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When I headed to Antigua for a week, it was my first time visiting the Caribbean.
Armed with nothing more than a few ideas based on movies, books and Instagram posts, I had very little idea of what to expect.
I knew the beaches would be postcard-worthy, the sun shining and the rum flowing. But what I never could have predicted is how much I would gain from my week there.
I left Antigua a happier, calmer and more positive person. And now I look back on that week, it turns out some basic sailing skills and the new foods and flavours weren’t the only things I learned while I was there.
Antigua culture has a lot to teach, too. Here are just 8 lessons you might take away with you when you visit.
#1 Dealing with daily struggles
If there’s one thing I took away from Antigua and its culture, it was a new feeling of calm and contentment.
I really shouldn’t have – I was in intense pain after a gruelling few weeks of not being able to walk. But there’s just something about Antigua that forces you to unwind.
I arrived in Antigua feeling tired, stressed and frustrated from the pain I was in. But within a day, I just felt a sense of lightness. I felt totally relaxed – more so than I have in a long time – and nothing seemed stressful any more.
I’m not sure whether it was the unlimited rum punch or the general vibe of the island, but it was an incredible feeling.
#2 Turning negative into positive
If there’s one sound that will always take me straight back to Antigua, it’s the lively rhythm of a steel drum. Some of my favourite memories of my time in Antigua involve the sound of steel drums, the taste of rum and the sight of smiling faces everywhere.
It’s hard not to smile when you hear the steel band playing, but the instrument doesn’t have the happiest of histories. Steel drums were introduced as a makeshift instrument when slaves’ traditional bamboo instruments weren’t available. Instead, they used steel drums – or steel pans – to continue enjoying their African songs after being taken to the Caribbean.
The instrument is now an important part of Antigua culture in its own right – and shows how something that grew out of negativity can become a source of joy and happiness.
RELATED READ: 15 of the most unique things to do in Antigua.
#3 Looking after our planet
I’m always amazed at how little my own country (the UK) has done to cut down on plastic usage. Some stores and companies have made massive changes, but it seems the government and general population is much further behind than we should be.
My week in Antigua taught me that we could easily do more. In 2016, the government banned plastic bags and they haven’t been handed out since.
If other countries can make the switch instantly, I believe we could too. But it makes me happy to see that others are taking more initiative and doing what they can to look after our planet.
#4 The people you meet
One of my favourite things about travel – and one of the reasons why I travel full time – is because I love getting to know other cultures. And I love learning about new cultures because I love understanding how other people live, think and feel.
That’s not to say I always welcome being around new people, though.
When you travel all the time, sometimes you just want a break from the unfamiliar faces and you forget to make an effort.
In Antigua, though, I quickly came to feel that every stranger was simply a friend I hadn’t met yet. The locals were so welcoming that I often forgot that I hadn’t actually met these people before.
Judging by the number of locals who came to start a conversation with us, I would say they felt the same. And that’s a really wonderful feeling.
#5 Generosity is the best
It’s not just the people of Antigua who are generous… the all inclusive resorts there seem to be, too.
I’ve been to a number of all inclusive resorts over the years, and the thing they all have in common is the conservative alcohol measures they use in their drinks.
But not in Antigua.
Far from it, the cocktails we enjoyed at the all inclusive hotels didn’t hold back. If you ask for a single, the staff will ask you if you want a double. And if you ask for a double, you’ll probably end up with at least a triple.
The hotels, with their captive audiences, could easily be strict with their food and drink. Instead, they put customer happiness before profits and make sure you’re taken care of.
#6 A smile costs nothing
Something happened to me while I was in Antigua. I had a smile glued to my face and felt like I was glowing. And, after weeks of daily tears and pain, it felt GOOD.
I’m not really sure what it was about being there, but I noticed I wasn’t the only one.
Stressful situation? I smiled. Mean comment on YouTube? I smiled. Delayed dinner that would usually cause hanger? I smiled.
When you’re surrounded by smiley people, you become one of them yourself. And it seems no one in Antigua – both visitors and locals alike – is immune to it.
READ NEXT: Why you should rent a car in Antigua.
#7 Music is the universal language
I’m forever amazed by the things we’ve created as human beings, and music is no exception.
Music is an important part of life in Antigua. It’s part of daily life for locals, and it becomes part of your own daily life while you’re there. It brings people together, it brightens every room and it leaves you loving life just a little bit more.
It doesn’t matter where you’re from – when there’s music playing, we all speak the same language. English may be the official language in Antigua, but music is the unofficial second.
#8 Adventure is where you look for it
Most people travel to Antigua to do nothing but relax. They check in to one of the island’s all inclusive resorts and only leave to enjoy one of the 365 beaches.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But it does often give the impression that Antigua has nothing else to offer.
There are plenty of other things to do in Antigua, but you do have to look for them. From renting a car and heading on a road trip to learning to sail, the adventure is waiting – even in one of the most chilled out places in the world.
If you can find adventure in Antigua (and believe me, you can!), you can find it anywhere. Sometimes you just have to chase it.
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