We are all familiar with the concept of serendipity. You know, stumbling upon something amazing while not specifically looking for it. What I discovered during my first trip to Cape Verde perfectly falls into that category.
Drained from all kinds of energy after a crazy (and rainy) second year at university, I decided I had to go somewhere hot and sunny to recharge before starting my exams in June. Having always been fascinated by the Caribbean islands, I naturally started to look at Cuba and the Dominican Republic, but going would have meant being right in the middle of the rainy season – again! Determined to avoid the downpours while still going further away than the Canary Islands, I stumbled upon Cape Verde: with an average of 0.0 mm of rain in the month of May, a temperature ranging from 20°C to 28°C, and a direct flight from my hometown, I had finally found my heaven.
Although ashamed to admit it, I had never heard of it before that day. Now, I sometimes still wonder how I managed to live without it. Situated off the coast of Senegal, right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, it is an archipelago made up of 12 islands, only 10 of which inhabited, which gained independence only recently, after decades of colonialism by hand of the Portuguese. Like so many of other formerly colonised countries, its culture is a mix of African and European, which can be seen in almost everything: from language to architecture, from food to dance, it captures the best of both worlds. Still fairly protected from the herds of tourists however, it is the simplicity of life and the free spirit of its people that make it a special place.
…it represents the perfection of a relaxed beach holiday…
Initially wanting to ignore everything and everyone and spend my days reading books in the shade, I soon discovered it would be impossible: with a friendliness unknown to many, Cape Verdean people will, if you let them, make you discover their world, soon letting you become a part of it. My first trip in May was quickly followed by a second (and longer) one in December and although there is not much to see in Boa Vista (one of the islands with the most beautiful beaches) apart from its main town Sal Rei, it already feels like a second home. By the time I left the second time I had cycled for charity with the locals, had been invited by a waitress to her house to meet her family, made more friends that I could have ever dreamt of and been clubbing with those new friends in some of the most typically Cape Verdean clubs in town.
Now planning my third trip to what has quickly become my favourite island, it represents the perfection of a relaxed beach holiday made special by the authenticity of its people: indeed, although the architectural and historical sights are incredibly limited, the culture and their way of life is what is worth getting to know; like Miriam Beard said, “travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” And God only knows how much those trips have changed me; I live by their motto now, no stress.