What To Do in Trinidad & Tobago
This article originally appeared in Darling Magazine, written by Erin Nicole, here
Making The Case For Being Quietly Awesome
We live in a world fueled by self-promotion. If you’re not building your personal brand via Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and the like, it’s almost as if you don’t exist in 2016. When this trend first began years ago, those who were self-promoting in this way were brave outliers; however, publicly posting your every move is now the norm, which means that the newest counterculture, in my humble opinion, is going to favor a return to letting one’s achievements, passions and involvements speak for themselves.
I have nothing against social media, and yet I am honestly ready to admire someone who’s never campaigned for my admiration. My recent visit to the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago provides the perfect illustration as to why I advocate for a return to quiet humility.
Though I am an avid traveler and have been all over the world, prior to visiting Trinidad and Tobago with a company called El Camino Travel, I had never even heard of them. It turns out, there’s a reason for this; because Trinibago—as locals call the two islands—is rich in natural resources. It hasn’t needed to rely on tourism in the way that other local islands such as Jamaica or Barbados have had to. This has allowed the islands to remain under-the-radar and untouched by the trappings of mainstream resort travel.
It’s also meant that Trinibago tends to draw a different kind of traveler than do the other Caribbean islands, one who is more adventurous and in search of an authentic immersion. As a result, the low-key tourism industry which does exist in Trinibago is inadvertently geared towards millennial travelers.
While in Trinibago, I learned about the islands’ storied history, one that has led to an intensely diverse population. Trinidad was first made a Spanish colony with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498. In 1797, it switched hands, falling under British rule and occupation. Meanwhile, Tobago was passed between the Dutch, Spanish, British and French more times than any other island in the Caribbean. Further diversifying the population was the practice of slave ownership on the islands for many years. The first slaves utilized on the island were Caribbean-born. Later, slaves were imported directly from Africa. In 1838, these slaves were granted freedom, which created problems for local plantation-owners. So, they invented what was basically a new system of slavery, bringing Indians, Chinese and Portuguese over under what was called “indentureship.”
Though the origins of this mixed population are shameful, the modern day result is anything but—Trinibago is a melting pot representative of what the entire world will one day resemble (in my opinion). Island residents practice Catholicism and Hinduism in nearly equal numbers, and nearly every other religious group—from Baptist to Muslim—is represented in some percentage.
… Trinibago tends to draw a different kind of traveler than do the other Caribbean islands, one who is more adventurous and in search of an authentic immersion.
As you would have guessed, due to this striking diversity of population Trinidad’s food is absolutely incredible. Its special mix blends African, Indian, Creole, AmeriIndian, European, Chinese and Lebonese influences. I enjoyed meals—cheap ones, I might add—that I dream about to this day. While in Trinidad, we took a cooking class with local Chef Jason Peru, who has become somewhat of an international celebrity. I have since recreated the incredible recipes he shared with us at home for friends on more than one occasion to rave reviews.
Trinibago is purported to have more national dishes than any place in the world, including Callaloo, Bake & Shark, Pelau, Curried crab & dumplings, Oil Down, Pasteles, Black Cake, Dhal Puri Roti and Murtanie (a.k.a. Mother-in-law), among others.
Trinibago is also home to the more obvious trappings of a Caribbean island, though in this case unspoiled by a culture of exploitative tourism—otherworldly beaches among them. If you’re ever on the islands, I highly recommend visiting The Nylon Pool, a sand bar in the middle of the ocean with crystal clear waters. Trinidad is also home to a large population of endangered leatherback turtles, who somehow find their way back to the sands on which they were born in order to lay eggs.
We stayed at Mt. Plaisir in Tobago to observe the turtles, who lay their eggs directly below the charming hotel’s balconies. As the baby turtles have very low chances at survival, a local organization collects the newly-laid eggs, holds onto them until they’re hatched to keep them safe from predators, and then allows you to participate in releasing the baby turtles into the ocean. Observing the 400 lb. leatherback turtles lay eggs, and subsequently releasing their babies into the ocean, was one of the most memorable and touching experiences of my life. One that I, again, never would have known I could partake in given how quiet the islands—and the amazing organizations dedicated to saving these animals—are in their efforts.
… the element of surprise enhanced my experience tenfold.
It’s hard to do justice to the majesty and vitality of these islands, and perhaps that is another reason why Trinibago remains one of the world’s best kept secrets. Having known very little about the islands in advance of my trip, the element of surprise enhanced my experience tenfold.
Think about this as it applies to ourselves—if we give it all away on social media, what is left for those who meet us in real life to discover? There is something to be said for retaining an aura of mystery, of letting others be drawn to you through some sort of cosmic circumstance, and of letting your brilliance unfold before them organically.
It works for Trinibago.
What do you think? Is mystery making a comeback?
Images via Emma McAlary