A few weeks ago I hopped a flight down to San Juan Puerto Rico. I wanted to take advantage of the long weekend, Memorial Day weekend. I’d been planning to visit Toronto, as I’ve never been there before, but for $20 more I was able to fly 2,000 miles south and experience something completely different than what I’m used to.
I’ve traveled alone before… San Francisco, New York, Europe, and more, but this time was different. I booked my flight only a few weeks before leaving, and didn’t have lodging plans (or really any plans at all) until the day before I left. I was picked up from the airport by two strangers, and stayed in another stranger’s apartment that first night. How’d I meet these people? CouchSurfing.org, a community for hospitality exchange and social networking. I’ve been active in the CouchSurfing community for almost 2 years.
Through the CouchSurfing community, I met up with an Italian guy and two French girls. These “strangers” quickly became travel/adventure friends for the weekend. The four of us took a fairy to the small island of Vieuqes where we spent two days soaking up the sun on various beaches and enjoying the slow energy the island has to offer. It was my first experience of “paradise” and it was absolutely perfect.
I should mention I spent my first day/night in Old San Juan, which was pleasant in it’s own right. Old San Juan is beautiful, very European feeling. And Castillo de San Cristóbal (San Juan’s famous Spanish Fort) made me feel like a little kid exploring a new playground… expect this playground had a lot of history.
Vieques, though, was extremely refreshing. I always wanted to live in a big city, and I’m thankful I get to call Chicago home, but there’s an element of that which allows you to really appreciate space, tranquility, and nature. In that sense, Vieques was awesome.
The most unique and memorable thing I did in Puerto Rico was kayaking through Mosquito Bay, one of Puerto Rico’s Bioluminescent Bays; a natural ecosystem that causes the water to glow whenever it’s disturbed. It was like paddling through a sea of sparkling stars. I hadn’t heard of this until doing some quick research on Puerto Rico before my trip, so it was a pleasant surprise and a really cool experience.
Without an itinerary or much of a plan, things worked out really well. My goal was to see something new, relax, and experience the Puerto Rican culture without spending a ton of money. I feel I achieved that. And although it was a short trip, it was all definitely worth it.