“Living with fear stops us taking risks, and if you don’t go out on the branch, you’re never going to get the best fruit.” – Sarah Parish
For the month of April, I decided to chase the flight and not the destination, which landed me in Antigua, the country (Antigua and Barbuda), for a week. And because I was chasing the flight deal, I booked my trip without prior knowledge of the country except for entry and exit requirements, and less than a month before departure.
I literally knew nothing about this island. I had no itinerary, no expectations, and no plans. I figured I could hit the ground running and figure out my moves in real-time.
But if you know anything about Antigua, then you know that this might not have been the best way to go. I stayed in Saint Johns — the capital. And my only plan was to live like a local. That’s it. I had no plans of renting a car because I never felt comfortable driving around a new location solo, so my only set plan was to travel around Antigua via public transportation and my two feet. Which is much easier said than done.
Public transportation isn’t widely accessible. There are no route taxis (like in Trinidad), so you must walk if you’re not driving or hiring a private taxi. Which I was okay with… at first.
On my first full day in the country, I walked to the beach, a 20-minute walk from my accommodation, which sounded alright, if I didn’t get lost, and turned around a few times.
Getting lost in the hot Antiguan sun made my journey to the beach a bit taxing. But I made it there and back. The trip was complete, and day one was a success!
The next day, I took the bus into town. And by the fourth day in Antigua (after being rained out on the third), I was over it. Yes, I said it, over it!
Of all the countries I’ve been to, Antigua was the hardest for me to navigate. I was physically and mentally tired of trying to get around this country. So I had two sets of plans for my last two days in the country: Thursday would be my last beach day, Friday I would visit Devil’s Bridge, and then Saturday, I would organize myself to go home.
But then, by chance, I met someone. A local that lived on the same street as me.
One night, he came over to speak to me and was the sweetest.
After we shared a few words, plans for hanging out came up. We agreed on going to the beach together but never set a time. So when the day came, I didn’t think much of it. I organized myself and got ready to head to the beach solo until I heard someone calling me. It was my neighbor. He asked if I was still up for going to the beach. I said yes, and gave him time to get ready, and that was the start of the best day of my trip in Antigua.
Jaquan is his name.
Jaquan and I went to the beach, and what felt like mere minutes in the ocean was actually hours. We spent 3+ hours swimming and talking. Then one thing led to another, and I agreed to see one of his favorite places on the island and where he was originally from.
If you think about it, this was a significant risk because we’d only shared a few words twice before this outing.
I agreed to go however far with a perfect stranger in his car to explore a new area of Antigua.
But in all situations, I only do what feels right. And Jaquan had what felt like a very gentle spirit, so I never once felt uncomfortable with him. And that’s how I ended up on this big adventure.
Side note: I believe that you can feel when something is off with a person. When their intentions aren’t the purest, or they’re not the best person, you should hang around. I didn’t get that feeling from him.
So after the beach, we both went home to shower and get ready for the day. And that was the start of the best three days of my Antigua trip.
Jaquan and I explored the East, South, and West of Antigua. He started our excursion by visiting the one place I mentioned I wanted to see before leaving — Devils Bridge, and then continued to his favorite spots and a quick stop at his family home. We drove around for hours. Listening to music, stopping to take in the sights, and having a ball. After the day was done, we continued to hang out. We ate dinner, talked some more, and planned for the next day.
The next day was packed with the same excitement. After Jaquan got off of work, we took on the road. I got to see new beaches. Try new food spots and really see his Antigua. I even got to see places that I would’ve never seen under any other circumstances.
Hours passed like minutes while we explored. I only realized how much time we spent exploring from the sunsets.
Then on my last day, we explored the northern part of Antigua before I had to go to the airport. And I loved every moment of our explorations. He even met me at the airport before I had to say my final goodbye. And by this time, I felt like I had a best friend in Antigua. All by taking a risk.
I can’t believe that I had this much of a great time just by taking a risk and trusting a stranger.
Before we met, I was ready to pack up my trip and write Antigua off, and then bam! I had the best three days of my trip. Better than I could’ve ever asked for. And when the question of why came up, Jaquan told me that he wanted me to have a good story to tell when I went back home because when he saw me walking around the neighborhood, he wondered how much I could’ve really been seeing.
And if I didn’t take that risk, I wouldn’t have gotten to know such a magical person. Nor see all of what Antigua had to offer.
So that’s how taking a risk allowed me to see the best of Antigua.