Six Discoveries about Jamaica

landing in Montego Bay Jamaica

Aruba, Jamaica oooh I wanna take you… You know how the song goes. I wanna take you on a little quick trip to Jamaica with me. I love the Caribbean and decided this year I needed to see a bit more of it. So, on a snowy weekend in New England, I looked for the best deal I could find to get down to the Caribbean in March. Jamaica was the lucky winner and BOY I am so glad. I had always been curious about Jamaica but it wasn’t at the top of my must-see Caribbean islands. Now that I’ve been I’m really am not sure why that was. It is the perfect place for me. There you can find a little bit posh and a little bit rough around the edges – my favorite sort of destination. Here are six discoveries I had about Jamaica.

Beauty

Seven Mile Beach Sunset

Jamaica has stunning beauty. I stayed at a small boutique resort on Negril’s famous Seven Mile Beach. The beach was sugar white, soft and clean and walking into the ocean was like walking into a bathtub of clear blue water that was the perfect temperature. You can literally see the sandy bottom for feet and feet. Everything I could want water sport wise was offered on this beach. OH and being located on the western part of Jamaica, the sunsets were right in front of me every night. It couldn’t have been more beautiful.

SafetySandy Haven Resort Jamaica

Safety is something you hear about in Jamaica. I may have lucked out in choosing Negril because safety was never an issue. I would venture to guess it’s become a bit safer in general in Jamaica but you can find problem areas (just like any country) still for sure. Sandy Haven Resort was a gated property and, in addition, they had security on the beachfront too. Apparently this is not a common thing on Seven Mile Beach and I learned that this was a nice thing to have. While I definitely enjoyed the locals pedaling their wares during the day on the beach, they weren’t permitted to come onto the property so I never felt pressured or harassed. Also, any time I took a taxi service from the property, they asked when to return to pick me up so I never had to be concerned with finding another taxi and they always showed up on time!

Poverty

RockHouse Foundation Jamaica

Another thing you know exists in Jamaica is poverty. You cannot help but see it when driving from the airport to Negril. And, since this is Jamaica’s reality, why wouldn’t you wish to see it? But by being a tourist and especially not staying at an all-inclusive, you can get out and support local businesses. Buying handcrafts and locally produced food at small food stands keeps the economy going. Also, you can support different charities if you so choose. I found a charity in Negril, Rockhouse Foundation, that educates local children and I brought a collection of children’s books from the states to donate to them.

Friendliness

Sandy Haven staff member Jamaica

I always heard that Jamaicans are friendly but I now think this is an understatement. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been somewhere more friendly EVER. From Antonio Airport Transfers that shuttled me from Montego Bay Airport, to the amazing staff at Sandy Haven, to the on-property taxi service – Kenny Tours, I was blown away. Even fellow tourists were unbelievably friendly which I attribute to the Jamaican culture being so friendly it attracts friendly travelers. Veteran Jamaica goers were thrilled to share where to go and what to eat to get the best of what Jamaica is known for in Negril. Meeting locals at the market stands was an amazing experience too. So grateful for the business. Shaking your hand and introducing themselves. Giving small gifts as a token of gratitude.

Pride and Character

Seven Mile Beach Jamaica

From the moment I got into the initial car service to Negril, pride and character was oozing from Jamaicans. People are proud of their country. And, they want to tell you about it, have you experience it and thank you for coming. They are proud of their “don’t worry be happy” attitude, their country’s past and freedom, and Jamaica’s overall beauty. Even the beach peddlers were full of pride and character. For me, this was a huge source of culture and entertainment. You can learn a lot about the culture just from watching at a distance from your beach lounger. What do Jamaicans eat and drink. Where is the party that the locals will be going to that evening. Even what Jamaicans wear!

Costs

Niah's chicken curry patty

Jamaica is a relatively inexpensive place to visit. I found a package deal through an airline for my plane ticket and hotel. After seeing other options in Negril, I think I found one of the best out there. I loved Sandy Haven Resort and would definitely stay there again. Continental breakfast was included in the rate but I wasn’t shy about eating and drinking whatever I felt like during my stay and at the end of my short visit my balance was surprisingly minimal. You could find comfort food or Jamaican food on their menu – so that was also great. Given that it wasn’t an all-inclusive, I set off to find other places to eat and drink. Niah’s patties on Seven Mile Beach are a Jamaican specialty and cost $6 US. Treehouse was another spot that had delicious Jamaican jerk chicken. Finding small roadside stands for drinks was a fun and cheap option as well. The most expensive spot I checked out was Rick’s Cafe in the West End. Even though it’s touristy it really should not be missed. The cliff diving is incredible and the sunset is gorgeous from this spot. You can even walk over to the lighthouse found there and tour it.

Rick's Cafe Negril Jamaica

I will definitely return to Jamaica and Negril. Next time I will spend a little more time there and explore the West End further. Rockhouse Hotel looks like a fantastic property. I would like to volunteer with their foundation as well next visit. And I am going to most certainly make it to one of the coolest looking bars I’ve ever seen – the Pelican Bar. Now that I know how safe, friendly and affordable Jamaica is, you cannot keep me away. PS – they take US dollars there and really actually prefer it.

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Filed under caribbean, jamaica, travel

Why I Travel

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I have all kinds of reasons for traveling. Most of all is the overwhelming curiosity that lives inside me to know more about the INCREDIBLE world we live in. The more I travel, the more I want to travel. It is a real need of mine.

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Sometimes I travel for work. Sometimes I travel for vacation. And sometimes I travel to reconnect with those that mean the most. No matter why I travel it is ALWAYS a pleasure. I’ll be crisscrossing the country spending time in New York, LA and Miami in the upcoming weeks. Admittedly, these are all great cities but not really anything new for me. I don’t mind though. I’m going first and foremost to catch up with important people in my life. Sometimes you have to just stop and make the time to show you care to those who support and love you. While there will be a bit of “work” and, at the end, some vacation, the main purpose of these trips is to share the love back to my friends of the world.

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In New York there is a travel conference going on. No doubt, it will be good for learning and networking. But I’m not gonna lie, that  is not why I’m going. It’s because conferences bring together some of my favorite people who I love and admire. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to reconnect with great people and to make some new friends. Plus, with little agenda that leaves A LOT of room for ADVENTURE! And future adventures to be planned.

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In Los Angeles it’ll be much the same. One of my dearest friends in the world is flying through California and since I’m not sure when I will see her again this year I took this chance to see her now. Sometimes you realize that you have to make the investment in people who get you and are always there. It’ll be a BIG catch up with many awesome people but also an opportunity to do something a little different. We plan to do a small road trip to see a bit of the Cali coast. Stay tuned for some pretty pictures and new discoveries.

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From there it’ll be back to my love, Miami. There’s a conference to attend so a fantastic opportunity to learn and network. But it is also a locale that I can never get enough of…my HAPPY spot. I should just go on get a place there already!!

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And from there, well this is where the vacation comes in. I’m finally going to Eleuthera – the Bahamian island with PINK beaches!! And, seriously, while I call this vacation, you KNOW I’ll be sharing the prettiness of that place with you. Plus, write about what you should see and do if you ever go!

Why do you travel? Do you try to get the most out of your trips even when it’s for work? Would you criss-cross the country in a few weeks time to catch up with special people in your life?

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Flying the Friendly Skies with Air Miles

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There are many ways to rack up miles to use for plane tickets. I have a couple of credit cards I use to collect them. While there’s a lot of thoughts around how best to do this, the other challenge with the air miles game is how best to use them. Last summer I was on the other side of the globe needing to get home and had no plane ticket. BUT I did have a big stockpile of miles and some flexibility. This is where I Fly With Miles came to my rescue.

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After I finished the EPIC Mongol Rally, I was over in beautiful Bali but wanted to get back to Boston by Labor Day weekend. While I would never say no to a business or first class ticket it is definitely not my mode of flying transport. I’d rather spend my money other ways. However, I Fly With Miles was able to get me business class flights from Bali to New York City for a minimal amount of miles used and small taxes and fees out of pocket. It really opened up my eyes to the opportunities of using miles and the benefit of having someone to help me navigate the mileage system.

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I worked with Mike from I Fly With Miles who took into consideration minimum legs, working with partner airlines for luggage ease, least layover time and best use of mileage. For example, I flew from Bali on Singapore Airlines in business class to Singapore. It was awesome to go to the check in and not be in a long line to check my luggage. Also, my 3rd leg was going to be on Air India, both airlines are part of the Star Alliance, so my bags could be checked in Bali all the way through to New York. What a huge hassle relief. Finally, flying business class afforded me lounge access which was also nice for the layover parts of my long journey home.

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Besides the spacious seating, wonderful customer service, delicious meals and electronic outlets that made me giddy, my favorite part of my journey home was being met in Delhi by a Singapore Airlines representative to insure my way through security and transferring to the Air India lounge without any issues. He was so friendly and helpful – I didn’t expect this level of care. What a wonderful way to travel.

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In all, it was 78,000 miles I had to put into partner airline programs to sort out my return. I had these points in my American Express Membership Rewards account and Mike with I Fly With Miles told me what frequent flyer accounts to create (if I didn’t already have them), how many miles to place where and if any needed to be transferred elsewhere. Baggage fees were included because of the class of service. All I had to pay for was a one-way ticket home from JFK New York and the taxes/fees associated with using the mileage for a ticket. Out of pocket, it cost me less than $200 to fly back from Bali to Boston.

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Check out I Fly With Miles and all that they can do for you and your stockpiles of miles. Who has time to figure that out? It’s a small consulting fee toward their frequent flyer booking service, that’s it. I’d rather just think about packing my bags and spending my hard-earned money on some yummy meals and a swank hotel. Don’t  you agree?!

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Filed under airlines, bali, boston, singapore, travel

The Buzz about Iceland

Iceland is my favorite place in the world I’ve visited so far. In fact, it’s really a favorite amongst many travel writers and there’s a very good reason – it is absolutely stunning and so much more. I read constantly how it should be on any travelers ‘to-do’ travel list. I agree.

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Listed on Forbes as one of The Coolest Places to Visit in 2015 - um, yes, and last year and next year and always – if you have visited, you know just what I mean. Iceland produces repeat visitors. I alone visited twice last year. I actually put the question out to some fellow travel writers “what makes you a repeat Icelandic offender?” ;) Some of their responses:

Candice from Candice Does the World – “Because Iceland is rad.”

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Josh from Engineer on the Road – “The elves made me do it.”

Yishyene from Small Crazy – “It’s the lamb soup.”

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Katie from Viator – “No where else that makes me as happy. There’s no where else that feels so comfortable yet continues to surprise me.”

There are so many people in love with this incredible country and no time like the present to visit. Iceland is only 4.5 hours from Boston, 5 hours from New York and 7 hours from Denver – there really is no excuse. And let’s not forget Icelandair allows a free stopover on your way to/from Europe up to 7 days.  But if that’s not temptation enough, read some different writers’ reasons here.

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Candice tells us about Eating Puffin in Iceland.

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Yishyene has all kinds of fun posts about Winter Fun in Iceland.

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Katie, four time offender, gives us 15 Incredible things to Do in Iceland.

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David & Auston of Two Bad Tourists tell us about Gay Iceland: Your Guide to Reykjavik Pride.

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And then there’s Inga, Iceland’s *BEST* ambassador and the lady behind Tiny Iceland – a website full of Iceland resources. Here she shares What to See and Do in South Iceland - a very popular destination outside the capital.

Talk about BUZZ…BuzzFeed gives 32 Reasons Why Iceland is the Best Country Ever and, just this week, Fare Buzz wrote about fare deals and why Iceland is A Must See Destination with Amazing Sights.

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I think Owen Gaddis, interviewed by Forbes, said it best. “Traveling to Iceland is like being transported to a parallel world where every waking moment is filled with adventure, incredible landscapes, folklore and understated pleasures. It will make you believe in the magical again.”

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Best Traveled Dress

I travel a lot. And I’m often asked about travel essentials and how and what I choose to pack. There are few staples depending upon the climate but there is one standout dress that seems to accompany me almost everywhere for the last five years and is still going strong!

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The Calypso Classic Ro Dress. Calypso St. Barth is a favorite store of mine found in some lucky locales throughout the USA and, of course, the original in St. Barth. I’ve visited a few but the Boston store is where I do the most damage. Five years ago or so I bought my first Ro dress and knew instantly what a great staple dress this was but since have truly learned it’s value. (The classic Ro dress retails at $195)

I have worn it as going out nighttime dress, a touring day dress, a beach cover up or just something to quickly throw on. This is a dress that keeps you cool and comfortable. It’s a dress that consistently gets complimented. It is a dress that’s forgiving – I think it would look good on anyone. Best of all, you can machine wash it or, in times of necessity, hand wash it in a sink. It looks great with a casual denim jacket or cardigan. It can be worn with leggings and boots. Mine has gone on fancy dinner dates, out dancing at clubs or just chilling at beach bars. Plus, obviously, it travels well in your bag. It is my go-to everything dress!

This dress has literally traveled the globe with me. It’s been to Miami virtually every time I go. Hello cover up or a dress to throw on for lunch. Same idea for Hawaii and Palm Springs. And, seen here on the beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

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In St. Martin and St. Barth it’s been a going out dress. Also in London, Bali and seen here in Istanbul.

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This dress traveled with me for my 10,000 mile drive from the United Kingdom to Mongolia. It is that diverse and essential. In Cambodia it was a touring dress of the Phnom Penh Night Market.

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In Thailand it saw the grandeur of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

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And as a day dress it met children in an orphanage in Bangalore India.

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Calypso St. Barth has grown from a modest resort-wear boutique to a luxury lifestyle brand with a passionate international following. Inspired by travel, culture & the arts, the brand reveals unique & feminine pieces that can be mixed and matched for effortless elegance, which women of every age have come to love.

Calypso St. Barth’s namesake collection is displayed alongside carefully curated pieces from international designers for an eclectic assortment with wide appeal. To me, entering Calypso St. Barth is like taking a mini-vacation to somewhere exotic. And each of my Calypso pieces are very unique and special to me.

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Filed under boston, cabo san lucas, cambodia, caribbean, fashion, miami, mongol rally, phnom penh, st. barts, travel, turkey