Making The Case For Being Quietly Awesome

We live in a world fueled by self-promotion. If you’re not building your personal brand via Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and the like, it’s almost as if you don’t exist in 2016. When this trend first began years ago, those who were self-promoting in this way were brave outliers; however, publicly posting your every move is now the norm, which means that the newest counterculture, in my humble opinion, is going to favor a return to letting one’s achievements, passions and involvements speak for themselves.

I have nothing against social media, and yet I am honestly ready to admire someone who’s never campaigned for my admiration. My recent visit to the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago provides the perfect illustration as to why I advocate for a return to quiet humility.

quiet awesome

trinibago coast

trinibago boats

Though I am an avid traveler and have been all over the world, prior to visiting Trinidad and Tobago with a company called El Camino Travel, I had never even heard of them. It turns out, there’s a reason for this; because Trinibago—as locals call the two islands—is rich in natural resources. It hasn’t needed to rely on tourism in the way that other local islands such as Jamaica or Barbados have had to. This has allowed the islands to remain under-the-radar and untouched by the trappings of mainstream resort travel.

It’s also meant that Trinibago tends to draw a different kind of traveler than do the other Caribbean islands, one who is more adventurous and in search of an authentic immersion. As a result, the low-key tourism industry which does exist in Trinibago is inadvertently geared towards millennial travelers.

trinibago traveler

While in Trinibago, I learned about the islands’ storied history, one that has led to an intensely diverse population. Trinidad was first made a Spanish colony with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498. In 1797, it switched hands, falling under British rule and occupation. Meanwhile, Tobago was passed between the Dutch, Spanish, British and French more times than any other island in the Caribbean. Further diversifying the population was the practice of slave ownership on the islands for many years. The first slaves utilized on the island were Caribbean-born. Later, slaves were imported directly from Africa. In 1838, these slaves were granted freedom, which created problems for local plantation-owners. So, they invented what was basically a new system of slavery, bringing Indians, Chinese and Portuguese over under what was called “indentureship.”

Though the origins of this mixed population are shameful, the modern day result is anything but—Trinibago is a melting pot representative of what the entire world will one day resemble (in my opinion). Island residents practice Catholicism and Hinduism in nearly equal numbers, and nearly every other religious group—from Baptist to Muslim—is represented in some percentage.

… Trinibago tends to draw a different kind of traveler than do the other Caribbean islands, one who is more adventurous and in search of an authentic immersion.

As you would have guessed, due to this striking diversity of population Trinidad’s food is absolutely incredible. Its special mix blends African, Indian, Creole, AmeriIndian, European, Chinese and Lebonese influences. I enjoyed meals—cheap ones, I might add—that I dream about to this day. While in Trinidad, we took a cooking class with local Chef Jason Peru, who has become somewhat of an international celebrity. I have since recreated the incredible recipes he shared with us at home for friends on more than one occasion to rave reviews.

trinibago food

trinibago market

Trinibago is purported to have more national dishes than any place in the world, including Callaloo, Bake & Shark, Pelau, Curried crab & dumplings, Oil Down, Pasteles, Black Cake, Dhal Puri Roti and Murtanie (a.k.a. Mother-in-law), among others.

Trinibago is also home to the more obvious trappings of a Caribbean island, though in this case unspoiled by a culture of exploitative tourism—otherworldly beaches among them. If you’re ever on the islands, I highly recommend visiting The Nylon Pool, a sand bar in the middle of the ocean with crystal clear waters. Trinidad is also home to a large population of endangered leatherback turtles, who somehow find their way back to the sands on which they were born in order to lay eggs.

trinibago baby turtles

We stayed at Mt. Plaisir in Tobago to observe the turtles, who lay their eggs directly below the charming hotel’s balconies. As the baby turtles have very low chances at survival, a local organization collects the newly-laid eggs, holds onto them until they’re hatched to keep them safe from predators, and then allows you to participate in releasing the baby turtles into the ocean. Observing the 400 lb. leatherback turtles lay eggs, and subsequently releasing their babies into the ocean, was one of the most memorable and touching experiences of my life. One that I, again, never would have known I could partake in given how quiet the islands—and the amazing organizations dedicated to saving these animals—are in their efforts.

… the element of surprise enhanced my experience tenfold.

It’s hard to do justice to the majesty and vitality of these islands, and perhaps that is another reason why Trinibago remains one of the world’s best kept secrets. Having known very little about the islands in advance of my trip, the element of surprise enhanced my experience tenfold.

trinibago mystery

Think about this as it applies to ourselves—if we give it all away on social media, what is left for those who meet us in real life to discover? There is something to be said for retaining an aura of mystery, of letting others be drawn to you through some sort of cosmic circumstance, and of letting your brilliance unfold before them organically.

It works for Trinibago.

What do you think? Is mystery making a comeback?

Images via Emma McAlary

Erin is a freelance writer and content marketing / business development consultant living between Los Angeles and Joshua Tree. She is also the founder of Broke Girl's Guide, a lifestyle website that sold to StyleHaul in 2012 and inspired the show 2 Broke Girls. As social media is often a part of her job, she tends to forget to share when not being paid to do so; however, you can follow her on Instagram, where she promises to start regularly posting riveting content any day now.

  • Molly August 27, 2016

    Agree with this to the moon and back. I’ve been living overseas for well over a year, and sometimes I feel sudden social pressure to be sharing and posting more about my experiences. But why? One of the things that bothers me the most about self-promotion is the amount of time it eats up – and the time it siphons away from being present. In my experience, I savor things more (before and after) if I’m not trying to broadcast all of them.

    Thanks for the great post! (P.S. definitely want to add Trinbago to the list!)

  • Jennifer August 15, 2016

    I really enjoyed the ‘less is more’ angle about quiet awesomeness. But for me, the assertion that more low-key/more adventurous tourists in search of authentic immersion were therefore likely to be “millenial travellers” felt a bit jarring (a bit lazy to be honest) – as if these are not behaviours that more mature travellers are just as likely to exhibit (or more likely on average, in my opinion, from my own perspective working in travel).

  • Noelle August 15, 2016

    Glad to hear your experience to the homeland was an enjoyable one! Thank you for these lovely thoughts on what, I too, believe is a reasonably untouched country. I followed the trip avidly on IG and it looks like the group got a good experience of the rural areas, beaches and a bit of the capital. We are extremely proud of our multicultural explosion…and food Agree with the others here, the name is Trinbago.

  • Anonymous August 15, 2016

    It was very interesting reading a review of Trinbago through your lense. Next time please visit the more of the local villages and you will have an ultimate cultural experience. You will find that our people are kind, friendly, outgoing, and generous. In the deep villages, you will find a unique innocence untouched by politics but driven by culture. .

  • Tanya Marie August 15, 2016

    Lovely article. Glad you enjoyed our home.
    Do take note however that it’s ‘Trinbago’ not ‘Trinibago’ and Mt Plaisir is in Trinidad. ~Come again! 🙂

  • Jacqueline August 6, 2016

    Hi. Great you had such a positive experience. I would ask that you edit to replace “Trinibago” with “Trinbago”, please. It is an annoyance on an otherwise lively article.

  • Kenty August 6, 2016

    Thanks you so much for writing this article. I’m from Trinidad,but I currently live in London and it’s so difficult to explain to my friends and colleagues who hail from all over the world that trinidad is very different from your typical tourist Caribbean destiniation and offers so much more.You article articulates this perfectly and I use this as my blueprint when making the case that they should visit one day.

  • Patricia Shaw August 5, 2016

    Was there and it was great The Doubles.Walking on the Board Walk .Shopping on Charlotte Street nice nice nice

  • Melva C. Felix August 5, 2016

    Thanks for reminding me of the beauty which everyday surrounds me in my beautiful twin island state. I think our citizens have forgtten that we are a Gem. You have perfectly described what I love most abou my beloved country Trinbago.

  • Liv August 4, 2016

    So spot on, and articulating something that I’ve been feeling but not able to put a finger on exactly what it was. Thank you!

  • Candice August 4, 2016

    This article captures the magic of my twin-island birthplace so well!

    Although I grew up in Canada, I get back to T&T at least once, if not twice, yearly. It’s always been so difficult to convey the special elements of the country to friends in North America, who are typically used to the more the, dare I call it “American-ized standard” of island experiences that can be the norm in other areas of the Caribbean..

    The people, the food, the nature, and the mixed tapestry of it all, is truly what makes Trinidad & Tobago so unique, and globally relevant, today even more so than ever..

    Thank you for doing it justice with your story! Now, if you only were to experience Trinidad Carnival, you might end up with a permanent annual booking to POS airport in your calendar!

  • lee wiser mcintosh August 3, 2016

    Erin, thank you for articulating what has been turning over and over in my mind and for creating such a lovely metaphor through travel. More. Please.

  • Kara August 3, 2016

    I love that you used your travels to reflect on the world of social media and being overexposed in today’s world. I wish people realized that less is more. Great article! Trinibago was never on my radar before, but now I would love to visit!

  • Ashley August 2, 2016

    Lovely piece. So interesting and peaceful <3

  • OB2 August 2, 2016

    Thank you for your beautifully well written and refreshing article about the islands of Trinidad and Tobago (Trinibago) and your experience while visiting. Cheers!

  • Mrs. Michael Dillon August 2, 2016

    The times practically demands a return to quiet humility and splendid thoughtfulness! It takes time to truly build anything worthwhile and effort. For me personally, that effort is quiet and often unseen by others.

    Tact, sensitivity and soft voices can be so very powerful.

    Such a beautiful place, a place that whispers to us all.

  • Gemma August 2, 2016

    What a place!! Stunning photographs of an authentic travellers destination minus the tacky tourist aspect. Wonderful : )