How A Century Old Cieba Tree Healed Me
Updated: Mar 1, 2019
I spent my small savings on a plane ticket, set aside my college courses, blew off work and took a break from being a single mom. Convincing myself that I could survive my 4-night 5-day trip on the measly $500 left in my savings account felt like a juvenile act of rebellion...
400 Year Old Ceiba Tree, Vieques PR (2015)
“I ran my fingers across the sharp spikes lining the tree. Its enormous roots were smooth in one tiny spot- so I climbed over to it.”
I read about this somewhat ancient magical tree a few times as I obsessed over my upcoming adventure to Vieques, a tiny remote island off the coast of Puerto Rico.
Over the past year, I became addicted to reading travel blogs—legit living vicariously through photos of globetrotters flooding my news feeds. I often found myself wide-awake at night, suffering from what I thought was anxiety-ridden insomnia, but turns out it was actually my excuse to justify rifling through blogs for travel tips on plotting my escape.
I surfed the World Wide Web in what I call a “wanderlust state-of-mind” (If you’re an explorer at heart, you know how it is.) I discovered tips on trekking to a secret beach. I learned that the 21-mile long and 4-mile wide island paradise is home to 40 beaches, and many were rendered a color name, coined by the Navy.
Travel Tip: Do your research so locals won’t immediately file you under a typical tourist when you’re lost and ask “How do you get to Black Sand Beach from here?” Most people speak Spanish in Vieques—
It’s “Playa de Negro” NOT “Black Sand Beach.” (You’re Welcome)
Anyway, imagine traveling off the beaten path in search of tropical shorelines seemingly untouched by any human? My friends and family never heard of the tiny oasis except for my cousin who moved there five years earlier, but she wouldn’t have much time to show me around, which was fine by me; I craved solace in solitude. I wanted inspiration to work on my own travel website after months of inactivity. This trip was my opportunity to capture images and help my readers visualize my travel tales.
I had to come up with original, engaging content to get users to find my website interesting enough to click and virtually travel along with me. (Yes, That’s You)
What’s better than sharing my adventures frolicking around Vieques Island?
You may wonder how the hell I managed to afford this solo trip. I spent my small savings on a plane ticket, set aside my college courses, blew off work and took a break from being a single mom. Convincing myself that I could survive my 4-night 5-day trip on the measly $500 left in my savings account felt like a juvenile act of rebellion. I didn’t really consider consequences since I recently lost a dear friend and confidant unexpectedly in a car accident. My daily domestic duties and juggling two jobs in my senior year as an undergrad was burning me out.
I needed to mourn, to breathe in something spiritual, to get lost and simultaneously find myself. I needed to heal my aching heart.
I made a list of destinations to visit: the largest Bioluminescent Bay in the world, Black Sand Beach, and the magical 400 year old Ceiba Tree that my cousin told me is believed to have spiritual energy. I needed to touch this wise old tree and feel how centuries of storms and treacherous island weather never shook its colossal existence. I wanted to feel the painfully sharp spikes that supposedly lined its mighty roots running all the way up its branches. I needed a force of nature that was stronger than any human emotion plaguing my heart.
Finally, my itinerary was complete! My cousin helped me score a reasonably priced condo tucked away on a cliff overlooking Sea Glass Beach and I rented a beat up ol’ Jeep to explore the entire island. After a breathtaking flight on a really tiny plane from San Juan, PR to Vieques Island, I arrived at my new home for the next few days. I set my stuff down, threw on my swimsuit, ran down the sandy hill outside my little villa, and dove right into the warm, Caribbean sea.
My Little Piece Of Paradise: Sea Glass Beach, Vieques, PR
I was literally floating all alone on this tiny coastline, washing away my jet lag and absorbing the sweet salty serenity.
My cousin drove over to greet me on my first night because she had some basic safety tips to be aware of as I explored the island solo. Admittedly, her warnings got me a little nervous. My Jeep was at risk of getting broken into where I may not have cell phone reception? What if I couldn’t find the tree with just an airport map? What if typical afternoon thunderstorms ruin my chance to take vivid photos?
But none of her concerns scared me off the path I planned. (I did appreciate her warning me to keep my sheets off the floor to avoid spiders crawling up in my bed!) Suspecting my stubbornness, she arranged for me to meet up with her island friend, who preferred to be called “Monkey.” Fine-- why wouldn’t I want a local guy who goes by the name Monkey to guide me to the sacred tree and show me around his island? Heck, meeting new people and immersing myself in another culture are part of why I love to travel.
After about a half hour drive through lush vibrant tropical trails and twisted turns onto vacant dirt roads we came upon the breathtaking 400-year-old Ceiba Tree. I could see its mighty roots from a distance. My heart was beating so fast when Monkey stopped the Jeep.
As I walked over to the tree, the entire environment lit up. Sunbeams shot through the clouds that were creeping in, setting an enchanted scene. It took my breath away. I felt a strong sense of peace come over me. I ran my fingers across the sharp spikes lining the tree. Its enormous roots were smooth in one tiny spot so I climbed over to it. I thought about how long the tree survived compared to my dear friend who died at just 42 years young. Call me a tree-hugging hippy, but it felt like maybe his spirit was alive in that tree. A tear slid down my cheek and for some odd reason I started to smile.
I climbed barefoot over the piercing spikes and called my new friend Monkey to capture the moment that I escaped; the moment I surrendered to the healing powers of nature.
Taking a moment to feel the sacred Cieba Tree healing
Vieques adventures not only helped me share a travel tale, but also helped me realize that even though our loved ones may no longer walk beside us on our journey in life, their memory is still alive in our travels. They are part of all the natural wonders of the world, like a 400-year-old Ceiba Tree.
If we seek them out and revisit them, we can keep them alive for centuries.