I couldn’t have been more relieved to be on a plane travelling over 6,000 kilometres to the Caribbean.
Since my trip to Mallorca in the summer of 2008 – the one where I accidently stood on a drug syringe – things had quite frankly gone to shit.
I returned from Mallorca to a new school year – Year 9 – and there was a massive reshuffle of classmates. I’d been placed in a class with no one I knew and being the shy, introverted individual I am, I struggled to make friends.
At first I felt a friendship growing between myself and 3 girls in my class, but after 1 was sadly expelled, I found myself suddenly isolated.
When we were asked to partner up in science classes I had no one. I was entirely alone.
There was more than one occasion when I’d excuse myself from science class, telling the teacher I felt unwell, just to sob in the bathrooms because no one wanted to work with me. It was better to kill time in the bathroom than to have to take part in a science experiment by myself whilst everyone else laughed with their selected partners.
It was a striking contrast to how I was when I was 6 years old. I used to roam the primary school playgrounds on my own, pretending to be a turtle. I gave no fucks. I was happy. Why did I suddenly care about having no friends?
To make things worse, Year 9 also seemed to be the year when we were transitioning away from childhood. I was 14 and photographing cats in my spare time no longer made me feel whole.
The popular kids were having house parties which included alcoholic mixers and making out with boys.
Suddenly I craved this social interaction more than I ever thought I would. Strange for an introvert who previously wanted as little to do with people as possible.
But I wasn’t cool, I could count my friends on one hand and I didn’t know any boys, so these elusive parties never came to me.
These things hit me hard and I found myself experiencing depression for the first time.
The only thing worse than life in Year 9 was the quality of photos I took on this trip.
My beautiful Sony Cybershot camera died a death when I dropped it one too many a times. The black crack in the screen grew until it consumed the entire screen which made it unusable.
My replacement camera was a bright pink Fujifilm and, as you can see, the image quality sucked. The pixilated images make me want to cry.
Anyway, back to the story.
The 7 months that followed were bleak. But shortly before I was due to fly to the Caribbean, for the biggest adventure of my life so far, things changed.
I made friends with some girls at school from another class and was introduced with a group of boys from another school. We’d all hang out at weekends and it felt nice. It was fun.
I may have been a lame outsider in school but out of school, my social life was starting to blossom.
The biggest shock came when I discovered one of the boys actually liked me. In fact he even asked me to be his girlfriend.
Of course, I said yes! Did this mean I had a boyfriend? I couldn’t comprehend what was happening.
But there wasn’t much time to absorb this change to my life as, before I knew it, I was whisked away to the Caribbean for my Easter holidays.
Let me just say now that I understand how incredibly fortunate I am to be given opportunities such as this trip.
Struggling through school is something so many people have to endure but most can’t just leave it all behind to go on vacations around the world.
We were about to embark on a 10-day island-hopping trip where we journeyed via small propeller plane to several Caribbean islands.
I was stoked.
I had never been on such a great adventure before!
The first stop on our adventure was the island of St Lucia.
Fun fact, St Lucia is one of only two countries in the world to be named after a woman.
We landed at ‘Hewanorra International Airport’ at the very bottom tip of the island and began our journey north in a taxi.
When you think of St Lucia you likely picture the two gorgeous Piton mountains jutting out to sea, covered in thick green forests.
I know I did.
The Pitons were the opening shot of the film ‘Muppets Treasure Island’ which was one of my absolute favourite films as a child.
Well, we were about to stay in a villa that was located in between the two Pitons.
The villa was part of a complex known as ‘Sugar Beach’. The resort has a main pool and restaurant area and its own private beach. It is the only resort located between the iconic peaks.
The villas were dotted throughout the gorgeous bay with ours set back from the beach, surrounded by forests and neighbouring villas.
Our evening consisted of dinner at the resort’s restaurant which was overlooking a beautiful stretch of golden sand.
The setting sun sank into the ocean and turned the sky a beautiful array of orange and pink hues.
Petit Piton stood proudly at the edge of my vision, a dark silhouette as the sun gradually disappeared from view.
I barely made it through dinner. In fact, I returned to our villa early, unable to cope with the jetlag that was starting to sink in.
I decided that tomorrow I would make the most of my time in this beautiful bay of paradise.
The following morning I awoke to brilliant sunshine forcing its way through my pale curtains.
I stepped onto our patio where a vibrant blue plunge pool lay and delighted as the warm Caribbean air greeted my face and the chorus of birdsong filled my ears.
Our patio was encased by tall forest trees dressed in thick green leaves. It made the patio shady but it was peaceful and beautiful.
After a long day of travel the day before, it was time to thoroughly unwind.
We began the walk down from our bungalow to the communal pool.
We found ourselves walking down a thin tarmacked road through the forest which led down to the ocean. From there it ran parallel with the cyan waves, making its way down to the heart of the bay where the beach, restaurant and pool lay.
Tall palms stood beside the path and I listened to the peaceful crashing of waves against the rocks beside the lane.
The pool was backed by a forest of lush green palms. It had the most gorgeous view of the near-distant ocean and the two mighty pitons.
I was delighted to see there were only a handful of people here and plenty of spare sun loungers.
I made my way over to a large double sunbed which was made of soft cream material and had an open canopy. It was like a mighty fourposter bed but outside!
I lay down into the cushion and barely suppressed a sigh of utter satisfaction. It was so comfortable.
Above me was the clear turquoise sky with not a cloud in sight. The sun’s rays kissed my terribly pale skin and I thought of the wonderful tan I would get.
For a moment everything was perfect.
So perfect that I drifted off to sleep.
I awoke a couple of hours later to see the sun starting to fall into the horizon.
I started to sit up and realised how painfully sore my skin was. Shit. Every movement hurt and I winced. I can’t be burnt, can I?
I had put sun cream on but that had been many hours ago and I had been sleeping for pretty much the entirety of the day. It just hadn’t been enough cream to see me through.
My skin felt like it was on fire and when I put my hand over my arm, I was alarmed by the amount of heat radiating from it. I was soooo burnt.
The extent of the damage only became apparent when I returned to my villa.
Looking in the mirror I was horrified to see my red body. I wore a striking resemblance to a bright red lobster.
But that wasn’t the worst part.
Today I’d decided to be edgy and wear black bikini with ‘V’ shaped straps which was held together at the front by a multicoloured fat plastic ring.
So I had a fucking huge white ring on my chest.
A wonderful white ring of skin on my chest surrounded by bright red.
All my other bikinis and many of my tops were low-cut so my brilliant white ring would be on display for the entire world to see.
My spirits lifted slightly when a grey cat arrived at our villa door. Feline visitors never failed to make me feel better.
That night I tried to take a shower.
It was absolute agony.
It was so bad that I had to give up on that idea altogether.
What was even more comical was that my sister had also fallen asleep on the sunbed beside me.
Now the two of us were now crying and complaining with our matching red burns. She at least was clever enough to wear a normal bikini though.