Grab a nice glass of wine, a cold water or a good snack and settle in. GSTP presents part one of our “we’re bored out of our minds at home” travel retrospective series, looking back at some pivotal travel moments which shaped the creation of GSTP.

It’s amazing thinking about travel two weeks ago, and travel now. Or really, the entire lack thereof.

I wanted to start this retrospective series, because a trip down memory lane can be really cathartic, and I wanted to explore how it is that I became so obsessed with travel. When I think back, a trip to the Bahamas really blew my mind and planted the seeds for a lifetime of passport stamps…

As a kid growing up in New York, my family travel was much like the other families fortunate enough to take the occasional vacation. We’d go to Florida, South Carolina or another beautiful part of the country, but rarely too much further than that.

One year, a family friend suggested Abaco, Bahamas, where a neighbor who happened to be a pilot owned a house on the Eastern Shores. I’ll never forget my first trips to this gorgeous Bahamas area, in part because I was trusted to book the tickets, in the very early days of Orbitz!

I figured out that flying New York to Orlando, and then buying separate tickets onward from Orlando to Marsh Harbour was cheaper, but then learned the unfortunate lesson that there was no interline agreement between infant JetBlue and Bahamasair at the time.

Yes, I learned about airline interline agreements (or lackthereof) and ticketing tricks circa 12 years old, on a dial up connection.

But back to the Bahamas…

As we approached MHH for the first time, I remember pressing my face against the window so hard that it hurt. I think it’s because I was having a hard time distinguishing what was crystal blue, or clear water, and what was land, or sand.

This was that a-ha moment, where I knew I needed more. As we approached the narrow strip of land, where you could quite literally hit a golf ball from one side of the island to the other, I remember the moment I began to wonder “what else is out there?”

In the simplest ways, the loves that form my life now began in those moments. The first taste of a flavor packed conch fritter, the most power packed key lime or coconut pie; once you’ve had it, you can’t ever look back. What other flavors are out there? Are there beaches more beautiful than this?

And for the avgeeks, is there anything more amusing than bouncing around in a little twin engine propeller plane, and having a wheelbarrow collect your luggage? Sadly, I think they’ve upgraded the luggage facilities since.

What I love about the Abaco Islands is that there’s something deeply humble, real and beautiful about them. It’s far more cultural than just saying you’ve been to “The Bahamas”, aka Nassau to a massive resort. In places like Hope Town or Guana Cay, you see immaculately dressed people in their Sunday best, everyone knows each other and a chain restaurant doesn’t exist.

There’s something magical about self catering, renting a house and avoiding hotels entirely. We would rent a boat, which with very limited skills allowed us to navigate to a nearby island like Man O’War Cay and hop in and out of the little bakeries and beach shacks, with the best typically boozy drinks.

For any underwater enthusiasts, the diving, snorkeling, marine life and fishing is superb. I think I still have scars on my hands from learning what line fishing is, where you take the rod out of the equation, and try to wrestle with (sometimes large) fish, with just your bare hands.

On my first ever dive lesson the dive boat’s engine conked out at sunset, and I think one of the most magical moments of my life was watching the sunset near the reef, as a pod of dolphins gracefully swam right by. Yet another thing that made me say… more please.

I think back almost weekly about fishing off the end of the little dock at the rental house and frying up whatever we got. It’s the simple pleasures sometimes. If you’re even remotely thinking about going, and particularly if you’re considering it versus somewhere like Nassau, I can’t recommend it enough.

It’s been gutting to watch this magnificent, humble stretch of almost undiscovered islands get battered around by hurricanes in recent years, but the people of these islands are stronger than any storm. They get knocked down, but they get up again.

These islands helped create this travel bug that defines my life, and I’ve actually been dying to go back for years. When the world get back to normal, I’d love to finally do it. There aren’t many places left in the world where corporate chains haven’t moved in, but this is

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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5 Comments

  1. Good stuff. We need more positive travel memories like this. Quarantine is hard and it’s only been a week. Plus it helps to get working on aspirational trips now.

    Cheers!

  2. Hi Gilbert,
    I’m from Abaco and I couldn’t agree with you more! The out islands and cays are where it’s at 🙂 Yes, they have upgraded from the wheelbarrow days haha and it’s hard to believe that our “international” airport was a boiling, one-room building with desks and an actual hole in the wall restaurant! You touched on all the key points right now. Dorian has been immensely tough for us and now the CV is another blow. We’ll bounce back though. We always do. Thank you for this wonderful post. Made my day.
    Take care,
    Brittany

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