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PUERTO RICO | Friday, 22 May 2015 | Views [298] | Scholarship Entry

“When I saw this van, I scoffed, laughed at the suckers riding it, and I told my wife, ‘I’m never gonna be caught dead in that old thing,’” the man sitting in front of us said.

My mother, my father, my sister, and I sat hip to hip in the second bench seat from the back of the van, our knees knocking together at every jolt as the vehicle dipped its nose in and out of potholes in the gravel road. The passenger door continuously swung open no matter how many times the tour guide yanked it shut while continuing to chatter in Spanish with the driver. The clamor of conversation, grinding brakes, and guffaws provided the soundtrack for our ride to the famous Bioluminescent Bay of Vieques, Puerto Rico.

I prefer to act less like a tourist and more like a traveler who sidesteps the lines in front of famous monuments to pursue unique experiences. Sometimes, though, famous locations aren’t overrated. Popular locales likely have more choices of tour guides, brochures, information on the internet, etc. The downside of popularity is that many companies overcharge, claiming they have more knowledgeable tour guides/comfortable buses/discounts than their competition.

While walking around town in Esperanza, we explored our options of Bioluminescent Bay tour companies. My dad walked out of one building with his eyebrows raised, shaking his head. The next company was situated in a quaint shack under a few palms: “Luminita Bio Bay Tours” said the hand-painted teal sign.

Of course we enjoyed our time kayaking through the shimmering blue-green glow of millions of phosphorescent organisms, knowing we were one of the few to witness such an instance of the natural world’s magic, but any cursory glance over the results of a Google search for “Bioluminescent Bay Vieques” can describe the awe-inspiring quality of the Bay.

Will the results say how deliriously happy our raucous laughter rang out, bouncing up and down in the back of the Luminita Bio Bay Tours van? Could you find a website that recounts how my sister and I jokingly bemoaned not paying more money for the other company who probably owned a yacht and served its customers martinis and finger sandwiches laid atop of the exorbitant prices printed on their receipts? Does the Internet give any details about the van ride to the bay or does it just tell you about the experience at the end?

Because what made my experience with Luminita Bio Bay Tours so memorable was, indeed, the journey and not the destination.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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