Finding peace and joy in unexpected places is one of the most beautiful things about travel. It’s why I get up and go—and why I’ve done it consistently since I took a missionary trip to Loíza, Puerto Rico, with my church’s youth ministry back in 1994, when I was 13.
Since then, I’ve visited more than 50 countries. I’ve escaped to Brazil, Croatia, Colombia and Sicily with my girls; and I’ve toured Aruba, France, Greece and Thailand while in love. My sweet baby boy, Journey Noel, and I hit Cuba, Guadeloupe and the Cayman Islands together, and before motherhood, I lived for months in England, Costa Rica and Belize.
I share my past treks with humility, because for me, it isn’t about clout chasing, country counting or Instagram validation. Each time I embark on a new excursion, traveling offers me an opportunity to explore parts unknown, allowing the transformative powers of the journey itself to have dominion over my experience. See more, grow more. That’s my script and I’m sticking to it.
But for obvious reasons, besides the quick jaunt to the south coast of Jamaica I took last October to celebrate my birthday and just breathe, the past 16 months were unusually light on travel for me. At times, being grounded in one place was unsettling—though spending more quality time with family and close friends I’d rarely sat still long enough to see has been a blessing. Alas, I was still yearning for my next adventure.
Earlier this year, before I’d even been vaccinated, I escaped to Dominica, a lush, mountainous country perched between Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Eastern Caribbean. My research told me that Dominica is taking COVID-19 protocols seriously, which settled my reservations about leaving U.S. soil during the deadliest pandemic in my lifetime. At press time, Dominica has confirmed only four active COVID-19 cases and registered zero deaths. The authorities there are currently allowing American travelers to visit via their Safe in Nature program, designed specifically to provide an immersive, socially distant experience throughout your stay.
After I shared a clip from my time on the island with my tribe, they likened Dominica—with its endless hills and valleys covered in a glorious spectrum of green, plus 365 recorded interlacing -rivers flowing at every turn across the 289-square-mile landscape—to Zamunda, the fictional African country that is the backdrop for Coming 2 -America. In our message thread, we chuckled, but the comparison is accurate: There’s a reason Dominica is nicknamed the Nature Island. And while I was only there for seven days, I made many memories that left me transfixed and in awe of the country’s unrivaled beauty.
If you’re not the outdoorsy type, keep an open mind; Dominica is full of surprises. I kayaked and snorkeled in the tepid waters of Soufriere-Scott’s Head Marine Reserve and Champagne Beach—where underground volcanic activity seeps through the ocean floor, creating bubbles that mimic the finest champagne. I hiked the village of Galion, a scenic mountain community neighboring Soufriere, and sampled wild berries, almonds and fresh coconut water along the way. I soaked in one of the region’s many natural hot springs— infused with steamy sulfur water, which is said to be a great detox for the skin.
I went to Dominica alone. No girlfriends or guy-friends. No production crew. No photographer. No son. No sweetheart. No fellow journalists. It was just me and my curiosity, on a pursuit to discover new spaces—to remind me of the joys of travel, and to inspire myself and others to get back out there, global pandemic and all.