Wheaton’s Way

Just like so many others living in Cayman, going on vacation elsewhere ended up being a bit of a pipe dream this summer.

I won’t lie, we had definitely considered it. With two big birthdays in the family – one of them a resident overseas – we wanted to try and make the effort to get together.

The planning began as it always does for trips, with dates and destinations being bandied about, then whittled down based on people’s availability and flight schedules.

We would travel to Las Vegas and New York.

No, we would just do Las Vegas.

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Forget Vegas, we would spend two weeks in Florida.

Then the reminder from government went out that flights to and from Cayman were repatriation only, and – at the same time – Florida was turning into a COVID Petri dish. We were all vaccinated, but it would still mean masks everywhere we went – regardless of whether or not Florida Governor Ron DeSantis decreed that eating a gummy bear a day would keep the coronavirus away. On top of all of that, we were also getting into the height of hurricane season. The odds were piling up against us.

What with the guilt of us possibly filling seats on planes that someone with a real emergency would need, and visions of visiting Universal Studios in HAZMAT suits, we finally gave up the idea of an international vacation.

So, we put a pin in that idea and best friend Lynne and I mapped out how we would spend two weeks in Cayman as a staycation.

Whenever we have taken a trip, I have always reported on our daily escapades to friends and family around the globe. It started when Lynne and I booked a transatlantic cruise on the QEII. Brace yourselves: There was no WiFi onboard and phone call from your cabin to the outside world was about $20-a-minute. The way I talk, we would have been facing the kind of bill usually reserved for open heart surgery or a seat next to Jeff Bezos on his phallic space transport.

To send an email, one had to go to the business centre on whatever deck it was, type it out on a provided computer with one’s cabin number clearly noted in the ‘Subject’ line, and send it. When recipients responded, those emails had to be printed out by business centre staff, put in envelopes and personally delivered to the guest’s cabin. It was like a bridge between email and snail mail.

I have to say, it was always very exciting to get back to our stateroom at the end of the night and find a collection of envelopes waiting for us.

After that trip, I made a point of keeping people up-to-date with our adventures, first through email, and then social media. That was going to be the plan for our summer vacation as well, but now that Lynne and I were staying home, what to do?

Well, I decided that we would ‘travel the world’ without stepping foot off the island.
At first, the posts were pretty believable. I said we were in Mexico, dining on tacos and sipping margaritas in an authentic cantina, whereas we were actually having dinner at Casa 43.

The next stops were Costa Rica and Botswana, which included sightings of rare wildlife (chickens and agoutis) and a trip to a local market, before I stopped to pose with the inflatable dinghy that would take us river rafting (A. L. Thompson’s).

I told the tale of Lynne narrowly escaping the clutches of a large snake (it nearly dragged her out of the boat!) followed by a flight to Sydney, Australia. I have to say, virtual travel is so much easier than the real thing. I was able to skip over all the security headaches, brain-tickling COVID tests and general airport unpleasantness, and just get to the meat of our ongoing capers.

As you can imagine, a stop in Oz would not have been complete without a meal at the famous Tukka West restaurant. We looked out over the water from our coastal perch, while tucking into a cornucopia of seafood dishes. I tried to get a grasp of the language, but with only about 24 hours in the country, the best I could manage was figuring out that ‘lobbie’ meant lobster.

I announced that Lynne felt like having a burger, so we flew to California to satiate her craving. What are the odds that the place we found was called Seven Mile Burger? Such a coincidence, considering our own famous beach in Cayman.

It was at this stage in my posts (despite saying that we’d travelled over 14 hours from Australia just for a burger stateside) when friends who hadn’t grasped what I was doing began to ask why we hadn’t visited them when we were in their neck of the woods. A couple of pals in LA were shocked that we hadn’t reached out, and when I hinted that we might be jetting to Asia next, an old business associate of mine insisted that we swing by to see her in Moscow.

I realised that I had to up the ante with these vacation reports to make them more fantastical, and so my next post spun a yarn about Lynne flying to Kingston, Jamaica from LAX and me running to the wrong gate – a flight to Kingston, Ontario – which left me hitching a ride on an 18-wheeler to San Antonio, Texas, where Lynne would meet me the next day. The driver and I ended up parting ways in Las Vegas, as I couldn’t listen to any more of her stories about when she was a competitive hula-hooper back in the day.

Now, some of you may be reading the above and woefully shaking your heads, thinking “the cheese has finally slid off the cracker”, but it really has been great fun coming up with all these ridiculous scenarios. It has encouraged us to think of new ways to create fun, and we’ve been digging through costumes I have in the house for some photo ops that might suit our stops in other ‘countries’.

Remember the days before all the technology we have now? Our imaginations were what kept us entertained. My family moved to the Cayman Islands in 1975, and there was no TV, no internet (of course), and only the ICCI radio station until Radio Cayman started up in 1976. As kids, we read loads of books, built sandcastles, and imagined pirates storming the beaches or fairies in the garden. It was a great time to truly be inventive and amuse ourselves for hours with stories we dreamed up ourselves. Our ‘vacation’ has taken me back to those early years.

As of writing this particular column, we still have one week of travelling left. Looks like Russia, Iceland, Ireland and Hawaii might be on the itinerary, which will have us zigzagging all over the globe, but the great thing about a virtual vacation is the absence of jet lag.
Lynne made it to Texas from Jamaica, and after going to an art show at Mojo Gastro Pub in San Antonio, we boarded a plane for Italy. I can smell the meatballs already.

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