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To Dominica, With Love

My entire career in the travel business was always about seeing new places.

I laughed recently at a quote that was certainly me the past four decades, “There’s only one place I want to go, and it’s to all the places I’ve never been to.” Mind you, if one of my daughters said let’s go to Mongolia or Burma, I’d be on the next plane with them. However, I now find myself craving to go back to some my favorite places, such as Banff, Maine, Southern France, India, Machu Picchu, Santa Fe, Costa Rica, and Sedona.

Right now, one of my favorite places – which encompasses all of my favorite things at this time in my life – is Dominica. I just returned a few days ago, making this trip my second in two months.

If you want white sand beaches where you bask in a lounge chair for hours, Dominica wouldn’t be for you. However, if you would enjoy incredible hiking through the rainforest and local villages, snorkeling or scuba diving in waters ranked as some of the best in the world, eating healthy farm to table food, practicing yoga in a beautiful, intimate studio, staying in villas overlooking the Caribbean, and enjoying massages in the resort spa, then Dominica would be for you.

Flying into Dominica is like stepping back in time several decades when I was a young stewardess going to some of my first Caribbean islands. To me, every island in the Caribbean has its own unique charms and experiences. For those who love lush terrain, adventure activities, and great hospitality, Dominica is all that and more.

The first day we walked a short distance to the town of Soufriere and then took a trail that went straight up a mountain to another village called Galion. Being an Indiana “Hoosier” where flatland is the norm, I decided to embrace the “uphill” challenges this week. What a lovely hike on a beautiful day. It was a special treat to have the owner of Jungle Bay Resort lead our hike. The resort is the vision of Dominican entrepreneur and sustainable development expert, Sam Raphael, who was inspired to adopt a life philosophy of environmental conservation and community development after a fifth-grade school trip to Sinnamon Bay in St. Croix. (The top picture shows the villas on the hilltop from a distance where we were hiking.)

Kayaking took our small group of women along the shore the second day before finding a cove to snorkel. One gal said it was better than Hawaii. I just know there is nothing like the sensation of floating and experiencing an entire new world just below us. Like the movie, Aladdin, “It’s a whole new world….”

The third day on the island was International Women’s Day, so Helen Reddy’s song “I am woman” was sung in the car after a day of hiking up to a view overlooking the capital of Roseau, visiting Trafalgar Falls, and then swimming into a gorge that made us feel like we were Indiana Janes in a movie. Lots of laughing, hooting, and some local rum shots were included! The gorge was actually a scene in the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean Part 2.

Every day in the early evening, we headed to our own private yoga studio for an hour of practice. The intention for each class was one of the seven chakras.

It was so rewarding to see these ladies have an inward journey on the mat at sunset, as well as an exhilarating journey off the mat each day.

As you can see below, yoga was not just practiced on a mat in the studio.

Although I could continue on about our other adventures, including hiking inland through the rainforest and a three-hour whale watching excursion, one of the highlights of the trip was the dedication and celebration of the Girls for Success Library.

On my last trip in late January, I met with local women to discuss the needs for girls on the island, as one of Peace through Yoga Foundation’s goals is to continue to expand its Girls for Success programs, which has included a girls’ center for learning English and sewing in Costa Rica that we started in 2005.

These three extraordinary women had previously started a Girlhood Lounge where local teenage girls can come as a sanctuary. When asked what was needed to contribute to this space, a library was unanimously agreed upon. I am so grateful to say that once the word got out, people have given beyond our expectations.Through the help of a great friend, Ceci Martinez, a huge thanks also goes to Half Price Books and Zionsville Public Library for giving boxes of books for teenagers. We were able to deliver 387 books in suitcases along with beautiful wooden signs made by my brother-in-law, Ron Wright. The Girls for Success Library is dedicated in loving memory of a great friend and adventurer, Jean Deeds. Jean inspired and changed hundreds of lives throughout her life.

Our group and the staff at Jungle Bay were excited about a celebration on our last night when all 37 teenage girls came for an evening of empowerment that included small group breakouts, yoga, dancing, singing (“I am woman”, of course) and a pizza party. What a great way to celebrate International Women’s Day and a perfect week in Dominica.

I certainly look forward to going back again in November. I have only been home five days, and I could return tomorrow. Why fly to the South Pacific when we have an incredible island just hours away?!

Sally Bassett March 2022

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