Paradise. Everyone's idea of paradise is a little different. For a long time I didn't think my version of paradise was a place that even existed on earth. I thought it was a far-off dream crafted in my imagination from hours of browsing magical destinations on Instagram. But when my feet hit the white sand on Paradise Island, I realized it was a real place and that my own eyes were seeing the beauty of this place right at the tip of my fingers. Crystal clear water in shades of blue and turquoise that goes as far as the eye can see, fresh pineapple and white sand and fish that look like the real life version of the iOS emoji. My paradise is in the middle of the ocean in the Dominican Republic and it's where I was lucky enough to spend the last day of 2016.
I've always enjoyed traveling but growing up my family didn't do a lot of it. When I got to university I felt so uncultured compared to my globe-trotting acquaintances. Everyone had seen so much of the world and I hadn't...yet. To no fault of my parent's either--they took us many places when my sister and I were growing up, but in typical teenager fashion when I compared myself to others it just didn't seem like I had done as much. I've done a lot of growing up since then and I've seen so much more of the world. Not as much as I want to (my list of places to go grows daily) but enough that if I died tomorrow, I'd be happy with the experiences I've had so far.
We landed in the Dominican Republic shortly after Christmas to soak up an entire week of relaxing. After one hell of a fall season I was in dire need of some serious R&R. All-inclusive vacations are a type of vacation where you go knowing that you'll spend most of the week parked on a lounge chair with a book in one hand, a pina colada in the other, and some strong UV rays penetrating your poor, winter-laden skin.
December 31, 2016 - the last day of the year. What a way to send it off. When we arrived at the beach about two hours away from our resort, we were greeted by a few stray dogs (my animal loving heart couldn't handle it! I'd have brought them all home if I could have,) and 3 boats. Two tin boats - yes, like fishing boats - and one larger boat that I definitely made sure we got on because going across the ocean in a tin boat set my worry into a downward spiral. We were each handed a life-jacket and off we went. After about 20 minutes of cruising across the wide open water and soaking up the salty spray of the ocean, we arrived at the island. Picture a sandbar in the middle of the ocean, a bucket of snorkel gear, a bartender and a few hours to swim around with the fish. Paradise.
Fresh pineapple that looked like diamonds! Yes please!
The fishies seriously looked identical to the emoji on the iPhone!
Even though I'm older, I'm still sometimes afraid of new experiences and the unknown. As a chronic worry-wart there are a lot of situations I avoid and experiences I pass on. But as I get a little bit older (and maybe a little wiser) I'm learning to take things as they come. Don't sweat the small stuff is an important mantra to keep in mind. For me, 2017 is about pushing boundaries--getting outside my comfort zone, collaborating, trying new things, traveling, and trying to put the worrying at bay to enjoy what life throws my way. Sounds a lot easier than it will be, but I'm looking forward to seeing more of the world with a fresh perspective. To new adventures in 2017!