman Says “I Do” In Jamaica
Over a decade ago, Neena unexpectedly experienced the tragic loss of her fiancé, Russell, while they were vacationing in St. Maarten. The trauma and grief that followed was overwhelming. During that time, she turned to her source of personal joy – travel.
Just over a year ago, a trip to Jamaica changed the trajectory of her entire life and allowed her to find love again with an open heart.
Neena opened up to Travel Noire to share her story and her personal journey to the altar.
How did you and your husband meet?
Peter and I met on a snorkeling trip in Negril, Jamaica. It was our last day on the island. The boat driver picked up me and my friend on the beach, but he had to make one stop before we could go out on the ocean. He told us that he needed to find assistance because he couldn’t actually snorkel and manage the boat at the same time. We stopped at Margaritaville and the boat driver asked if anyone was available to help. One man approached the boat. He looked at the boat, made eye contact with me, flashed a big cheesy smile, rolled up his pants, took off his shoes, hopped on the boat, and a year later, to the day, we are exchanging vows and making plans for happily ever after.
What made you want to get married abroad?
I have always envisioned myself getting married by the water. Every dream I’ve ever had about my wedding day included white sand, bare feet, and a clear blue sea. My husband also holds a Jamaican passport, which doesn’t come with the privilege of being able to travel to the States without a visa, so Jamaica just made sense. I’ve also been to enough weddings, both domestically and abroad, to know that the people who love and care for you will show up for you no matter where in the world you are.
Was it difficult to open your heart up to love again after the sudden passing of your fiancé?
It was absolutely difficult, and I spent many many years avoiding doing that work. I had been in previous relationships before meeting my husband, but they all had some element of distance, either literally or figuratively. In that space, I could feel safe, I could feel in control, I could feel like I was protecting my heart from being vulnerable, but that was no way to live and it honestly was a lie. It took a really good therapist to help me recognize the patterns of distance I was creating, not only in my relationships but in my platonic friendships as well. I was physically present but absent emotionally and the things I did feel, I mainly kept to myself. Once I was fully able to process the fears of having my heart ripped from my chest again, I was able to open myself up to the fullness of love, and then the universe sent Peter my way.
He has shined a light on pieces of me that have long been covered up by hurt and grief, parts of me that I didn’t even know still existed. I feel whole in his presence, and that feels like such a beautiful thing. In the last year, I’ve learned that no amount of fear can outweigh the amazingness of love if you’re willing to do the work. Peter makes that work so much easier.
I think I fell in love with him all over again when we were getting new tattoos and he looked at Russell’s fading name on my wrist. His exact words were, “you should get it brightened, he’s part of you”. That type of understanding doesn’t come along every day. When it does, it’s important to embrace it with your whole heart, leaving no space for fear.
How has travel continued to play an important role in your life and in your relationships?
Before COVID-19 shut the world down, I would travel back and forth to Jamaica at least once a month, sometimes twice. Because of the limitations placed on my husband’s passport, we haven’t been able to travel in a way that I’m accustomed to, but we continue to explore all the nooks and crannies Jamaica has to offer, and we’ve taken a trip to Panama. I’ve created a list of places he can go without needing a visa. We plan to tackle those as soon as the world opens back up. Travel has been an important part of my identity since I was a little girl. I’m blessed to have another life partner who is as equally excited about it as I am. I’m looking forward to all of the great travel adventures that are ahead of us.