Our annual trip helps us relax and reconnect.

By Julie Vadnal
Updated June 07, 2017
2 bicycles in Turks & Caicos (@dvadnal Instagram photo)
Credit: @dvadnal via Instagram

“So, is anyone celebrating anything special today?” asked the golf cart driver taking my sister and me, plus one other couple, down the narrow, palm-lined path to the COMO Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos a few weeks ago. “An engagement? A birthday? Honeymoon?”

It’s an honest question. After all, a lot of people associate the Caribbean’s white sand beaches and technicolor sunsets with romance. But I was there with my 28-year-old sister (I’m 32), and though we do share a New York City apartment, a Gmail calendar, and a love for everything Drake, we’re obviously not romantically linked. So to answer the driver’s question, we turned to each other and said in unison, “We’re on our sistermoon!”

What else do you call an annual trip to a tropical island with your adult sister? (And by the way, everyone in the golf cart was polite enough to chuckle at our answer, which, considering one person was an actual SNL cast member, felt like a major comedic accomplishment.) Every May, we pick an island in the Caribbean, put in for vacation days, and count down the seconds until we’re beach-bound. It’s not just the scenic strands that we look forward to—being together for a few drama-free days and not having to worry about rent or work deadlines is a real treat, even if we already see each other daily. And who says you have to have a romantic partner to enjoy a Mai Tai in the sun?

Apparently, there is a rule, though unspoken. On our first Caribbean venture, we booked a villa at Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort in St. Lucia, where we planned to beach, book, and booze. As our butler (shout out to Fabian!) showed us around our gorgeous, whitewashed one-bedroom house—big enough to fit our Chelsea apartment and then some—we encountered the first sign that maybe this place wasn’t intended for innocent sisterly bonding: the spacious back patio was home to a private plunge pool. Obviously we weren’t going to be getting all romantic in there, so what did we do? We posed for snaps with the doughnut and ice cream sandwich-shaped pool floaties we packed.

During candlelit dinners at the resort, while newlyweds gazed into each other’s eyes and admired their new fourth-finger hardware, we laughed loudly with our waiters, drank a few too many rum punches, and shimmied to the reggae band playing on the beach. And when it was time to tuk-tuk back to our villa, we shared a mosquito-netted, king-sized bed.

In Jamaica the next year, it rained. A lot. You can probably guess how honeymooners spent those stormy hours in their brightly-painted beach huts at the GoldenEye resort. But these sistermooners saddled up to the beach bar, drank a few rounds of Red Stripe, and played four hours of dominos with two of the resort’s bartenders.

That’s the thing about traveling with a sibling. On the one hand, it’s practical. We share clothing (read: lighter suitcases), and splitting the bill doesn’t require a spreadsheet and calculator. But then there are the more warm-fuzzy reasons. Traveling with your sister means you can be blunt about not wanting to hike the pitons in St. Lucia, that this is vacation, and you’d rather just hang poolside for a day. Also, a sister is the perfect “Instagram boyfriend,” someone who will truly understand you when you say, “Try it again, but make sure the horizon is straight and it’s shot a little bit from above.” And while we field the question of whether we’re sisters or twins at least 72 times a day, it’s fun to explain that we like to travel together—down to booking couples’ massages (weird at first, but more economical when you think about it—time- and money-wise.) Sure, we’re not celebrating a romance, but our annual trip is still a way to reconnect and bond over a new, shared experience. And why not travel to celebrate… life?

I suspect that even when we’re each married someday (or at least not sharing an apartment, though I can’t go there mentally yet), my sister and I will still jet off to an island to get our pool floatie on. And if anybody asks if we’re celebrating anything special, we’ll keep our answer the same: “We’re on our sistermoon.” Because to us, that’s worth raising a Mai Tai or two.