Jonathan Smith is an award-winning journalist and BBC television producer.
He set up the website secretbarbados.com to share his passion for an island and a people he fell in love with as a teenager.
The high life was over. We had coconuts for tea.
I first came to Barbados aged 18, courtesy of British Airways staff travel. Although we were just a normal, working class family, my father’s job as an aircraft fitter at Heathrow Airport, London, meant we travelled the world in style.
I remember putting down the book about the evils of capitalism and accepting the free glass of champagne from the smiling stewardess looking after business class passengers.
After we landed at Grantley Adams International Airport, it was a different story. I knew nothing about Barbados and a holiday in the Caribbean financed by a job as a swimming pool attendant meant the high life was over. So it was a bus ride from the airport to Worthing beach on the south coast to check out the cheap accommodation.
I found a basic, homely bungalow overlooking the sea and negotiated a discount as it was out of season. And so began my long-running affair with the island of Barbados.
Barbados draws me back, time and time again…
My best mate was arriving the next day, also courtesy of staff travel. He wasn’t upgraded to business class. He forgot his tie. The memories are a blur. We drank Cockspur rum and orange juice, met a couple of American girls, lived off coconuts and got very badly sunburnt.
A local man gave me aloe for my peeling skin and a very kindly woman gutted and filleted some flying fish we’d bought from a vendor. The bungalow is still there, overlooking the beach, despite the massive development which has transformed the island.
The flying fish skimming across the lagoon off Worthing beach have gone, but turtles, spotted eagle rays and sand dollars remain. More than 30 years on, and dozens of return trips later, Barbados and its people draw me back, time and time again.
To find out why, sign up for a weekly email of my blog. Visit the pages of secretbarbados.com. Get off the beaten track, meet the Bajans. Find the hidden treasure, Learn about Barbados. Discover the island beyond the sand.