Puerto Rico


Puerto Rico was the most unexpected of the trips I’ve taken. It wasn’t a thought in my mind moments prior to me booking a flight there. I was browsing through my Twitter feed on a Tuesday afternoon when I saw a Spirit Airlines tweet saying all flights are 90% off but you must book within 24 hours. I was skeptical because of the terrible things I’ve heard about that airline but I checked it out anyway. With the discount, I priced a round trip flight to Puerto Rico for $100! I couldn’t pass that deal up and booked it almost immediately. I booked my stay at a hostel style Airbnb run by two sisters. 5 days later, on a sunny day in March of 2016, I landed on the beautiful Caribbean island.

Darnell Lowe

I arrived at my Airbnb, got settled in, and plotted what I was going to do next. I was befriended by two other guests, Alex and Kai. Alex was from a small city in southern Illinois and Kai was from Germany. I was oblivious to the crazy adventures we were about to get into. We quickly realized Puerto Rico has a terrible public transit system so we would need to rent a car. The plan was to walk to an Enterprise car rental location 3 miles away. It was 2 in the afternoon and the sun was beaming on us. We arrived an hour later soaked in sweat and exhausted. Enterprise was closed! We looked at each dumbfounded and confused. We then come up with a plan to take a bus to car rental location at the airport instead. Two hours later a bus arrived and we hopped on, still not 100% sure if we were going in the right direction. A woman with an afro and glasses in her mid 20s approached us, seeing the looks of confusion on our faces, and asked if we needed any help. After we told her we were lost, she gave us verbal directions and then pulled out a notepad to write it all down. She handed us her written instructions, smiled, and sat at a nearby empty seat on the bus. Another hour passed and we finally made it to the airport. We got a tiny green Mitsubishi, which was rented in my name. Our transportation ordeal was finally over. We spent the rest of the day cruising around the island exploring El Yunque National Forest and local beaches.

Darnell Lowe

El Yunque National ForestDarnell Lowe

The following night, one of our Airbnb hosts took us to a nightclub owned by one of her friends. I was tremendously sick that entire day. I had high fever, vomiting, and violent coughing. I never experienced this type of sickness as an adult until I made this trip. I tried to enjoy myself anyway. We walked into the club and there was house music blaring from the speakers. It wasn’t my thing but Alex and Kai were having the time of their lives. About 30 minutes go by and we get lead to a room at the back of the club. I walked in and saw all types of drugs being exchanged. Drug dealers had MDMA, cocaine, marijuana, and the like packed neatly into the fanny packs on their waists. Alex and Kai were purchasing and using all of it. I remember thinking “these white boys are crazy”. They went back out to party but I stayed back, sat down and chilled with the drug dealers. I was so sick I was barely able to stand up. Most of the dealers spent time in NYC, my hometown, so we had great conversation about the city life. Then we delved into economics, the history of Puerto Rico, and the many issues plaguing it. During our conversation, I kept dozing off repeatedly, but fought to stay awake. Meanwhile the two white boys I came with were full of energy dancing and fist pumping. The nightclub was near closing and I breathed a sigh of relief thinking it’s almost over. NOPE. We got invited to an after party. I didn’t want to ruin Alex and Kai’s fun so I didn’t say no. I ended up falling asleep at this house party, woke up to the sun in my eyes, and people roasting me for how loud I was snoring. We headed back and I received much needed rest. I woke up later that day and my sickness was gone. I couldn’t tell you how this happened but I was ecstatic about it.

Condado BeachDarnell Lowe

Playa FortunaDarnell Lowe

The next few days were drama and drug free fun. We spent time in Arecibo gazing at waterfalls, rock formations, and climbing on and into a massive cave. We also took canoes through a dark canal in Las Croabas at night to see bioluminescent organisms. Later, a new addition was added to our group. She was a blonde surfer from Florida named Lily. She was terrified to go anywhere alone at night so she made me her bodyguard. I told her I couldn’t fight but I’d use my blackness to intimidate any dangerous foe. She thought I was joking but I wasn’t. Anyway, later that night the four of us went to a local bar. I’m usually a reserved, quiet person but I was incredibly confident that night after a few drinks. I passionately sang almost every song the DJ played. People were staring at me and smiling. I couldn’t tell if they were enjoying it or wanted me to stop but I got a resounding applause because of my rendition of Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love”. The music suddenly shifted to mostly salsa. Maybe the DJ was tired of my shit. I don’t know. I then befriended three ladies that showed me some salsa moves. My swing background helped me to pick up the steps and movements quickly and we danced for hours. This was my last night in Puerto Rico and I can’t think of a better way to end it.

San Juan- Hyde ParkDarnell Lowe

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I have a passion for travel so this is the majority of what I write about. It's a collection of stories from my past and present travel adventures. It's an unfiltered look at my experiences traveling the world as a young, black man.

Philadelphia, PA

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