Caribbean Cruise Collection #1

” Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes” Jimmy Buffet)

Our most recent cruise vacation is now providing me with a wonderful opportunity to explore a variety of issue perspectives with regard to eight (8) interesting destinations in the Eastern Caribbean region. Such opposing opinions are thus stated below with accompanying photos for week one of this fourteen day cruise.

Radiating Fast Yang Energy vs. Slow Yin Energy (St. Thomas/St. John)

My initial initial impression of St. Thomas as we landed in Charlotte Amelie definitely exuded a lifestyle involving ultra luxury yachts, sleek speed boats, and aggressive resort tour operations geared to some heavy indulgence in fast paced fun like zip-lining and kayaking nearby. Having no desire to “buy into” such hedonistic antics, we instead booked an inexpensive ferry for a much desired “slowdown” experience at less visited St. John Island. We then settled into enjoy three morning hours of tranquil beachfront views and pleasant walks around tiny Cruz Bay. When it began to rain, we found pleasant refuge under some tall shade trees sipping coconut water while engaging in some informal conversations with cruise members from our ship.

Experiencing Old Times vs. New Times (St. Kitts)

Our next island experience in St. Kitts beginning at Basseterre Bay appeared to portray very much a country in historic transition. Most definitely , those days of British colonial rule with stately government buildings and vast plantations for sugar production and other products still exist as evidenced by our guided excursion westerly along the coast to Fairview Great House and Botanical Gardens. But from a modern tourist perspective, I noticed equally the conspicuous presence of colorful welcome structures and billboards, glitzy electronic marketing tools, trendy shopping mall complexes, exclusive golf course resorts , and a spacious a new International Airport accessible to downtown. So If you want to avoid such commercial touristic overload, I would recommend taking a short ride to the highest points of the island and spend awhile for some fantastic views of both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea below.

Exhibiting Balance vs.Imbalance (Martinique)

We have never visited French influenced Martinique before this cruise. So with a fresh outlook, our landing at Fort -de – France environs along the westerly portion of the island soon registered as one exuding a mixture of balance and imbalance sightings during our excursion to Jardin de Balata high above the city. Along the way there, I first noticed miles of shabby housing conditions protruding in irregular fashion along steep slopes surrounding our views. I could only imagine then the horrific damage a category 5 hurricane could inflict on such unstable residential grounds. Yet the tropical nature of the environment there seemed to opposingly instill more of a delicate visual balance between land, sky, and sea. Proceeding to the massive grounds of the Balata Arboretum itself, I thus observed a continuation of wild nature’s synergistic balance as provided by its well manicured tropical gardens spreading prominently around this site. Interestingly, I might also share that much of Balata’s greenery could be best viewed from above in bouncing up and down from point to point via an elevated rope bridge. So I might report in this regard that it’s no surprise that I personally experienced a hard time keeping my balance on these somewhat unusual modes of transport.

The Matter of Safety (Dominica)

From a human respective, our cruise visit to Roseau, Dominica and its southern beach coast definitely exuded a most hospitable air of friendliness in everyone we met. After all, as we noticed a common Dominica motto, “Don’t Worry Be Happy on public taxis, it appeared there would be no problem for us if we needed to induce a local stranger to help us in times of crisis. But we most certainly would find driving around the island a risk-filled challenge. Consider in illustration those narrowly curving roads running perilously close to oceanside cliffs below that we experienced by taxi in traveling to scenic Scotts Head, the most southerly point around the island. Along the way, I would also make note of the impending danger that the steep cliffs on the inland side which might represent during heavy rainfall periods an added danger of mudslides and rock debris likely falling unexpectedly in the pathway of passing vehicle traffic below. A noticeable lack of modern infrastructure conveniences noticed along the route of these secluded roadways most would also make basic functions like finding a store to eat or using the bathroom a major issue for tourists then. From past experience, I could therefore conclude that these same travel issues would exist on those who decide to partake on those popular touristic visits to the Dominica rainforest in its central point mountains above.

Cruise Space Perceptions

“Let me sail the open sea. To breathe the warm and salty air and dream of things to be.”( Erica Billups).

After two years of pandemic stirred madness, USFMAN and his wife Ruth sailed off from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades passenger terminal on a cool and sunny Saturday afternoon.

So with the itinerary calling for two days of lingering on board our ship as we set out southeast along the Caribbean basin, I took time to display photographs below of some physical space variations that may impact our enjoyment of this vacation below

Notice as well that our cruise schedule calls for six consecutive island landings in the coming days. So I look forward to presenting my next blog about each of these destinations when our next sea days happen at the end of the week.

Upon entering our South Florida cruise terminal, my most immediate impression can be best described as a noisy center of industrial activity occurring within a densely packed area.
But upon departing from our narrow port channel, I feel drawn to the silent vastness of open seas which I will encounter in the days ahead.
I envision there will be plenty of occasions that will call for me to gather together with people in mass.
But I’d rather separate myself from the crowd on our cabin balcony to enjoy “yin”related solitude.
This cruise provides ample opportunity to pack more souvenirs bought into my suitcases that will serve as mere mementos of this past travel experience.
Or perhaps it really boils down now to whether I can follow my wife’s simple plan to carry only a backpack which contain only those essential travel items that she immediately needs.
I might choose to take up more space with an expanding belly by just lazily sitting around and indulging in  the unlimited enticements of food, alcohol, and beverages surrounding me.
But I would rather tone down the physical broadness of my body by allotting plenty of useful time in the spa and exercise area.
My busy mind seems accustomed to finding the quickest path to my cabin along those narrow corridors below the ship.
But my inner being calls for slowing down on the wide open deck when possible to breathe in some fresh air.

2023 Winter Caribbean Cruise Intentions

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what has come to see.” (G.K.Chesterton)

When my wife Ruth and I explore freely on cruise vacations, we typically do not pre- program ourselves to follow the crowd off the boat according to cruise director site recommendations Those popular tourist spots can wait. Thus we allow ourselves to explore without boundaries and then see more in depth what the journey has to offer.

So during our upcoming cruise to the Eastern Caribbean region, for the next 14 days I’ve decided to focus more mindfully on some contrasting themes of a photographic quality for each of the destinations we visit along the way. Brief written explanations of such visual impressions that I experience on land and at sea will also accompany my blog postings during this time. Observe my following plan below. Bon Voyage 

Radiating Fast Yang Energy vs. Slow Yin Energy (St. Kitts)

Rising Above vs. Going Below (Barbados)

Making One Cry vs. Causing A Laugh (Trinidad)

Experiencing Old Times vs. New Times (St. Thomas)

Showing Narrowness vs. Broadness Of Space (Fort Lauderdale)

Exhibiting Wasteful vs.Conservation Of Our Earth (Curaçao)

Feeling Safe vs.In Danger (Aruba)

Acting Wild vs.Tame (Dominica)

Exhibiting Balance vs.Imbalance (Martinique)

Moonlight Stirring

“With age comes wisdom. With travel comes understanding.” (Sandra Lake)

I’m going on a fourteen day cruise with my wife Ruth this week, traveling to eight islands in the Eastern Caribbean region. This original poem expresses my thoughts about unexpected loneliness that can arise during such an extended stay along those empty spaces of the “high seas”. For we all experience human closeness at times for those we’ve left behind.

MOONLIGHT STIRRING

How curiously now I saw your fond face

Staring up at mist moon from inner space

Its luminous light then marked such seeing

With no traces of thought but plentiful being

So such ageless soul brings me a smile

In hopes that we’ll share new times for awhile

Transcendence Restored

“ Transcendence gets you beyond ego. If you go beyond ego, you see all of this in a more decent perspective and you can start to put all the pieces together.” ( Edgar Mitchell )

I’ve recently rejuvenated my yoga practice in the more satisfying interpersonal setting of a live studio environment in Weston, Florida after two years of online Zoom only sessions during the Corona scare. So I dedicate the following original poem to those latest yoga teachers I’ve encountered there whose sessions I wholeheartedly enjoy.

TRANSCENDENCE RESTORED

Yoga Session On Mat In Soothing Motion

With Yin Yang In Mind As A Magic Potion

For Beyond One’s Ego Lies Hidden Talents

To Wake Up One’s Being From Mind Imbalance

So In Moving In Silence With Your Gentle Touch

I Thank You For Guiding Me So Very Much

Memorable Music Musings

“ Music replays the past memories, awakens our forgotten worlds, and makes our mind travel. ” ( Michael Bassey Johnson)

I’ve been pondering for awhile the need to discard thousands of music CD’s I’ve collected over the past thirty years lying neatly in cabinets along our condo living room walls. Certainly there’s a space issue involved in trying to downsize my material music possessions. But more importantly I rarely play CDs any more in the face of the more convenient digital streaming evolution. So in less than two months time, I’ve conducted a project to transfer the contents of each CD album I own to several customized Spotify playlists set up by category. Take a  look at the title photograph of this blog and you might notice how I’ve organized these music files for future ease of playback access when desired. 

Interestingly, this process of methodically digitizing to Spotify my physical music collection revealed two major results of timely personal interest. For given the current storage space limits on my IPad and I Phone, my heavy Spotify project downloads would first of all compel me to take a long look at other current app subscriptions that seemed to be draining my current storage space limits on these devices and thus were no longer needed. So I’ve managed to save time and money by being more selective in what apps I wish to keep using for practical reasons especially in travel , sports, and news topic fields.

A second “bottom line consequence “of more emotional interest happened as I re-listened to so many song segments for an hour or so each day during the CD transfer process. For on those occasions of those randomly selected replays of my favorite albums, I found myself reminiscing in “deja vu” style about memorable short and longer vacations that we’ve enjoyed before. How special it seemed then to become acutely aware of those iconic song lyrics that still inspire my wife and me today to continue our wondrous wanderings around the world and throughout our home country of America on our own independent terms. Notice below then a short sample of some motivating words and accompanying sound links from four of those magical music creations below that fuel our free spirit to travel.

** This blog is also available as a podcast on Spotify. Just type in  the Search box there – Snippets of A Traveling Mind

The Long Way Around – The Chicks

“I’ve been a long time gone now
Maybe someday, someday I’m gonna settle down
But I’ve always found my way somehow
By takin’ the long way, takin’ the long way around
Takin’ the long way, takin’ the long way around”

https://youtu.be/B1qgazBdKj8

Wooden Ships – Crosby Stills, Nash And Young 

“Wooden ships on the water, very free and easy
Easy, you know the way it’s supposed to be
Silver people on the shoreline, let us be
Talkin’ ’bout very free and easy”. And it’s a fair wind blowin’ warm
Out of the south over my shoulder
I guess I’ll set a course and go”

https://youtu.be/xlquQRt6PfI

The Traveler: Days Are Numbers – Alan Parsons Group

“The traveler is always leaving home
The only kind of life he’s ever known
When every moment seems to be a race against the time
There’s always one more mountain left to climb

https://youtu.be/T0WAZjeE9lU

Traveling Wilburys – End Of The Line

“Well, it’s all right riding around in the breeze
Well, it’s all right if you live the life you please
Well, it’s all right doing the best you can
Well, it’s all right as long as you lend a hand”

https://youtu.be/vks7Xy018rw

Elvis: Beyond Mortal Status

Has Elvis Presley really left the building as the saying goes? At least that thought seemed to be on my mind as I watched the much anticipated Elvis movie last week on the big screen. For in addition to the Elvis hype of the movie, I’ve seen my “fill’ of iconic Elvis moments at various Las Vegas casinos, his Mississippi birthplace and Memphis Graceland Estate on our road trip visits that convinces me of his “larger than life” status in rock n’ roll music around the world then and now.


Yet I must admit as a past band member myself and world traveler, there’s a deeper human side to explain the rise and fall of Elvis’ fanatical stardom that began when he recorded his first musical hit at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee on July 5, 1954. So I’ve compiled in the following paragraphs some personal reflections about Elvis the person beyond his extraordinary rock n’ roll legacy and how they might directly relate to future improvements in our future travels.

1. Elvis’ Color Blind Mentality

In the film, Elvis’ music arose from a wide diversity of musical styles played during deeply segregated 1950s times.For he consciously resisted prejudicial pressure against those who believed his act to be wrong for America by embracing such music legends as B.B. King, Mahalia Jackson, as well as the Beatles in his later times. So I could use such timely advice as a road tripper and world journeyer by acting more assertively to find common ground with “locals” who might confront my wife and me in “red” states like Alabama, West Virginia, and Idaho because of our politically different ways.

2. Elvis’ Team Evolution

In the mid 1950s, the film clearly illustrates that Elvis’ popularity as “The King of Rock n’ Roll” exploded during each nightly performance as a charismatic solo artist. In fact, however, he never actually wrote original music for any of his songs. Know as well that as Elvis grew older, his later performances in Las Vegas took place on a grander scale as more polished set lists in sync with an orchestral stage show setting. Thus he became increasingly interdependent with those comprising his team of musicians each night to sustain the high energy performance that the audience expected of him each night. Thus given Elvis’ need to become more than a solo act, might I also be more  receptive to the idea of delegating more responsibilities for planning our vacations to my wife and respected travel agencies now.

3. Elvis’ Worldly Outlook

It’s quite obvious from the movie that the Elvis’ rock n’ roll craze exploded with world wide appeal. Yet because of the questionable booking arrangements of Colonel Parker to profit from Elvis’ night to night concert “grind” back home in the U.S., Elvis never realized his long desired quest to travel and perform overseas. So as I ponder with apprehension my current dilemma about how to manage current family and medical challenges that require extended time spent in South Florida, I must overcome such fears and remain committed to venturing independently with my wife to new places outside my city, state, and. country,

4. Elvis‘ Addictive Ways

Life on the road playing the raucous rhythm and blues style music that Elvis loved grew more difficult for him over time. For the late 1960s and beyond presented him in the film with a new spirit of protest in each performance as the MLK and Bobby Kennedy’ assassinations, Civil Rights violence on the streets , and the escalation of the Vietnam War weighed heavily on his mind at the time. Compounding these stressful issues, mounting problems in Elvis’ relationship with Priscilla would lead to the end of their marriage in 1973. To mask such inner pain, Elvis’ body thus began to wear down on the road. His once slender figure now became bloated from poor eating habits while his drug- alcohol misuse would sometimes slur his speech or cause him to stumble around awkwardly on stage. Very simply, it would thus behoove me to consider Elvis’ decline in his physical condition as a “wake up” call. For while I might enjoy a “good night on the town” in day to day travel in sensory indulgence, it’s simple not worth it at this stage of my life to abuse such freedoms from a health perspective.

5. Elvis’ Financial Woes

Who would had ever thought that a famous musician like Elvis Presley would be depicted in the movie as hopelessly in debt due to outrageous expenditures at his Graceland Estate and unfair royalties contract with his booking agent, Colonel Parker during the course of his musical career? Thus, it would be wise for me to be more mindful about when to invest our time and money in this present era of information overload concerning desired places and modes of travel. I must particularly read the fine print more as to fees allotted to commercial entries that advertise travel extras such as time share gift bribes, untrusting booking arrangements, and credit card fraud activities.

In addition to these movie depictions I’ve reasoned about the popularized “King of Rock n’ Roll”, take a long look at the Elvis photo set below. How then does his legacy both in music and beyond measure up today? In what ways?

Elvis Birthplace 1 – Tupelo, Mississippi
Elvis Birthplace 2 – Tupelo, Mississippi
Elvis Birthplace 3 – Tupelo, Mississippi
Elvis’ Graceland Home 1 – Memphis, Tennessee
Elvis’ Graceland Home 2 – Memphis, Tennessee
Elvis Exhibit 1 In Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame – Cleveland, Ohio
Elvis Exhibit 2 In Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame – Cleveland, Ohio
Elvis Exhibit 3 In Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame – Cleveland, Ohio
Elvis Casino Memento 1 – Las Vegas, Nevada
Elvis Casino Memento 2 – Las Vegas, Nevada
Elvis Presley’s 2022 Movie Portrayal

January’s Sunshine

“ One’s destination is never a place but a new way of looking at things.” (Henry Miller)

JANUARY’S SUNSHINE ( An original poem by USFMAN )

In Absence Of Winter, One Never Grows Old

When Palm Fronds Can Sway In Glorious Gold

Feel Peace Like A Lotus Drifting On Lazy Lagoon

When Bloom Filled Breeze Breaks Awaiting Cocoon

Much of Our Life Choice Fills With Restless Will 

When Our Slower Paced Soul Seeks Reptilian Chill 

But As Nurture Finds Nature One’s Troubles Expire 

When Solitude Calls To Stand Still By Warm Fire

Know That Fertility Of Earth Lifts One’s Dimness of Gray 

So Happy New Year To You As You Blossom Each Day

Air B&B “Wake-Up Call”

“ Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.” (Thomas Jefferson)

Take a long look at the title photo of this blog that so vividly illustrates the colorful sign and caption, “Florida Welcomes You”. Next picture in your mind hordes of “snowbird” tourists descending  from the Georgia border by Interstate Highway into the “Sunshine State” from up north. Now take a logical guess what impressions of Florida might this image most likely project to them? If you guessed such a  border billboard  carried the message that their upcoming vacation to Florida would provide a beautiful escape to sun blissed contentment, it seems the advertisers who created this sign apparently did their job well to hook them in. A question remains for such vacationers, however, to confirm whether these preconceptions of Florida as a paradise are truthful as they drive further south and more fully experience their chosen destination.

This thinking process described above compares nicely with our use of the Air B&B lodging app to make rental housing bookings when desired in both short and long term travels. For the best scenario we could hope for then would be that our detailed, pre- occupancy research of several Air B&B units at an affordable price range and convenient time frame for us would yield a truthful and trustworthy booking decision.

But what if a housing unit we booked upon actual inspection failed this time proven test? Perhaps the photos and previous occupant reviews of the apartment interior and surrounding environs did not reveal a truthful picture about what an extended stay in the unit for us as future tenants would really be like. Or maybe upon walking outside the dwelling grounds, either Ruth or I happened  to notice extraneous sights and sounds that overly bothered us. Consider as well that important practical communications between the host owner of the unit and us before and during the course of our visit might have turned out to be  dysfunctionally poor.

So it seems clear that all of these above negative considerations would influence our decision to cut short our four night, Air B&B vacation to the west coast of Florida this week and return to South Florida on the second day of our stay. To the owners credit, we thereafter sought and obtained agreement with them to get a full refund for the three remaining days not spent there.      
 
But in retrospect, as I re-examine  in more detail those seemingly gorgeous photos below presented by the owner for this apartment, I’m reminded to evaluate my use of bookings apps with more mindful diligence in the future. For it seems clear that when an advertisement appear to be too good to be true, then it’s due time for me to over into troubleshooting mode to question it. How about you?  
                                 Happy New Year, Readers 

Feeling Holiday “Pizzazz”

“Finding closure opens the door for us to see the new path we will take on our journey of life and living.” (Debbie Zieman)

The winter holiday season that begins after Thanksgiving often signifies for me a powerful sense of closure resulting in self satisfaction in moving on from what I’ve previously done. But the most important matter of interest might be what immediately felt holiday circumstances during this time period actually “kicks in” a much sought spirit of kindness and generosity toward others that I so desire. For I suspect the answer often lies in my search to improve myself as a person rather than to just seek outward pursuit of competitive recognition. To explore further this conclusion, it seems no coincidence that my more spontaneous pursuit of a genuine “Happy Holidays” spirit in my life influenced such past closure December decisions I made to get married three days before Christmas, retire from teaching permanently, and book several life enhancing travels to Switzerland, California, Peru, and the Caribbean.

So let’s imagine for a moment we’re walking along a densely forested trail heading uphill that provides little indication of where and when it will end. You may or may not complete the entire trekking course so your mind turns to finding a wondrous place to stop and return back along the way. It’s totally up to you in each moment you step to intuitively find that spot that meets those positive expectations you’ve set for yourself to where your journey shall end and perhaps a new one can begin. Two miles in, a sudden clearing appears between the thick cover of surrounding trees to reveal below a quaint, winter village scene of great interest to you below. This burst of excitement overwhelms you then knowing that this quietly revered spot to end your walk gave you something to celebrate as you proceed to more fully explore this new travel curiosity by soon visiting the village below.

Along this same line of thinking, I looked forward to an aimless drive along the “Holiday Fantasy of Lights” route at Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek, Florida last night. For who knows what colorful sights I would fully embrace along the way as I moved slowly along in the darkness of night. But I seemed ready for my “Happy Holiday” spirit to unexpectedly intensify at any point to justify reason for taking this brief journey tonight. Enjoy the photos.