Our love affair with Puerto Rico started almost exactly 15 years ago. My husband was straight out of college and I was still studying. We had very little money but a ton of enthusiasm and we were so ready to explore. We traveled around the island and fell in love with it and the wonderful people that live here. Who would have thought that one day we’d be packing our bags and our dogs and moving here for good?
After dealing with freezing winters in Chicago for years, we decided it was time for a change. In 2015 we sold our house, our car and most of our possessions and took a huge leap of faith. We were coming to paradise! What could go wrong?
The first 2 years were filled with roaming the island and going to the beach, to the pool, going on relaxing walks with our dogs, playing a little tennis and doing some jogging. It was an absolute dream come true and it felt like we were on constant vacation. The weather was always sunny and the nature was lush and abundant. So many things to do; excursions to colonial Old San Juan, dining in trendy Condado, local vibes in Santurce, surfing in Rincon, hiking El Yunque, trips to Vieques’ and Culebra’s magnificent beaches, etc. Every weekend was filled with adventure and life was really, really good. Almost too good to be true…
Then, on September 20th, 2017 came Maria. It was a category 5 hurricane and it completely destroyed the island. We were lucky to have survived it yes, but everything changed. The storm was terrifying but what came after was even worse. The first 10 days were an absolute nightmare. No water, no electricity, which translates to no fridge, no stove, no washer and dryer, no dishwasher, no air conditioner, no light. Furthermore, no phones, no internet, limited food and limited drinking water, no easy access to gasoline, and no access to cash. It was very hard. On top of basic human needs the nature was completely destroyed. It was nothing but broken trees, sticks and grass. It was heartbreaking. We thought we’d never recover.
Amongst the chaos we were able to find the silver lining. We met many new people. Many wonderful people that we would have never met if it wasn’t for Maria. Everyone came together. People were sharing food and water, and gas, and the more fortunate neighbors where sharing with the less fortunate. One of our neighbors came up to us even before the hurricane and offered his help. He turned out to be a complete lifesaver. He let us run an extension cord to his generator, which provided us with light and a working fridge. It may not seem like much but for us it was truly a fantastic day. It made such a huge difference. We felt so civilized. One truly appreciates the little things in a time like that. That same neighbor would often bring us meals and offer his help with many around the house fixings. Needless to say, we became very close with him and his wife and their dogs.
Once things settled down a bit (after 3+ months) our new found friends asked us to join them for a ride in one of their vintage sidecar motorcycles. It was a trip I’ll never forget. It was such a thrill and such an escape from our recent struggles. Riding one of those beautiful bikes is nothing but joy. You just sit back and relax, especially when you’re not driving. The wind blows in your hair, the sun is shining and you forget about all your troubles. Like our neighbor says: “It’s not where you going that matters, it’s how you get there”. And so we went around the East coast of the island. It didn’t matter where we were going. We just rode. It was so exhilarating. We got so many looks and so many people honked at us in admiration. You can’t stop but get teary eyed when something like this happens.
A few weeks went by and we were facing another hurdle. We were at a dead end and all signs were pointing in the direction of us going back to Chicago. We were completely crushed. Not only did we just go through hell with Maria, but now we’d have to leave our paradise? We prayed and we hustled and then that same neighbor came to us with a proposition of running his new, not yet fully operational business. The business of sidecar sightseeing tours. We were flabbergasted at first. It was so unexpected and so many questions arose. Could this be the answer to our prayers? We thought hard about it and dug deep into our souls. We were willing to do anything to be able to stay on the island and that was our only solid lead so far.
It didn’t take long and we decided to jump on board. We hopped on the bikes and started going to work. Everyday we hustled with putting things in order and it wasn’t easy, but we pushed and we pushed, and we will push forever. As they say here: “Puerto Rico se levanta”. We will rise again! Not only the island, but us two and especially our new business. Paradise here we come again!
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