My idea of vacation is to stay actively immersed wherever I travel. My first trip to Paris, I spent hours wandering the streets studying the classical architecture of the city’s bridges and cathedrals. On a tour of Thailand, I took to the back of an elephant, exploring the country’s vast jungles. In Saint Lucia, I climbed the Pitons and trekked into the sulfurous mouth of the island’s volcano. I have never been one to simply sit around doing nothing on any of my travel experiences. So, when I decided to head to the Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos, I was unsure of how I would enjoy my time there. While there are plenty of beach activities available on the island, from snorkeling to kayaking to waterskiing, I had not opted to pursue any of them. My time on the archipelago would be spent lying on the beach for five days without an agenda.
Despite my apprehensions, I selected Grace Bay, a beach on Providenciales, as my oasis. From the airport I made my way to the hotel and then immediately to its adjacent seashore to witness the swathes of coffee cream sands bordering the turquoise waters. Much to my surprise, the beach was not crowded with swarms of visitors. This island felt private, free of the typical cacophony found at most tropical destinations. I wandered over to a deluxe cocooned chaise lounge prepared to fill my days with activities for the week, but it seemed that the gently lapping waves were saying, “Relax,” in a soothing mantra. I figured water sports could wait five minutes before I returned my attention to it. As I lay motionless gazing out at the ocean, it seemed as if there was endless variety in the display of colors. The azure sky met cobalt waters far out on the horizon which adapted to royal blue as the waves neared the shore before pooling into sections of ultramarine. As the blond colored sand edged towards the Caribbean sea, the waters turned to a brilliantly clear cyan where I could clearly see the sun reflecting bottom.
Passing the Time
Time took on another dimension while I lazed on the cushioned, cocooned lounger. The hours passed away like seconds and my plan for island activities faded like the ebbing of the tide. Even walking a few steps into the ocean seemed too much of an effort on this island paradise. The warmth of the idyllic day, the sound of the rhythmic waves, and the seductive scenery before my eyes all created a cocktail for unwinding. As I crept closer to the land of nod, a waiter came by and asked me what I would like to drink. A tall, cool glass of rum punch sounded delicious, and so I ordered one. Before the next breeze wafted through the beach expanse, I had a sunset-hued guava rum punch in my hands.
Three hours of staring at the ocean and sipping drinks passed as if it were only three minutes. I felt I would be doing a disservice to Turks and Caicos if I didn’t venture out into the ocean for a swim. So I sauntered into the warm water and waded my way to where I could see the dreamscape of gentle surf and white sand in front of me. This place seemed an illusion, too perfect to be true. Yet here I was, enjoying the tactile amenities of the island’s wonderful geography without effort. On Turks and Caicos I saw myself being able to purposefully fill my days with nothing while soundly enjoying my vacation.
Art of Luxury
A few days of repeating the same lack of activity and I had found a pleasant rhythm to the course of my days. A late morning rise, a simple breakfast, and then I trotted off to my beach: a glistening sweep of powdery sand dotted with striped brown chaises. Each one was a sanctuary, but the one I chose each day was the ideal seat. From its sheltered cushions I spent the whole day watching the picturesque tide come in and go out. Eventually, I made my way to the lapping waters and floated on my back as I gazed up at the ever blue sky. A seaside lunch of fresh fish and iced tea, followed by more relaxation time under the sun, and before I knew it, the sun began to sink towards the blue horizon. The shades of blue turned to red and orange and I would sit still, doing absolutely nothing, inside my fabric covered nook.
I spent my entire vacation in Turks and Caicos doing one thing: lying on the beach. If I had been told that would be my only activity during the trip, I would not have believed it. When I returned home from the islands, I realized that for the first time I did not need time off after returning from an excursion. The weather, the landscape, and the insouciant ambience of the Turks and Caicos helped me find serenity. My lackadaisical days on the island gave me a stunning discovery: an immersive travel experience could be found by sitting quietly and letting the surroundings overtake my senses. Learning the art of repose is a luxury I was happily to study in Turks and Caicos.
Today’s Turks and Caicos archipelago was born out of the successful eighteenth century salt trade. Salt altered these uninhabited islands into a major player in colonial North America. The flourishing salt economy incorporated the tragedy of slavery, brought booming wealth to neighboring islands, and furnished Turks and Caicos with hundreds of stories. The vestiges of this convoluted network can be seen in the wasted salt pans around the island and in the historical records kept at the Turks and Caicos National Museum.