No two places are the same. When you arrive somewhere new, the first impressions are always interesting. When I left Jamaica as a small boy, some 50 plus years ago, the things that struck me as I arrived in new lands were climatic. It was autumn, and Newfoundland felt like the Arctic to my little body, fresh out of the Tropics. When I landed in Endlad, it was less cold,but the damp mist or fog were bizarre new elements. When you travel around the world, climate is a natural difference,but so too are physical structures, languages, how people act, and more.
No two Caribbean islands are alike, and their differences can be all of the above, and more. I lived in Barbados for about three years in the mid-2000s. I enjoyed living there. I’ve been back a few times, but this was the first trip there since going back to Jamaica. The first difference–small, but notable–is that you have to walk down steps onto the tarmac. That brings me back to trips to Jamaica many decades ago, when the first impression was of the hot air hitting lungs that had gotten used to hours of air conditioned breathing.
It was one of my first trips travelling with just hand luggage and I was done with Immigration and Customs within 10 minutes, the longest time taken being for the Customs officer to put on her hygienic gloves. I got my rental car and was in my south coast hotel within one hour of arriving on the island. Admitted, I had landed at night, and traffic was light. But, there too, the differences are striking. Kingston is a hubbub all the time into the wee hours. Barbados is asleep, it seems, after 9pm. I saw one man walking the highway in the dark. I saw no goats or pigs, or pan chicken stands, or even ladies of the night. The sounds of the sea and waves I could hear from my room seemed to sum up the languid feel. I was staying at a place where I used to live for a few months, and it had its familiar feel.
Morning showed me little surprising. I’d decided to not have the waves lull me to sleep, but dawn did its trick and I was up and ready to have a sea bath. Of course, I was not first on the beach. Some people looking like tourists from cooler northern climes were walking. Some men sounding like Bajans were walking to my beach, with snorkels in hand, and they were soon in the sea swimming back from where they had walked. I took a short walk on the soft white sandy beach, then went for my little soak in the salt water.
Barbados is small enough to easily drive around in a day. It has few hills of any real steepness or height. It has fabulous beaches, and beautiful sea. It has very good roads, and I never touched a pot hole on my drive from the airport. Lighted neighbourhoods are what you view on approaching at night. Its palm trees are lining the sandy fringe of the land. It’s like paradise. It’s what tourists dream of.