You know the feeling.

The feeling of “WTF?!”

The “Ugggh!-Feeling” (vacant of deep breathing or breathing at all) when you are practically screaming (but only on the inside, of course), with your oh-so-very-strong-but-equally-exhausted self. Yes. That feeling. The one that nags you and then nags you some more, unrelentingly reminding you that you’ve been “going” too often, for too many hours, for way too many months, years even with too little support, too much concern about what others would think, (who could not care any less, by the way) and most importantly paying too little attention the most common denominator in every piece of this: YOU. When you sit and think, you catch yourself. You realize that it’s not your feelings that are the problem, it’s the fact that YOU haven’t taken the proper measures to address you.

Ok, so I wrote of this in second person. And this could actually be about you. But, in actuality, this is about me.

 Photo via Ian Silvanie

It took months for me to accept my best friend Yasmeen’s invitation to join her and her husband and others for part one of his 40th Birthday celebration in Curaçao. When I finally agreed, I booked my economy class ticket to Curaçao, a  Dutch Caribbean island seven miles off of the coast of Venezuela and confirmed my stay at Papagayo Curacao, an exclusive resort with luxury villas on one of Curaçao’s finest locations: Jan Thiel Beach, where they planned to stay. After learning that the property inlcudes 75 luxury Villas, 155 modern, well-designed hotel rooms (think white minimalist European), a beach plaza with a supermarket, car rental location, real estate agency, Casino, Beach Club, Spa, Gelateria, multiple culinary offerings, including a “specialty” restaurant (closest to the Villas), I thought, “This is exactly what I need–a compound. A place that I could choose to leave or not.”

Weeks prior to our departure, I began to anticipate my experience;  my trip, my one bedroom en suite that promised a full, unobstructed oceanfront view; my balcony; my massage(s); my outfits (check the ‘Gram); my workouts; my books; and oh, my Blue Curaçao (Curaçao’s signature cocktail). As you can imagine, I did so with every bit of selfish intention.

When I finally boarded the plane , I released a short exhale. I settled into my seat on the only direct flight offered by Jet Blue from JFK  to the island. I sipped a little red wine and drifted off into a light slumber where I dreamt of vibrant colors against the blue skies and palm trees. When we landed four and half hours later, I exited the plane and was welcomed by a cloud of thick, sticky, humidity and smiling faces all shades of brown, beige, and deep red clay. A full exhale and broad smile followed. We collected our bags, cleared customs with ease, and stood outside the quaint, International Airport. Our chipper driver with kind eyes, Winsom (who the hotel arranged) met our group of five with a sign that bore my name. As we drove the winding highways en route to Papagayo, Winsom openly and proudly shared historical facts  in an accent that was a beautiful blend of what I would describe as Caribbean, Creole and Spanish.

Historic Penha Building | Photo via Frans Sellies, Flickr

Historic Penha Building | Photo via Frans Sellies, Flickr

“The capital is Willemstad. Most of the country’s population lives there. You must go downtown to see all of the bright, bright buildings,” he said.

“The official language here is Dutch. But we have our own language too. It’s called Papamientu. It’s a mix of dutch, spanish, portuguese, and creole. But we speak english too,” Winsom continued.

“They say the country was founded in 1499 but the Arawak were always here. We also were a big port during the slave trade. So there are beautiful blends of people here. Spanish, African, Native, Dutch. And we all get along,” our driver added.

“Our biggest industry is tourism, of course. So welcome again!,” he chuckled and then continued and pointed. “But a lot of people work at the oil refinery over there.”

My friends and I listened intently and occasionally asked pointed questions. Winsom was always ready.

“You have to get food from the food trucks. We have food trucks with the best food. And you must go to Wet Willies on Sunday. And Zanzibar is a nice spot, close to your hotel. It’s good on Fridays.  But you are staying at one of the finest places on the island,” he said as he pulled up to Papagayo Beach Hotel to drop me off.

Pagayo CuraçaoPapagayo Curaçao | Courtesy Image

I exhaled again. This time a very deep one. I was greeted by Raymond, the bellman with honey colored skin, a wide smile, jovial walk, and eyes the color of amber. He unloaded my oversized case and escorted me to the open and airy lobby area that is delicately but handsomely appointed. I sipped a specialty cocktail while checking in before another team member, Rume officially welcomed me to paradise. I smiled and nodded in full agreement. A tall, well-dressed man born in Nigeria but raised throughout Europe who speaks Dutch and Papiamentu, Rume explained that he joined the Papagayo team 5 months ago after visiting the island and falling in love with the lifestyle. I soon saw why!

Over the next six days, I would wake to a most beautiful sunrise that seemingly grazed the surface of the Caribbean Sea with a soft lemon light. Every morning after forcing myself to stay in bed past 8,  I went to the Beach Club and enjoyed a full buffet spread for breakfast with eggs, bacon, omelets, pancakes, and local takes on steamed and sauteed veggies. I walked the beach, spoke to my friends other guests, laid out at the infinity pool closest to my room, worked out in the gym on property, tried my luck in the casino, read a book (Drop the Ball:Achieving More by Doing Less by Tiffany Dufu) and got into a pretty nice space of feeling relaxed. Day by day, I felt more refreshed. And the smiles I received at every turn from Beach Club staffers Sky and Daya, only added to my feeling lighter.

When I wasn’t indulging in all the Beach Club and Hotel had to offer, I spent time with my friends at their Villa within Papagayo Beach Resort. Another part of the property, Papagayo Beach Resort is a short but hilly 5-8 minute walk from the Beach Club. In full 40th Birthday-Celebration-style, Yasmeen and Schuyler rented the Royal Suite Villa along with a few other couples. With hotel-style amenities plus the feeling of being at home, the villas range in size from 2 – 4 bedrooms. The Royal Suite Villa also has a private pool which provided the perfect backdrop for intimate late night toasts.

Villa, Papagayo Curaçao | Courtesy Image

Villa, Papagayo Curaçao | Courtesy Image

Ever ready to support and accommodate our needs, from reservations at BJ Moe’s “Specialty” restaurant that offers fine dining on the Resort side of the property (try the lamb) to organizing massages and a day trip to Willemstad or aboard a yacht, Papagayo Curacao offers comfortable luxury to suit every taste and traveler. In fact, I settled in so much that I left the property only twice abandoning my original plans to experience everything Winsom and Rume recommended.

I wanted to visit Willemstad and walk around and look closely at the historic yellow, blue, green and red buildings. I wanted to go on a historical island tour to learn more about the island’s history, but I didn’t. After a day trip aboard a yacht captained and owned by a young woman and dinner off property near Wet Willie’s, I was good. I guess relaxation and ease got the best of me. And I’m grateful for it. It means, I did what I needed–I took a break.

Next time, I visit Curaçao and Papagayo, I’ll add two additional days to see more of Curaçao’s sites and meet the people. But I’ll be sure to keep at least five just for me to sit, lounge and enjoy a great escape.

To learn more about Papagayo Curaçao visit papagayo.com.

Get Tai’s Curaçao look:
White Swimsuit, Sammy B
Silver Turban, The MCB Project

Featured Image shot by Ian Silvanie