I traveled to Jamaica for my cousin’s wedding, with the intent of turning a special day into a special trip. This was my first time on the island and my first time staying at an all-inclusive resort. It was… interesting. I left the states with excitement but also with an uneasy feeling that is difficult to describe. While I would be going to a beautiful resort, right on the beach, with endless food and drink – I recognized that it might not be a true representation of Jamaica. I was eager to make the most of my short stay, but was only able to venture out of the resort once.
If I got one thing out of the trip, it was ultimate relaxation. You do not need to think much beyond going to the beach, the pool, and the buffet. The ability to grab a drink or a bite to eat at any moment indulges the life of leisure, but I felt like it also encourages you to not leave as you are paying for this luxury. Why get it somewhere else? While the food was nothing special, the fruit was incredible and made up a significant part of my meals. I slept late, had leisurely mornings of coffee, and spent afternoons reading on the beach. The sunsets were consistently beautiful and the ocean was a calming lull in the background. The pool had swim up bars and built in lounge chairs. My favorite moments came when it was slightly overcast and the light drizzle of rain bounced on pool. The resort where we stayed is near the airport and I loved seeing and hearing the planes overhead contrasting the calm of the beach.
The trip was short – two days dedicated to travel and one day to the wedding. This left three full days to do what we please. One of the days, we chose to explore a little bit of Montego Bay. The resort arranged someone to take us out and give us a tour. Heading from the confines of our hotel and into the city was immediately striking. The façade that we were living in carried such a contrast from what stood immediately outside its walls. It wasn’t necessarily negative, but it was just clear that we were staying in a bubble. After a short drive we were in the heart of Montego Bay. The guide pointed out streets, landmarks, sites, and explained island history. I noticed here I couldn’t spot a single tourist. I’m sure there were some, but the way the guide talked it was not somewhere travelers came to see. Instead, it was people, living their day-to-day lives in a sharp contradiction to the Jamaica we had been experiencing.
Jamaica is a beautiful country, that much is clear. With the ocean, mountains, and white beaches, it’s an easy place to forget your worries. But Jamaica also has high levels of crime and violence and a large amount of poverty. This doesn’t mean it’s unsafe, but there were areas our guide said we needed to stay in the vehicle. This reputation of Jamaica being unsafe was something I was familiar with before arriving, but I think, like any place you visit, you have to be smart. It is unfair to lump the whole country into this category, as every experience is different. Being confined in the walls of a resort does little to give a glimpse into the “real” Jamaica. And, although I toured just a small area on the large island, I am glad I did. I think the juxtaposition between the photos above and below speak more than I can.