Saturday, August 24, 2019

Caribbean Vacation 2019

HE'S HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!

My husband returned safely home at the end of July and we've been living in a time warp ever since.

The last 9 months were the longest months of my entire life.  Eric deployed last fall with no notice, which just means that because of the circumstances surrounding his specific position, we were given a less than 3 week notice that he would be deploying.  Less than 3 weeks didn't give our heads, or hearts, any time to process all of the major changes that come with a long term separation.  I'm a planner, his deployment wasn't something that could be planned (not much in Army life can be) and that made it even harder for my obsessive brain to deal with.  Besides that though, our little family does everything together, so having to figure out how to do life when we're incomplete was disorienting for a good while after he left.  Eric and I suffered major heartache the entire time he was gone.  Isabelle too, but her's was delayed by a little bit, but then sure enough it set in about January when it finally hit her that he wasn't here for her to lean on in all the ways she needed to lean.  She then texted him constantly for the rest of the time he was gone, even as he was getting into formation minutes before walking through the doors here at Fort Bliss.  
Our heads eventually caught up and we adjusted and found a new normal, but our hearts never really did and the months that he was gone seemed to drag on for forever.  There were moments that Eric missed that made it feel like he was missing too much and we wouldn't be able to catch up whenever we were finally together again.  

I've made no secrets about any of this and have talked about how disorienting, frazzled, and pathetic I felt throughout this deployment - both on this blog and my personal Facebook.  As his homecoming approached, I began to get reeeeally nervous about ridiculous things like him not recognizing us, or us not recognizing him, or him not wanting anything to do with us when he got off the plane (the list of things I worried about is ridiculous, I could keep going but I really don't need to sound even more pathetic.  Too late?  I thought so.).  

But the second my husband came home, it felt like he never left and the last 9 months completely disappeared.  

That's the time warp we've been living in.... somewhere between each having lived 9 whole months without the other, and feeling like not a single second was spent apart.  Somewhere between time quadrupling the number of hours in every day while Eric was deployed, and no time having passed at all.

It's been weird and great and hard to explain all at the same time!

Reintegration can be difficult for some Soldiers and families, it's a process and is different for everyone, so I braced myself for another adjustment - an adjustment that I couldn't possibly know how it would evolve until he was home.  But for us, it was seamless.  Not even Journey acted like Eric was gone for so long!  We all fell right back into life as a complete family again and have the time warp to thank for it!  

Eric took the entire month of August off of work and we've really made the most of it.  Mostly we've just been lounging around, sleeping in, drinking allllll the wine, and not working out one single solitary time, but then we decided to take a vacation, because who knows how long this time warp will last and we never pass up an opportunity to go somewhere!


After a long deployment Eric really needed a vacation - that part did not make it into our time warp; His feeling like he was worn out and needing a vacation did not disappear the same way as the past months did.  I was aching to go somewhere tropical, and Isabelle really only cared if there was WiFi or not.  So I reached out to a high school friend who owns a travel agency and she booked us the PERFECT cruise vacation!  
We've never been on a cruise before, but traveling is our most favorite thing.  We travel as much as possible and have every intention of seeing every bit of this earth God allows, but this time we wanted to do something new and different (to us).  And I didn't want to have to worry about or plan any part of it.  I was especially mindful that Eric wouldn't have to worry about any part of it.  I wanted the hardest part of our vacation to be deciding what fruity drink to get next.

So, me, Eric, and Isabelle went on our very first cruise!  To the Caribbean!  Thanks to Getaways by Amy, we got the most amazing stress-free tropical vacation of our lifetime (so far)!  We got the drink package (unlimited alcohol), a balcony room, WiFi, and left every care we ever had at the dock in Galveston, TX as we sailed off into the sunset!

It. Was. Glorious.

We spent the entire week of our cruise disconnected from everyone but each other.  We were so disconnected that I barely took any pictures, and the pictures I did take were on my phone.  I had all that I needed on the ship with me so I never needed to worry about taking my phone anywhere.  That, and it got in my way of holding my drinks, so I just left it in our stateroom all the time.  I even bought the waterproof phone cases with floating wrist bands and still barely brought my phone anywhere to take pictures.  I didn't think about anything but my little family and keeping my glass full with some sort of frozen alcohol.  I soaked up all the sunshine I possibly could, and actually surprised myself by enjoying being in a bikini and not giving a damn what anyone thought (a bigGIANT  deal for me), but that was it.  I literally had NO cares!

It was the most perfect state of mind I have EVER been in! 

Date night in the middle of the ocean!

This wasn't even our favorite bar, but for some reason I took a picture of this one and not our favorite.

We visited country #'s 23, 24, & 25 while on our cruise!  But as my daughter ingeniously pointed out, this was different from our other travels... this, was a vacation!

My little family thinks traveling, and all the experiences that can only come from traveling, is the most valuable thing to give each other.  Eric, Isabelle, and I try to see and do as much as we can when we can in every place we visit.  We have traveled all over the world and make a real effort to experience the country/place that we are seeing as authentically as possible.  We immerse ourselves as best we can into their culture by eating their food, ordering from menus in their language, staying in Airbnb's, and talking to allllll the people (even if it's just through hand gestures.  Which, by the way, work really really well!).

But this.... this trip was a VACATION!

And we decided that a vacation is not totally the same as traveling.  We did get to experience new things, met amazing people from all over the world, and saw things we have never seen before, but we only got one day in each country, and since I didn't plan a single thing, we relied on Royal Caribbean's own excursions to see the things we wanted to see.  In fact, the cruise ship provided every little thing, and it was great!  We got to order whatever drink we wanted whenever we wanted, eat whatever food we wanted, go on an excursion if we wanted, go see a show if we wanted, they literally provided every single experience and all we had to do was decide whether we wanted to do it or not.  I didn't have to worry about anything!  More importantly, Eric didn't have to worry about anything - not cost, not how much we were spending, not driving or parking, not anything!  I swear that not even calories exist on a cruise ship.

And that, is a vacation!  

So by the time the ship arrived at its first stop, without a worry and already having the time of our lives, we were ready to explore!  It wouldn't be like us if we didn't.  

First stop: Cozumel, Mexico!  

Chichén Itzá in Yucatán, Mexico- one of the New Seven Wonders of the World! 

I have NO idea how I managed to snap this picture without a single tourist in it! 

I knew that if we were going to the Mexican Caribbean I wanted to see one of the 'New Seven Wonders of the World.'  It was a no-brainer.  We've already seen one, The Roman Colosseum, but we'd like to see ALL of them, so I wasn't about to pass this up!

Living in El Paso we've become accustomed to "dry heat" and had completely forgot how awful humidity is.  Actually, I should say that Isabelle and I forgot, Eric was used to it from being deployed, but my gosh, it was so humid in Mexico!  We were sweating buckets the entire time we were walking around, which is really gross but we didn't let it ruin our time there.  We explored all that we could and just let our excitement for seeing something new distract us from the sweat.  Chichén Itzá was beautiful!  The Mayan people (who's language, culture, and people are still alive today) were geniuses for that time and our modern world wouldn't be what it is today without them.  It was interesting and beautiful and the exact kind of thing we loooooove to experience when we travel!

We got back to the ship after a two hour round trip drive through the Mexican jungle and got ready for dinner.  I don't have any pictures of our waiters, Elvis and Eduardo, but they became our friends and we looked forward to dinner every evening because of them.  

Next stop: Georgetown, Grand Cayman!

Leaving Mexico and sailing on to Grand Cayman!

One of the things that I really hoped to do on our vacation was to swim in the ocean.  We were getting our hearts filled with ocean views and sunshine, but other than the pools on the Lido deck, we didn't get any chances to actually touch the ocean, and dammit, that's what I was going to do!

Isabelle has been a passionate animal rights advocate since she was old enough to talk.  She is a vegetarian and meticulous of the products she uses and buys so that they are vegan and cruelty-free.  Because of her, Eric and I have learned so much about animal rights and animal exploitation and cruelty and have also become mindful of the things we buy (although we are not vegetarian).  So keeping inline with our personal feelings, swimming with captive dolphins was not an option for us, even if it is a very popular excursion for Grand Cayman.  Instead, we decided to take the opportunity to swim in the ocean with other humans!  I especially felt like the ocean in the Cayman Islands was the place for me because they have the deepest points in the entire Caribbean Sea, so their water is a deep gorgeous blue... and I couldn't wait to jump into it!

Grand Cayman was indescribably beautiful.  After we were home again in Texas, Eric and I decided that it was our favorite of all the stops on our vacation.  I don't know that I've ever seen colors anywhere in my life like the colors we saw there.  Eric, Isabelle, and I spent the day swimming in that beautifully deep blue ocean, and nothing else.  It was true paradise.  

I took this video as we were standing on the balcony of our stateroom.  The ship was "parked" in the middle of the water so we had to take a ferry to get to shore.  This is literally what we woke up to in Grand Cayman:

Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

The last stop on our cruise: Jamaica!  And actually, Jamaica was the one stop where we didn't have an excursion already planned, which is how we kept it.  I did a little research and found that the port was so close that we could just jump off the ship quick, get our souvenirs and then get back so that we could pretty much have the ship all to ourselves.  We are hoping to do a trip just to Jamaica someday, the kind of trip that we can combine the all-inclusive feel of our cruise, with our kind of traveling and exploring, so there were no regrets about not having anything in particular planned.  And anyway, none of the excursions offered by the ship caught our attention, so I wasn't all that disappointed staying onboard.  I actually liked the idea of having the ship all to ourselves while everyone else did their excursions.

Even though Google had told me that the shopping area in Falmouth was really close to where the ship ports, I wasn't expecting to wake up to a small, beautiful village right outside our balcony!  That morning, Eric, Isabelle, and I woke up at port, walked out onto our balcony and there we were.... in Falmouth, Jamaica!

Standing on the balcony of our stateroom at the port in Falmouth, Jamaica. 

Falmouth, Jamaica with our ship (and stateroom) in the background.

The last couple of days on our vacation were spent cruising back to Texas.  We spent them napping, eating, drinking, and laying by the pool.  We almost never felt the ship move, but on one of those last days when we were sitting in the pool there were waves in the pool water from the movement of the ship and it was the most relaxing thing ever.  I was so relaxed and we were having so much fun sitting poolside watching the belly flop competition that we sat out there for a really long time and I didn't notice that I was getting sunburned until a few hours later.  

And holy hell did I get burnt!  

I got so sunburned that I developed an autoimmune reaction called a 'sun rash.'  Leave it to me to have some sort of dumb reaction to the SUN.  I had packed loads of organic aloe (and organic sunscreen that I learned the hard way doesn't last as long as the kind filled with chemicals, but I'll still take a sun rash over a non-reef safe sunscreen) so thankfully I was able to soothe some of the burning. 

But bejebus, a sun rash hurts sooooo baaaaaad!!!!  So I just got another frozen drink to forget that the bottom half of my legs were on FIRE with a million tiny red dots all over them and all was happy in my world again.

We had two days left on vacation, there were more drinks to drink, food to eat, music trivia at the Schooner Bar to nail (it was our favorite bar, long story, no pictures), and dinners to eat with Elvis and Eduardo!  Sun rash, shmun rash!

Isabelle's most favorite part of the ship was our balcony

Our last night on vacation and heading to a show!

The Caribbean Sea behind us, the Gulf of Mexico in front of us.

The color of the water, the beaches, the people we met... all of it, every single bit of our vacation.... was amazing!  And this time I really truly mean it when I say "amazing!"  I know I say that word a lot, but I really mean it this time!


All the great aspects of life came together so perfectly and sucked us into a time warp so that we could go on the vacation of our dreams.  Our Soldier returning safely home, Isabelle finally getting a break from school, all of the stress of the past 9 months disappearing with one kiss at the Fort Bliss airport, an all-inclusive vacation that allowed us not to worry about a single thing, being disconnected from everyone but each other, new experiences, and us three being together again.  

All because of a time warp.  I hope to never to leave it.

No comments:

Post a Comment