You can’t separate a place from the locals who live there. Locals prop your travels up: They drive your taxi, change your money, check you in, cook your food — hell, they probably built the damn building you’re in. The local beliefs, art, architecture, language, and history are what create the experience of place-ness beyond the vast tracts of unmitigated nature.

Locals know everything there is to know, and they are positively everywhere. Guidebooks and such can only take a traveler so far — at some point you need a solid local (or three) to really plug into the energy and flow of a place.

However, not all locals are created equal.

Some are more friendly and approachable than their ordinary countrymen, and fewer still are passionate and precocious enough to be willing to drop everything and indulge some lucky visitor. On my recent trip to Curacao, it was this particular breed of local I sought to spend time with: the Stoked Local. I wanted to hang with people who loved Curacao and had some special places they wanted to show me.

The locals

RYAN DE JONGH is Curacao’s very own Captain Planet. He inspires and educates the public on ecological issues such as mangrove protection through guided kayak trips. We set the kayak in the water at the start of a mangrove forest that looks like a living labyrinth rising out of the water. Mangroves, he begins to explain as he dips his paddle into the water, provide spawning grounds for the many species of reef-dwelling fish.

STEPHANY FRANCISCA walks me through the thrum and gentle chaos of the market she loves to visit. She is young, tall, and slender and was the recent runner-up in the reality competition show Caribbean’s Next Top Model. We wander the market filming and drinking fresh coconut water, her favorite and mine. Stephany walks slowly and looks for things to notice and explain to me. “Being downtown helps me feel connected,” she says as we step out of the market and into the sunshine.

STEPHEN POMARIO has a smile that breaks over his broad face like a wave of absolute joy. For the three days he and I spent together, folks were constantly greeting him and slapping him on the back. Stephen was my appointed guide from the tourism office and aided me in connecting with Ryan and Stephany and making these videos. Between appointments, we rode ATVs, drove around the island, and had the dead skin on our feet nibbled off by tiny little guppies. Thank you Stephen!

The videos

I created these vids so that others could hang out with these three awesome locals. At the end of each, you can use the YouTube annotated links to move to the next video and hang out with a new awesome local. Sounds fun, right? Several of the videos also have annotated ‘easter egg’ links to other videos made from my trip to Curacao. Enjoy!

Josh’s travels to Curacao were made possible by the Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort and Diamond PR, with support from the Curacao Tourism Board.

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