If I stuck to my original plan of going to St. Lucia alone, the trip would have been very different. Not better or worse necessarily, just different.

Meeting your internet friends in person can be a rewarding decision. When I was a child growing up on York Avenue, a very white part of Manhattan, there wasn’t much opportunity to interact with other Black children. I was determined to add more melanin to my circle as I got older. Social media has been the bridge between me and some incredible Black folks I might not have met otherwise.

Stephanie is one such person.

When she suggested joining me on this Caribbean getaway, it was a gamble for both of us. We met once in Atlanta last November and before that, I don’t recall interacting at length online. There was no way around the fact that we barely knew each other. Considering this, the trip could have easily gone south. Not only was it flawless, we are eager to do more of the same with other Black women.

Our St. Lucian adventure started before we even got in the air. Our plane decided to do the Electric Slide on the runway due to some faulty mechanics. We disembarked at JFK, waited an hour and boarded a new aircraft. Other passengers were frazzled and irritated, but Steph and I took it in stride. We arrived in St. Lucia a few hours behind schedule, but at least we got there.

Steph and I are very similar. We do plenty of chatting and then withdraw into quiet contemplation. We didn’t need to be joined at the hip every second because there was joy in solitary activities like reading. Steph was great at delivering deadpan lines, and had me in stitches with her commentary on Tiger King. But above all, we were adventure-seekers. We wanted to soak up as much information as possible about St. Lucia, which neither of us visited before. That small island was endowed with so much beauty we didn’t know where to look next. They don’t call it Helen of the West for nothing!

Some travelers spend their first day getting settled, but we dove right into our first excursion. Our driver picked us up early from LaKay Mwen in Soufrière and took us to Gros Piton. The guide was fit since she did the climb twice a day. The large jagged rocks, uneven terrain and sharp inclines were taxing, but the views were fantastic. We carefully went back down at the midway point. But I wasn’t satisfied. There was no way I was going to leave without climbing Gros Piton in its entirety, which I did days later in the rain and fog.

Photo by Spencer Jones

The local beach in Soufrière was a bit rocky, but the turquoise water was a dream. We went to Treetop Adventure Park in Dennery, and did twelve ziplines through the rainforest. Steph was collected, but my screams were apparently loud enough to be heard by our driver some distance below. I wasn’t screaming out of fear- I’m just extra sometimes. If you’ve never flown past giant trees and vegetation while dangling hundreds of feet in the air, I highly recommend it.

Steph and I never got to meet Kisha, the owner of LaKay Mwen. But she often checked in with us to make sure that we had everything we needed. I accidentally bleached out about seven of her towels while doing the laundry, and offered to pay to replace them. The housekeeper thought it was hilarious, but I was embarrassed.

The drive to our second Air B n B in Gros Islet took about two hours. If you aren’t used to winding roads in the hills, with the odd chicken, goat or stray dog, it’s a little disorienting. But again, the views have a way of making you forget that.

Photo by Spencer Jones

Our last excursion was the Land and Sea Tour headed by Smalley, our friendly guide. On the bus going south, Steph and I met Deonne and Krystal from England. We stuck together for the seven hours, chatting and laughing like we hadn’t just met that day. I wasn’t surprised because magic happens when Black women link.

A speed boat met us in Soufrière and took us to Sugar Beach, where snorkeling was on offer. We took pictures below Toraille Waterfall, luxuriated in the famous sulfur springs, and got some gifts at a specialty chocolate shop on the side of the road. St. Lucia’s volcanic soil is ideal for cacao trees, and that’s why it’s the chocolate capital of the Caribbean.

Steph and I hoped to have dinner with our new friends, but the logistics didn’t allow it. I have no doubt we’ll link up again- perhaps sooner than expected.

I planned the excursions, but time was made for relaxation. Instead of horseback riding on our last day, Steph and I had lunch at Flavors Of The Grill. We sipped rum out of fresh coconuts on Pigeon Island Beach, and she floated close to shore while I went jet-skiing. Nigel, the most considerate driver, took us back to our accommodation just after sunset. That night, he took me to the Gros Islet street party which was back in full swing after two years. He could have simply left me in the crowd to dance and imbibe. But he kept an eye on me from a distance and I appreciated that.

What a nice departure St. Lucia was from the stress and stink of city life. How nice it was to be able to pluck fruits from the trees, fall asleep to cricket song and drink rum for breakfast. I can’t say that’s something I’ve ever done before, but that’s what vacation is all about. If you’re looking for a destination that is infused with warmth in every sense, St. Lucia provides.

Where will Steph and I go next? We’d love to visit every Caribbean island. If we do St. Lucia again (which we will), we’ll take the ferry to Dominica for more hiking. A resort stay in Jamaica with others would be fabulous. I’ve heard great things about South and Central America, too. So much to see, but you’re reminded that time is limited not to mention funds!

Healing is so important, now more than ever. I honestly can’t think of a better way to get it than to spend time with the Black people I care for and who care for me.