Beyond Paradise: Seeking Culture in Grenada // British West Indies

“What kind of drink would you like to sip on at the beach?”

Up until this point, this was the hardest question I had to answer here.

We spent our first few days in Grenada at an all-inclusive Sandals Resort for our honeymoon. I was on a dream vacation in the southern Caribbean, and all I wanted to do was relax and zone out.

But it was really important to my new husband that we experience the culture of the new country, and for the first time I could not understand why. We had just spent an exhausting year planning our 300+ person wedding, and I had forgotten what relaxation felt like. Believe it or not, I told him, the fact that we were stuck inside the resort with free food, drinks and entertainment didn’t really bother me.

Somehow, he found a way for us to make it out: an all-day excursion guiding us through the island was on the itinerary for mid-week.

As a naïve Minnesotan, I put the words “island” and “paradise” together. When you’re on an island, everyone just lays on the beach all day without working, right? I was quite surprised to hop into the resort’s 11-person van and discover the depth of Grenada’s history, people and culture.

The hefty amount of spices exported from Grenada and their natural forms surprised us, like the red shell casing of nutmeg and the bark of a cinnamon tree. We drove by the small shacks lined on the side of the road selling sodas, chips and Grenadian spices while what seemed like hundreds of children in uniform walked to or from school as our tour guide described the vast array of school systems in the country. Our native tour guides also talked in-depth about the overthrowing of the Grenadian government and seeing the United States invade and destroy parts of Grenada in the 80s – an event that impacted the country so much, that I didn’t have a clue about.

We instantly fell in love with the people. We felt so much warmth from their smiles and their authentic energy, their boastful claims of skipping the doctor to use the ocean as their medicine. We were shocked watching them eat fruit right off the branch, driving like maniacs on the left side of the road, and carrying around a machete from place to place.

The days that followed the excursion, our awareness was heightened. We paid attention to the people serving us and started asking them questions. We asked what garnished our dishes; we tried new plates we were afraid of before, like nutmeg-flavored ice cream and the national dish, Oil Down, which I can only describe as a caribbean version of gumbo. We stopped worrying about getting the perfect shot of the ocean and worried more about getting enough time in the crisp water. Instead of souvenirs from the Sandals gift shop, we bought spices like saffron and mace from a local vendor.

At the end of the trip, the questions I had to ask myself got harder. What could I be doing to continually push myself into new experiences? What unique pieces am I missing within my own culture? How can I travel to push myself, learn and grow? Now, I had a new sense of how different pieces of the world were. And still I long for the experience I had in Grenada – from the warm smiles of the people to the smell of the salty ocean.

Originally published on Conscious Wanderlust.

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