My mentor Stephanie shared with me an old quote that I long forgotten. I’ve taken the liberty to copy and paste it for you:
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
- John Lennon
Stephanie didn’t realize it, but by showing me this quote, it lit the spark to inspire change on my part. For me, it’s been a long five years. But what a busy and progressive five years it’s been! There have been a myriad of ups and downs over the last couple of years, but definitively more ups. After nearly transferring three times and stumbling into the Maritime business, I decided to stick to my strengths. Looking back, with nearly one month left in academia that spanned all the way back to preschool at Antilles on St. Thomas over 20 years ago, I can confidently say I made the right choices along the way. Because of those choices, May 13th will highlight a remarkable milestone in my life: A college graduate.
Five years, two degrees, and endless opportunities right? It can be. I did some searching these last couple of months because isn’t that what soon-to-be college graduates do? The big questions became: What’s next? Where should I go? What should I do with my life? As I contemplated these questions I noticed that below my exterior calm there was some internal strife going on.
It turns out, I knew what I wanted all this time. I wanted happiness to be my guide in life — the driver in my decisions. And what truly makes me happy? Livin’ as close to the equator as possible and doing work that I find to be meaningful and fulfilling every single day.
It amazes me what time and perception can do to individuals. After leaving St. John behind at the ripe age of 17, I constantly found myself wanting the Caribbean back in my life.
At least a bit of it.
After nearly two decades between St. Thomas and St. John, it is simply the only life I know. And, after five years away from the moonlit skinny dips, the football games played on the beach, and the bon fires besides old slave plantations — I knew I simply must get it back! Why? Because all those things represent what I consider to be happiness. So what did I do? I decided to work hard towards that goal.
And for anyone that is a believer in The Secret – if you want it, it will happen:
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
What a beautiful statement, beautiful in its simplicity. But also because it makes sense.
How many people do you know work — and work very hard — just to end up merely working so they can consume material, superficial things that they think makes them happy. Or how about those who work all their lives, just to enjoy the last 20 years of it? This isn’t living, it’s surviving — merely existing. I am not advocating laziness, nor that we should suddenly become underachievers. Rather, I am suggesting a new way of thinking:
Make sure happiness is at the core of every decision you make in life. You’ll be rewarded all the more because of it. I’ll end this with a quote from a man that spent his life chasing his happiness:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
- Steve Jobs
Who doesn’t loves going home for the holidays? It’s that time of year where magic is in the air. The food smells a little better, the snow looks a little whiter — even the grouchy people act a little more cheery. It’s also that time of year when school weary college kids want nothing more than to go home to Mom’s home-made food, to their favorite couch in the living room and plop down, forever.
The Problem: Greed
For the average college kid, the college semester can be challenging; filled with deadlines, projects, presentations, late night group sessions, and piles upon piles of school work that never seemed to shrink. Every college kid deserves — if they’ve respectively earned their good grades — a month of home.
Except this kid.
This kid goes to school in snowy Buffalo, New York. Home is nearly 2,000 miles away on a small spec of rock called St. John. So am I going home for the holidays? Sure, if I can cough up the $1,000+ for the airfare.
I realize that I put this situation upon myself, deciding to go to college as far away as I did. I also realize that this time of year is considered the “high season” in the Caribbean – everything from airfare to food goes up. Way up. However, is it fair to the locals who want to come home for the holidays just like everyone else, but can’t because they’re stuck paying the high-season tourist prices for fares that can go anywhere from $900 to $1,500 round trip? No it isn’t. Airline companies could care less for me, a poor college kid, who wants to go home when they can get a rich tourist to pay premium for the same seat. Who cares about the “giving” Christmas spirit when you have a cash cow that big.
The Solution: Be Santa Clause, Not Scrooge
My second solution is to dedicate an entire plane — one at the beginning of the holiday season and one after at a discounted price just for the locals.
Everyone deserves to go home for the holidays and not have to break the bank. Airlines might argue that discounted seats for locals is considered financial suicide. Why give up a seat for only $400 when you can get a rich tourist to pay $1,500?
Guess what Mr. Big Airlines, your seat isn’t worth THAT MUCH. With the airline industry’s approval ratings nearly as low as our current Congress in Washington, I think airlines that can offer discounted seats for locals would begin to make themselves look a lot more human. If nothing else it will be a wonderful PR piece. The entire industry could use it. It is the season of giving after all isn’t it?
Project Béisbol is a non-profit organization dedicated to delivering donated baseball and softball supplies to children in underprivileged communities in Latin America. The Project works with coaches and community leaders in South Florida to carry out this mission, taking appropriate measures to ensure the credibility of recipient baseball and softball programs and the intended use of the supplies. All operations are made possible by donations from generous individuals, teams, organizations and corporations.
Since its inception three years ago, Project Béisbol has functioned as a 100
percent volunteered, nonprofit organization that has linked the youths of South Florida and Latin America through the game of baseball. Project Béisbol’s volunteer base is made up of eager, hardworking young volunteers looking to make a difference for their counterparts in underprivileged Latin American communities. Project Béisbol’s young volunteers come from all walks of life, different ages, different ideas, but they all work together in their passion to helping those less fortunate than they are.
The Bases of Project Béisbol:
Supporting youth teams in communities of economic need is the heart of our mission, which opens the door to international community collaboration and cultural exchange.
International collaboration with local community leaders and coaches enables Project Béisbol to effectively carry out its mission and participate in the building of stronger communities in the region.
Project Béisbol proudly offers volunteer and internship opportunities – enabling cultural exchange and collaboration among the youth of the USA/Canada and Latin American countries.
Through sport, international community collaboration and education, Project Béisbol is creating life changing opportunities for children and young adults.
To be a catalyst for positive change on the local level in Latin America through baseball, educational and cultural exchange between the youth of the USA and Latin American countries.
My past five months with this organization has been a tremendous blessing. Through Project Béisbol have met a lot of really great, like-minded people who, like me, are inspired by what Project Béisbol is doing through the vision of its Founder/President Justin Halladay. All in all, this is one the best organizations I’ve ever joined and it’s the people in it that have made it so. Love you guys!
“It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.”
― Dalai Lama XIV
Personification of Selflessness
If you want to imagine a person that personifies selflessness and giving back, look no further than to one of my best friends: Lincoln Liburd – Executive Director of VI Scholars, an organization he founded that focuses on empowering today’s Virgin Island youth into tomorrow’s leaders.
Since our high school days, I knew Lincoln to be one of the biggest advocates for social progress, especially on his home island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Those that are close to Lincoln know there is a lot to like about him: He’s smart, driven and believes in himself. When he told me he was launching the VI Scholars this past summer I was thrilled.
Faulty Public School System
For far too long the Virgin Island’s government has ignored its obligation to its children, to their futures. The Virgin Islands is notorious for its high crime and poverty rates and, at times, the local government has been rattled by many high-profile corruption cases. Among the host of issues currently facing the Virgin Islands, the most glaring and dangerous is their faulty public school system. The public schools are severely understaffed and underfunded. They lacks the basic necessities a school needs in order to create a clean, safe and fun learning environment for kids. Lincoln, like all of us who grew up on St. John saw this, but it was Lincoln who decided to take a stand. A big one.
Privileged, But Not Sheltered
Lincoln and I both had the privilege of attending a private school system that was created as a response, in part, to the lack of a high-quality public school system on St. John. Now a senior at the prestigious Stanford University, Lincoln could have easily turned his back on his hometown after he graduates and go out and make a boat load of money and take over the world. Instead he decided he couldn’t wait any longer for the slow, unwilling, bureaucratic Virgin Island government to change their ways.
Enough Was Enough
Lincoln created VI Scholars with a group of his colleagues at Stanford to begin the long and trying task of building leaders out of our kids instead of letting them succumb to gang violence and poverty that is prevalent not just in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but everywhere in the Caribbean. VI Scholars’ vision is to build a pipeline for leadership within the U.S. Virgin Islands that strengthens the territory’s infrastructure, emboldens the importance of education and community. By doing all this and more, Lincoln and his team are hoping to increase the quality of life for all Virgin Islanders.
A Bright Future
Presently, it looks like the VI Scholars are well on their way to transforming today’s VI youth into tomorrow’s leaders. I’m very proud of what Lincoln and the rest of his staff at VI Scholars have accomplished this summer and excited for the future as they try reverse decades of negligence.
I can say that I speak for all of us that live in the Virgin Islands and abroad: Thank you VI Scholars, keep fighting the good fight!
Click to learn more about this fantastic organization:
VI Scholars — ‘We identify, develop, and support future Virgin Islands leaders, empowering them to effectuate positive change within their community.’
‘You, Unscripted’ was a national advertisement campaign rolled out by the U.S.V.I’s Department of Tourism back in 2010. I know this may seem a bit late, but when I finally saw it, I was head-over-heels. This campaign was nothing short of brilliant. It features a new creative direction from the Department by integrating a new Mocko Jumbie logo (picture to your left) together with the ‘You, Unscripted’ campaign — stunning scenery, cultural and historical icons and activities that highlight the beauty and diversity of a vacation experience in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
”You, Unscripted’ touched on the theme of travelers (tourists) who have “lost” their everyday identity and “found” a new one through their vacation experience. Across the three islands are featured iconic images and scenery special to each particular island. The advertisements were to communicate the idea that visitors can “script” their own interpretation of exploration, adventure, romance and more in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The $6 million dollar campaign consisted of 30-second TV spots, magazines, newspaper and internet advertising. The advertisements shown in: Bridal and Romance, African American, Dive, Culture & Heritage, Sailing & Yachting and Meetings & Incentives and more.
My favorite aspect of the campaign were the images on the advertisements shown below. Each one is visually stunning, simplistic, and most importantly, evokes powerful emotions. The Department of Tourism’s adverting agency, JWT, did a fantastic job working with the local vendors on all three islands to produce these beautiful images. The ads were shot on all three islands and they featured actual residents of the Virgin Islands. In addition, the soundtrack for the radio and TV ads was recorded by the Rising Stars Steel Orchestra. How cool is this? This entire campaign was made in the V.I., giving people jobs and pumping money into the local economy. But more importantly — it was authentic.
Here is a sample of the advertisements used in the ‘You, Unscripted’ campaign:
The last advertisement was my personal favorite. The shot was taken on St. John at the Annaburg Plantation, site of my high school graduation.
If you want to learn more about this campaign, check it out here.
What do you guys think of this campaign? Let me know.
I found out that the U.S. Virgin Island’s Department of Tourism created an application for your smartphone. And it’s pretty cool! I’ve been playing it for no more than ten minutes and I am already blown away by how simple and interactive it is! You can easily navigate between all three of the islands and do everything from reading beach reviews, bookmark areas of interest, plan trips in advanced and access up-to-date information.
It’s nice to see the U.S. Virgin Island’s Department of Tourism create something savvy like a smartphone app, but it’s even cooler that they got it right. It’s rich with content, interactive, colorful and most importantly: useful. Anyone that comes to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands should come armed with this app.
Read more about the smartphone app and other exciting new marketing endeavors on their USVI Times bimonthly publication.
I take my hot sauces seriously. Forget what you know about hot sauce — Tabasco, Frank’s RedHot, whatever. These are generic, bland and boring. I’m going to kick it up a notch, bring on the heat, and give you my top Caribbean hot sauces.
Tabasco (last resort ONLY)
As far as generic, boring hot sauces go Tabasco is the best of the best. It’s everywhere. Its worth mentioning that toe-to-toe, Tabasco wouldn’t stand up to any Caribbean hot sauces. Obviously. I’ll give it to Tabasco –it does have the brand following and manages to be on nearly every table, everywhere. Whenever I’m in the states for instance, and I go to a local eatery, I always ask the waiter for hot sauce — hoping it won’t be Tabasco, but rather a local variety. Nine times out of ten its always Tabasco, much to my dismay. Long story short, as a hot sauce fanatic I MUST have hot sauce with my meal, even if it means Tabasco. Hot sauce is a vital part of my dining landscape as much as a fork and a knife.
Jerome’s Hot Sauce
This hot sauce is the only one on my list I’ve had the least interaction with. We (Jerome and I) probably crossed paths before: either on a fish dish or pork chops. However, Jerome’s hot sauce has quite a local following in the Virgin Islands. In fact, in 2008, Jerome’s hot sauce came in first place in the St. John Sun Times “Best Of the Island’s”. Since then, Jerome’s sauce skyrocketed in popularity and he hasn’t looked back since.
Miss Anna’s Hot Sauce
I love Miss Anna’s hot sauces on fish. It’s the perfect combination of flavor, heat and attention to detail. With the family’s recipe being handed down through generation to generation; after 100 years of giving fishermen and fish lovers the perfect sauce for their daily fish meals, it’s no wonder it tastes so good.
Blind Betty’s Hot Sauce
One of my favorite Caribbean sauces, period. It’s virtually tied with Trinidad Charlie as my favorite hot sauce. Blind Betty has a special place in my heart because her sauce is local, made in the great island of St. John. How could I not root for my hometown sauce? Blind Betty’s sauce may have a small following, but has a big follower in me. Like most great Caribbean sauces, Blind Betty’s is made with a whole lotta fresh organic ingredients in the Caribbean. Nuff said.
Trinidad Charlie’s Hot Sauce
My favorite sauce. I can’t even begin to describe it on this blog post well enough to serve it justice. Just trust me on this, it’s phenomenal. The man behind the sauce is real too, in fact, he’s quite the celebrity. Trinidad Charlie’s hot sauce is unique because its made in small-batches. The secret ingriedient: love. I use this hot sauce on literally everything I eat. Sometimes it can gross people out, but who cares? It’s the best hot sauce in the world. I’m usually conservative about my sauce choices and tend to go with the original flavors, but all three of Trinidad Charlie sauces are just too good to settle for one. Maybe Trinidad Charlie will see me screaming unabashed praise on this blog post over his sauce that he’ll send me life-time supply .