I have so much to tell you.
Mike and I rang in the new year camping in White Bay, on the little island of Jost van Dyke, British Virgin Islands. A few months ago I found a pair of cheap plane tickets as a surprise birthday present for Mike, and we set up our little tent right on the shoreline and spent five days relaxing at Ivan's Campground, one of my favorite places on earth. We've done this trip before (at $25 a night it's a great budget vacation as long as you don't mind a lot of sand in your sleeping bag) but this time we got to experience the famous Old Year's Night party at Foxy's beach bar.
Other than celebrating New Years, there isn't much to do on Jost besides relax on the beach in front of your tent with your campground neighbors, snorkel the shoreline, chat with the bartenders at Ivan's (who keep your week's tab going in a notebook, when they remember) and occasionally trek to the other end of the bay where tourists on boats swim to shore to visit Soggy Dollar and the other beach bars. Sometimes there's electricity and running water, sometimes there isn't. I collected shells and even made my way to the next harbor over to buy glue to make a sign for Ivan's wall… but then I just sat on the beach instead.
A lot of people spend weeks or even months camping at Ivan's because it is so peaceful… the soft waves lapping at the shore and the gently waving palm trees feel like one big life exhale. I was a bit burnt out from an incredible open studio/holiday market/sale season so spending a few days doing nothing was exactly what I needed.
We also celebrated getting engaged! After seven years together Mike proposed to me on Christmas Eve morning in our home. It was so sweet and personal. We'll probably wait until Mike finishes graduate school next year before getting married but it's already been fun to chat about our wedding. Wedding! Married! Eep! I am excited.
We went diving with Low Key on the Hey Now, the same boat we were certified on two years ago. What can I say about diving that isn't already obvious… it's amazing to be so deep under the surface of the water, the ocean floor so full of weird, cool things unlike anything on land. Last year we were treated to a swim-through cave, sharks and a few eagle rays. This year we dove a shipwreck and a few reefs and had an awesome encounter with a sea turtle, who swam right up to us and casually munched on some sea grass beneath us.
After our four daytime dives, Mike talked me into doing a night dive during the full moon. I never thought I would voluntarily jump into pitch black ocean water a mile offshore at night, but someone on our day dive said "If you're going to do it, do it here and now" and the dive master said "what's the worst that could happen?" so we signed up for it, and there we were, jumping into the dark water and silently floating sixty feet below the surface only the sound of our regulators bubbling and the clicking of fish speech.
At one point I swam away from the reef, turned off my flashlight and held my breath and just stared into the infinite blackness of the sea… it was very surreal and otherworldly, and just one more reminder that facing fears almost always leads to these awesome new moments. It was a fun way to kick start the new year and I hope it will set the tone for 2015. As my friend Caitlyn said, "'tis the year of YES!"
We got home on my birthday, had a fun weekend celebrating with friends and now I'm back to work. In addition to a new sketchbook and several new paintings, I am brainstorming and planning an incredible travel art workshop happening April! All the details a little later this week… happy 2015!