I went on an Alternative Winter Break to the Bahamas in January 2015. I know this was many months ago, but I was recently reminded of it because I just got accepted to go on another one to Guatemala! All the wonderful memories came rushing back, especially now that I’m preparing for another trip.
Last January, our AWB Bahamas team went to Nassau and Andros Islands in the Bahamas. The local community partners included the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and a pastor who rented us a small house. The topic of our trip was Ecotourism and Environmental Sustainability. In the beginning of our trip, we attended a very informational lecture at the College of Bahamas about their environment and ecosystem. We bonded with some of their students, who later took us to the underwater coral sculptures at the Jaws Beach. (Yes, that’s the beach where they shot the Jaws movies!) We saw how these underwater sculptures alleviates the strain on corals (by environmental factors such as ships, tourists, and natural disasters). We also helped with the environmental cleanup in the College of Bahamas. For the remainder of our trip, we helped BNT with the maintenance of Blue Holes National Park on Andros Island and did beach cleaning on our free time. Andros is very underdeveloped and did not have much manpower to sustain many local tourist sites. Despite that, we lived beach front in a very modest little home, immersed ourselves in their culture, savored our days without the internet, and appreciated our time together. Not to mention… we were enjoying the sun and the sea while everyone back home was freezing their toes off!
We had many opportunities to reflect on our trip about our work, ourselves, and our lives. What shocked me was that the locals were content and happy even though they did not have much, compared to the American standards. I asked the local pastor why that is, and he explained to me that this is their way of life; that they never felt the need to want anything since they were never really introduced to temptations; that they are just happy to be able to live in a wonderful place where your dinner can easily be caught for free. We gained a whole new perspective on life there. I especially felt joy and peace from the simplest things for the first time in a long while. The people were great, the food was awesome, and the times we spent are very educational and memorable.
I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of the Alternative Breaks community. Once I arrived back from my AB trip, I shared about my trip on Facebook, Instagram, twitter, and via email to everyone and anyone. I was just so inspired by the trip that I even wrote a 25 page paper on how coral reefs can directly impact the Bahamian ecosystem, country’s income, and residents’ way of life. I also have been talking to anyone who would listen about my AB experience. I want to let UMD students know that there is such an opportunity for them. I love that AB can provide such an alternative to possibly an uneventful or a less impactful break. It also allows students to discover more about themselves, meet like-minded people, learn more about the issues that they are interested in, and allow them to challenge their limits.
If you’re reading this, and if you’re a UMD student, I hope that you will sign up for Alternative Breaks as well!