If the photo is really really professional looking, then the photography credit goes to Paul Woo.
PRESS play and read the post with the music . . .
“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” – John A. Shedd
You’re going to miss the pre-orientation before everything would almost go to hell with omicron, and then the actual orientation being in the middle of your random shift as official COVID-19 screeners for the NYE Ball Drop in Times Square; desperate times call for desperate measures, and as long as we can lay our hands on these mythical gold standard rapid PCR tests and test negative we’d be cleared to travel. And forging ahead onto 6am flights the next morning out to an island we’ve all never been, we quell our acid reflux of the dry hot pot from the night before and bounce ourselves onto the priority lane so we won’t miss our connecting flight that was about to depart on island time anyway.
You’re going to miss the freedom in the first hour of a new adventure, already missing it before it was over, while you aimlessly wander around ghost town vibes of a shuttered Caribbean capital knowing that nobody you know really knows where you are.
You’re going to miss live music at sunset and before curfew, the rooftop dinner at the only hotel in the city, ordering everything on the menu and half-heartedly saving a plate for one of your own as he lives up to his reputation of the Bad News Brian with flights, taking a bottle of wine back to your suite and downing it within minutes despite the otherwise turtle pace of “We’re Not Really Strangers”, playing music as we patiently stay up and witness a series of your last arrival’s misadventures at an empty taxi stand, then celebrating his eventual deliverance before heading to bed only to wake up to a bunch of unfortunate updates . . .
You’ll miss the best fried fish sandwich you may have ever placed in your mouth, then heading over to the source for seconds and discovering your bias how it was made by the hand of your own people and speaking in 4 different tongues at once, ordering a bunch more because we support our own, revisiting all the sites you had walked by yesterday and then having one more round of rooftop drinks before setting off into the unknown with an unknown driver, the impromptu stops on the road for a mountaintop church, the impromptu lessons on horticulture, and the impromptu shots of locally made rum as you make it to your destination more pleased than you would have expected considering the otherwise unfortunate circumstances, and collecting every little moment and synchronicity in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants caper unfolding in real time.
You’re going to miss appreciating more how the sweet is never as sweet as the sour, with the hope of a replacement skipper to arrive and the first sighting of your home for the next week, picking and setting up your rooms with way less drama this time around because everyone essentially is now almost getting their own private rooms for half the cost, and then having a BBQ al fresco dinner right in the nick of time right before curfew.
You may not miss the awakening to dismay, as if you were a deflated balloon returning back to square one when finding out that your happy and asymptomatic replacement skipper would head to quarantine hotel after testing positive for COVID-19, but you will still miss your very own original skipper from 3 months ago stopping by in person to say hello, receiving thanks for dropping off some gifts for us and informing one of our yachts from the prior trip was sitting right next to us in the marina, and then hope rebuilt by kismet when we would meet another skipper and chef at the marina (who just happened to be sailing with their kids nearby) and how they would agree to take us after one of their friends vouched for us when we dined at one of their restaurants earlier in the marina. You’ll then miss the tiny hands relative to grand conversations late into the night and having one of your own open up to strangers in a way they have never done so before, before falling asleep to an uncertain morning.
You’re going to miss waking up to the light of a new dawn when the third time’s the charm and your new skipper and chef would test negative on both a rapid antigen and PCR, hitting all hands on decks immediately to sail downwind the wild open oceans, feeling the wind at your back for a trip that now appears to be manifesting itself with the right energy and the right signs, the urgency of making it to Rodney Bay in time before the port health office closes that would have left you otherwise stranded in Quarantine Bay, rushing to the office to get stamped and cleared in with your negative PCR tests and proof of full vaccination, the joy of getting your wristbands that made up for your Yacht Week ones, the afternoon coffee to celebrate, the James Bond style mission taking a dinghy out at night for provisional shopping, and your first properly homecooked meal of the trip as you try to belie your surprise how circumstances would make a 180 turn so quickly from the day before, especially as the instruments come out for a night of music under the stars.
You’re going to miss waking up to the gorgeous views of the Pitons revealing themselves along the coastline, spraying an open bottle of champagne for the main event of the week as they loom before you like majestic diamonds on the waves, trying to control yourself as we collectively soon changed into matching swimsuits just for that shot you’ve waited months to take, and then jumping into the deep blue waters for the first time, swimming yourself to abandon, before haggling down and purchasing fresh live lobsters from local fisherman and enjoying them by the reverie of sunset.
But most of all, you’re going to miss the silent reveries on the water while staring up at a night sky full of stars, before drifting off and not knowing what kind of dreams you’d still have if you were already living in one.
You’re going to miss waking up to a delightful breakfast spread and morning coffee, setting off on a dinghy to Sugar Beach to reset your gut and set off on your only workout of the trip. While you may not miss the arduous uphill climbs, taking a wrong fork in the road, debating whether you’d really want to summit the Pitons, and the dismay over what people would call a “waterfall” these days (nothing personal; I blame climate change), you will miss showering away that sweat under the falls, the slow hike along the coastline trying to pick out which one was your yacht, making your greetings to the locals, and the curious exploration of another tiny town before eating a local Creole lunch, picking up more provisional items and the quick sail to “the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean” so you can make it in time to be reunited with a monsooner who at first thought she was merely crashing our orientation 3 months ago, but really was planting the seed to join us anyway at this eleventh hour.
But you won’t miss the mosquitos that fed on us later that night. They were awful.
You’re going to miss raising the roof (literally) to an open deck, licking your wounds to that pesky bloodsucker that tried to keep you up all night, lazily making your way to the spa life at the bay resort, the endless photos at the beach across the bay, inhaling local seafood for lunch, and then bidding au revoir to a double rainbow behind us, sailing out back towards the Pitons for one more look by sunset — and this time they look grander than ever underneath more double rainbows and epic monsoons as the soft mist lands against your face as if dreams became waking life — before retiring in the waters next to Pigeon Island for another night underneath the stars.
You’re going to miss the second to last dinghy ride out to Pigeon Island so you can drop off and say your first goodbye to one of your own, a quick photoshoot on a manmade causeway, and the high energy dance and karaoke party as we got revved up for the incoming crashing of the open sea on our way back to Martinique.
And while you won’t miss the near vomiting in your mouth for 5 hours of Inception-like theatrics in rough seas, you will miss the brief storms that washed worries away as we finally docked by Saint-Anne, the happy smiles of a family reunited, the last opportunity for a swim and dives before it got too cold, the live music over an early dinner by sunset in the foreground, and one final dinghy roundtrip to a charming and somehow fully booked colonial town you could gallivant and feast upon.
You’re going to miss the final sail back to the base marina, the penultimate round of drinks onboard, the attempt to finish off as much of your groceries as you can, waking up to one last breakfast by the sea, counting down the minutes before they finally kick you off this boat, the hugs goodbye to your skipper and chef over promises to sail with them again, the dash to your cab off to a very early arrival to the airport, the roundtrip undertaking to pick up a winter jacket you had forgotten at the first hotel, one of you almost losing and retrieving your phone in the cab, befriending a DJ at the airport who recognizes your group from the shirt one of us had been wearing, the 45 minute flight together to a butterfly-shaped island, getting stuck in traffic with a feisty passive aggressive taxi driver, settling into a charming AirBnB, and ending the trip with how you began it: aimlessly wandering around ghost town vibes of a shuttered Caribbean capital and again knowing that nobody you know really knows where you are.
You’re going to miss the last dinner together outside and again ordering everything on the menu, the happy discovery that this place serves your favorite travel bad habit, inviting over your new friend you had just made in a different country to join in the carousing of sharing stories right before curfew, celebrating the unanimous negative testing for COVID-19 so you can all be cleared to return home, waking up for a surreal brief cup of coffee to the morning haze, taking in stride a stressed out cab driver not wanting be on island time, trying to perfect the outcome of your first espresso vending machine experience, and window shopping airport lounges in Miami Airport before we finally said our goodbyes to the trip — but not each other — as our separate flights would take us back to where we started . . . and ironically closer to each other than ever before.
Because we would know after a trip like this, where despite the looming specter of an external uncontrollable plague force that threatens everyday to cow us into inaction, would instead only serve to remind ourselves what would be possible when we dedicate ourselves in the pursuit of a true adventure . . .
. . . one that dares us to live truth in dreams we’ve always dreamed of.
Did you press play yet? Are you hearing music playing?
OK, you can keep reading then.
You’re going to miss …
…the moment you were invited to come on your first Yacht Week (YW), realized how opposite it would be from a typical monsoon, and then decided not to pass judgement unless you tried it at least once (or twice). You’ll then miss all the introduction e-mails, pre-orientations, trying to find 8 decent looking swimsuits, more orientations, wondering how to pack regular clothes with a week of elegant costuming and no suitcase, keeping track of all the chat groups, trip updates, new apps, feeling disorientated by who’s saying what, and yet a burgeoning anticipation of what could possibly happen in a week with 34 seemingly both random and hand-picked strangers sailing the Tyrrhenian Sea.
. . . But deep down, we secretly knew the universe was up to something.
You’re going to miss …the anxiety of packing for your first trip since the pandemic, paired with the sudden travel declaration changes in the EU, tripled by the chaotic weather patterns right before you left, and oh yes more anxiety of whether you’d even arrive at all, to finally reach the odd revelatory feeling of witnessing dominoes fall into place when you defeated insurmountable odds as the Red Sea seemingly parted before you. And through it all, you’ll miss the gradual appreciation for the growing message threads that would tie us together, mirroring your own yearning for a novelty that had been eclipsed by the pandemic; threads that drew from wandering hearts of wonder, as we took our initial steps towards liberation knowing sweet is never as sweet without the sour.
You’re going to miss …landing at your final destination and seeing faces you only had known from Zoom calls, breaking the ice in shared cabs, not sure how to turn down maggot-infused cheese and giving in anyway, exchanging plates of food with a group of complete strangers for your first group dinner in a foreign country in months, the taste of fresh gelato after as you walked up and down a single boulevard of unbroken dreams and new promises, feeling both lost and found as camaraderie built in a noisy suite at the after-after party before you passed out in your last stationary bed on land for the week.
You actually might not miss the flash floods that overwhelmed the roads the next day while waiting to be checked in as you fought off panicked sewer roaches the size of your palm to rescue your luggage, while considering prematurely inflating your floaties to escape …that was not fun. But the brightest rainbows come only after a storm, and you will miss the first walk down the aisle of yachts as the weather cleared, dodging awkwardness as you picked your coffin ..ahem room.. for the week, filled up the cabinets of your new home, celebrating the birthday of the most sober birthday girl in the world, before getting dressed for your first night out to meet the rest of TYW fleet. You’ll also miss what was supposed to be a wholesome night became something entirely alternative with …lots of whipped cream … as you then returned back to the marina with no time wasted to party more, all the while making sure we’d be united in setting our boundaries for the days to come.
You’re going to miss …waking up to footsteps on the deck above you as your skipper prepared for first sail, then really waking up to the Lion King theme blasted from the stereo, before ascending to the open sea, and embracing the long awaited feeling of physical, emotional, and spiritual freedom as a sun-kissed wind enveloped your naked skin for the first time. You’re going to miss the first dive into open waters, swimming (or learning to swim) with your new friends, spending way too long and feeling like your arms were going to fall off from inflating floaties for the first time, tasting freshly curated meals onboard as land approached, and feeling a new kind of alive as you watched the La Maddalena archipelago growing larger before you.
You’ll probably get nostalgic over docking at all-day cafés that rarely understood the concept of iced coffee, the 18th-century town exploration, your first e-bike ride of unknown destination, and tending to monsooners’ injuries as you begin the habit of picking them up after they fall. You’ll even miss how you got dressed in an outfit entirely made of sequins for a dockside disco party only to bring the party back for a yacht against yacht dance-off, after which, you first discovered the illuminating sensation of chatting until sunrise.
You’re going to miss …the next morning’s northward drift towards new countries, approaching the unique natural coastlines of Corsica, snorkeling to shore with fresh sea urchins in hand, cliff-diving into a lagoon, the unraveling of a timeless seaport as you dock in the marina of Bonifacio and the group fights another to hijack an entire train to the top of the citadel.
You’re also be sure to reminisce over long walks through the antiquing town and cemeteries with no plan other than bringing back a semblance of a monsoon, before the following dinner and afterparty where we’d be bringing down the house with endless bottle service. You’ll then miss returning for our first group card-game during which arms were cleaned and truths, connections, and shades of attractions would be established and remodeled. And then you might remember witnessing some toxic masculine rage from afar while thanking your lucky stars you didn’t have to worry about anyone like that in your crew.
You’re going to miss …waking up (nahhhzavenya) to a day entirely on open water, the epic atmosphere of competing amongst 21 yachts sailing side by side during the Regatta, which led to an injury requiring you to care for another fellow monsooner with a yet unnamed medicine bag that hadn’t been used in nearly 7 years. You’ll miss docking at an inlet near Maddalena for a day-long festival of swimming down a tunnel of blow-up pizzas, lobsters, eggplants, and llamas, crossing onto other yachts to meet those you may have noticed but were too preoccupied to approach, both synchronized and unsynchronized diving, devouring another delicious dinner with your yacht before returning to the festivities, getting down to bhangra, rescuing your life-jacket adorned friends from the water and other yachts, teaching your friends how to swim, enjoying music and chats beneath the stars, and falsely believing you could finally go to bed early for once, only to have a shooting star tell you “not today.”
And when you look back on that night afterwards, you will realize we are just a culmination of the tiniest decisions — dare I say seemingly random meteor shower moments — that had felt at the time as if they neither would matter nor add up . . . until they do.
You’re going to miss …being woken up (pass me those caffeine pills?) to pose for a long-planned black swimsuit shoot with the entire group, before arriving in Poltu Qualtu for an entire day at the beach club where “The Spy Who Loved Me” was filmed. You’ll miss flipping your circadian rhythms with the DJ’s tempo, this time underneath a garish sun while balancing friends and glasses on body parts in ways you didn’t think possible, followed by hours of intimate questions over hookah, and an impromptu concert where everyone huddled around one monsooner like a Sofar by Sea, singing Hallelujah in harmony as people on the dock joined in and cheered (with a touch of envy). What followed after was the repeat of a card game with a group getting to know one another just a little bit better, where newer, more intimate truths were divulged. Or maybe you wish you could forget this part (But I won’t).
You’re going to miss …waking up roping the yachts together for the epic circle raft YW is known for, the last dives in unison at the drop of “Peanut Butter Jelly,” the odyssey of floaties in one final run, the impromptu last minute makeshift wound-dressing that MacGyver’s your way into the water of your first and last floating festival, joining our yachts together again for a Mexican fiesta onboard before sailing among the super yachts of the Rolex Cup, learning Queen B was somewhere in attendance, and docking in Porto Cervo for a free day of cafés, shopping, and a serendipity that lead to wakeboarding on a million dollar yacht.
And while you’ll certainly miss Beyonce, you’ll sadly also be unable to miss the lamest seemingly never-ending dinner you’ve ever been to at an otherwise swanky nightclub, when you realized you wouldn’t even have done dinner at a nightclub back home…yeah, that was dumb. But then again, you’ll still miss the liberation of leaving the party earlier than all the rest, to return home and chat into the wee hours of the morning over cigars and under lightning-streaked skies.
You’re going to miss …staying up for sunrise again, before sleeping in afterwards through a storm that threatened to throw you from your seabed and hoping you wouldn’t wake up underwater, somehow arriving back at your base marina with the frenzy of squaring away last minute items, repacking, atoning for your sins, and going out for one last gelato in town before returning to dress all in white (which you’d surely stain) for the closing party.
And while you may have missed the background hum of violins building up to the final party, you will definitely miss everything about this night of mayhem as unfolded in real-time: the dancing inside the brightest-lit nightclub you’ve ever been to, the final group photos, a symphony of murmurs that cushioned the DJ’s beats, the pirouetting circles in unison, the furtive glances across the room, the catharsis of sea winds that dried sweat and tears as the Perseids twinkled above, and the brief words exchanged between embraces that meant something; a whisper of truth in our ears.
This is where I’ll break the fourth wall and say I’m going to miss the moment (yes I remember everything) of being immediately picked up when I fell and hit my head on a rock wall, nurtured back to lifeby a group of once-strangers I could call a family especially after the loss of my own during the pandemic.
I’m going to go all in here and say I’m really, really, really going to miss even the idea itself of being taken care of by a family— a concept which had been elusive to me since childhood; you have no idea how much that meant to me. What an odd feeling I didn’t know I had needed. Thank you.
You’re going to miss …the romanticism of looking back on the “last night” even before it was over for a group who bonded so quickly and so much, seeing the threads that bound chance and possibility unravel through a multitude of the tiniest leaps of faith, held together by the underlying support we had for one another, and the literal ‘dancing in the rain’ in between it all. You’ll miss the cab ride back to the marina calling out to people not even in the car with you before the last after-after party where even our once playfully main competitor (the Swiss Boat) carried their speakers to us for the first time. You’ll then miss bringing the house down together with one unifying denouement where every underlying plot-line the past week would converge into a single moment as if we were all in some 90s prom movie or a particular music video, compelled to recognize a dance of letting go and becoming part of the refrain around you, with no expectations or security of what the next “tbd” step would be.
And you’ll miss how a single night could release a lifetime of self-doubt as if it were a cloudburst in the sky, or how a single night could melt away the chains of insecurities as they passed through us like fleeting waves sent off into the ocean eternal, finally guiding us to recognize that we may be worth the realization of our own personal legends and to dare to live the life that we’ve always wanted. And just like those teen movies or a nostalgia-laden music video, we learned that while we may have playfully chanted “all I need — is your love tonight,” the irony was that we actually never needed it …because we already had each other’s all along.
You’re going to miss …realizing how life isn’t a journey or a rush to a particular conclusion: It’s a dance, and it’s important for us to recognize that before we’re missing these moments imprinted in our minds. But even then, a feeling will stay with you long after the laughter dies down, the rain and tear drops fall, that last sunrise from the marina, that last sunset from the airport, and when you say your goodbyes and “see you again.” Your heart will continue to pine after the emotion that moves you still, like some sort of land-sickness long after you’ve left the sea. For regardless of whether the following reunions the weeks after would conjure up the spirit of what we had or what could have been, you’re going to miss returning home knowing that very moment a needle has shifted, where once familiar things gain new dimensions.
It is therefore now only up to you to keep this momentum going, knowing that the very people you will miss most of all may have arrived inadvertently into your life this week not only “to have the best week ever,” but also to renew each other’s sense of purpose and possibility, beating ceaselessly against the memories of a past we’d certainly never want to forget, and dreams of a future. . . .
After 2 days relaxing in the off-the-beaten-path island of Lampedusa, the gang took a direct evening flight out to Palermo, capital of Sicily, afterwards.
Founded by Phoenicians under the name of “Ziz” and later renamed by Greeks “Panormos”, which means “all port,” Palermo’s golden age was during Arab rule from 9th to 11th centuries AD when it became one of the most prosperous cities in the Mediterranean and Europe.
It was referred to as the “city of delights” for its gardens, mosques and palaces.
After the Normans conquered Palermo, they destroyed most of the palaces and mosques, but replaced it with a unique architectural mix of Arabesque, Romanesque, and Byzantine influences known as the “Arab-Norman Style of Sicily.”
Modern history, however, would make Sicily infamous for cosa nostra, aka the Mafia that now predominate the popular culture consciousness whenever Sicily is referred.
Starting from the west side of Palermo, we tried to visit the unique Catacombe dei Cappuccini filled with 8000 dressed up corpses and skeletons, but it was closed at the time of posting. So we walked by the 9th century neo-classical era Norman Palace instead, where the ancient chapel Cappella Palatina is also located; you can find elaborate Byzantine mosaics and paintings inside.
While here you might as well also peek inside the red-domed medieval church San Giovanni degli Eremiti:
Then working your way beginning east towards the harbor, pass through the symbolic and landmark Porto Nuovo, built in 1570.
Weave around Teatro Marmoreo and through Villa Bonanno park
As you walk east towards the water, stop by 12th century Cattedrale di Palermo:
If you pay the 12-15 euro ticket to access the rest of the cathedral, there’s the gorgeous roof:
…and the underground tombs:
Take a detour at the open-air Market Ballaro:
Head into the winding alleyways further east to find the baroque Chiesa del Gesù, built in the 1630s:
There’s also Church of San Cataldo, built in 1154 and featuring landmark Byzantine mosiacs, including Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio which lies next door.
…and equally beautiful Chiesa di Santa Caterina d’Alessandria:
Inside there’s a monastery you can stroll through for a few euros:
Then swing around Genius of Palermo Statue:
…past Fontana del Garraffo:
…past Fontana del Cavallo Marino:
…and as you approach Porta Felice, you know you’ve reached the sea:
There’s also an abandoned UNESCO World Heritage Site Ponte dell’Ammiraglio (“Admiral’s Bridge”) to the south, although there’s nothing much else to do around here:
Donna and I are taking it easy from here on out, because from here it’s a long way home. Brian knows it:
Palermo to Rome to Brussels …to Paris
The original plan was fly from Palermo to Rome to Brussels to NYC. So after Donna and I parted ways at the Palermo airport, I did just that. Once arriving into Brussels, however, it felt like …something was pulling me to Paris. I don’t know why since “I have come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains” …but I trust my gut.
MXMS and Carla Bruni play on and on in my head.
Passing by the very same piano that caused us to miss our flight to Lampedusa 3 days prior
While arriving into Brussels, I got on the chat with United and asked if I could change my economy Brussels to NYC flight to a free business class upgrade at no extra cost. The answer: Sure, but you’ll have to get from Brussels to Paris and take a flight from there instead. Furthermore…
Evie also left her ONLY charger back in Palermo, and she was going to be in Paris that night.
Gina and Priscilla decided on a whim yesterday to extend their layover in Paris an extra day.
Priscilla had something personal of mine. And her foot, which had been injured during Yacht Week and became taken under my medical attention, appeared to need extra care.
Gina was still probably annoyed Evie, Sabrina, Sampson, Donna and I all barged to crash in her room 5 days ago in Olbia. It was a bad goodbye; I owed her a drink.
We would all be in Paris after a united last minute extension of all our trips. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN.
These were enough signs. And so I booked the next Brussels to Paris Thalys 9388 train at 9:16pm, arriving into Paris at 10:38pm where I would crash with one of them before all our morning flights back to the USA at 10am. It would be perfect.
But as we all know with travel, “perfect” may always involve a snag where the universe tests your will: Soon after booking my train ticket, I would get emails from Thalys every 15 minutes informing me of significant track delays up to 2 hours long. Every email indicated a longer and longer delay, to the point I was worried they were going to cancel the train entirely.
And yet when there’s a will there’s a way: although I had considered giving up on the idea of Paris as the logistics seemed too prohibitive, the prior Thalys 9376 train that had been due to arrive at 7:13pm in Brussels Midi Station instead pulled into the platform in front of me at 8:50pm. It was also running nearly 2 hours late, but oddly did not show up on the departure board as a possibility.
I immediately asked if I could board this one instead, but the agent at the station informed me that my ticket I had bought for the 9:16pm 9388 train would not apply and I would not be allowed onboard 9376. Once she left, I stowed away onboard the 9376 anyway, staying in between cars looking for a place to put my bags, pretending to wait for the bathroom, and hanging out at the café until the bullet train was well already in France.
Eventually my ruse would be noticed (I’m the worst spy ever), but after a discussion with the onboard police, playing stupid showing them I had already purchased a ticket but for a different train, a copy of a negative test for COVID-19 (with a BivaxNOW self-test kit which I had done with Donna the day before…thanks Donna!), that I was fully vaccinated, and a USA passport to accompany my vaccine card, they had no legitimate reason to throw me off the train when we were already 10 minutes away from Paris Gare du Nord station. Checkmate.
Evie would have travel issues of her own: her flight from Valencia almost would be cancelled by a tornado there. Nevertheless it was a false alarm as she arrived, although 45 minutes late. Then from her hotel room we both set out to meet Priscilla and Gina, surprising them both (well, really just Priscilla; Gina had said she always knew I’d had it in me to make it work) that we’d make it in time right before they went to bed. And so our goodbye 5 days ago in Olbia was extended in none other than a midnight in Paris.
Having stayed up for our third sunrise, we felt the third time is always the charm.
Then at 8am Priscilla, Gina and I then coordinated a cab together back to CDG where we would be all leaving at similar times back for our onward connecting flights home. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN.
And of all the business class flights to be upgraded to for free, United would choose SWISS Airlines, with the exact same layover in the exact same city of Zurich . . . WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN.
. . . and in the exact same 7A seat I had flown to begin this trip 16 days ago. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN…
The magic of the universe has and shall continue. Whether in circles or forward, probably the next step for us would be time travel.
- At time of posting in Palermo, Sicily, it was 30 °C -
Humidity: 61% | Wind Speed: 23km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear
Definitely didn’t look nearly like this 24 hours prior to taking this photo…
After a week rampaging throughout Sardinia’s coastline including a pitstop in Corsica — with a final night belonging in a 90s teen prom movie (I really can’t describe it in any other way … it was that … perfectly bittersweet) — we tried to take it easy the next morning with a spa day relaxing in Olbia.
Some of us having pulled a second all nighter for our final sunrise, we returned to the yachts, quickly took the trash out, made one final camp check, gave our goodbye hugs to Mihaela, Ann, and Jeanette from the marina, and walked over to the hotel Priscilla, Gina, Alex, etc. were staying in.
All I can remember it was a dreary struggle of a morning, especially after coming down from a high of the night before. Once I saw a bed, my body fell hard without even realizing until later how the marina arrivals — Sabrina, Donna, Sampson and I — were likely pissing everyone else who booked the hotel as they graciously still let us use their rooms to crash in for an hour (I’M SO SORRY).
After Priscilla, Donna, Sampson, Sabrina and I got a quick hour’s sleep in thanks to a late check out, we tried to look for a quick brunch before the next round of goodbyes with Priscilla, Gina, Sampson, and Raubern. I then felt like I was living through the entire ending scene of the movie “The Half Of It.”
I don’t know how we eventually made it so underslept but Donna, Sabrina, Evie, and I then managed to take a cab over to Jazz Hotel by the airport where we then both ran into and said goodbye to Song at the Jazz Hotel, and then had an early dinner with Daisy, Ihita and Radhika before taking advantage of the hotel sauna afterwards.
The next morning Donna, Evie, and I said our goodbyes to Sabrina after breakfast and set off on a morning flight back to Rome, where we would transfer to a quick flight to Lampedusa.
However, while walking over at the gates in Rome airport I had mistakenly assumed “Palermo” was Lampedusa (we’re actually heading to Palermo the day after) and therefore was misled to the wrong gate. And the whole time we just sat, chatted and watched Evie perform on a piano nearby without realizing we had all the time in the world to go to our actual gate.
By the time we began to board at 1:06pm, it was already too late: the agents told us we had the wrong tickets, I then realized Palermo was not Lampedusa, and that the 1:10pm Lampedusa flight had already taken off. I took a deep breath, consoled myself it was only fair after a week of successes in flying 34 people into and around Sardinia, and walked over to the last flight out to Lampedusa in another part of the airport. Then leaving my bags with Evie and Donna at our new gate with only 2 hours to spare until that backup flight would take off, I ran out of the airport with their 3 passports and vaccine cards in hand looking all over for the ticket offices.
This particular Wizz Air flight out to Lampedusa from Rome was not showing up on my searches online, and the Wizz Air website did not allow me to buy a ticket on the same day. I therefore had no other choice but wait 30 minutes physically in line, sweating out everything I had drank and ate the past week wondering what my alternatives would be if I couldn’t buy this flight. After another 20 minutes at the counter figuring it out and finally getting our new flights, I was directed back to the check-in desk (thankfully having been allowed to cut in front), where I had the awkward task of explaining to them how I wanted check in 2 passengers who were already past security at the gate itself. By the time I had returned back through security to rendezvous with Donna and Evie, they had already began to board.
Crisis barely averted.
And the whole time I could recall how this near exact scenario had played out 4 years ago when I was trying to get to Slovenia, where Rome airport was also involved and I barely made it work (Mihaela was part of that experience, and it would be the same trip where we would meet Ashley Jia, who had just joined us for Yacht Week! …you never know…).
Yet what I find even more remarkable about this particular incident afterwards, was that everyone else in our Yacht Week group were also going through missed connections of their own AT THE SAME TIME: Priscilla and Gina were also led to the wrong platform for their train from Rome to Florence, and ended up instead on a wrong train to Bologna. Ashley missed her flight home in Rome. Sabrina would find out last minute her flight out of Sardinia would be canceled and would have to spend an extra night there.
I began to wonder whether these comedies of errors was emblematic of something bigger; that no matter how frustrating or random these inconveniences would seem at the time, they serve to remind us they’re just detours — or even required pit stops — that eventually get us back onto the paths we’re supposed to be on. They seem like mistakes at the time, but they might be anything but. Either way we all felt some sense of farflung interconnected camaraderie despite being separated by hundreds of miles of land and ocean knowing we were all going through the same thing…and instead of feeling frustrated at our present predicaments, we actually got a laugh together out of them. That’s a special kind of kinship.
Furthermore I wondered had we picked the right gate to Lampedusa, we wouldn’t have be sitting next that piano for Evie to play on, which could have inspired a random onlooking passenger, that mom dancing with her baby behind Evie, or even our social media, to look at life in a new light as if we became part of a greater ripple effect…
…and yet these are also thoughts I consider when I pull 2 all nighters in a row. One can dare to dream.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming:
Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea as the southernmost island of Italy, Lampedusa is the major island of the Pelagie Islands and considered to be part of Sicily. We arrived around 2 hours later than planned at 4:30pm.
This island has been inhabited by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs until it became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860. You can tell it has Arabic influences to moment you arrive into town.
After a week in the very Wester European influenced old towns of Sardinia and Corsica, I felt immediately at home here.
With population of 5800 people, the island is 12km long and 3km wide, boasting a Middle Eastern-influenced capital “town” full of charms and vibes.
Fun fact is that we’re not really in Europe; this island geologically belongs to Africa.
For the average visitor who must go somewhere “unique” to the island, they should head straight to L’isolotto dei Conigli (the Island of the Rabbits), regarded as the “world’s best beach” on an official TripAdvisor poll.
We took the hourly 1 euro per person bus from the center of Lampedusa’s central town which gets to the beach on the west side of the island within 15 minutes.
What we did not know was that you need to make reservations ahead of time via your accommodations to visit the beach, otherwise expected to be placed on a waitlist (aka sit on an uncomfortable rock wall) where you could wait up to 2 hours to get in.
Thanks to a kind Italian nuclear engineer named Claudia (and her parents!) from Naples living in London, her watermelon themed umbrella kept us sane for our 2 hours underneath the sun.
Once our 2 hour wait was up and after the folks with reservations having been let in first, we finally got to see what the fuss was all about. I also needed to stretch my legs after that.
For sustainability purposes, they only allow a maximum of 550 people at a time on a beach, with a maximum of 2 hour shifts at a time before you’re expected to leave to make room for another group to arrive. The beach opens late morning and closes at 7:30pm.
Once you’re in you have to hike down a rock path 15-20 minutes to finally reach your destination.
And once you do, it’s baptism by paradise.
Wait this long to get in and you just want to flip your hair:
Lampedusa was also a location for many film shoots, so movies fans may also recognize some locations and film stars here. We recognized one:
After our time here was up, we headed back into town for a cab pickup at our lodgings for our onward 6:40pm DAT direct flight to Palermo.
- At time of posting in Lampedusa, it was 30 °C -
Humidity: 63% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear
Press play and read the rest of this post with the music . . .
You’re going to miss the feeling of being born again, the old habits of dusting off old passports, filling out documents, packing, unpacking, and repacking. You’ll even miss the anticipation of another PCR up your nose because you’ll do anything just to taste deliverance again. You’ll miss playing the game of matching faces from a picture to those in person, the thrill of new connections after a year and a half of being denied them.
You’re going to miss choking up when blessed with the clearance to fly, feeling that first international flight ticket in your hands, looking outside your window and seeing a different country under the same sky. You’ll miss the first car ride into a new city, already running into people on the street, the initial hellos on a beach looking while into the Mediterranean Sea, feeling the warm June breeze in your hair and at your back, knowing that the trip just started and a new chapter in your life with these new souls was just beginning.
You’re going to miss the first meal together outside along a narrow street by the water, fighting jetlag just so you can get to know the person next to you. You’ll miss foregoing sleep just to feel alive — as if time was already running out since we’ve lost nearly a year and a half of these opportunities, and especially when discovering one after another that nearly everyone in the group had something in common; a self-selection amongst ourselves to walk away from similar circumstances just to cross paths here and now as if this had been crossroads long overdue.
You’ll definitely miss outdoor brunches at your new favorite café.
You’ll miss driving off for our first road trip – first to a mosque by a salt lake and then for an impromptu scavenger hunt in a remote hilltop village just for that one photo you’ve always seen but never knew where it came from – before enjoying a traditional dinner outside with live music.
You’re going to miss the morning drive to a new city, the excitement of getting to live in the high-rise apartment of your dreams, the kindness of the restaurant owner making the case for plant based, and the leisurely walk around old town with your first time down Ledra Street.
You’ll miss wondering whether you could cross a contentious border between 2 nations in the world’s last divided capital city, the subsequent shock of being able to especially when both sides of the looking glass were as confused as you are, the quiet awe of being transported to another world so quickly, feeling not fully sure whether you’re really supposed to be here, the relief of being able to cross back over without an issue, and the pleasant surprise of having a free rapid test at your convenience only a few minutes away.
You’ll miss the stupor of sharing a private spa with your fellow travelers only a few floors below, before treating ourselves to room service with a view.
You’ll even miss pushing yourself afterwards for a 20 minute night at your new favorite lounge for the next 4 nights and learning to know, literally, that we can carry one another on our backs after a night like this.
You might even miss the longest road trip starting with a drive to a harbor town before reaching an enigmatic random overseas territory, and honoring both stops with back to back drinks by the water.
You’ll also miss playing volleyball with new strangers, soaking up the sun in your own personal cabana, and impromptu group karaoke in a theater over 3000 years old.
You’ll miss taking walks among ancient Roman ruins overlooking the dramatic coastline backdrop, fending off the negatively curious, the search for Aphrodite’s birthplace by the sea, coming upon a 20 year old shipwreck, and the dinner by the docks before convalescing with numerous stories on the car ride home and spending one more night continuing the stories at that special café in old town.
While you might not miss being turned away at another border crossing the next morning, you’re definitely going to miss finding hope in a second chance, strategizing how it’s possible to both play by the rules and get away with breaking them, and the reframing of a hiccup into the unexpected gift of spending more time in nature witnessing natural rock bridges and sea caves juxtaposed with unnaturally empty beach clubs as you celebrate a birthday by the sea. You’ll even miss almost driving away almost forgetting one of your own, before the final rally cry and the war of attrition to visit 5 different venues on the first weekend of their reopening.
You’re going to miss watching sunrise on the 14th floor, and the grueling hangover the next morning, the slow crawl to getting your rapid tests for your return flights home, the struggle to find breakfast while half awake, and then yet the adrenaline returning when you cross over to exploit a legal loophole to get to a destination that was denied to you only a day earlier.
You’re going to miss the shock at a makeshift plan working out better than you could have imagined, the unexpected surprise of discovering that the strangers who made it happen at the last minute would also make great friends, and getting to freely explore an abandoned ghost city you’ve read about for years in articles and books and never once think that you’d get to visit in person, let alone be one of the first in the world to visit since its sudden desertion 47 years ago.
You’re going to miss the unexpected surprise at finding well-preserved ruins of a Byzantine city and an isolated monastery nobody else in your social circles would have ever heard of before, deciphering a simple word game to the name of a club you just formed on the final drive back to Nicosia, the kenopsia of true freedom on empty streets while shopping on both sides of the border, and the kindness of the waitstaff to accommodate us without reservations. You’ll then miss choosing ice cream over tattoos, milking the last of the jacuzzi together one more time, the final drinks together, the hugs coming all too quicker than anticipated, and the tears that began to well up in front of strangers turned friends turned family you want to keep saying hello to but all you could do now is say goodbye.
Because the only meaningful goodbyes are the ones with you know you’ve just started writing your story with: This is no final goodbye.
This is a family reborn.
As if the pandemic that we’ve just survived could be reframed as the collective trauma we had needed to find one another in Cyprus . . .
. . . we knew we were already missing one another before we said hello.
Exactly 1 year ago today – March 8, 2020, 7am at a Brooklyn emergency room – my first COVID-19 patient walked through the door.
Since then: one tragic year of countless patients treated, counseled, lost, and grieved, with even more lives upended and altered forever. We grappled with a year of the virus, and also a year of entitlement and willful ignorance exacerbating a pandemic of institutionalized injustice, iniquity, and violence in all its forms. March 2020-21 felt like signing up for a Shirley Jackson-esque lottery you didn’t want to participate in, or having us run naked into a hurricane and somehow expecting us to come out just fine (We didn’t).
Burying loved ones, colleagues and friends, we continued taking care of patients as if they were our very own loved ones, colleagues, and friends. Many times they actually were. And many times it felt that the loudest of voices still turned their backs on us, skeptical of our efforts or even the existence of an existential threat. Too much to fathom for a year. Who cares for the carer? Who heals the healers?
Prior to the pandemic I felt having traveled to 190+ countries while a full time med student turned doctor bestowed me countless lifetimes the past decade. That past decade now pales to the countless lifetimes I feel to have lived this past year alone. Died and reborn everytime we felt a lump in our throats or aching chests, we always woke up for the next shift more of a shell of the person we had gone to bed as. But until none of us are left, we always have and we still always will run into fires lifting up our fallen vulnerable as if it was our birthright to existence.
Therefore a year of perseverance against seemingly insurmountable odds will remind us of our humanity. For every faceless chimera that doubted us, hundreds more good samaritans validated us. So if there were anything to celebrate a catastrophic year of, it’d be those brethren, allies, and accomplices guaranteeing that our efforts – and not those who fearfully choose to be on the wrong side of history – will be remembered long after this year and long after we’re gone. Forging fiercely ahead together, here’s to better years to come.