By Lucy Ruscitto | Staff Writer
Spring break should consist of golden rays, captivating beaches, some unproductivity, slight sunburns and quality time with cherished friends and family. My 2016 spring break consisted of muggy air, one of Miami’s most crime-ridden pockets, borderline cancerous sunburns and the Zika virus.
2016 was my freshman year of high school, and my parents had decided to treat my younger sister and me to a trip to the Virgin Islands, starting in St. Thomas and ending in St. John. They had traveled there for their honeymoon and wanted us to experience the beauty and people of the gorgeous islands that they had nearly 20 years prior.
The plan was to fly to Florida for the connecting flight from Los Angeles, and from there catch the 20-seater plane to the island of St. Thomas.
Our flight left 30 minutes later than planned, causing us to miss our connecting flight, and leaving us and about 15 other passengers without a way to get to the Virgin Islands for two days.
Not only was our flight missed, but the airline we had used had hundreds of cancellations, because a tropical storm was approaching to add to the wicked luck my family had been doomed with from the start. The airline that had our luggage refused to give it to us due to the insane number of suitcases accumulated from all of the hundreds of missed flights.
We were forced to find a hotel for two nights. Although we lost the two nights in the rental house we had already paid in full for, my parents decided to try and make the most out of being in Miami since none of us had ever visited the city.
That goal may have been much more attainable, though, if we had stayed somewhere more adequate. Within hours upon arrival, the police had already made an arrest in the lobby for theft. Night one, our toes were greeted with the nipping of bed bugs. My parents were afraid to leave my sister and I alone in the room while they Ubered to grab us toiletries.
Left without contacts, clean clothes or any form of toiletry items, my family cowered in the “hotel” room, occasionally going out for meals, with the utmost precaution due to our hotel being in a highly rated crime pocket.
Finally, after two days in the city from hell, we boarded our flight to the Virgin Islands and arrived days late to the rental home we booked. We got settled, headed to the beach and enjoyed ourselves — for a while.
We had booked a fishing excursion one of the last days of our trip in the turquoise waters surrounding the keys, and the guide was to take us to multiple other islands in the near vicinity of St. John. Cool, right?
Wrong. Somehow, half of our family managed to get ridiculously seasick from the unexpected rough current on that windy day, we caught about less than the number of fingers on one hand of offensively dinky-looking fish and were overcharged by the guide by double of what we had initially agreed to pony up to. The experience was so intense my sister now has naviphobia, or the fear of boats. Nice.
To top off the whole weeklong of misfortune and lost opportunities, the days dwindled down to one of our final days on St. John, and we made a catastrophic choice. It was a rainy, muggy day. The beach wasn’t an option, so we decided to go for a hike in a highly rated meditation garden along the side of a dirt road.
We admired the luscious flora and fauna, snapped photos in the dominating green and climbed stairs to get to the most awe-inducing viewpoints. Despite the bug bites we received due to the humid conditions, it was a tranquil and green wonderland.
Fast forward almost a week later — we had arrived back home in Orange County, Calif. My mom and I unironically came down with nasty flu symptoms at the same exact time. We didn’t go in to the doctor because we both had gotten the flu shot for that year. I missed a few days of school; she stayed in her room.
It wasn’t until weeks later that we realized what had happened. We reflected on our flu-like symptoms: achiness, irritated and inflamed whites of my eyes — all from what I thought was typical jet-lag exhaustion.
Immediately, it struck us that we didn’t contract the flu from the airport like we had assumed. We had been bitten by the infected mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus, which the Virgin Islands had an immense outbreak of while we were visiting. And apparently, drizzly conditions such as the day of the hike set off the laid mosquito eggs for hatching early.
Thankfully, neither my mom nor I had plans of having a child, which the virus affects. We were so immensely thankful that all the virus did to us was make us look like slight potheads and give us devastating headaches.
The vacation gifted by Satan himself wasn’t all bad, however. When I was in Miami, I did discover that I love Cuban food and the dry heat of the West Coast; I learned to always keep a fresh outfit in one’s carry-on in case of a baggage fiasco; I came to the determination that the hotel I stayed in Miami will never again receive my business; I got to encounter some of the most wildly beautiful beaches I will ever see; and I got to make some pretty unique memories with my family that I don’t think many others can boast of.
Although we had to endure some pretty interesting circumstances, to say the least, one thing (and seriously, only one thing,) remained constant during my tropical getaway: my family’s seemingly never-ending optimism and overall excitement just to all be in the same place at once.
Between the Uno matches while hiding in the hotel, experiencing new cultures and foods together and getting unnaturally baked by the sun, I have memories that I will continue to hold near to my heart well into college and beyond, and I think that may have made contracting the once global health emergency disease all worth it.
Lucy is a sophomore journalism major from Yorba Linda, Calif.