CGR: How did you come up with the idea to celebrate your 40th birthday with Carnival hopping?
Erica: The idea came to me through a process of elimination more than anything. While celebrating with friends at their 40th birthday parties I started thinking about how I would celebrate my 40th year. I realized that while parties are a ton of fun, my way of hosting a party meant that I would put all the focus into my guests and making sure that they were having a good time. While I am always down for a good party with friends, a few strangers and lots of vodka, I wanted to do something that I would enjoy completely – no questions asked. And if you haven’t heard I LOVE CARNIVAL. So with that I resolved that I would celebrate on ‘Deh Road’.
However that’s nothing new, I’m on the road when ever and where ever I can be. I believe in living life to the fullest – Life is NOT a dress rehearsal, so go hard or go sit down! With that it was clear that in order to celebrate 40 years that God has so graciously allowed me to be on this this earth, I would celebrate by going to as many Carnivals as I could in the year.
I’m a numbers nerd, so ‘10 FO 40’ celebration was in full effect!
CGR: Which Carnivals did you visit and how did you choose those in particular?
Erica: I must say that picking the Carnivals and the logistics of getting them all done was one of the trickiest things. I travel quite a bit for work, I have two wonderful and very active children, and Lord knows I didn’t win the lottery, so it took quite a bit of maneuvering to make it happen. But – where there’s a will there’s a way. My support system of family and friends are the greatest in the world! When I told them of what I was doing, of course they all said the obvious – I’m crazy, but they all helped in any way they could.
I started in Venice Italy, went to Rio de Janeiro, then off to Trinidad and Tobago all in the month of February. Then of course my hometown ‘Rock City’ – St. Thomas VI, Atlanta Georgia, Houston Texas, Barbados, Nottinghill UK, New York City and ended it all in Miami.
CGR: Of the Carnivals you participated, we’re curious to know which one takes the number one favorite, so can you give us your top 5?
Erica: Of all the questions you asked, this is likely the toughest. So in no hierarchal order, as to not offend anyone, here are my top five:
CGR: You visited so many places and Carnivals. You couldn’t go to every Carnival. Which ones would you have liked to include?
Erica: Jamaica (so I went this year instead ☺), Berlin, Antigua, Carabana.
CGR: Ok seriously, how do you top such a birthday celebration? What do you have planned for your 50th?
Erica: 50?!?!?!? Who can wait that long? What about 45? I was thinking about rounding up a crew of people to do it again and let’s say make it 15 for 45? You interested?
CGR: Speaking of planning, how did you go about arranging for travel and accommodations in different countries?
Erica: I work in the travel industry and travel quite frequently so it really was not that complicated from my perspective on planning out logistics. I’m also a bit of a Carnival junkie so that helped out too. Then there’s the old school circle of friends that made things happen. I luckily have and had met along the way a few friends that were experts at different locations so they gave some recommendations and guidance as well. Lastly, the greatest Carnival concierge, Karnival by Kandi made it so I just had to show up and fete for a few of them.
All in all, Carnival is Carnival. That is what I love about it; we are all one no matter where you come from or who you are. It doesn’t matter where the road is; once it’s Carnival time we are all the same, one big family.
CGR: Which of the Carnivals was the most surprising?
Erica: I wouldn’t say surprising, but the magnitude of the culture that I’d heard about was much greater than I expected. I don’t speak a lick of Portuguese yet being in Rio for Carnival and letting the locals know that you were there to celebrate their Carnival – it’s as though a button was pressed in their hearts and you instantly became a part of their family. Brazil’s Carnival is very centered on the samba schools which represent the neighborhoods or towns. The samba schools’ focus is on highlighting social and political issues and celebrating their rich history and culture. To be enveloped into that culture with such joy and a spirit of welcoming was much more than I expected. Going through the Sambadrome on a float was pretty freaking awesome too!
CGR: How do you compare Carnival in European countries to that of the Caribbean?
Erica: Venice’s Carnival was a unique and very different experience from all others I attended. But that was also the whole point of getting this one on the list-I wanted to experience all kinds of Carnivals not just the ones that were Caribbean influenced. In Venice we wore a traditional 16th century Carnavale costumes, feathered hats and all, did a few Waltz’s and had a great time in Italy.
As for Notting Hill, if it weren’t for Bobby’s (police) and the overcast weather with the COLD RAIN on road day, I would have thought I were on an island! Every Caribbean person living in Europe must have been there as I felt like I was back home.
CGR: Besides the parades, did you also take part in other fun activities–jouvert? Were some of the activities and foods similar to St. Thomas?
Erica: But of course – there’s no sleeping during Carnival! I went to as many fetes as a 24-hour period would allow and of course Carnival is not complete without Jouvert or an AMBush or two.
Jouvert has been the one thing most consistent throughout them all. Paint, mud, powder, chocolate, or oil elements only differed based on the island background of your crew. When it comes to the fetes however, compared to some other islands, we don’t quite know what that is yet in STT. We’re getting there, but not yet.
CGR: If you could do it all over again, what would you have done differently?
Erica: Probably… Not a da-gone thing! I had the time of my life! No regrets, no retreat no surrender! Well, maybe worn more sunscreen so it wasn’t so obvious to my colleagues what I was doing on vacation… May the countdown to the next Carnival begin!