- I spent years dreaming about floating in a clear kayak I initially spotted on Instagram.
- I finally had the chance to glide in one on a recent cruise this July.
- It wasn’t what I expected, but it reminded me that traveling is about people, not Instagram posts.
In college, I embarked on what was supposed to be a kayaking trip to an island off the coast of Florida complete with dolphin sightings and a campsite under the stars.
But Florida’s temperamental weather rerouted us to mosquito-infested Everglades. The disastrous trip ended with me and my kayak getting towed for the last leg of the 13-mile kayaking route.
After that, I vowed to never kayak again.
But every few months while scrolling on Instagram, I’d spot a couple paddling in a clear kayak.
The plexiglass portal provided views straight into the water, and the experience enticed me.
The more the images popped up on my travel-driven Instagram feed, the more I forgot the pain of sitting crisscrossed for hours in the sun.
The Instagram photo convinced me to give kayaking another shot.
So when I booked a spot on one of the first cruises leaving the US this July, I started scrolling through Carnival Cruise’s pages of shore excursions.
A catamaran ride with champagne caught my eye, and I was tempted to zipline through a rainforest.
Then I landed on a pair of people smiling in a clear kayak. It was an experience I’d considered for years, and a place like Roatán, Honduras, felt like the ideal destination to give kayaking a second shot.
“Glide over the reefs in your very own clear kayak and see the ocean as you’ve never seen it before,” the excursion’s description read. I booked the trip for $76.
About two weeks later, the Carnival Vista ship dropped me off in Roatán, and a dozen people headed to a white sandy beach.
I spent the 30-minute bumpy ride dreaming about floating above colorful corals, watching fish dart underneath a clear kayak, and, truthfully, snapping the perfect image for Instagram.
When we arrived, I learned the kayaks weren’t the clear ones I envisioned. Instead, they were regular kayaks with the bottom swapped out for opaque plastic.
But before disappointment could set in, the saturated blue water and sandy beaches distracted me.
It was just under a year since I had last seen the ocean and just over a year since the park and its tour operators had welcomed tourists.
Roger Miranda, the head tour guide, bounced with excitement. He eagerly welcomed us — the first group of long-awaited tourists.
Miranda gushed about his home. “We have the best beaches in the world,” he reminded us again and again.
“I almost teared up when I saw you all walking up,” another tour guide told me.
As we launched into the water, the tour guides pointed out different corals and the posh all-inclusive resorts lining the shores. “You’ll all have to come back,” they said.
As I breathed in the salty, humid air, I listened to strangers from the ship bond for the first time since the pandemic started.
It didn’t matter that I wasn’t sitting in a clear kayak. I was surrounded by travelers interested in Roatán and locals itching to show off the beauty of their island.
As the afternoon winded down, Instagram didn’t cross my mind. I’d later scroll through the photos and realize a post would never come to fruition — the images were blurry.
After not traveling for over a year, I had forgotten why I thrive on visiting new destinations.
It’s not the Instagram shot or the satisfaction of checking something off a bucket list. I travel for the people I meet and the places I can discover.