Caribbean Day 22: Homeward

I’ve filled 6 pages of my passport in 1.5 years of travel with 10 countries. I think I’m averaging around 3 pages a year at the moment, with 36 open pages, and 9 years remaining on the validity of my passport. I am burning through vacation faster than I accrue it though, I had more than 3 weeks saved up, and now I’ll be down to just a handful, but I know next year it will be hard to get away, work is going to kick into high gear, and the months between March and Sept are going to be a bit crazy as we make the final push on our game. I’m glad I have the extra-large passport book right now. Ben had to get his extended and it cost a bundle and looks tacked on. Plus it wastes 2 pages when the amendment notes and tape go. At my current rate I should definitely be using more pages than the standard book even if I don’t fill the extended one. The trip likely next on deck goes back to SE Asia with a potentially Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Burma all using a full page for their visas plus space for stamps, so if we do that trip it’s going to go through more than 3 pages likely. It all depends on how much vacation can be put together though, and I probably won’t know until late, like November with a flight between Christmas and New Year’s.

At this point I’m pretty ready for the trip to be over. I don’t have time to do anything interesting, I’d rather be home. My flight leaves at 3, so there isn’t any rush to get to the airport, so wasting time it is! After sitting out on the porch working on a journal a few days old and mostly getting caught up, I walked around Basse Terre a bit. The city is vibrant and moving, but nothing particularly special. There is a square in town called The Circus named after something similar in London, and I found a nice place to enjoy a breakfast. The food was western as I suspected, but well done and I was happy. Walking around town slowly, nothing really strikes me, perhaps it’s my mood, but perhaps Basse Terre really doesn’t have much to offer. There is a really beautiful church in town and I regret not bringing a camera to take photos.

I check out and look for a bus, I guess yesterday’s wasn’t my last. I have trouble finding one who will take me to the airport, and even when I do he wants too much to get there, so I tell him to get me as close as he can for 3 EC. He spots the 10 USD still in my wallet, and I have to try to explain that since I’d be getting change in EC, the bus would cost a lot since I can’t use the change when I get home, that I just have to do with what EC I have left. I think he drops me closer than he said he would, not at the airport, but at the road entering it. I don’t have far to walk, but my god is it hot. I’m happy I didn’t elect to walk the entire way, I don’t want to be drenched in sweat and stinky for the whole 16 hours home. Even still by the time I get into the lobby I’m sweating. I decide before I check in, why not change into a new shirt, so I find the closest bathroom and change shirts and put on some more antiperspirant. Hopefully this will last.

In the lobby they had some very large fans so I post up there and watch the F1 race I’d downloaded. Looking at my travel documents I’m a tad worried, I have little time between my landing in Miami and flying out to LAX, and I have to pass through customs. I’m told this is a particularly slow airport to go through so I successfully get my seat moved a bit closer, just in case. As luck would have it my plane was there, but nearly an hour late boarding. Now my nerves were quite high. If I missed my flight to LAX, the next one wasn’t for 12 hours. Not only would that mean a 12 hour layover, but having to also figure out alternate transportation home since Jen wouldn’t be able to pick me up.

I got most of the way through a riveting GP before the plane finally boarded. I took my seat and waited as patiently as I could. However there weren’t too many people on the flight, certainly not overbooked, so I guess there was some time in the budget for taking off late, in the end we were off the ground just 30 minutes late. I now had 1hr30min to get through customs, totally doable, just a tad tight. The flight though made up even more time and had us at the airport 15 minutes early! I still wanted to clear customs early, wondering if I could change my flight to the one an hour earlier so we could get to be at a more reasonable time. Immigration was a breeze; I found the short line for US citizens hidden behind a wall and beat my luggage to the carrousel. It didn’t take too long for my luggage to make its way out as well and I was off. Customs I fibbed a bit and said I had nothing to declare. I didn’t have anything that wouldn’t have passed, just 2 bottles of rum equal to the max I can bring in, but I didn’t want to waste my time or theirs so I just said I didn’t have anything to declare. After a long walk and a tram to the domestic airport I found an AA employee and asked about changing my flight. Sadly it costs $150 with them to change flights, and my bags couldn’t be re-routed since I checked them in back in St. Kitts (despite having to bring them through customs). Oh well, but now I had time for dinner. I had hardly eaten all day and I found a gourmet burger joint that hit the spot.

My last flight of the trip left on time and I was seated behind and next to some Kings fans who were watching the score right up until the last minute. I’m so happy I’ll get to watch the end of the playoffs, and the Kings are in it for the first time since I was a kid playing hockey. Go Kings Go! The flight was uneventful, but even it was early! Really too early, Jen had been moving furniture into her new apt with the help of her parents who were in town, and was still all the way back in Agoura Hills when I landed. I ended up having to wait a good 45 min at the curb, though really 30 of that was just the plane landing earlier than expected. I was happy to see her, it’s been a long 3 weeks.

All in all the trip was a success, though maybe less so than others. I disappointed myself with my planning, I had no idea how similar Nevis, Kitts, St. Lucia, and Dominica would be. Dominica by far was the best, but most things I experienced there were mirrored to a lesser extent on the other islands. In retrospect I wish I’d flown larger leaps and started in Dominica before going to Saba (what a gem!!) and then on to a Spanish Caribbean island like Dominican Republic (not that that wouldn’t cause confusion), or the Bahamas or elsewhere.

I think I did much better job packing this time, my pack was much lighter than in China, and had enough room for souvenirs Rum. I did get a bit too much eaten alive by mosquitoes, and I wish I had brought these pants I saw that were super thin full length cotton. I’ve seen them before in boat clothing stores and they look quite light to pack but also cool and would help with the mosquitoes better. I felt like I always had what I needed for the trip. The big standout improvements were having shorts, carrying a water proof camera, and a foldable day pack. I found that I used the water proof camera nearly half the time because I didn’t care if I dropped it or it got stolen, and I loved taking it in the water. I also found myself much more worried than normal about my SLR, mostly it being stolen. I think next time I go third world I might leave it behind, or just try to be ok with the fact that it’s a calculated risk it might be stolen.

Ben from Dominica was trying to convince me I need to travel lighter, but I’m not sure I necessarily agree. I don’t feel like I’m carrying my pack all the time these days, and I would still need to check my baggage to carry things like Rum home, or toothpaste and mouth wash, etc. I like having fresh clothes to change into and not having to worry about washing or double wearing them too often. I feel like for me I’ve struck a pretty good middle ground of roughing it and being light, and having everything I need.

Well until the next trip!

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