May 2011. I walked across the stage with a specific goal in mind, travel more. Where the spark stemmed from, I’m unsure, maybe it just seemed cool, I don’t know. Fast forwarding almost five years later, never thought I’d have three international trips booked before moving into the New Year, but let’s rewind.
Ok, May 2011, I received an awesome-ass, graduation gift from my mother and sister - a paid trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica. The only thing required of me, was to acquire my passport and pick out my favorite swimsuits. Yes – this was the catalyst to one of my best investments in life thus far, my passport. I would say it was college, but student loans make me say otherwise, but that’s neither here nor there.
So we land in Montego Bay, beautiful weather, everything embroidered in green leaves, ready to strip down to our skimpiest swimsuit. My mother’s travel agent had it all worked out. We arrived at Riu Palace Montego Bay, all-inclusive- libations and food. A private beach, water sports, swim up bar, it was as if I was 21 again and could indulge without any restriction. My review on the resort, that’ll be to come, but just as a hint, I spent more time off the resort than on.
To start with my most memorable experiences, I guess you could say getting stopped by two men with AK 47s while in a cab was pretty damn memorable. Lucky for us, the phrase “American tourist” saved the day. I guess some would call it a ROAD BLOCK. We probably had no business being on our way to a gentlemen’s club in the middle of the night in the middle of Montego Bay, but we won’t dwell.
The remainder of my trip was filled with day trips to other popular Jamaican cities, rum-filled boat parties, massages on the beach and wining it out to all of my favorite reggae artist (my favorite genre of music). Negril provided one of my most unforgettable experiences while in Jamaica, Rick’s Café - cliff divers, and the sunsets. As for a day trip to Ocho Rios, Dunn River Falls was a MUST. What better way to enjoy a waterfall than to climb it?! Margaritaville was epic as it was a combo of water Trampolines and Margs, you catch my drift.
My review on Riu Palace, keep in mind I’m telling my story present-day. My opinion is a little skewed as a result of the “when you know better” factor. Riu Palace is a four star resort and really clean and actually, since my stay, has been renovated. The alcohol dispenser in our rooms was a plus, but my understanding is that, this is the case for most all-inclusive resorts. The food was Americanized with an exception of the Asian and Italian cuisine restaurants. Around lunch time each day, there was a cook grilling jerk chicken, that was rather appetizing. Like any other resort there are daily activities that appeal to all ages and vacationers including interactive shows and contest. We got a chance to witness a wedding on the resort, which was special (I Love, Love). The swim-up pool bar was pretty awesome and convenient. The onsite spa was top notch, as we received massages on the beach, always a plus. :)
To wrap things up….
My experience in Jamaica was pivotal for me in my travel life. I began to realize how important it was for me to be immersed in the culture. I can’t say that I would have done anything much different, but there is value in experiencing the culture of the places one travels. There will be vacations where I want nothing more than to kick my feet up at a resort and have a sexy, male specimen to deliver my drinks oceanside, but for the majority, I want to talk with natives, go, eat and be as they would. What better way to evolve my perception other than first-hand? As for the remainder of my travel posts, you’ll see how my planning for my travels change. I’m no longer looking for five star resorts, I begin to search for how I can best live as a native – I think here is where I start to define myself as a traveler, a less experienced one, but none the less the world is my coloring book.