The kitchen is small and quaint. Fresh laid eggs are in a tray on the counter, the chickens that laid them are scratching in the yard just outside the window. The sun is setting, sinking into the ocean. I’m rolling dough on small table while a 90 year old woman looks over my shoulder, adjusting my technique.

A few hours earlier, tired and drained from the hot sun, I stepped inside this small store near the beach to get a bottle of water. Unexpected to me, they also had small baked pastries filled with a type of sweet potato. Wow, these are amazing! What is this? How do you make them?

“Come back later, we can write down the recipe for you” said the man behind the counter.

On my return, instead of being handed a recipe, I was invited into the kitchen by the owner to help make it. I learned the name of the street we were on was her father’s name, one of the original settlers to this area. At 90 years old, she had seen a lot of change to this island, the first textile mill, the first mega resort for foreign tourists, and the first supermarket. When I didn’t know one of the spices used in the recipe, she closed the shop and walked me to that market to buy it, refusing my attempts to pay. Declining such generosity was simply not an option.

No mega resorts in sight

This is but one of many examples of genuine human warmth that I experienced on this trip. “I hope you enjoy your time in our country”, one man told me. The concept of “What’s in it for me?” didn’t appear to exist

Years later, I compared stories with a friend that had also vacationed in the same place. Exiting the plane, they found a black car with tinted windows waiting for them. Minutes later they rode up to the beachfront resort, the gates closing behind them. Two weeks later, after enjoying the sun and waves, expertly cooked American food washed down with imported American beer, and the personal service that comes with a $300 a night suite, they got back in the black car, rode back through the gates, and hopped aboard the flight home.  The only local person they met was the man at the airport holding up the sign with their name on it

The contrast in experiences couldn’t be greater. One case was a full immersion of the local environment and local people, while the other was the full exclusion of these things. One was genuine, spontaneous, and organic, while the other was scripted and artificial. There is a difference between Paris, France, and the Paris casino, Las Vegas.

Is one of these ways of traveling better than the other? They both are what they are, and there is a time and place for both. But since much personal growth comes from stretching your comfort zone and the genuine relationships that develop amongst people coming together as equals, I can say without hesitation that our travel will be slow, spontaneous, and real

What is your favorite way to travel?