Featured Traveler: Patrick Bennett
As co-founder of the travel blog Uncommon Caribbean, Patrick Bennett spreads the gospel of one of the world’s most popular, and least understood, travel destinations. Articles involving a crash course in reggae music or where to find the best roadside roti in Grenada help aspirational islanders dig deeper into the history, culture, and charisma of the Caribbean—or just dig their toes a little deeper into the sand.
And it doesn’t hurt that stunning photos of dreamy seascapes, combined with Patrick’s go-beyond-the-resort style, resonates perfectly with AFAR’s travel community. We challenge you to scan his Wanderlist “The Best Secluded Shores of the Caribbean” without immediately opening a new browser tab to check out flights to the islands. Get to know Patrick a little better by checking out his Wanderlists and his answers to our travel questionnaire!
Right now I’m in New York.
Though I would much prefer to be in the Tobago Cays grilling up some lobster on the back of a boat while listening to the sound of the ocean.
Occupation: Co-Founder of Uncommon Caribbean
My next trip is to Tobago.
My last trip took me to Anguilla.
First international trip: I was born and bred on St. Croix, a small island in the Caribbean, so practically every flight was international. I’d guess my first was to visit family in southern Trinidad, though I’ve been told I went to Haiti during my first year or so.
A huge yellow shesh (turban) bought in the dunes of the pre-Sahara near Merzouga, Morocco is my most treasured travel souvenir.
Favorite hotel: Ani Villas, Anguilla. Pure perfection.
Favorite restaurant: There used to be a gas station on St. Croix that served the best dhalpuri roti if you called ahead. I’ve been mourning its closure for years.
Favorite shopping destination: I once bought some sorely needed knitted alpaca hats from a wizened old woman (who seemed half mountain goat) somewhere around 16,000 feet up in the Andes. There wasn’t evidence of another human being, much less a true shop, for miles. That’s my kind of shopping.
Favorite local style/most stylish place: Fortunately, the most stylish place is where I currently live: New York City.
iPhone or DSLR? DSLR all the way! Just got a Nikon D600 that I’m itching to put through its paces.
Backpack, wheelie, or trunk? Backpack.
Plugged-in or unplugged? Unplugged! I treasure time spent beyond the reach of cellphones.
Public transportation, cab, or bike? Cab. Talking one-on-one with people in new destinations is a great way to get acclimated and cabbies are usually a good bet.
If you’re practically anywhere in the Caribbean between May and June, don’t miss plucking fresh mangoes from trees during mango season!
Preparation: guidebook, online research, or seat of your pants? One part online research, two parts seat of my pants.
Alcohol (preferably rum) is the best way/place to connect with locals. If you find yourself in a dry country, try tea or cigarettes.
Five things you can’t travel without: Camera, adventure hat (yes, I have an adventure hat), the right shoes, swimsuit (you never know), and cash.
Jet lag: Nap, power through, pills, or herbal remedies? Power through!
Favorite airport and why? JFK, specifically Jetblue’s Terminal 5. If I’m there, it usually means my next stop is somewhere in the Caribbean!
Three travel apps you can’t live without: Google Maps, appropriate phrase book if necessary… And that’s about it.
What’s the one hometown place you miss most while traveling? White sand beaches. Of course, I only miss them when I’m traveling outside of the Caribbean.
First thing you do when you get home: Unload tens of thousands of photos.
Where do you always take out-of-town friends? My roof.
Best memory of a trip with kids—either from your own childhood or with your own kids: My 2 year-old son has been to over 15 Caribbean destinations (plus a few in Europe), so we have a lot of great memories, but if I have to pick just one it would be washing up before bedtime off the back of a small boat somewhere in the Grenadines beneath a crystal clear Milky Way arcing across a pitch black sky. He was only 6 months old.
Most out-of-character travel experience? Something that you would never have done at home. I’m a bit of a picky eater at home, but all that goes out the window when I travel. This openness was put to the test at a small ryokan in Kyoto that served some… Challenging fare.
Biggest travel mistake? My biggest mistake was also one of my best experiences. Some fellow travelers and I decided to push our camp hosts to take us in search of lions in the middle of the night near the Okavango Delta. Naturally, it was on Christmas night. And naturally, once we were 2 hours from camp in the middle of the savanna, our jeep broke down. The sounds we heard roaring, grunting, squeaking and rumbling out of the blackness all around us were incredible. And pretty damn scary. After another two hours, the jeep was finally fixed, and we chose to carry on instead of turn around. Our reward was to be surrounded by a pride of lions around three in the morning as they feasted on a baby giraffe… And not us.
If I had a whole month to travel, I would go to Cuba! It’s the size of Pennsylvania, but I think I could manage in a month.
If I had a whole year to travel, I would go to the Yucatan Peninsula, buy a motorcycle and ride along the Caribbean coast all the way to Suriname. How difficult would that be? I guess I’d find out!
Favorite foreign word or phrase: Limin’. It’s what you call doing next to nothing in the Caribbean and it often includes copious amounts of rum or beer.
Favorite foreign tradition: I love how in Japan you never fill your own glass and never let somebody else’s glass get empty.
Travel has taught me first world problems are the worst problems—they make people lose site of what’s really important.