Yep, a lot can happen to a gal in 17 years…

…or a family, or a small, Caribbean island.

When we first got to Vieques in 1996, it wasn’t included on most maps of the Caribbean. I called it “almost undiscovered,” and all of us were “young,” (in varying relative terms). You could wear cut offs and flip-flops anywhere on the island; clean if you were going out. There was no “shopping;” restaurants were open-air shacks mostly. The beaches were empty and wild. And the finca was just a part of all that.

Over the years, with the advent of the Internet, Google maps, and social media, we’ve seen the world shrink, values and styles change. Early in the new millennium, Vieques was no longer a secret, so I changed to call it, “undeveloped.” Like so many other places, with the secret out, a wannabe celeb-inspired lifestyle came to the island. And, even after the last economic fall out, and leaner times for most folks on the island, conspicuous consumption became the rage.

So now I refer to the island as “changing” and the finca as “rustic” to help distinguish it from what new comers are calling “luxury.” Luxury — what a funny term. One man’s shadow and shadow and all that. Infinity pools and expensive restaurants never meant luxury to me. I always felt at my most luxurious if I was able to grab an evening swim alone in the pool.

Granted, the finca’s pool is cracked and pretty discolored, with a few missing tiles. But, if you look up — as float on your back — you can ignore all that. You can forget the pool installer who never came back to finish the job, the various repairers who ripped you off, the caretakers who tried to hide they used the pool to bathe their long haired Samoyed, or the photos you found of the other caretakers’ parties, showing them smoking dope on the pool house roof, then diving from it, into the six-foot “deep” end. Shudder. Or there was the frat house group – with adult supervision mind you — who put all the garden furniture in the pool one night, and then the reality show video crew — who doused their teen stars in olive oil before rolling them down the grass hill, into the pool, and the resulting matted green globs all over the water and ultimately the pump…

Yep, if you let yourself float and drift, and look up long enough, you can learn to forget all that, and the new designer vacationers running all over the island, looking for an authentic, but air-conditioned restaurant. And then, if I’m blessed with a jet black, star-studded sky, that’s when I’ve found my full-on dream-come-true luxury setting; when I know I’m living larger, luckier than I ever dared dream…grateful to my warm, floating bones.

I look at Vieques, at the finca, our guests, at my kids, and I look in the mirror. All of us growing, aging, and changing over the years; somehow amidst the craziness of it all, learning to stay true to our passions and careful what we wish for.

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