Tag Archives: exploration

Vacationing in the Caribbean? Educate Yourself Before You Go

Heading off for some sunshine and relaxation in the Caribbean? Nothing is better for the soul than sunshine, beaches, and great food and company. These cultural tips will help you blend into most Caribbean cultures for the most rewarding vacation:

Always Say Hello First

Image via Flickr by jennicatpink

Before asking directions, ordering food, or doing anything else, always wish good morning, to whoever you are talking to. Whether in English, Spanish, French, Dutch, or Creole, Caribbean cultures always put greetings first and business after. Residents are very proud of this tradition and appreciate when their visitors do their best to remember it as well.

Enjoy the Music and Dance

Image via Flickr by vinylmeister

The Caribbean is known for its soulful music and energetic dancing. Here are two types of music and dance you should discover:

Soca: An offshoot of traditional calypso, soca music was born in Trinidad and Tobago. The sound combines Indian music with calypso for something rhythmic, energetic, and perfect for dancing. As one of the most popular forms of music in the Caribbean right now, you are bound to hear plenty of it. Don’t be afraid to jump into the dance!

Merengue: Extremely popular in the Dominican Republic, merengue is a Latin dance favored in all Spanish-speaking Caribbean nations. To experience the music and dance for yourself, ask the locals for their favorite dance club and head there for an evening. Many cultural events and festivals will also have merengue dance performances.

Dress Up for the Town

Image via Flickr by fensterbme

When packing for Caribbean cruises, remember that you are packing not just for the boat but for the ports of call. While athletic wear and bathing suits are perfectly acceptable on an expedition or at the beach, these clothes are considered too informal for wearing in town. Cover up a bathing suit with a summer dress, or wear board shorts with a shirt and shoes anywhere in town. Scruffy jeans and sweats are also too informal and can offend local citizens or business owners. Most people wear lightweight clothing, so khaki shorts and a T-shirt can’t go wrong.

Celebrate Carnival with the Caribbean Islands

Image via Flickr by globewriter

Traditionally just before Lent, Carnival is the last big festival before the Catholic tradition of 40 days without meat. It has turned into more of a celebration of the cycle of nature and an opportunity to unwind and relax, however. Like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnival is only complete with tons of dancing, music, parties, and wonderful foods.

Every Caribbean nation has its own specific traditions and time for Carnival. Trinidad celebrates Carnival in February with parties, dances, and parades while Barbados celebrates Carnival in August, usually with pageants and soca music. Join in the festivities wherever you are by dressing up in colorful dresses or costumes and going out on the town to dance, drink, and enjoy all the excitement.  You can usually find cheap hotels near the action, but be aware of the fact that tourists will likely be approached regularly by locals with offers to purchase souvenirs and various other items you may not want.  Be respectful and direct and everyone will have a good time.

Holidays, greetings, and music are just the beginning to the varied and vibrant cultures found in the Caribbean. What other cultural tips do you have for travelers?






Why I’m Not Setting New Year’s Resolutions

After all the fuss and celebration surrounding New Year’s, how much has actually changed? What have those resolutions amounted to? Once the festivities die down, there’s little left to remind us of our resolve. And it seems the new year often masks a continuation of old habits and routines, despite how loudly we hail its transformative powers.

I’m a fan of shaking things up – traveling, trying new things, pushing my boundaries. But come New Year’s, I’m as complacent as anyone else. There is just too much built into the changing of the year, too many expectations. I often feel utterly defeated before we even make it to December 31.

This year was no different, and I sat with the familiar feelings of reluctance and disappointment as the day approached. Just need to make it through the next few days, I thought, and life can go back to normal. It was that prospect, though, that filled me with dread. Life will go back to normal, unless I do something about it…

I didn’t paint any gaudy signs or post any dramatic declarations on Facebook. Rather, I let the new year sneak into my life like a little draft of wind and followed it around for a bit to see wherecanal it would go. I followed it from my favorite Venice Beach cafe into an unfamiliar neighborhood. I turned a corner and dove into a serene, sunlit series of canals. Down the flowery lanes I walked, over decorated bridges, past ducks and children playing. So close to home yet heretofore unexplored!

The next day, the wind led me from my Silverlake spot over to Griffith Park. Yeah, okay, I’ve been here before. Not too exciting. But the new year had something else in mind. I started down my usual route, with about fifty other New Year’s Day hikers. Somewhere along the way, caught up in the beauty of glowing green hills, my feet took a turn, then another, and another. I soon found myself alone in a clearing of brush, standing in front of a lone and overflowing sage bush. All of a sudden this place I thought I knew so well had revealed itself anew, like a little treasure. I took a sprig of sage home as a souvenir.

This year I’m not setting any resolutions. It’s not that I don’t believe in them, but the practice just isn’t going to serve me this time. The freshness of 2013 has come through in unexpected turns and hidden revelations. This year will hold much to surprise and delight, and there is clearly plenty of the “familiar” that remains to be explored. I intend, therefore, to find the new around every corner, let my feet ramble, and trust the wind that guides me along the way.

Shake your routine and start living creatively

What is a spiritual solution? How do we find creative solutions to life’s challenges?

These are the foundational questions addressed in the new Chopra Well show, Spiritual Solutions, based on Deepak’s best-selling book of the same name.

I struggle occasionally with loneliness. Even in the largest crowds or among the closest friends, I sometimes feel strangely alone. The dreamy child grew into a contemplative adult, and my peace is often the stillness of solitude. My typical response to this feeling is defiance. “I’m just independent. I’m free.” But by clinging to these beliefs, I’m complicit with the problem. I’m beginning to see that change is, first, an internal process. Some challenges we approach pragmatically require spiritual attention.

“We’ve all got problems,” Deepak reminds us. The difficulty lies in dealing with these problems creatively. We have the potential to experience every possible human joy, pain, and pleasure. That’s what it means to be human. Endless possible problems fall fair game under the umbrella of Life. Of this we need no reminding. We often neglect, however, that infinite solutions exist at our disposal, as well. It’s been too long since we last played, and it’s high time we remembered how to exercise our imagination.

Spiritual solutions derive from expanded awareness. The greater the awareness, the more access you have to creative, alternative solutions to problems you face. On a daily basis, we’re forced to process and react to endless stimuli. Much of this occurs on an automatic level. We learn rote responses to everyday problems and deal with them as they come, in the only ways we’ve learned how.

With Spiritual Solutions, we learn that there are endless alternative paths.

In every weekly episode, Deepak engages with his audience by helping them explore these alternative solutions. No one, not even Deepak, is going to have all the answers. But the goal is to expand awareness and to never give up exploring. Whether he is chatting with people in New York City’s Union Square or responding to videos uploaded by viewers worldwide, Deepak addresses fundamental questions and issues people have. How do I deal with depression or my desire to feel loved? Where is the line between self-care and self-centeredness? Deepak offers tools and strategies that enable us to meet life’s difficulties from within and experience a genuine sense of fulfillment and purpose.

So, how do I deal with loneliness? Maybe the first thing to address is the routine I’ve developed around a sense of independence and solitude. Routine feeds on worldview and belief, so those will need some tough love, as well. Emancipated from habit, I see more clearly. I can then use this expanded awareness to invent new, creative ways of structuring my time and navigating the social world. And, like magic, life becomes a garden and not a prison!

What challenges do you currently face? Consider this: When you next find yourself poised to react to a problem based on deeply ingrained beliefs, pause and consider alternative ways of responding. Even if you don’t change direction, you will have expanded your understanding of the situation. You’ll know that you are never stuck in one course of action.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well so that you never miss an opportunity to expand your awareness and live creatively!

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