My almost full year of traveling has taught me something. We are scared of everything.
Anything that looks different from our vision must be threatening, and that is truly not the case.
Today I had the pleasure of driving with one of the locals as his task was to transfer me the hour+ down the road from Negril to Whitehouse among the dounpour good ‘ol Joaquin has brought in. He allowed me to sit quietly, watching the rain thunder through till about 6:45am when we began our conversation about our families and lives. He has 3 kids, ages 12, 6 & 4.
Our conversation soon got on the subject of the charitable foundation associated with the resorts and the resounding conclusion he stated was “we need more”. Sure, we ask our guests to pack for a purpose, and donate, but it’s not enough. He was so passionate about it. “The schools need more textbooks, more pencils, more more more”. He asked that we try to help the local families more, some can’t afford the uniforms that are required for public and private schooling. Even shoes are sparse.
It breaks my heart to think of all the shortcomings of this beautiful island. They give so much and ask so little in return, yet we tourists are so greedy, expecting more and more to be given to us, refusing to remove the blinders, so tunnel visioned on our own lives. We’re bullied into believing that the world is a big scary place so when we look for our vacations, we choose the “safe” resort in the “safe” location that keeps us confined by its own walls. The driver spoke of tourists needing to get off resort and immerse themselves in the culture, walk down the street to the local bar, stop for a fresh coconut at a street market, hike up into the mountains and smoke some marijuana in true Jamaican fashion (That’s a little too far for my taste, I don’t recommend that one, but apparently other tourists love it). One of my favorite memories from a trip was walking off resort to say hello to my brother’s roommate in Nassau. It was literally next to the resort, but I didn’t feel any bit scared or nervous. Granted, I’d lived solo in NYC, Richmond & New Orleans but you shouldn’t forget how to human when you leave home. Those little things bring you back down to earth, you may be on vacation, or a work trip in my case, but to have a moment of normalcy is priceless.
The media has portrayed these islands as underdeveloped in mind and technology. They are anything but. Jamaica is alive with a contagious passion for love, friendship and brotherhood. All it takes is opening your heart to it. Driver even spoke of how his 4 and 6 year olds can grab hold of a smartphone and use it better than anyone else, I believe it, when I passed over my smartphone at Beeston Spring the kids were enthralled. “Do you have any games? Can we see the pictures?!”
It’s a delicate balance of common sense and adventure. I strongly believe that we are hardwired with a thirst for knowledge and experience. It is harder and harder these days to get a truly authentic experience, or at least recognize it when it’s in front of you. We question everything shown on TV, yet believe anything we read on the internet. (sidenote, when did TMZ become a reputable source?)
We’ve become so desensitized to the world around us because it seems so far away, feeling so small amongst the masses that we don’t think we can make a difference. Let me tell you, if one visit to a local community can have the effect it did on me, imagine how much better the world would be if we all tried.
And I hear you, “We need to fix the things that are wrong in our own country before we start trying to help others”. Great! What have you done so far? oh, nothing? hmmmm no wonder nothing has changed.