The Things I’ve Done For Luck.

If you’ve traveled anywhere, I can guarantee you have been told that by touching something, swimming in a certain body of water, or doing some odd activity will bring you luck and good fortune. I was thinking about a few things I did on a recent trip to the Caribbean that was supposed to be healing for the body and it reminded me of all the things I have done since beginning my travels in 2010, some silly, some scary, and some just plain gross. So I thought I would compile a list of the moments that stand out for me in terms of doing something because it was considered lucky or “rejuvenating”.

The Gift of the Gab

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The land of the Irish is filled with stories based around luck and good fortune, leprechauns hiding their pots of gold and fairy rings that should you step inside the ring, you’ll be cursed by fairy protectors or transported to a land of supernatural beings or forced to dance until exhaustion and death (nice things, fairies, aren’t they?). But most importantly, and often boasted about, they believe in the gift of the gab. The ability to talk your way out of anything or being a smooth talker. For those of you interested in being blessed with such a gift, you can take a ride on up to a town called Blarney, just north of the city of Cork.

Here, you’ll find Blarney Castle and the famous Blarney Stone, or the Stone of Eloquence. Up the tower you climb until you get to a human-sized hole. It’s in this whole, a rough back bend down, that the Blarney Stone sits in the stone wall. At 90ft. above the concrete, I lay on my back and put my life in the hands of a grey-haired old man. With his hands gripping my calves, I leaned my upper body backwards and down into the hole, hanging on to the bars mounted on the stone wall. With a quick glance at the concrete below, I kissed the Blarney Stone and shot back up to safety.

Eternal Beauty

On the Isle of Skye, Scotland, there is a particular river that I’ve forgotten the name of. Flowing under a bridge, we pulled up beside it and sat around listening to a legend of the most beautiful girl in the village. Many, many years ago on her wedding day, this girl was riding her horse across the river when the horse lost her footing and down tumbled the bride-to-be, smashing her face on a rock with a pointed tip. A gruesome event, the poor girl had an eyeball hanging from its socket, her face mangled. No longer was she the most beautiful girl in the village. Determined to be married, she popped her eye back in place, though not well, and hid her face behind her veil. I Do’s were said but when the groom pulled back her veil to kiss the bride, he recoiled in disgust and, being the superficial man that he was, refused to marry her.

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Humiliated, the girl ran back to the river, where she met a leprechaun.. or perhaps a fairy. After hearing her story, the leprechaun told her that all she had to do was dip her face in that very river for no less than 7 seconds and she would be eternally beautiful. As you can imagine, we quickly lowered ourselves down and dunked our faces into the ice cold water and counted to 7.

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Clear Skin in Trinidad

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Many bodies of water around the world are said to have healing properties, rejuvenating qualities, etc. On a recent trip to Trinidad, we stopped at Pitch Lake, a “lake” filled with pitch. All of the major highways around the world use the asphalt from this lake and every time, the lake renews itself, filling again and again with asphalt. Black and smelling of tar, you can walk on the lake as the top layer is hardened, a slightly squishy surface. Certain areas of Pitch Lake are filled with small pools of water, some green in color, others black as Coca-Cola. Locals come to the pitch lake to bathe in one of these small pools as it’s said to aid in healing psoriasis and arthritis due to its medicinal properties.

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Another pool of water in the Pitch is said to be safe to drink a small bottle cap-full once a day as it’s said to keep the skin clear from acne. After playing in the water a little bit, two of us were brave enough to fill up our bottle caps and shot it back.

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The Sai Sin Bracelet

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Thailand has more symbols and amulets for luck than anywhere I’ve been. You ask any vendor on the street what the symbol on a ring, image, or other piece of jewelry means and they’ll tell you it’s for luck. You can often tell a backpacker in Southeast Asia by the collection of bracelets adorning their wrists and ankles, but there is one bracelet in particular that is said to give the wearer great luck. The Sai Sin bracelet. Up on Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I knelt before a monk and a shaman as he blessed the piece of white string before tying it to my wrist and was told that it would bring me luck in my travels, my health, and my prosperity. Whatever you do, don’t cut these bracelets off. Rather, they must break naturally from your wrist when the time is right. If you do cut it off, all the luck it was supposed to bring will be gone.

Three Wishes at the Trevi Fountain

On our very first night in Rome we found ourselves at the Trevi Fountain. There’s a number of legends about the fountain, which started many years ago. It’s said that originally, tossing in a coin or taking a drink from the fountain would ensure good health. Today, the Trevi Fountain has become a mecca for tourists from all over the world. We were told by a traveling family that you could make three wishes, on three different coins, of three different currencies. Swapping coins with one another, we each had three coins of different currencies and, with our backs to the fountain, tossed them in over our left shoulder, one at a time. Each coin had a different wish and, though I’m sure you’d like to know my wishes, they will forever be a secret.

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The Cursed Tomb of Alexander Stewart

Despite all the things I’ve done for luck, my reckless self also did something that is said to curse the individual for as long as they live. In the small Scottish town of Dunkeld sits a cathedral. Within that cathedral, is the resting place of the Earl of Buchan in 1812. After leaving his wife and six children, he was excommunicated and, as a result, he burned two towns to the ground. They say that anyone who touches his tomb will be cursed with bad luck for the rest of their lives. Whether this is true or not, perhaps the many things I have tried for good luck outweighs the curse. Either way, whenever I get a bout of unluckiness, particularly without explanation, I blame Alexander Stewart.

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These are just a few stories of the things I’ve done around the world in the name of luck and beauty. For more stories, you can read about swimming in Tobago’s Nylon Pool for rejuvenation, rubbed Juliet’s breast for luck in Verona, and doused myself in mud in St.Lucia for soft skin and healing properties.

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Tobago: The Postcard Perfect Island

I’ve got a bit of a long one for you today, so pour yourself a cup of tea or a glass of wine, kick back and dive in.

The first thing I noticed about Tobago was the heat. The sun felt hotter and the air thicker. After the hustle and bustle of Trinidad, coming back to a small and slow-paced island was a breath of fresh air and we melted into it easily. Tobago exudes a relaxed atmosphere of island living; time moved slower, smiles were more common and everyone that passed us by were extremely friendly, always wishing us a great stay.

In true islander fashion, we spent a lot of our time baking in the sun at Pigeon Point. A $20TT admission fee, Pigeon Point is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. I say this a lot, about everything. Every day is the best day ever when I’m traveling and every beach is the most beautiful beach I’ve seen, but this one truly takes the cake. Having given our fee we began the walk towards the main beach, walking through more palm trees than I have ever seen in one place.

Everywhere you look in Tobago you see a landscape that should be on a postcard. Or a painting. The beauty of it all hardly seems real — until you’re brought back to reality when the water hits your toes. The beaches are filled with palm trees and the sand is white and so soft, perfect to settle down on with your beach towel, good company and fresh local fruits.

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Like any beach in the Caribbean, you’ll encounter the men hustling for jet ski rides, banana boats, glass bottom boat trips and excursions to buccoo reef, nylon pool and dolphin watching. If you’re interested, don’t settle for the first offer. Ask around and see where you can get the best price for your experience. When the sun became too hot to stand, we cooled off in the sea, lounging in the shallows.

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Amenities at Pigeon Point close at 5pm, but beach goers are more than welcome to stay as late as they want. If you’re a lover of sunsets be sure to stay until 6pm when the sun begins to slip behind the surface, turning the sky a brilliant shades of peach.

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If you tire of the lazy beach bum life, there are a lot of activities being offered that should definitely not be missed. My only regret is not doing more tours of different parts of the island and not having an underwater camera for this entire Caribbean trip. Rookie mistake. We opted for just one tour, of buccoo reef and the nylon pool. Aboard a glass bottom boat with a roof for sun worshiping, our guides took us out to sea to buccoo reef, an easily accessible 7 square kilometer coral reef that is bursting with color.

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On the glass bottom boat you have the option of admiring the various coral and fish from inside, peering through the glass beneath you, or you can strap on a snorkel and take the plunge — I don’t have to tell you which we chose. The only downside to this tour was that you were limited in where you can snorkel, having to stay within a certain range of the boat. As we think we’re mermaids as soon as our skin hits the water, we found our guides continuously calling us in closer when we strayed too far. Once everyone had seen their fill of the buccoo reef, we hopped aboard and continued on to the nylon pool.

In the middle of the sea is the nylon pool, an unusually shallow area made up of ground white coral where the vibrant water barely reaches past your knees. The ground coral bottom makes for an excellent natural exfoliant and rumour has it that the waters have healing and rejuvenating properties that will bless anyone who swims in it (and keep you ageless!) If you really want to test the myths of the nylon pool, be sure to kiss your loved one…beneath the water! They say that a kiss underwater in the nylon pool will guarantee a marriage that lasts forever. While I can’t guarantee either of these things publicly, go ahead and test it out for yourselves and let me know if you experience any of the magic.

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Sadly the clouds rolled in just as we were having our photo taken.

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And reappeared just before leaving to show us the true brilliance of the colors!

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Pirate’s Bay, Tobago

We spent two days road-tripping around the island, getting used to driving on the opposite side of the road and slowly getting comfortable with the narrow and winding roads. From the south of the island we followed the road along the east coast with the Atlantic as our view. After stopping at Argyle Falls we headed on to Charlotteville, with a few more picture stops along the way.

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Charlotteville is a small fishing village on the north coast of the island. Colorful homes perch upon the lush mountains that surround it and groups of locals lime over Carib near the beach. A charming village with friendly people, our main reason for stopping by was to make our way to Pirate’s Bay.

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Be warned, do not try to drive there! It is much easier (and safer!) to park the car at the sign and make the walk down the narrow road. The road begins just fine but quickly transforms into a nightmare of an extremely narrow dirt road with rocks jutting out, barely enough room for once car and a terrifying drop off the cliff to the sea below.

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We realized this too late and were left with no choice but to continue on until we found a bigger spot to turn around. After safely making our way off the road (minus the scratches to the car that happened from getting too close to the rock face), we headed back the way we came on foot. At the end of the narrow road and down about 155 steps lined with palm trees, you will come out to a secluded and beautiful bay.

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Pirate’s Bay is a secluded beach nestled in the hills. While there is a rustic washroom available, there is little else in the way of amenities, so be sure to bring some water and snacks if you plan to spend the day. Because it can be difficult to reach (about 15-20 minutes walk from Charlotteville — there’s a great ice cream shop just before the road leading to the bay.. try the peanut!), we had the bay almost entirely to ourselves, with no more than a small handful of people.

If you like to snorkel there is some good underwater activity happening at the rocky area on the left hand side of the beach with lots of fishies to be seen. If you’re looking for some beach fun, there’s a tire swing hanging from a tree that we couldn’t resist! A beautiful bay with soft sand, calm water and a great landscape, it also makes for a great sunset spot.

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Leatherback Turtle Experience

When night falls upon Turtle Beach it is transformed into a home for endangered leatherback turtles. A popular nesting site for these animals, they choose the hours of darkness to pull themselves from the sea and drag their massive bodies across the sand to settle in a spot of their choosing. We made our way to Turtle Beach around 10pm.

As we walked along the shore, flip flops in hand, we saw her. A leatherback turtle, larger that I ever could have imagined, had nestled herself into the sand and was in the process of laying her eggs in the hole she had just finished digging. Shortly after, we came across the second. At 162 cm in length, she is considered a small leatherback. We watched, mesmerized, as she moved her flippers to dig a deep hole in the sand. It was clear that this took a lot of effort on her part, confirmed by the prehistoric sounding groans she made as she continued to dig until the hole was deep enough to protect the eggs.

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Watching the whole process of digging the hole, laying the eggs, burying them with sand and pushing her way through the sand to get back to the sea was an incredible experience. We all sat in silent awe, feeling extremely grateful to be a part of that moment of new life.

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If you choose to visit a turtle nesting site for yourself, please be respectful of them. They are wild animals that need space and a sense of security and safety to feel comfortable nesting. Keep your distance, don’t stand near the head of the turtle, and don’t use any flash photography.

The Mermaid Lagoon (… or Argyle Falls)

Our rental car was dropped off Thursday morning and like eager beavers, we hopped in ready to hit the road. Tobago can be difficult to get around within a car of your own and so for a modest fee of $300 TT per day, or roughly $60 Canadian, we opted to go on a road trip of the entire island. Narrow, windy roads featuring excessive honking, a few gasps of terror, and stunning coastal views took us from the south of the island all the way around it’s perimeter. Along the way we stopped at countless bays and beaches, walking barefoot through the sand and dipping our toes into the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

While it was all a joyous adventure, what I really wanted to share with you today was our visit to Argyle Falls. There’s something about a waterfall that reminds me of fairytales. They have a magical quality about them that I can’t explain and the second I reach one, all my worries instantly fade away. Friends and I carefully made our way down a steep and rocky path hidden in the bamboo, led by our encouraging guide for the day, to the bottom of the falls. Being sure of our footing, we took a step back and looked up at the fresh water pouring down.

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Like anyone would be, I was instantly transported to being in the mermaid lagoon from Peter Pan. With the big pool of water to swim in, the boulders to sunbathe on, and the waterfall flowing in the background, the three of us became mermaids of the falls. Balancing on bamboo, floating in the calm pools, and getting our massages from the waterfall spraying onto our backs, we lounged in this little bit of paradise.

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The falls are 54m in height, starting from the very top and going down a few different cascades to reach the bottom, where we chose to spend our time. It’s easy to access, just outside of Roxborough with signs that you can’t miss. When we went, a small group of people were there who soon left, leaving us to our very own private lagoon. The water is very cool but welcomed and refreshing on a hot day of 33 degrees and humidity! You could probably get away with going there on your own, but we enjoyed having a guide to help us get down to the bottom of the falls. He also made an excellent photographer while we splashed in the water.

Once we’d had our fill of the waterfall, we scrambled back up the path and hit the road towards Charlotteville… but that’s a story for another day!