What happens when something goes 10x better than you expect? 

Jan 14, 2021

Despite all the crappy things going on in the world, Emily and I decided to take a trip. We organized a small sailing retreat to the Caribbean for a group of friends and soon-to-be friends. It would be a test run for something we’d like to offer to more people as part of our new business, The Awesome Factory.

We set it up for the British Virgin Islands. The BVI borders were re-opening December 1, 2020.  Our trip would be the first week of January. After we booked the trip, the covid protocols came into focus: a negative covid test prior to getting on the plane, another test immediately upon arrival, and quarantine for 5 days on island while awaiting results. Then we could move freely throughout the territory. The original test had to be a special PCR test, the molecular kind instead of the antigen kind and it had to be taken with 5 days of departure (which for us, included New Year’s Eve/Day). I was learning this all as we went. Quarantine meant not leaving your hotel, house or wherever you arranged to stay. You could not go to stores to buy groceries. They had to be ordered and delivered. You could not leave your location even for physical exercise or ‘mental wellness.’ Upon arrival we would receive a wrist band tracker and a USB plug-in device that we would need to keep charged because it was also a broadcasting tracker that shared our location. As the hurdles mounted, we hoped this trip would be worth it.

Emily and I would be hosting two families. Each household was responsible for getting themselves to the BVI and ultimately the boat. Some flights were cancelled and had to be re-booked. All kinds of last minute changes added to the stress and anxiety of trying to travel within these new parameters and the small but important windows of time (all the negative covid tests had to be completed within a specific time frame relative to arriving and departing). Emily and I adjusted our plans last minute to stay in sync with the rest of the groups’ quarantine schedules because once quarantine was over, we were all getting on a sail boat and exploring the British Virgin Islands together. It was going to be a combination vacation and personal development retreat. Emily and I were running the boat and the retreat. We wanted to be rested and ready.


Before getting on the boat, Emily and I needed a place to stay for quarantine. With the last minute flight changes, we hopped online to look around. Hotel prices were more than what we were used to paying. (We usually camp.) In our past travels we’ve enjoyed AirBnb’s. They gave us the ability to cook, were usually a little larger and typically had a lot more character than a hotel. We found a place online that had a pool, beds for eight and was up in the hills. It was about the same price as a nice hotel room right on the beach. It seemed like a great deal, but was more space than we needed. We phoned one of the families joining us on the boat to see if they wanted to share this quarantine space with us. There’d be plenty of room.  But they’d already booked a hotel and couldn’t get a refund.

The quarantine period would include my and Emily’s wedding anniversary. Not just any anniversary, but our 25thanniversary. If we had to be quarantined somewhere for five days, we’d rather have access to a pool and a kitchen and too much space.

Even so, all the odds were stacked against us. The last minute schedule change meant getting a fast turn-around on the right kind of covid test that we could not get nearby and would cost a couple hundred dollars each. We had to travel to the Bronx for the tests. The change fees for our flights were waived but we still had to pay the the somewhat more expensive fare difference. We forged ahead. We changed our flights, booked our AirBnb, hoped the covid text results would come back quick enough that we could catch our now sooner flights (and be negative). We ordered our groceries from a store that needed 48 hours notice. It was now only 24 hours before our arrival. Everything was happening over New Year’s Eve and Day, so most places would be closed. We hoped we’d have food when we arrived. If not, we had snacks in our bags. We were doing the best we could.


We were nervous because our adult daughters would be dropping us off at the airport for the first time ever. Getting to/from NYC area airports is no joke. Step by step, aspects of the trip started to fall into place. Our covid test results were supposed to take 24-48 hours. They came back in 16 hours. Our daughters dropped us off and texted that they made it home in one piece. Our flights went smoothly. We had all the right papers in hand. We made it to the British Virgin Islands and took our second covid test. We got our wrist band trackers and location broadcasting devices. Our taxi driver took us and a few others to our quarantine locations. As we drove through the island hills the sun set. The twisty roads made me nauseous. Just as I was about to puke, we drove up a steep hill and then down an even steeper driveway. We’d arrived.

We unloaded our bags. My wobbly legs carried me and my luggage down a set of hillside stairs to the door of our Airbnb. I punched in the code for the main door. It didn’t work. Huh. I punched in the code for the ‘bedroom’ and the door unlocked. The room was gorgeous. High ceiling, king size bed, a balcony with an expansive view of the ocean and islands a few miles out. Wow. This was gorgeous. The rest of the house was below us. Adjacent was a small patio. The owners had kindly turned on the lights, knowing we’d be arriving late. I went to the patio.


I remembered some teriyaki beef jerky I brought along as a snack (a thoughtful Christmas present from Emily). I peeled open the pack and laid down on the tiled deck finally putting something substantive into my stomach. There’d been almost no food on the flights and all the restaurants and food vendors had been closed in the airports because of covid. My belly was empty. As I ate a little, my legs regained some strength. My nausea subsided and I started to feel myself again.

It was now long since dark. I explored the bathroom. It featured a shower with only a glass door separating it from the deck and ocean view. This place must be pretty private. I walked back out the door we came in to find the rest of the place. I paced across the paving stones to a small terrace. I’d gone too far. Light were on at the neighbor’s next door. Maybe we had an adjoining patio. Maybe it wasn’t as private as I thought. I went downstairs and found the ‘main door’: I punched in the code. This time it worked. It was right below the shared patio. The kitchen was gorgeous, big and beautiful. Our groceries had been delivered early. Hallelujah! We had food. In the fridge were milk, eggs, vegetables and all the dry good were on the counter. I walked out onto the patio and realized the neighbors house were actually the other bedrooms. This was definitely a villa, but felt more like a village. There was the pool.


Emily stripped naked and dove in. After she was out and drying off, I did the same. This place was actually very private. After all day on planes, in airports and vans winding down undulating roads, a cool dip brought me back to center. We looked out at the twinkling lights below, and on the islands across the way.

Emily cooked spaghetti and steamed vegetables. We ate al fresco (and naked) on the patio. I was myself again. We were giddy. This place was massive and way beyond what we’d ever imagined. We spent the rest of the night wandering around, discovering what we could in the dark. Standing on the main patio, I saw a bright light on top of the ridge. Once I realized what it was, I called out, “Hey Emily, come here.” We both looked to the East and watched a full moon rise up over the ridge.


“What in the world!?” was the phrase I kept repeating over and over as I shook my head. We couldn’t believe it. How could we get so much more than ever expected? This started to unlock conversations about abundance, generosity, fun, play, what could go right, gratitude and celebration. We could not have planned a more delightful and perfect 25th wedding anniversary.

It’s a hard thing to get more than you expect. It’s disorienting and a little unsettling. Emily and I never could have planned a more lovely and luxurious way to celebrate this milestone in our marriage. And quite frankly, in the current environment, this situation could be laden with allusions to privilege, irresponsibility and naiveté, depending on whether referring to social economics, the pandemic or politics. Didn’t we know the world was in turmoil? People all over the globe are suffering and the stakes could not be higher. Didn’t we know that the following week people would storm the capitol? Or maybe this was the perfect time to pause and celebrate, to acknowledge and commemorate our happy marriage.

Whenever everything is going wrong is the perfect time to stop and reflect on all the things that are going right. Sometimes maybe the best thing we can do is deliberately tune out the noise, ignore the mayhem, step away from the chaos and create our own oasis of peace.


[PICS: dinner on center patio; posed shot of us on center patio; 1-2 overhead shots]


I’m so grateful we fought for this experience. The time in quarantine was a luxurious gift of beauty, play and fun. We did plenty of work while there in preparation for our sailing retreat (which is a whole other wonderful story), but our anniversary turned out 10x better than we’d ever hoped. What a beautiful gift. We’re grateful we persevered—all the covid protocols and hurdles to get to this place—but also the 25 years of living required to reach this milestone in the first place. Both were worth it.

A wise friend recently said, “At the onset of covid, I was so worried. I was deeply afraid for so many reasons. But looking back on 2020 none of the things I was really worried about happened. I could have suffered less if I trusted more.”

She continued, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” Life will surely bring painful experiences and circumstance to our doorstep. But how we experience them is up to us. The suffering is optional. What if we trusted more?

Emily and I often ask “What could go right?” I had no idea something could go so right. The universe is abundant. I believe God’s plan is for everyone to have everything. I can’t wait for that time when your expectations are blown away and you get way more than you ever expected and deserve. I’m excited for that time when you’re delighted and giddy because your wildest hopes are surpassed. You might have to fight for it first, but I think you’re gonna like it too.

Family first doesn't mean Mom + Dad last.

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