Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya

Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama!

Okay, okay, I’m done with my personal sing-a-long.

My trip to Aruba started like most good stories do (actually, most of my bad stories start like this too, but just go with it). I was wine drunk on a Tuesday and FaceTimed one of my college best friends, and asked if she would go away with me for Thanksgiving. Anywhere. Somewhere warm.

I looked up a list of places Americans can travel right now and saw Aruba.

(The list was in alphabetical order, we didn’t make it very far.)

She said, “sure, send flights.”

We landed in Aruba three weeks later and after navigating numerous roundabouts with the grace of Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s European Vacation, we checked into the cutest ocean themed Airbnb, complete with charmingly kitschy wall-art that said things like “Life’s a Beach” and “Relax.”

Originally, we were both a little anxious about what we could possibly do on a small island for eight days as neither of us are “lay on the beach and do nothing” type of people. We came armed with books to read, and grand plans of self-reflection, meditation and journaling (otherwise known as delusions.)

Aruba had other plans.

Within our first 12 hours, we befriended locals with a speedboat and were zipping around the ocean, picking up fruity drinks from catamarans. That basically set the tone for the rest of the trip as we spent the next day partying on a pirate ship and getting treated to an oceanside dinner by a Swedish tech CEO, who I had befriended at the beach through a shared love of Jacquemus handbags.

The rest of the week was a blur of adventure involving scuba diving a shipwreck, commandeering a catamaran captain as a bachata partner, attempting to feed aggressive flamingos, late night champagne induced dips in the ocean, and… donkeys.

Somewhere in all of that, we became regulars at two shacks. (A sentence I never thought I would say.)

We obsessively visited Eduardo’s Beach Shack, ordering smoothie and poke bowls to the point where they knew me by name. (I would like to emphasize this as an accomplishment, as the only other establishment where I am known by name is a wine bar.)

And the second was Armando’s Kite Shack, one of the kitesurfing hubs on the northern part of the island. I had taken a few kiteboarding lessons before and wanted to get better, while my gal pal was excited to pick up her 87th hobby of quarantine.

We spent a few days drinking salt water and befriending all of the instructors, which was practically impossible not to do because 1) folks who live in Aruba are incredibly friendly and 2) kiters are a different breed of humans and I firmly believe that they are the kindest and most easy going people (I have yet to meet a kiter I don’t like.)

As our eight days in paradise were coming to an end, our new friends invited us to a catamaran party which was unfortunately the same time as our return flight.

It was a terribly generous invite and we agreed that it would be rude to decline.

We are anything but rude, so my friend and I pushed our flight back another day, checked out of the Renaissance and moved into a villa for the weekend along with a menagerie of kiters, island dwellers, new pals, and one very small dog.

Anything for one last moment in paradise, am I right?