I find solace in traveling each winter for a period of time to escape the cold and explore new destinations. Over the past 5 years, a small island that’s just over 1600 miles away from Newport has become my home away from home.
I started visiting the Virgin Islands back in 2012 when one of my closest friends, Felix Hebert, took a shot and moved down there on a whim. At the time, we were bartending together at Fat Belly’s in Coventry, making good money and golfing no less than five times a week. For a well-traveled individual such as Felix, cabin fever started to come into play and he knew he needed a change. After a bit of research, he decided to move down to a tiny island in the Caribbean and he has been there ever since.
The allure of St. John cannot be defined by a few mere sentences. The island itself is stunningly beautiful, as over 60% of its land is preserved for conservation as national park territory. The hues of the water surrounding the island are straight out of a fairytale and allow for some of the best snorkeling in the world. The beaches are heavenly, the drinks are cheap and the party never stops. St. John reminds me of Block Island. I often say, “it’s the Block of the Caribbean.” It’s a tiny island (just about 20 square miles) that has not been grossly developed or overtaken by corporate chains or large scale resorts. Both islands have a small, tightly-knit community that acts as one big family. Both islands have a strong dedication to conservation and preservation. Both islands have a reputation for having a good time and both islands have taken ‘just one more drink’ to new extremes during my time visiting them.
However, the most wonderful asset that St. John possesses are the people that live there. From the moment I step on to that tiny little rock until the moment I leave, I am treated like family. The care free, welcoming and overwhelmingly positive attitudes of the residents who call St. John home give the island its soul. I’ve been very fortunate to develop relationships with a great group of friends and they are the reason I keep coming back for more.
I am not the only one who feels this way. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a collection of personal profiles on individuals who have ties to both Aquidneck Island and the Virgin Islands. This short series, entitled “1600 miles away,” will feature people from all trades of life and their connections to Newport.
Anyone who has traveled the isles knows that there is a very special, unique relationship that seemingly binds them all together. Every time I travel, I end up meeting someone who has some sort of connection to Aquidneck Island. Last year, while I was waiting at the ferry dock in St. Thomas, I was approached by a group of sailors who did a delivery from Newport to the island earlier in the week. The conversation was prompted by the Water Brothers shirt I was wearing. Sure enough, two of the gentlemen in the crew had done deliveries with friends of mine in the past and were planning on spending their summer doing boat work in Newport.
Living on islands and in seasonal communities inspires people to travel. The saying “birds of a feather, flock together” is not lost in translation. Many people jet set or set sail to communities familiar with the transience of coastal living. For example if you’ve ever visited Naples, Florida, I’m sure you’ve found some sort of Newport connection and I’m also sure that shortly after you found that Grand Marnier follows with it. If you’ve sailed around the Caribbean, you wouldn’t be surprised to see a Newport Shipyard shirt, as many southbound deliveries end up in the Caribbean for the winter months. This past year, I had 5 different friends move to Hawaii to explore all that the South Pacific island lifestyle has to offer.
No matter where the world may take you, it’s important to realize that we are all connected in one way or another. In a day and age that is fueled by social networks, communication is as easy as the click of a button. I am excited to share this short series with you while I am away and look forward to the new relationships that will be crafted as a result of this segment. As the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats said, “There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t yet met.” Have a great February Newport and I look forward to seeing you in March!
Tyler is a local hospitality professional, when not in the Virgin Islands he can be found bartending at Midtown Oyster Bar Wednesday through Sunday nights on the Burgee Bar and at Caleb&Broad on Monday nights for their award winning $10 entree dinner special.
Tyler is a graduate of Providence College and a true Rhode Islander, born and bred.
Email him at TylerBernadyn@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram at @tylerbernadyn