A long read. For the short attention-spanned, feel free to soak it all in by browsing the photos.
A chronicle of my first ever solo-trip! Despite having traveled to over 20 countries at the young age of 22 (not a marketing ploy, I really have! I love love love to travel), this was my first time doing it all alone.
Day 1: Plane touches down at 3pm. Bee line to pick up my rental car. Keys in hand, I head to a local cellular service store. I drive on the left side of the road for the first time. With a steering wheel on the right side, I accidentally wipe my windshields every time I mean to flip my turn signal. With a map in one-hand (like a real, physical folding map), rolling my window down and asking for directions, I make it to the cell store. I pop my sim card out and place a new pre-loaded one, fresh with a TCI phone number. This girl needs fast data, and lots of it. And without the US cell plan premiums. Plus, I find a thrill in dropping off the face of the planet for a week or so. (I keep a small circle of people in the know.) A child of immigrants & an avid-traveler, I am well-versed in sim cards, two-phone life, and the various apps out there meant to connect people via wifi only (hi WhatsApp, hi Signal!). Ironically also useful skills for my companion lifestyle. I head to my AirBnb villa, check-in, soak in the unbelievable views, unpack my things, and collapse onto the fluffy bed.
Day 2: I head to the most famous beach of the island, one of the most famous beaches in the Caribbean, and in the world: Grace Bay. I arrive, but, truthfully, I am underwhelmed.
After lunch at a very delicious spot called Cocovan, I attempt to go to the very tip of the island. I find out that although de jure all beaches are public, private villas de facto rule the island and they have blocked off most direct access to a good amount of the sandy beaches. This provokes thoughts about public vs private land and beaches for the remainder of my trip, a headspace I often find myself in when I travel. In any case, public or private means nothing to a motivated thrill-seeking 20-something expensive-bikini-clad European-American girl.
I fall in love with Pelican Bay and mentally decide that I will be visiting back many times. And I do.
Day 3: By now I’ve realized this is truly an island of privacy, exclusivity, and luxury. You can smell wealth as you travel to certain places. I’m intrigued by this. I find myself at The Shore Club at Long Bay Beach. The beach itself is underwhelming, but I walk it from end to end anyways, admiring all the beachfront villas along the way.
Day 4: I begin to plan for my photoshoot happening tomorrow. The idea to do one was as spontaneous and impromptu as this trip was (to qualify this and future statements… I decided to go & bought my flight ticket on the 3rd for a departure on the 8th). I reached out to a few photographers on the island a few days before my flight. I had no concept, no designated wardrobe, no makeup or hair team, no specific photographer in mind. All I had was the destination. But you are reading the words of a last-minute plan queen. It’s become a sort of philosophy in my life, as things always have a way of working out for me. I trust the universe. And as an eyelash-fluttering companion who’s attracted to businessmen and dominant men who take the lead, I rarely have much long-term planning or decision-making to do. (Read: a perfectionist procrastinator attempts to justify her nonsense). Anyways, I forgot my heels back home, so I have to head out on the town & attempt to find some. This island, despite its luxurious nature & status, has zero designer brands or diverse high-end boutiques. Welp. I buy a pair that will do the trick. I do spot a jewelry store that sells Cartier. My mind gets carried away.
After a quick grocery stop, I take my marked-up store-bought fruit and head to the beach. Back to Pelican Bay. These shore lines stole my heart. I stay here for the entire day, swimming, sunbathing, reading, shell-scavenging, and walking. I familiarize myself with the guests staying at the beach-front villas. I look up the cost of the villas. I’m stunned. I think to myself, my existence is a drop in the ocean to these people. Of course, to my demise, wives and children are everywhere. Then I think, I deserve a raise. I have goals that keep getting set higher and higher.
No dinner tonight… photoshoot 6am tomorrow morning.
Day 5: Wake up at 3am. Get ready. I completely sleep through my alarm clocks & I rush to the beach, chiffons & silks in hand, thousand-dollar lingerie sets flung on my sand-studded rental car seats, hair undone, makeup unapplied, because I can pay my photographer to stay, but I can’t pay the sun to stay perfectly flush on the horizon. Last-minute Leyla strikes again. Hell, I think to myself, I’m a natural beauty. How else reflect that than salty-air-dried waves, bare breasts draped in silk, feeling right at home with crystal water swirling around me. I love this.
I adore the photographer I chose. After we’re done shooting, she buys me a beignet at a french pastry shop and sends me off for the day. I head straight back to Cocovan for another delicious lunch. I crash for the rest of the day. Photoshoots are hard! Posing is so strenuous on the body. Muscles are held in positions they typically are not for long periods of time. I undoubtedly wake up sore the next day.
Day 6: I give the famous Grace Bay another chance. For lunch I head to a well-known little spot called Da Conch Shack. I eat conch for the first time. Pronounced conk. The restaurant is so cute & lively & unique. Imagine live reggae music in the background!
Day 7: Pelican Bay beach again, but I go further and finally make it to the tip! It is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen, most beautiful experiences I’ve felt. Utter I-could-die-now happiness and satisfaction. Nothing else matters except for ‘I must dip my toes in this water!!’ Nothing matters except for the warm sand on my back. Nothing matters because it is just me on this beach as far as the eye can see either way, and my anxieties can melt and be drawed in by the ocean and nothing matters so my top comes off and nothing matters so I dance carefree and nothing matters, I am here and life is so bliss!
I go to the Wymara resort for dinner at their restaurant Stelle. A much more laid-back and relaxed vibe, and the food was far better than Sui-Ren’s. Less show-y, and more flavor-forward taste.
Day 8: Another day of relaxation. First day that I am not on the beach at all. By this point I’ve returned to my habits of regularly checking my emails, updating my ads, etc. Truth be told, I miss it. Not the admin work, but planning fun adventures. Witty and funny emails that make me laugh. Seeing other companions winning. I’m grateful of the friends that meet me halfway and bring joy to me and my life.
I go out to get my Covid test at the Seven Stars resort (a strategically good excuse to get in & marvel inside) in the morning. I’m underwhelmed by the resort. I head over to Mango Reef Restaurant & Bar for lunch. What a great decision! I enjoy one hell of a lunch, harbor-side. When oceanside, I tend to just ask for the freshest fish and see what kind of plate is brought out to me. The chefs recommendation and speciality. The fish they brought out for me reminds me of home… my Mediterranean culture follows me everywhere. After lunch I make way over for a spa day at The Palms resort.
Day 9: I pick up more freshly baked French goods from the local bakery. Yummmm. This trip was a foodie adventure for me.
I head to well-acclaimed lunch spot, Omar’s Beach Hut. I am greeted by bright turquoise tables, Damian Marley’s Autumn Leaves, and a perfect coastal breeze. Bliss.
I mostly spend my day at Leeward Beach. The coast is mine left and right. I keep on falling in love with the same water, the same view. This place certainly has a part of me.
I head to Cocobistro for dinner. I saved the most famous and exclusive dinner spot for my last night. It’s the gorgeous atmosphere that really sells this restaurant for me. And also, I attract a fellow companion by my side (the furry kind :)! By the time I’m ready to order dessert, guess who prances by me?! I find out her name is Coco, and she is very spoiled and picky. I am honored. Whenever I pull my hand away, she inches closer towards me, eagerly looking up. Sigh, my heart. Pet, pat, pet, hand snuggle
Day 10: I’m packing . But truthfully my vacation was a perfect length, and was just what I needed!
Things I wanted to do but didn’t get around to:
Visit Como at Parrot Bay — Turks & Caicos is actually an archipelago of islands. The main island, Providenciales, is generally the star of the show and where 95% of the activity happens. But, there are other islands, and with varying degrees of habitability and population. One of them is called Parrot Bay. It is a private island owned by Como Resorts and is a hiding ground for some of the rich & famous (so they say). Naturally, I want to go. They *used* to have day-passes to visit the island (short boat ride) and stay at the resort a la carte, but since covid this no longer is an option. The only way to visit the island is to be a guest of the Como resort. It is something I would love to experience.
Explore the beaches around Amanyara — If you’ve read my website, you know that it is my dream to stay at all the Aman resorts scattered across the world. I’m just in love with their concept, the privacy and seclusion, the down-to-Earth zen-like luxury, the breathtaking getaway. There is an Aman resort on Turks & Caicos, Amanyara, that is located in a difficult to access part of the island. By no coincidence I am sure. I didn’t rent a Jeep, so it wasn’t in my best interest to explore that area. Not alone, anyways. By now I hope you’ve figured out that I like to explore places and see what I end up falling in love with. Oftentimes my most-treasured discoveries are spontaneous decisions and split-second decision to change my route. Then I add it to my to-go and to-do lists. Otherwise, how will I know? What the masses rave about on travel forums is rarely what I would designate as my top-pick.
Charter a private boat — Beyond the prohibitive upfront cost, riding on a boat alone doesn’t sound terribly fun or safe as a single woman. I’m saving exploring secluded coves and bays for the company of a special someone by my side.
Jet skiing & water sports — what if I die?
I can’t lie, it will be hard to acclimate back to Kentucky, or the US really. A feeling that possesses me every time I return from a trip, especially one as beautiful and luxe as this. I’m not a Kentucky girl at heart but the connections I’ve made here as Leyla ground me. I am a bit too well-kept here to rationalize moving.
A note on photography & blogging: taking lots of photos & sharing them, as I did here, is something outside of my comfort zone. I feel odd with my phone erected in places that feel like a natural habitat. On dates, I am oftentimes too wrapped up in the moment to even think the thought of pulling my phone out, and even if the thought does cross my mind, I am far too shy and reserved and respectful to do so in the company of a date. However, documenting lifestyle via pics (and there are amazing admirable girls who meticulously snap pics of themselves and their dates) has a really fantastic purpose–it gives insight to what we are like as dates, as a partner-in-crime to dinner, as girlfriends, as travel companions. As well as give insights into personality, taste, and likes.
Lastly, thank you to the wonderful gentlemen and friends in my life who genuinely love to see me thrive & flourish and who support that vision, who raise the bar for me, who introduce me to new experiences and ways of living, and who give me heart-warming memories I can carry with me everywhere I go.
A sun-kissed Leyla