Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Kristen Crawford.
This Traveler Found Peace & Serenity in St. Martin
After a high-energy, highly extroverted birthday party experience in 2021, Kristen Crawford decided this year she wanted to just chill. For years, her birthday had been an over-the-top extravaganza fueled by excursion-filled trips, lavish events, and raw adventure. But this year something was different.
“I made it very clear that I just wanted to chill,” Crawford said. “I wanted to clear my mind and slow down because I live in New York so everything is fast all the time. It’s always a thrill here; never dull. So I wanted to have quite the opposite of all of that.”
Zen and relaxation were on the menu as Crawford’s girlfriend began planning the trip. Initially, the pair planned on visiting Bali for her birthday. But some confusion over travel insurance and vaccination status thwarted their plans and landed them in a sunnier destination instead.
Although the crisp, white sand beaches of St. Martin were Crawford and her partner’s second choice, the vacation was a life-changing experience that brought them face to face with peace and serenity. Of Caribbean descent, Crawford had always had a fascination with learning about other Caribbean cultures and was drawn to the small island because of its abundance of beaches and crystal blue water.
“I myself am Caribbean so I find that I take a liking to Caribbean culture in general because even though we all share the same culture, we don’t,” she said. “It’s different everywhere you go, so I’m always curious to visit other Caribbean cultures because I feel a sense of belonging.”
Nicknamed the Friendly Island, St. Martin is a kingdom of the Netherlands divided into two parts. With one side ruled by the Dutch and the other by the French, St. Martin is a diverse melting pot of people, culture, and collective experiences. The island is a popular destination for tourists looking for exotic beach resorts and also a hot spot for ex-pats from around the world.
The couple spent eight days taking in the beauty of the island. They stayed in an Airbnb on the French side of town that had a patio facing a beach and they spent their early hours watching morning light cascade over the white sand. With relaxation at the forefront, Crawford’s partner mapped out their entire stay. Each day they visited a different beach and, of all the shores they strolled on, Mullet Bay Beach was Crawford’s favorite.
“All the beaches are beautiful, but I don’t know if it had to do with layout, but there was just an energy I felt like was my favorite and the water was perfect,” she said.
It was at Mullet Bay the couple met a friendly local who gave them a list of the best beaches to check out on the island. They visited Maho Beach, which borders the airport, and laid shoreside as planes landed not far from where they were sitting. When they visited Kemsha Beach, a local massage therapist gave them massages as they watched the waves and took Crawford to the peak of relaxation. After the massage, the male therapist massaged her scalp and began braiding her hair Crawford began to dose off on the beach as she drifted away into euphoria.
“That was my moment of peak relaxation,” she said. “It was like this was what I wanted; this is that feeling right here.”
Crawford had been very intentional about what she desired for her 32nd birthday experience in St. Martin. The fast-paced lifestyle of New York had begun to weigh on her and she needed physical and emotional rest. So, unlike their past trips, the couple avoided excursions. However, they did visit Pinel Island, dine on a dinner cruise, and vibe out in some of St. Martin’s exhilarating nightlife spots. Sunday is the hottest night for club hopping on the island and the two ladies danced into the evening at hotspots in the Dutch neighborhood like District 721, a two-part club with go-go dancers and an eclectic, diverse crowd. Although the clubs were filled with people from all over the world, Crawford described the energy as welcoming and inclusive.
“Everyone is welcoming and it makes you feel like anyone can belong and that’s how I felt there,” she said. “I was literally treated like royalty there from complete strangers and it was just based off a vibe.”
Since her vacation in St. Martin, Crawford has found herself revived and refreshed. The trip reignited a spark in her soul and gave her that feel-good energy she was looking for. The beautiful people and culture of St. Martin left a lasting impression on her and she believes when she returned home she left a piece of herself behind on the island.
“I felt fulfilled leaving and I felt reset and I felt that recharge that I needed so that when I got back to my hustle and bustle, I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed anymore because it gave me that slice of relaxation that I felt like I needed and deserved,” she said.
Believing that vacations provoke untapped feelings and ignite passion in the heart, Crawford left St. Martin having learned how to slow down and take it easy. Traveling to the Caribbean island helped her rediscover an essence she had lost in herself and it brought her back to all the happy feelings that set her soul on fire.
“Life has a way of chipping away at that sometimes and making you desensitized but going on vacation makes you feel alive and makes you feel again,” she said.