Bahamas - Not what I expected

The Bahamas!  Beautiful white beaches, crystal clear blue waters and beautiful resorts.  That's the image I had when I decided to take a last-minute trip to Nassau for the July 4th weekend in 1986.   I didn't know anything else about Bahamas and because this was a last-minute trip in the days before the Internet, I didn't do any research.   I saw a great deal in the newspaper and said to my friend John Lucas: "Let's Go."

We drove to Tampa and got a cheap flight to Nassau.   Arriving at the airport, we got into a taxi.   The taxi was an American car, with the steering wheel on the left which seemed normal, until we left the airport and the driver was driving on the 'wrong' side of the road.   It took a minute to realize that yes, we were in a country where they drive on the other side of the road even if the car is not designed for it. We paid the driver in dollars and he gave us cash back in Bahamian currency telling us it is all the same here.  (It wasn't)

We arrived at the Sheraton British Colonial Hotel only to discover that most of it was closed due to a fire and what looked like general decay.  But thankfully they still had a room for us.   The view was great.  

John Lucas on the balcony of our room at the Sheraton  Hotel in Nassau, Bahamas

Excited to be out of the US and in the Bahamas, we set out to explore Nassau.   It was a shock.   We didn't know the Bahamas was what was then called a "3rd World Country."   It was the first time either of us had ever been to what is now called a "Developing Country."  

If we had known this, we probably wouldn't have gone.   Our travel experiences at that point had been limited to the USA and Western Europe.   

 It was my first time ever seeing people working the streets trying to extract money from tourists and anyone else who happened by.   As much as it hurts to admit now, but this made me uncomfortable.  

Walking around, I saw poverty like I had never seen before (I'm seen much worse since then.)  We were intimidated by what we were seeing.   But then, a random encounter with a Bahamian woman selling coffee mugs changed everything.   

What happened may sound simple, but it ended up being a life lesson.  She talked WITH us and we talked WITH her.   She told us about her life, how lucky she felt and about her wonderful family.  We told her about us and where we were from.   I don't know her name and not even sure if I asked at the time, but the lesson I learned that day has stayed with me.  It made me realize that no matter where you are from, no matter your circumstances in life, people are people.  We care about the same things but we have different perspectives.   As I've travel around the world, I continue to see this.   But it wasn't something I had ever thought about until that day.   

 Yes, we bought a couple of coffee mugs from her.   But the lesson learned on my first trip to a developing country lasted a lifetime.   


I went back to the Bahamas in 2017 taking the ferry to Bimini for the day.  It couldn't have been more different than my first experience.   Everything was manicured for tourists and tightly controlled by the Resort.   We didn't interact with any local people on that trip except for the people who were serving us over-priced drinks and food.  I think I liked the Bahamas of my first trip better.  It was more real.  

Dates of Travel

  • July, 1985
  • July, 2017

Places Visited

  • Nassau
  • Bimini



This post is part of my series "One Photo - One Country."  I'm am selecting one photo and writing one story from every country I have visited.   Your comments and questions are welcome.  

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