Jamaica is not all inclusive. It's mountains, cliffs, beaches, local people, lifestyle and unique to Jamaica, an irie vibe that says Don't Worry, Everything's gonna be alright.
I kind of feel bad for those tourists who don't venture out of their all inclusive resort to see it. Many of the resorts want you to stay on property because of liability issues or maybe they want you to spend at their restaurants and bars; it's fine if that's what you want. It can be very relaxing, and I have done it.
So what is the real Jamaica? It's walking down Hylton Avenue to Just Natural for breakfast on a church day and saying good morning, how are you today? You typically get "give thanks for life you know, without life you have nothing". That's what keeps me in Jamaica, it's a fact; money doesn't buy happiness. Happy is the new currency.
The real Jamaica can be hard and soft, same time. It's hard to get things done, and with the attitude of "don't worry" they don't understand you not getting that. They are content with the slow pace of banking, building, even paperwork, like the 6 times a year you have to get fitness or evaluation or a cover letter for car insurance that takes months. It's just part of the slowing down you have to do when you are here. The soft Jamaica is the smiles and respect you get from Jamaicans knowing you are their bread and butter, it makes them the most welcoming people you will ever meet. It's about the late Monday mornings and weekends with family. Sunday night meals, and taking time at the market. Picking up a mango and smelling the stem. Soft and hard is Jamaica.
You will keep coming forward to this place, because it pulls you forward. You won't be able to get that wake or candlelight with your host, out of your mind. The one that made you cry as they sang "on my way back home" ... you may have had to many JB and Ting.
It may be the night you saw Tarrus Riley on the beach, or when you saw rays snorkeling at Canoe after a few Ceasars. It may be the conversation you had with someone about life, or when you watched the youth at a bar back their bumper up, in what will definitely get your attention, and I call the fertility dance! Or it may be the day I brought you a fresh mango smoothie from the yaad, as you read your book around the pool.
Jamaica is a dichotomy. It's hot, but cool, soft but hard and loving but difficult. It's having to stop at 4 places instead of one to get what you need, but hoping you meet someone you know to change your day's trajectory at one of those extra stops.
I have two favourite experiences to start with, here in Jamaica
hiking to the top of Caanan Mtn near Little London to Zimbali. You can go as a larger group with Mark's guests, or we can arrange a private hike to the top of a mountain that gives you amazing views of a lush valley. Fayah cooks you an ital feast, we drink rum punch, spring water and smoke weed in the hammocks overlooking the lush green gorge. I have been moved to tears as the Rastas play the bongo drums as we start our hike down the mountain with full bellies, and hearts.
a snorkelling trip with Famous Vincent to Sandy Reef and Booby Cay. I can't tell you how many people thought this was the best day of their lives; we snorkel for an hour with the Famous Vincent around a beautiful reef, then get in the boat and land at Booby Cay for a lobster from the grill, some cold red stripe and some sun. Sunscreen a must!
You have to get here, you have to experience the music, the vibe, the storytelling and the weather! It's something that never leaves you. It will always call you forward, so free up the rest of your life.