How I Traveled to Turks & Caicos with a Complete Stranger
As I’m sitting on the plane, preparing for our descent into Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI), I start thinking, “Oh gosh what have I gotten myself into? It was only 10 hours ago that I learned the name of the girl I would be meeting shortly.” This was the first time I was traveling to another country with a stranger, knowing we would have to be sharing a bed. How did this happen? Well, let me start from the beginning...
I booked my trip to TCI on a whim, as it usually goes, one random afternoon in January. I was searching on Google Flights for random weekends with cheap flights and found a flight under $300 to Providenciales. Within minutes, my flight was booked! A few hours later I remembered my long distance bestie who lives in Miami is always asking me to invite her on my next trip. Flights to the Caribbean are often affordable from Miami, so I knew asking her wouldn’t be too much of a reach. I texted Melanie asking if she wanted to join. In all honesty, I thought it would be too last minute for her to consider. But to my surprise, she said yes!! Within the hour she had also booked her flight to TCI for a long weekend in February.
A few weeks later Melanie texted me asking if it was okay to invite a friend of hers. “Absolutely!” So it was planned, a group of 3 set to meet up in Providenciales and share a hotel room at Villa Del Mar. I never thought to ask Melanie who her friend was, I figured we would just meet at the airport and go from there.
Two nights before our flight departure, I get a text from Melanie giving me the unfortunate news that she has had a family emergency and likely not able to join the trip. I knew at this moment no matter how much I wanted to travel with her, it was best for her to stay. She told me she would wait it out 24 hours and let me know her decision the night before. The hours passed and I was already mentally preparing myself for a solo trip. I made sure to double check how I would get from the airport to the hotel, research essential things ahead of time so that I wouldn’t have to do it on arrival with no one to watch my bags. This is one of the many differences of traveling solo versus with others. With others, you know that you can split the duties, one can ask for help while the other watches the belongings. But alas, I’ve prepared for a solo trip because I don’t think her friend would want to travel with a stranger.
Melanie texts me the night before my departure to confirm that she will have to cancel. The shocker was that her friend still wanted to join! So it’s now less than 10 hours before my flight takes off and I have no idea what this girl’s name is I’m traveling with, let alone what she looks like or anything about her. But I tell Mel I’m in for the adventure. Melanie texts me her phone number and a picture of her Instagram feed. Ok, her name is Teresa. I don’t know why I don’t bother to look her up then; perhaps because I was finishing packing and wanted to get some sleep before the flight. I quickly text Teresa before I go to bed sending her my flight info and letting her know I have cell service in TCI (thank you T-Mobile!).
The next morning I’m off, arriving in Providenciales just a short 3 hours later. As we are approaching our descent on the plane it hits me, “Omg I don’t know anything about this girl. Is she a high-maintenance traveler? Is she super messy? What does she like to do on vacation? What if this is completely awkward...we still have to sleep in the same bed!” The thing is I’ve traveled solo, I’ve traveled with friends of friends (while my friends were there to introduce), and I’ve met strangers at hostels and sightseeing who have then become travel companions. But there was something different about this situation. We were strangers, but we’d have to spend the next few days together and sleep in the same king bed in our non-refundable hotel room. While these thoughts are going on in my head, I realize at this point it’s too late to be worried, whatever happens we will embrace it! She was scheduled to land 20 minutes after me, so we would be meeting soon.
My flight arrives early, and to my surprise, the line to get through Customs & Immigration takes two hours to get through. The entire time I am in line I keep looking back to the end of the line, looking for Teresa. In that moment, I realize I don’t even really know what she looks like! I open my friend’s screenshot of her Instagram feed and the pictures are too tiny to know exactly what she looks like. I grab my phone to do a quick online search...of course, there’s no cell service. Nearly two hours pass, and I notice I have a missed call and text from Teresa! My phone still shows no sign of cell signal, but I send a text anyways hoping it miraculously goes through. Holy crap, it goes through! At this point I am now a couple people away from the front and Teresa is texting me trying to find me. We don’t see each other and now, I’m walking up to the counter...
I’m standing with the immigration officer and I tell him, “Man, that line was crazy. I’ve been in there two hours and now my friend (lol) is somewhere in the back of the line.” He replies “Well, if you had brought her up I would’ve let her join you.” In that second I look at my phone and there’s a text from Teresa: “Screw it, I’m running up there!,” she had sent. I look up and there she is, standing on the sideline frantically waving both arms at me. “There she is!!”
Teresa runs up to the booth and the officer goes, “Wow, you have such a great friend to save you from that two-hour wait!” We both look at each other and awkwardly laugh, he he he...little does he know we literally are just meeting for the first time. We can’t make this obvious, so we can’t even shake hands or hug.
We make it through Customs & Immigration and immediately bust out laughing. Talk about a hilarious way to meet someone. That experience immediately puts both of us at ease and I soon realize, this trip is going to be totally fine. We head off in a cab, finally getting to know a bit about what we do and how we even know Melanie. When we get to the hotel I wonder if she’s one of those travelers that immediately unpacks and turns the room into a tornado. She leaves her stuff packed in her suitcase, just taking out the things she needs. YES!! She’s just like me!, are the exact thoughts that run through my mind haha. We start the trip at the snack bar by the beach with food and drinks, joking about how we are totally on a blind [date] vacation.
The rest of the trip is such a breeze! I could not have found a person more chill and on the same page as me in all travel aspects. We both love food, both wanted to use this vacation to relax and reboot, and both love traveling solo! She works in PR, so I even got her to take a bunch of pictures of me for the ‘gram and returned the favor for her #tbt’s, as she said ;)
As we parted ways and said our goodbyes at the end of the trip, we laughed at how this whole trip played out. Two complete strangers, bound by a mutual friend, willing to travel to another part of the world together, and having it actually work out seamlessly.
That’s the beauty of people who often travel solo. You learn to adapt and find similarities with strangers to foster genuine conversations. You learn to make the best of things when your plans get altered, and best of all, you make unexpected friendships along the way!
Til next time!
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