We’re not supposed to have favorite clients . . . but the Christopher Columbus Condos on the Grand Cayman Islands makes that a bit of a challenge.
When I started working at Element 74, I expected to try a lot of new things in a professional context. But when I was given the opportunity to travel to the Cayman Islands for our client Christopher Columbus Condos, I realized I was going to try a lot of new things personally as well.
Traveling to Grand Cayman was not only my first time out of the country but my first time on a plane period. To say that the idea of traveling made me nervous is a bit of an understatement. All I knew about air travel came from TV and movies, and while I did witness a dramatic “But I need on that plane!” moment in Miami, the whole experience was decidedly less cinematic for me personally. I followed the rules on the airline’s website, brought my gum for takeoff and landing (thanks, Linda!), and didn’t get yelled at by the TSA once!
Once arriving in Grand Cayman, it was immediately clear why people call the island the most beautiful place on earth. Looking at pictures of Seven Mile Beach, it seems too good to believe. I was a little skeptical—I know my way around Photoshop and my only prior experience with bodies of water was the Mississippi. How could it be that pretty? But if anything the pictures don’t do the island enough justice. I was struggling to get my brain to acknowledge that the ocean wasn’t a hologram in front of my eyes.
The people of Grand Cayman were warm and welcoming everywhere we went. It felt like we were truly guests of the island and not just tourists. The staff at Christopher Columbus Condos was wonderful and lived up to the glowing reputation I’d heard about. Some of the friendliest people we met were The McDooms, who have been the property owners of “Hell” for over 40 years. Hell might sound like a scary place, but it’s actually a pretty cool looking group of black limestone formations. Mr. McDoom told us that in early settlement days, a British captain stumbled upon the formations and exclaimed that it must be what Hell looks like. Now it’s a much sought-after tourist destination, complete with its own gift shop and post office. Mrs. McDoom gave us the rundown on local favorite restaurants in West Bay and helped me send a postcard to my nephew postmarked “from Hell.” (He thought it was hilarious.)
My favorite thing about the island itself was all the wildlife. Chickens have free roam across town the same way squirrels do in Missouri—it was delightful. I didn’t get to ask any chicken why he was crossing the road, but I saw probably a dozen mad dash across the street in front of my car. And there are lizards, iguanas, and parrots around. I even got to meet a couple Caymanian cats—my favorite was a calico aptly named Callica who lived at the Crystal Caves. She let me scratch under her chin, but then ran off to stalk a little green lizard. Callica was a lot braver than my cat Gracie, who would probably hiss and hide from a lizard if she saw one.
Stingray City gets a lot fanfare on travel websites and blogs and it’s for good reason. On our tour, we rode a boat out into the North Sound to a shallow sandbar where you could easily stand in the ocean. After years of getting treats from humans, the stingrays willingly congregate to the area and are happy to exchange pets on the head for a snack. They’re beautiful animals and so soft! The excursion we went on also included a stop at Starfish Point, where I got to hold a few starfish and feel their little “feet” grab onto my finger. The whole excursion was the highlight of the trip and something I’d recommend to anyone visiting the island.
After coming home and having a little time to reflect on the flurry of the trip, I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and travel. The idea of hopping on a plane to go see Hamilton doesn’t terrify me anymore (now all I need is to win the ticket lottery). I’m so lucky to get to do exciting work for a client as great as Christopher Columbus Condos and work for a cool company like Element 74.