Let me start this post with a moment of honesty: I wasn’t really all that excited to go to Jamaica. I thought it would be fun and all, but I wasn’t really expecting to fall in love with it the way that I did. I mean, we went to the Dominican Republic and Mexico last year and those two countries are hard to beat in beauty, culture, and value. So, when we planned our recent trip to Runaway Bay, we mostly did so because our friends planned the trip and asked us to come along.
Once we landed in Montego Bay, I got an immediate taste for the people and the culture as our driver and tour guide took us through winding roads and hillsides and explained how Jamaican culture works. And even though we spent most of our time in and around the resort, I still learned a lot from the people who call Jamaica home:
No Mortgage, Mon
One thing I quickly noticed while traveling through the Jamaican countryside was that the majority of houses weren’t completely built. You’d see a three-story house with only the basement finished on one side of the road, or a two-story house completely unfinished on the other. On top of that, we saw hundreds, if not thousands, of small shack-like houses that didn’t seem entirely permanent. When asked, our driver explained that they can’t get mortgages in Jamaica so they simply “build as they go.” What a concept, huh? So, they might live in an enclosed basement for years without having the money to finish the upper levels. “Is that okay with them?” I asked our driver Andrew. “Ya, mon,” he said.
Some Parts of Jamaica are Relatively Poor
One thing I loved about Jamaica was that the majority of people spoke English (not because I’m a bigot, but because I actually want to talk to people!!!) So, since there wasn’t a language barrier, I learned all kinds of things from the various people we encountered. For starters, the people on the resort made the equivalent of about $50-$60 per week in U.S. dollars. A lot of the workers, including a few people who cleaned our room, drove as far as two hours each day for those jobs because they were in such high demand. And since tourism is Jamaican’s #1 industry, there aren’t a whole lot of other jobs available in the tourist areas and not a lot of ways to earn extra money. Our taxi driver also told us that they pay really high taxes relative to their income and get almost nothing in return, which totally sucks.
Jamaicans Do What They Want, Mon
Spending the week on a big, beautiful resort and knowing that the people get paid almost nothing made me feel like a giant asshole. What made it even worse was the fact that they wouldn’t let Jamaicans onto the resort to sell their homemade stuff. So, a lot of native people walk toward the resort in the water, or take small boats to the resort to sell their wares out in the waves where the resort has no control. I personally found it really annoying that the security people hassled them when they were obviously just trying to make a living. One of these guys, Greg, took the time to tell us all kinds of cool stories about the surrounding area. He even offered to take me to the other side of the beach in his boat one day when I was drunk, and I probably owe him $100 for all of the ridiculous conversations he generously had with me and my friends over the week. Thanks Greg!!!
Marijuana is Not Legal in Jamaica
Despite what you may have heard, marijuana is not legal in Jamaica. However, it would be hard to know it since people were lighting up everywhere- on their hotel balconies, the beach, by the pool, you name it. It personally did not bother me at all and I thought it was cool that they were so laid back. I mean, you literally felt like you could get away with almost anything there…and some people did!
Jamaica is Awesome
Like I said at the beginning of this post, I wasn’t sure that I would like it there. However, I was so wrong. It is such a beautiful country and I cannot wait to go back and explore now that we know about all the different experiences Jamaica has to offer. They’ve got everything from tree-lined hilltops to breathtaking turquoise waters, to waterfalls, caves, shopping and more.
Here are a few more pictures. Enjoy!