How Growing up Every Summer in the Bahamas Shaped Me as a Person

My grandparents raised their children just like my parents raised me. Strong, smart and dedicated to spending every summer possible exploring the islands of the Bahamas. My father was in elementary school when his parents began boating from their home on the east coast of South Florida to the even quieter and largely untouched isles of the Bahamian island chain. They slept out on the deck of their little boat underneath the stars, caught fish for dinner, and waved hello every once in a while to those who sailed by.

Luckily, when my father grew up and had children of his own, he was still drawn to the place that shaped him as a child. Thus my parents, my two brothers and I began our own journey to the islands. A place with a quintessential charm and a timeless title, Hope Town, became our second home. Year after year we traveled back, spending the hot days in a summer rental home until we decided we wanted to plant our roots there even further. We built a home that became my happy place, my hideaway, and my peace for the next decade. However, my home was not those four walls, but the jagged rock edges, palm tree groves, seawater and rainbow-colored restaurants filled with happy locals. That is what my heart came home to.

As a young kid growing up in the early 2000s, electronics were everywhere. There were TVs, computers, razor phones, and of course, the iPhone was born. Yet every summer, I got whisked away from the noise when I went to the Bahamas. Like an episode of Gilligan’s Island, “no phone, no lights, no motor cars…”. We did actually have lights when the power wasn’t out.

One might think, a young kid would go crazy not being able to surf the web, watch cartoons, or talk to their school friends for months on end! Not me and not my family. I traded in my American forms of entertainment for Junkanoo parades at the local marina, where Bahamians dress up in the most eccentric, exciting and awe-inspiring costumes and march down the street celebrating with an irresistible blend of cowbells, drums and horns.

Not only was the culture dazzling but so was the environment. You could find treasures like seashells, sea glass and vintage hand-blown bottles just off the beach. The bright blue, Bahamian waters could easily beat any other place on earth since the water was brighter than the sky. Once I dove underneath the waves I found myself in a second world. Schools of blue tangs flirted around coral heads, nurse sharks waded in the sandy shoals, and dolphins danced in the depths just off the reefs. I remember the time I got to swim with a pod of wild dolphins. My father, two kids and I were on our way home from an unsuccessful search for lobsters when gray fins began dipping up and down through the gentle waves. Too excited and too scared to miss a glimpse of them, I jumped off our stalled boat with no fins of my own. Through my mask, I could see seven to ten dolphins just yards away from me. Following their lead, I swam parallel to them, in complete awe as the one closest to me met my gaze. I swore they were smiling at me.

The memories I made during my summers in paradise are ones that I will never forget. I daydream about passing on my love for my second home to my future family. I will show them Hope Town, Man-O-War, Guana Cay and so on. I want my future children to be able to feel the peace that comes from waves lulling you to sleep, to appreciate the importance and sacredness of nature, and to grow up the same way I did.

However, this past September has made that dream harder to imagine. Hurricane Dorian tore apart these beautiful islands and wreaked havoc on the wonderful locals that support the place we all love year-round. Houses are destroyed, water is contaminated and power is almost nonexistent. The people, the land and the animals still need support in this devastation. It is their dream for their families to grow up here too.

Courtesy of Steve Swain

 

There are many ways to donate or offer help. Here are a few options:

Hope Town Fire and Rescue

Man-O-War Relief

Elbow Cay Relief

Clean Water Mission

Education Fund for Man-O-War Children

All other body images courtesy of Ingrid Marinak.

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