It’s Hispanic Heritage Month and what better way to celebrate than by sharing a story.
This past summer, my family and I visited our motherland: Puerto Rico. Sure, we wanted to bask in the sun and enjoy all that the island has to offer but knowing the impact that Hurricane Maria left a year prior, we wanted to help somehow. How do you teach your children about their heritage in a meaningful way? Sure, my daughter knew a lot but this was her first visit. I wanted her to get more from it than just a vacation. So, my daughter, my mother and I decided to sponsor a school in my dad’s hometown (also where the eye of the storm hit-Yabucoa). I put the word out only a few days before we left to see if anyone wanted to join us by making a donation or dropping off goods and the response was unexpected but beautiful. We were able to purchase $350+ worth of school supplies and bring in donations people dropped off at our home. Now that’s what you call travel with purpose.
After Hurrican Maria, the roads were bad, power outages lasted over 6 months, and times were very hard for locals for a very long time. I was happy to see how much the island had recovered. Of course, there is still more to repair. And the people are so resilient and optimistic, you wouldn’t even know how much they’ve endured unless you ask. Everyone had a story. When we first arrived to the airport, our taxi driver welcomed us. We had a pleasant conversation and then I asked him how Hurricane Maria affected him. He shared that he was a farmer and lost all of his crops which is what led him to drive taxis at his age of 65. He had to do whatever he could now to care for him and his wife and hoped the farm would be restored one day. He didn’t complain, instead, he said he was thankful for his job. From that moment on, I tipped very generously throughout the trip. I wanted to help as much as I could. That’s the thing about being Puertorican, we are taught to be thankful and always pay it forward even if we have little to do it with.
It had been years since my mother and I last visited Puerto Rico. I wanted my daughter to know the island and experience it as I did as a child. And my grandmother came along to see her sister whom she hadn’t seen in over five years. We all had our reasons and they led us to the enchanted island. Now, no one ever said it would be easy. Can you imagine traveling with a bunch of women in the car (and my poor husband), all trying to be the navigator and talking over each other? And then bursting into laughter after non-stop bickering? Ay ay ay…
But How Do You Go On a Family Trip Without Everyone Strangling Each Other?
In a Toyota Sienna, of course. There’s enough space for everyone to have their own…space. And a trip for us wouldn’t have been the same in any other kind of car. Comfort, space, convenience and enough cargo space to tote luggage for a familia of five- for three weeks. My goal was to educate my daughter about the island, our heritage and do some good. And in order to achieve that, everyone needed to be kept happy- and comfortable. The Sienna did just that.
The Sienna had Us Covered
Luckily, the Toyota Sienna was ready for us. 5 USB ports across 3 rows giving each of us a chance to charge our phones. A DVD player with wireless headphones to keep us entertained. Windows that rolled down so we can all enjoy the ocean views and mountains, dual power sliding doors (so we can all get out at once) and Apple Carplay (to connect to music and the GPS). The seats were very comfortable, too. They reclined, could slide forward and back or fold down for even more space. And when we were tired (or watching movies), we could pull down the shades to block out light.
Sienna Features We Loved
- 19/27 estimated mpg- good on gas.
- 5 USB ports- we could all charge our phones at the same time.
- Hi-res 7-inch touch screen with a birds-eye view so you can see what’s all wound the car as well as an integrated back up camera
- Spacious! We were able to fit all of our luggage. The second row had the option to keep the middle seat down which was nice, too.
- Entertainment- we loved the DVD player and wireless headphones for longer trips (and tuning out).
- Comfort! This car is super comfy. The seats recline and adjust and can go back pretty far.
- Power doors- this made getting in and out easier, especially for my grandmother.
*Starts at $31, 315
Related: t’s Hispanic Heritage Month, So We Toured Iconic Latin Culture Destinations in a Toyota Corolla
Travel with Purpose
Aside from sponsoring a school, my daughter and I volunteered at a Manatee Conservation Center. We made a donation and spent the day prepping food for the manatees who were rescued by the conservation. We learned a lot about the programs the island has to help the environment, animals and more. We also visited a horse sanctuary that offers trails on the beach. There is so much you can do to give back while exploring. Not only is it good for the soul, but the experience you provide for your family is priceless.
Have you visited? There’s so much to do and see in Puerto Rico!
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month 🙂
*Toyota Puerto Rico loaned me the Toyota Sienna during my stay. All opinions are true and honest.