I’m back from an inspiring week in Antigua and Barbuda at the 2019 Traverse Antigua Elite Mini Conference. While making my way home, switching airports and planes, I started reflecting on my trip. What had impressed me the most about Antigua?
It wasn’t the beach, even though I saw at least a dozen gorgeous stretches that took my breath away. It also could’ve been Antigua’s stunning hilltop views, the secluded coves, the scattered islets, the laughing gulls cruising over the Atlantic Ocean, the rainforest hikes and rose-colored sunsets, or that sweet Antiguan ducana.
Instead, it was the people. More precisely, the women.
Whether wandering solo or with colleagues, the local women I encountered in Antigua were so charismatic, down to earth and welcoming. Accomplished and driven, irrespective of their humble beginnings or life’s obstacles. Individually, their stories were dynamite.
In hindsight, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Earlier this year, four Antiguan women made history when their team became the world’s (and not just the Caribbean’s) first all-Black team and the world’s first all-women team to row across the Atlantic — a whopping 3,000 nautical miles — from the Canary Islands to Antigua in the annual Talisker Whisky Atlantic Campaign, a prestigious ocean rowing expedition. Think about that for a second.
From my first interactions after stepping foot in Antigua, I sensed that the ladies were the stars of this destination. I immediately thought, who better to ask about Antigua?
I. Antigua nice: Seven local women share their tips
Throughout the week, I interviewed as many local women as I could fit in my busy conference and island exploration schedule. I didn’t need to plan it — interacting with Antigua’s women was organic, easy and fun.
From the tour guide to the tourism marketing pro, the artist, the environmental activist or the local influencer, I asked each woman to share what makes Antigua unique in the Caribbean and why we should visit.
Sit back, turn up the volume and take a listen.
II. Meet the women
Aren’t these ladies naturals? I had a long chat with a few of them, while others were brief encounters during our group excursions. What they had in common: strength, passion and resilience.
Here are some of their stories.
Sheniqua Frances, Douglas’ Fruits & Vegetables and Nursing Student
During the day, Sheniqua works full time at her family-owned Douglas’ Fruits and Vegetables stand, at the entrance of St. John’s covered market. At night, she goes to nursing school.
Sheniqua loved telling us about the island’s homegrown fruits — including its two species of pineapple — and about the island’s most famous cultural event: Antigua Carnival, in June and July.
Bernadette James, Tour Guide with Rendezvous Tours Antigua
Bernadette was a customs officer for two decades before she became a tour guide. She
grew tired of hated the work but stuck through it until her children were grown. After that, she decided she’d just stay at home. Destiny had other plans. A friend’s phone call alerted her to an opening at a tour company. Would she be interested in taking tourists around Antigua?
Spend five minutes with Bernadette and it’s obvious she loves her country and her second career. In the high season, she guides hundreds of cruise visitors around the island.
Refica Attwood: Executive Director, Wallings Nature Reserve
Refica is the Executive Director of the new Wallings Nature Reserve, in southwestern Antigua. She’s also a community activist, credited for saving this historic, once-neglected rainforest.
And that’s not all: she rides a donkey every morning with her dad as a first-generation logger and the only female logger in Antigua.
Annie McFierce, Local Influencer for Antigua and Barbuda Tourism
Anne-Marie doesn’t have to try hard — the camera loves her positive aura.
It makes sense that the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Ministry picked her as one of their local influencers. Speaking of which, how fabulous that a Caribbean tourism board has launched an in-country influencer program? Well done, Antigua.
Mauricia Frith, Marketing Officer at Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority
I have Mauricia to thank for one of my best images of the trip, showing a secluded view of Shirley Heights that I might not have spotted on my own.
Mauricia was awarded a scholarship to study in China, where she lived for six years and received her B.A. in Tourism Management and Marketing from the Central China Normal University, all while juggling motherhood. She’s been with Antigua Tourism for nearly three years.
Gloria Roman, Staff at The Verandah Resort & Spa
Gloria is originally from the Dominican Republic, but she moved to Antigua six years ago and loves it there. I included her because she’s one of many Caribbean citizens I came across who moved to Antigua and made it their home.
She speaks excellent English, as well as Antiguan “patois,” and I caught her singing and moving to soca music. A Dominican dancing to soca? Now that’s what I call immersion.
Sadie Christian: Visual Artist, Owner of Earthly Instincts Original Arts
Sadie has been making arts and crafts using locally sourced materials for over 20 years. She’s a single mother of three, and she’s happy to share that her art single-handedly provided for her and her kids all these years. She never compromised on her calling.
You can feel the uplifting energy as soon as you walk into her studio at St. John’s Public Market. Sadie is currently filling a huge order to supply the new Royalton Antigua Resort’s gift shop as more visitors demand authentic, “not made in China” gifts and souvenirs.
Have you been to Antigua? What stood out the most to you?
Share in the comments.
I have a lot more to share about these stunning twin islands in the coming weeks. Subscribe below this post to receive my upcoming stories on Antigua and Barbuda. You can also bookmark my photography portfolio to view my images as I process them on a rolling basis, and follow along on Instagram.
Special thanks to the Antiguan women featured in this post for being such amazing souls, and to the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, Elite Island Resorts and Traverse Events for inviting me and sponsoring my trip to Antigua. As always, all posts and opinions are my own.