It all started with a promise. A pinkie promise to be specific. I think we need context here, so let’s back up… not to the age of dinosaurs just to an age of change.
I’ve worked at the same restaurant for four years, watched the predictable parade of characters waltz in and out knowing they were never meant to stay. Somewhere along the way, this “authentic” Mexican restaurant became my home away from home, in some ways it still is. It became my comfort zone, and its bright, slightly tacky decorations were enough for me. But life has other plans, it comes at us fast and shifts the world beneath us until we end up right back at square one. These plot twists tend to leave us recovering, rebuilding, and re-discovering ourselves. At least that’s what I was doing when I met this charismatic, slightly insane bartender who would throw tickets at my face while speaking rapid Spanish. I had no idea then that I just met my best friend. Flash forward five months later, one too many beers, more than enough existential conversations (for Shannon anyway), approximately 500 hand hugs and here we are, at the bar making plans to go to Puerto Rico.
Traveling has never been my passion. Looking at restaurant décor was as close as I’ve allowed myself to see the world. So when I was asked to travel with my friend back to her home, I was shocked that I said “yes.” In hindsight, I think the initial answer was not so much for my benefit. I read about Hurricane Maria, saw news footage of destroyed homes and flattened forests, but its the stories that I heard were too much. Too much sadness but they were strangely laced with hope for the future and filled with love for a home that could never really be destroyed. So I made a pinkie promise.
As the countdown to the trip hit single digits, my excitement began to increase exponentially. Maybe it was the names in the stories that I didn’t recognize (Karen & Kelly), or the pictures of mountains looming over turquoise water, or maybe it was just the idea of going somewhere unexplored. My bags were packed, my ticket was ready, and so were my friends. Only one mildly horrifying challenge remained: the plane ride. I fully expected to kick the bucket at 30,000 feet, but I made it through (unless my spirit is writing this) with the help of liquid courage, plenty of hugs, and ocean sounds weaving their way through my mind. Before I knew it, we were in PR a place I’ve heard so much about and I was ecstatic. Then I peeked over to see my friend excited for an entirely different reason that had everything to do with coming home. That’s when I knew I was somewhere special.
The first sight I registered was a palm tree. I have never EVER seen a real palm tree before, I didn’t realize they were so tall. It seems quite silly that a tree so tall should have so little branches. Despite this confusing conundrum, I was so thrilled by its island like presence that I went right over to touch it. I guess we can check that off the bucket list.
My excitement was unparalleled in that moment, and honestly, it got so much better from there if you can believe it. I still can’t. Expectations are something else entirely, too great and we risk being disappointed. If they are too little, we need to question why we even bothered in the first place. So what were my expectations traveling to PR? I had none, not because I didn’t want to be over or underwhelmed, but because I had never really traveled anywhere before. All I hoped was that my friend would be happier and maybe I would swim in the ocean because I heard it was warm. I’ll be the first to admit, I never expected this.