I can’t believe I never told you the details about my travel without a plan “experiment”! While I have shared most of my Curacao adventures, I have failed to explain, in detail, the outcome of my Curacao experiment. So! What better time than Travel Tuesday to share this with you!? Let’s hit it!
Travel without a plan: The Hypothesis
I’m going to be honest here: I thought it wasn’t going to be that great. Don’t get me wrong–I loved the adrenaline rushes I was feeling weeks before the trip as I knew I would go plan-less. I mean, I did it in Israel and let’s be honest: It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. No way I could have planned 3 weeks straight of hitchhiking and couchsurfing solo across historical sites and kibbutzes! However, I at least had a plan-as-you-go mentality: While I had no itinerary when I departed, that quickly morphed into a “I know what I’m doing 2 days from now” mentality. Yes: I had itineraries written down 2 days ahead of time during the last half of my trip. This, however, would not be the case in the Curacao experiment…at all.
And I was scared because of it!
Why, you may ask!? Because I thought I would miss out on a thing or two. And do I know how the “travel regret” hits me…hard! So I was challenging myself in a big way.
Travel without a plan: The Methodology
Just bought a RT ticket Miami-Curacao. That’s it. Granted, I sent some Couchsurfing requests. Yet, in the end, I said: “Screw this, let’s make this the real Travel Without A Plan experiment!” I was even going to hit Bonaire in the process, but wasn’t going to buy that plane ticket until after I got to the Curacao airport. Yah, NUTS!
Travel without a plan: The Experiment
I arrived to Curacao with only one colorful duffle bag and a purse. Once at the airport, I simply asked a clerk where to go to book a flight to bonaire for a few days. She said: “Don’t go there if traveling solo! You’re young and unless you are diving, Bonaire can be boring. Spend your whole vacation in Curacao instead. You’ll have fun, I promise!” And so this is how I stayed in Curacao for 5 days…
Then, it was the Operation Finding a Cab. Charged me $25 as no one else was going, but at least he spoke Spanish and we had a great conversation on the way. I commented that I had not booked a hotel and told him about my Curacao experiment. What did my cabby think? A0 Estas loca. B) Te voy a ayudar (I’ll help you out). And so after asking “for any cheap hostel or guesthouse by the center of town,” I arrived at Villa Colombia. $13/night for a bed, including full breakfast? Oh yah, it’s on!
Villa Colombia was just a 10-minute walk away from the center, called Punda. For 5 days, I lived in the middle of a true Curacaoan neighborhood. Which of course, make the walk out and back to the guesthouse wonderful. I took in the daily Caribbean life, had a Curacaoan mom (my host!) that spoke Spanish, and was taken care of like family. Mom even exchanged my dolllars for florines (Curacaoan currency) at the fair market rate. I doubt I could have planned this so well!
My days consisted of walking around the center of town, taking photos, and getting food at local restaurants, which was easy as virtually everyone spoke Spanish in addition to Papiamento (Dutch Caribbean dialect) and Dutch; sometimes also English. I had some great conversations and understood that Curacaoans were pretty similar to us Puerto Ricans. After all, we are all from the Caribbean
The days I was out of town meant I was laying out at some exotic beach. My second day in Curacao I befriended a Venezuelan guest called Sonia, and we would hit town together many times. Also, that same day, I met a couple of Latinos in the center of town, Yara and David, which were on their way to the beach. After Sonia told me to go alone because she wanted to do more shopping, I hit my first Curacaoan beach!
Once at Mambo Beach, I really befriended the Latinos. I met Yara was actually an exchange student of tourism, so she was living in the island. This meant that after the impromptu day at Mambo Beach, I got to see her awesome cottage in the middle of another town and met all the exchange students at her house!
That same night, I went out with all of them after eating some home-made Curacaoan fish and veggies. We danced the night away (live Latin band, YAY!) and sobered up by eating Curacaoan fast food afterward.
My 3rd day involved going with Yara and David to Blue Bay with another Curacaoan friend of theirs. This was a beautiful resort and we had a blast, despite the cloudy weather!
What about my fourth day? On a tour hopping some of the best beaches of Curacao and even a grotto all day! Oh, and did I mentioned it included an amazing lunch (I ate iguana in Curacao!) and free beer all day long?! Booked last-minute (the night before) and got a sweet 60% discount. Bargaining, of course. Ahh, gotta thank Egypt for the practice!
Finally, Mr Mitch (@Mackinnontweets) arrived from his house build in Argentina and we spent the last leg of my trip together. Sharing travel stories while watching the ocean, eating amazing food at the more upscale restaurants in town, and even gambling at the local casinos was the perfect ending to my trip.
Oh wait, that’s right: The hitchhiking was the pinnacle of this trip — how could I forget?! We took the local bus to Cas Abou beach on our last day in Curacao. You see, we were told we would only have to walk a couple of meters from the bus stop to the beach…wrong! It was more of a couple of kilometers. Soooooo after about 10 mins of walking and no coast in sight, I encouraged Mitch to hitchhike. He agreed, and we flagged the next vehicle: A mom and daughter from the Netherlands, who spoke perfect English and were quite chatty and amusing. Just fabulous!
Travel without a plan: The conclusion
One of my best trips to date, for sure! I proved my hypothesis wrong: I didn’t really miss anything, except for the diving. Which, in all honesty, iw as planning to do on a different trip anyway. So for not having a set plan (not even a hotel!), I paid close to nothing for a room, good several free meals, saved on exchange fees, and met some amazing people on the way! The best part? Living like a Curacaoan and seeing how they go about their daily life. I only took public transportation (except for 2-3 occasions) and stayed in a residential neighborhood. Just treat after treat! Traveling like a local surely is better than just being a tourist