Getting Lost In: Anguilla (the recession special)

anguilla-christmas-2005-091You may be one of the 3.6 million unemployed Americans waving a severence check in one hand and few other responsibilities on the other (no kids, no hefty mortgage), and not sure what to do with all this uncovered free time bequeathed to you. If you’re like me, you still find yourself making mental to-do lists for work that is no longer yours to do. Instead, I find myself rather busy, actually, creating personal to-do lists a mile long, from updating several versions of my resume to reorganizing every closet in my apartment.

This calls for a vacation in which the main activity consists of nothing. Nothing is hard to do. Nothing means you perform basic life functions: sleep, eat, relax, tan and read. My favorite place to do this is on the island of Anguilla, in the British West Indies, which was until recently the best kept secret in the Caribbean.

anguilla-christmas-2005-044Anguilla is a 15-mile long island off St. Martin with one traffic light, the whitest sand beaches and the bluest ocean I have ever swam in. In recent years, high-end luxury resorts began springing up along its sandy stretches, so only the divine were allowed to visit and the collegiate spring breakers stayed away.

Flights: There are several ways to get to Anguilla. One is a direct flight to the island’s Wallblake Airport (code AXA). The other is to fly to St. Maarten/ St. Martin (airport code SXM), take a cab to the French side (about $25) and then catch the ferry ($15) to Anguilla. (The Dutch side is St. Maarten and it is not pronounced “maaaahten” as it may appear in writing). There is also now apparently a ferry that will take you directly from the airport to Anguilla for $20, but I have never seen that before. There is also puddle anguilla-christmas-2005-030jumper (WinAir) you can take from the airport in St. Maarten to Anguilla for about $100. Lastly, you can charter a boat to take you to Anguilla straight from the airport, but since this is the recession special, we’re going with the ferry for the common folk. Once in Anguilla, you can get around by renting a car or bike, but my personal favorite is by waving the thumb (yes, hitchhiking is completely safe here – everyone does it because there is no public transportation. Even if you’ve decided to start hiking towards the beach, at least five cars will stop to offer you a ride, male and female drivers).

Where to stay: If you have a friend with a house on Anguilla, stay there. That’s how my habit formed. anguilla-christmas-2005-065Later I found Lloyd’s Guest House in the middle of the valley and borrowed a bike from the owners to get around. Lloyd’s is very economical for Anguilla ($75 for a single, $105 for a double. I guess it went up since its debut in the New York Times) with its breezy white tile-and-paint rooms. My other favorite is Shoal Bay Villas on Shoal Bay East (photo, right), considered the most pristine of all the island’s beaches. Shoal Bay Villas is pricier at $335 for a one-bedroom poolside suite or $370 oceanfront studio (and you do fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves), but comes with a kitchen, and when split among four fellow layoffs, makes for a reasonable stay.

TIP: The off-season in Anguilla is mid-April to mid-December. Of course it is far more enjoyable to be on a tropical island when it is blizzarding back home, but Anguilla is still beautiful year-round. Flights escalate during the holidays, particularly between Christmas and New Year’s, but drop significantly after that. Frequent flier miles are only 35,000 on American Airlines. There’s a great way to trade in those miles earned on business travel towards a well-earned vacation.

Now  go enjoy being unemployed.

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