St. Lucia feels like home, even if home for you is of a parallel universe. I’m not sure if it’s the people, the climate, the amazing views, or the likeness to what I envision when I think of the afterlife, but something about arriving in St. Lucia for the first time still feels like I’ve returned.

I only had one full day to explore and get a taste of St. Lucia, so I figured the best way to venture was with a local at your side. I met Curtis early in the morning, he easily cleared 6 foot, his dreads were swept up in a cap and his skin looked like mahogany. I instantly felt at ease with Curtis. He introduced himself and helped me into his taxi. It was a familiar feeling, I felt as if I was meeting a family member who asked me to come along while he ran his errands, if of course his errands where to show me the island of St. Lucia. He began telling me stories of the island, pointing through his driver’s seat window to landmarks and infamous food spots as we drove along.

As we left the city, the trees became denser as we made our way up a very steep hill. With the island breeze blowing on my face and through my hair, Curtis identified the breadfruit, avocado, mango trees and all of the other produce that grew on the rich soil of the island. I asked Curtis if the coordinator had shared the itinerary I proposed in my email with him. “Chill, your on island time” he crooned. It came out like a song, and instead of being annoyed like I would normally be if someone had avoided my question in such a condescending way, I smiled. There was something about his island dialect & his smile that truly tranquilized me. He informed me that we will see it all and claimed quite valiantly, “I’m going to make you want to come back to St. Lucia.”

We made several stops by the time mid-morning rolled around. I had bought an art piece made out of an extinct type of wood called Laurier Canelle and had it signed by the sculptor Eudovic. I had a snake draped around my neck, and drank my share of coconut water spiked with rum. I even picked a banana out of a banana patch that was home to the tallest banana trees I have ever seen. During our travels he stopped in the valley of Soufriere and pulled into a neighborhood, which for lack of better words looked like the ghetto. He told me wait there and popped into a house. As soon as he was gone he came back. “I had to order some creole bread for when we come back this way! You have to taste it,” he exclaimed. Curtis seemed to know everybody. The whole day has almost felt like a family reunion.

The Soufriere volcano is locally known as the Sulfur Springs. The volcano is dormant but still emits steam and sulphur with boiling mud and water. As we pulled in park, a familiar smell found my nose. If you took chemistry in high school you will probably remember cracking childish jokes while doing an experiment involving sulphur. It smells like rotten eggs, like B.O on 100; it smells putrid. After the touristy part of the volcano tour we finally made it to the mud bath. The mud is a greyish color and there were tourists happily lying in the sun baking with the mud caked on their skin. Curtis informed me that the temperature of the bath was 104 degrees Fahrenheit and to be careful as I made my way in. As I spread the mud on my face and arms I realized that this was strangely similar to some hundred-odd dollar spa treatment I’d experienced before. For 5 bucks and some patience, I received a five-star spa treatment without having to act bougie in a swank spa facility. As the mud dried and I began to wash it off, Curtis stops me, “No leave it on come, come!” and back in the taxi we go, me covered in mud.

“Curtis, how am I going to get this mud off?” I asked. “Chill,” he croons again, perhaps for the third time today. After a five minute drive we made it to empty field and every stern warning my mother gave me about traveling came to mind. But then I noticed a man sitting on a rock, barefoot near an opening in the trees. “Shabba!” Curtis greets the man and informed me that he was taking me for a swim in a waterfall. Shabba and I hit it off, maybe because I was amused by his name & can’t stop saying “SHABBA!” in the chant-like way I know you’ve heard before. He led me through the trees along a worn path, both of our feet bare. We finally made it to the waterfall and it’s breathtakingly beautiful. The water runs down iridescent limestone that has been shaped by the water and appears to be smooth. Shabba tells me to enjoy my swim but warns me, “There are healing powers in there! I swim in it everyday and I’m 66! If you stay too long you’ll turn into a baby.” I know black don’t crack, but Shabba was definitely not 66. I laugh and he winks, I let him have his joke. Standing under a waterfall is an experience worth having. The sound of pure water running over your head can drown out any thought that’s weighing heavy on your mind. After spending a good amount of time there, Shabba and I make our way back to Curtis.

The Pitons, St Lucia’s two volcanic mountains, are some of the island’s best landmarks and being ridiculously beautiful I had to find a way to have a closer view of them. I originally thought of climbing them but after reading horror stories of people falling off, I opted out. I have a major love for resorts with amazing views and amazing restaurants alike. Though hotels with Michelin starred restaurants are often out of my budget, I still love to visit them for lunch or to use their spa facilities. I don’t know how to describe it but sometimes when I am met with a view that is beyond words I let out a scream. This is what happened when I walked into the lobby at Ladera. The south wall was completely open from floor to ceiling, displaying one of the most insane views I had ever seen. Seeing the pitons that close was almost unreal, you almost can’t tell how massive they truly are from afar. In between the two, the ocean met the sky in a way that had an almost gradient effect and I couldn’t tell where the ocean stopped and the sky met. Being that close to something so large just affirmed how small we truly are in the hands of nature.

This story was curated by Chenice Gilbert.