• I'm Just Eden

“They talk funny,” was all I could remember when it was time to visit my mother’s side of the family in North Charleston, South Carolina. “Hush,” she would say to me as I would look at my cousins playing around my grandmother’s pecan tree. Always up underneath her coat tail feeling like an outsider because my family had a distinct accent that sounds foreign to me, and I was the “white girl” because I spoke “proper English,” I felt left out. There was camaraderie and pride amongst my family who I didn’t talk like but would later in life come to respect and understand when I got older. 


It took me a long time to come to grips with the fact that I too, am Geechee by birth right. But, I didn’t sit in that truth until I was well into my 30s and mature enough to understand the beauty of being in THE ONLY black subculture in America that has close ties to African traditions. To quote the kids today, “it’s lit.” What sparked the fire in my Intercultural Communications class back in college led me to question my own spiritual path and connecting with my ancestors. Later, dating a man from London by way of Sierra Leone who showed me the close resemblance between the Geechee people and Sloane people further put the stamp that I was closer to my people than I really thought. It was beautiful. My disdain from a child of not feeling the inclusivity of the Geechee people blossomed into the utmost admiration and love for a culture that not even most African Americans know about, unless they seek to find it. 

These days, I want more of our people to take over and see South Carolina as more than just a place to go to Myrtle Beach. Instead of reducing Charleston to just some town only for privileged people on Bravo’s Southern Charm who prosper, look to the Geechee lands to be the introductory you need on the journey of discovering your African roots. From the sweet grass baskets to the savory boiled peanuts, what I’ve learned from watching on the outside is that I’ve already BEEN on the inside, I just didn’t SEE it.

Thinking back to when I was a little girl, the venacular I didn’t get back then, is now the sweet sound of Gullah (Geechee creole) that moves like poetry to my ears. So closely similar to the Krio of the West African people today, there’s such beauty in knowing even when they aren’t even trying, they exude the regalness of a culture that still beats in America today. In our own backyard. So yes, in the words of my family and the ancestors that came before me, I Geechee, and I’m so proud to share the blood of what I shied away from . Look to the palmetto trees and the soft Carolina sun and you’ll find a community waiting to share stories beyond Nickelodeon’s Gullah Gullah Island (yeah ...that's that Geechee too). Where you’ll feel the kumbaya and embrace the hoodoo spirit of the ancestors who came before us. There’s so much power in the island people of South Carolina that I’ve grown to respect and love. So many stories to be passed down and traditions to uphold. I Geechee, and I’ll never shy away from that truth again.    

Photo via Instagram user trinidadandtobagocarnival

Just about every single travel destination throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, as well as many destinations in Europe, hold a carnival celebration of some sort. New Orleans has Mardi Gras, of course. It’s the party of the year — the time to let your hair down before the Catholic Lent season begins and we have to behave until Easter. Few destinations, though, do carnival as well as Trinidad & Tobago.

Trinidad & Tobago Carnival 2020 takes place Feb. 24–25, a Monday and Tuesday. Here’s everything you need to know.

Getting There

Direct flights are available to Trinidad from the States, from a few select hubs, including JFK and EWR in New York City, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Houston and Orlando. Service is provided by JetBlue, American Airlines, United and Caribbean Airlines. You’re likely to find the best deals when flying with JetBlue on this particular route. When you arrive, you will have to show proof of a return ticket home or a ticket to another destination.

Keep in mind that Trinidad and Tobago is, of course, two islands. Most of the carnival action takes place on Trinidad, though, and that’s where you’ll be flying into Piarco International Airport. If you do want to visit Tobago during your stay, there are two ferries that will transport you between the two islands, a roughly three-hour boat ride.

If you think you’ll want to drive around Trinidad on your own, it’s advised that you reserve a rental car ahead of your visit, rather than wait until your arrival at the airport, just to be safe. Driving in Trinidad is pretty easy, but they do drive on the left side of the road. Otherwise, you can arrange for taxi service to and from wherever you need to go, with the help of your hotel concierge.

When to Start Planning

Photo via Instagram user trinidadandtobagocarnival

Carnival season in the entire Caribbean is incredibly busy, so you’ll want to start planning now. And, since Trinidad & Tobago Carnival 2020 takes place over a Monday and Tuesday, it’s the perfect excuse to plan a long weekend in the tropical locale, arriving the Thursday or Friday prior. (Additionally, even though the official carnival dates are that Monday and Tuesday, you can find plenty of carnival-style events taking place leading up to the days, so you certainly won’t be lacking for things to do.)

Since the actual carnival celebration is a public event, you won’t need a ticket for that, but you will need tickets for all of the “fete” parties that lead up to carnival. It’s advised that you do some research on which of these parties you’d want to attend and then set up a rough itinerary for yourself, purchasing the tickets as soon as possible (some are available online, though some you will have to wait and purchase once you’re on the island, as only physical tickets are available).

Fete tickets range heavily in price, just as the parties themselves range heavily in terms of style and atmosphere. Some are luxurious, all-inclusive experiences, while some are drunken fests with a DJ. If you don’t want to sort through all the fete options yourself, you can easily also find many tour and travel providers who put together fete packages with everything you’d need included — tickets, transportation, etc.

Photo via Instagram user trinidadandtobagocarnival

To make your carnival experience even more immersive, you can also pay to actually be in a carnival parade. Purchasing a ticket to be in a “mas band,” as they’re called, costs anywhere from $250 to $2,500, and your ticket generally includes your carnival costume, food and drinks. The easiest way to purchase a ticket is via a third-party tour or travel provider. Otherwise, you’d need to be “in the know” with one of the mas band organizers.

Where to Stay

Stay in The Port of Spain in Trinidad to be right in the heart of all the carnival action. For upscale, modern services and amenities, try to snag a room at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad. The Hilton Trinidad, which was renovated just a few years ago, is also a good option. If you’re looking to save a few dollars and don’t mind being a little outside of downtown, then you might choose the Courtyard by Marriott Port of Spain.

Appropriate Attire

Photo via Instagram user trinidadandtobagocarnival

Trinidad and Tobago is hot, hot, hot, so be prepared and dress accordingly. Additionally, it’s carnival, so feel free to break out your most extravagant attire. Feathers, sequins, it’s all approved. While swimsuits are common attire during the actual carnival event, wearing just a swimsuit or bikini top is frowned upon during other times. Don’t forget to bring comfortable shoes!

Do note that many restaurants throughout Trinidad have some sort of dress code, though, and that it’s illegal in the country to wear camouflage patterns of any kind.

What to Expect

Photo via Instagram user trinidadandtobagocarnival

It’s a giant party. Expect a loud, crazy, fun atmosphere, with lots of music, shouting and revelry. There’s something going on during carnival days and leading up to carnival days just about everywhere you look.

Australia is a very popular country to visit, and with good reason. It's natural beauty, rugged nature, and laid back locals make this place a welcoming adventure land. The list of things to do here are endless; the hard part is narrowing it down. Which is why we made this list of 7 rare places that aren't on everyone's itinerary.

We know exactly what you're looking for when you start planning where to go. Watching gator shows probably isn't your thing, but I'd wager that lounging on Australia's pristine beaches and petting adorable kangaroos definitely is.

For this list, we searched for places that aren't on TripAdvisor's top 10. As with any largely touristic country, there are sights that just get overdone. This time we're trying to keep you comfortable and out of those large sightseeing crowds while catering to your interests.

1. Take a Plane Ride Over Lake Hillier

The only way to view this mysterious lake is by air. It's located on an island that is inaccessible to tourists and used for research purposes only. That being said, scientists don't actually know why it's pink. There are plenty of theories, but still no answers.

However, we do know that it's safe to swim in, and is actually home to a variety of fish. But for now the closest you can get to it is from the inside of a cockpit.

2. Sunbathe on Whitehaven Beach

Located off the northeast coast of Australia, Whitsunday Island is home to one of the world's most pristine beaches. It's famous for it's rare soft sand, and since it's off the beaten path, the beach is quiet and clean. No dogs or cigarettes are allowed, which keeps it looking untouched.

What makes the sand so special is its geology. The grains are 98% silica which is what makes it as white as snow, and feels almost velvety in your hand. Most other beaches have sand that is made up of a variety of other minerals. Silica is special because it doesn't retain heat well, which means the sand won't burn you, even in the middle of summer!

It's literally the perfect place in Australia to go sunbathing. Take a dip in the clear blue waters and let all the stresses from back home melt away.

3. The Southern Spa

Head on over to Kangaroo Island (does it get more Australian than that?) for a once in a lifetime spa treatment. The materials they use come straight from the island: eucalyptus, lavender, native honey and hand-gathered sea salt.

What makes this place so unique are the practices that reflect ancient Aboriginal techniques. They focus on rebalancing your body's energy flow while massaging you with hand carved stones from the northwest of Australia. It's a bit pricey, but it's an experience you'll never forget. This is one of the best places to truly treat yourself in Australia.

4. The Pinnacles

If you're looking for a great photogenic spot, go to the pinnacles in Namburg National Park. Head north from Perth to see these amazing limestone formations. With lots of places to pull over and park, you can have your pick of where you want to pose with these unique rock spires.

To get that amazing shot, head over in the early morning or late afternoon. The shadows and changing colors make this a very Instagram worthy spot. Since the park is so big, you can easily have plenty of space to yourself.

5.Toastface Grillah

This famous grill is at the top of the list for places to eat in Australia. Located in what looks like a back alley, this is one of the best grill houses you'll ever see. Graffiti and barred windows give it a grungy appearance that probably turns away those who don't know about the treasure within.

Don't be put off by it either. The grilled cheese here is famous and can be made with a variety of cheeses and meats. Grilled cheese isn't the only things this popular spot in Perth is known for. Make a brunch out of it and grab some awesome coffee!

6. Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

Hop on over to Tasmania for some super instagrammable photos with Australia's cutest animals. As you can see, Cydney did just that! Check out her amazing Instagram travel feed here. This sanctuary allows you to get up close and personal with sugar gliders, koalas kangaroos, and other obscure animals like quolls and bettongs.

Walk among a field of kangaroos and feed them straight from your hand! This place is dedicated to educating the public about Australia's wildlife, and have found that the best way to do that is by letting you get up close and personal with animals most people have never even heard of.

7. Swim in the Mermaid Pools in Tahmoor

If you've ever wanted to feel like a real mermaid now's your chance. These mermaid pools are kept somewhat secret, just like the fictional creatures themselves. The best way to get here is to park in the lots nearby and walk the 20 or so minutes to the pools. It's a little hilly, so bring some comfy walking shoes.

Keep in mind these pools are a bit of a challenge. The only way to get in is by jumping 15 meters, (or 49ft) into the water. And the only way to get out is on the side of the waterfall. There's a rope to help you, but this experience is for the adventurous only.

Whether your idea of a trip is lounging on warm sand and getting pampered or tasting the local treats, Australia is the place for you. Surrounded by nearly untouched islands, this country has a rich variety of experiences and environments that I guarantee women of color will love.

Allison Barnett is a freelance writer who loves to travel. Blog writing is her profession and her passion. You can find her own site at https://www.allisquestimony.com/ . IG: alli.quest

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