The Caribbean is a dream vacation destination. If you have a vision of palm beaches with calm seas, never-ending barbecues, and reggae music in the background, you’re actually not far off. Depending on where you choose to go, islands in the Caribbean live up to their reputation and more.
The popular islands, like Antigua and St Lucia, host tourists all year round. You can rent beautiful houses in Anguilla, one of the small islands that still packs a lot of punch. Your holiday will consist of a lot of sunbathing, some quick and easy road trips, and a lot of good food and culture.
However, we all strive to be socially conscious travelers, even on vacations when we just want to relax. By keeping certain realities in mind, you can enjoy your rejuvenating time in island paradise, while ensuring you don’t harm other people or the environment.
Hotel staff don’t have it easy
Wherever you go, you should endeavor to treat those in service positions with the utmost respect, and not like they are beneath you. But this is all the more true in some Caribbean countries. There are some very safe islands, but others have extremely high violent crime rates. Jamaica in particular is known to be somewhat dangerous.
It’s unlikely that you will be a victim of violent crime while visiting. But the majority of violent crimes are committed against staff in the tourism industry. Your maids, pool boys, bartenders, and taxi drivers have likely been victims in the recent part.
That’s not to say you should go in with a savior complex. That can be as harmful as anything else. However, when something doesn’t quite meet your high standards, think twice before giving them a hard time about it.
The slave trade is flourishing
Unfortunately, another unpleasant reality about the Caribbean is that it has a booming slave trade. The Dominican Republic is the main hub for the human trafficking industry, and all in all, over 1.8 million people are trafficked each year in the Caribbean. That puts the plight of Liam Neeson’s (movie) daughter in perspective – it’s something that’s happening all the time, and in some places more than others.
Once again, you’re not going to do much with a savior complex. Even Liam Neeson’s character in Taken causes plenty of damage during the rescue. You’re not going to do any better.
However, human trafficking is a reality that most of us don’t have to confront on a day-to-day basis. We don’t need to know about it. But if you do consider visiting a sex worker while in the Caribbean, think twice. Chances are you’re contributing to a slave trade that isn’t anywhere near its end.
It’s extremely beautiful – keep it that way
Most people travel to the Caribbean islands with the intention of experiencing an island paradise. We all want to swim in crystal clear water, kayak down the coast, and spend hours lying on white sand beaches.
I don’t think any of us need to be told not to litter on the beach. Somehow, millions of people still do it. In the Philippines it has gotten so bad that the president closed Boracay, one of the most popular islands. There may well have been external political motivations to his decision, but no one can deny that it was necessary. He called it a cesspool, and considering the amount of sewage that is dumped into the water, it’s difficult to disagree.
In the Caribbean, no such decisions have been made, and most holiday destinations are not anything close to cesspools. However, tourist disregard for the environment needs to stop.
And yet, litter’s not the big risk to the Caribbean islands. Global warming is. A 1 meter rise in sea level, according to the World Bank, could destroy 60% of the coastal wetlands in the Caribbean.
Social issues follow us around wherever we go. As much as we’d love to turn off once in a while, political inaction is eating away at the world around us.
Party with the locals
There is no better way to get to know a place than through the locals. If you stay in your tourist paradies, you will have a great time, but you won’t have a uniquely Caribbean time.
Partying with the locals is one of the best ways to get to know them quickly and intimately. And there are lots of parties to be had. In Barbados, you can experience the Crop Over Festival through July and August. Trinidad’s Carnival will require you to rejig your whole idea of what a party can be. And don’t forget about the Reggae Festival in Jamaica. Is anything else so quintessentially Jamaican.
No matter where in the region you are going, find out what the locals will be doing during the time you’re there. Learn about parties, cultural events, holidays, and the culture in general. That way, you can experience the Caribbean like a true Caribbean, without having to live there f
or years to find out its secrets.
We always want to find the secret spots in cities that we visit, where tourists rarely go. Well, the best way to do that is not through top ten lists online. It’s by getting to know someone who has been there all their lives, and letting them show you how to make the most of your time there.