Patria-Kaye Aarons: Dry-land tourist
This holiday, I did something I never have before. I took off with my family on New Year's Eve and headed for St Elizabeth, and together we did the Appleton Tour. It was delightful.
In those two hours, I learnt so much Jamaican history and also so much about the sugar and rum-making processes. I left in amazement at how self-sufficient the estate was and at just how this facility had evolved and modernised to remain viable.
My tour guide was the world's coolest cat, oozing with knowledge, Jamaican wit and warmth. The awesome rewards at the end of the tour were nine different bottles of rum for my family and I to taste. And taste we did. We rounded off the day's activity with a yummy dinner of fish and bammy at Cloggys, seasoned perfectly with St Elizabeth pepper and scallion. It was a great day to be in Jamaica.
December 15 marked the start of the winter tourist season. Slated to run until mid-April, dwellers in cold countries flee to vacation in tropical islands where there is sunshine and balmy breezes. The world is filled with numerous warm countries at this time of year, waiting to receive these travellers. However, none is quite like Jamaica.
There's a reason we get upwards of two million tourists every year. I encourage us all to get to know our country and find out for yourself why the tourists come.
EXPLORE YOUR OWN ISLAND
Every Jamaican family should take the opportunity to, together, be dry-land tourists. Explore your own island with the same wonder and excitement that tourists do. Roam around by parish on the weekends, make a list of beaches you've never been to and visit them on Sundays, call the Jamaica Tourist Board, and ask for recommendations of hidden attractions, and go see them. Just get to know and enjoy Jamaica.
It always excites (and amazes me) when I see Jamaica featured on the Travel Channel or covered by some high-profile website or print magazine. On more than one occasion, I have seen places on the island featured that I myself have never been to. And I feel a pang of both defiance and a thrill every time. It plants within me a fire to go see that spot. It would kill me to one day be in conversation with a foreigner and discover that he/she had been somewhere special on my piece of rock that I hadn't visited.
Google has opened my eyes to not just THE world but to MY world. Look up things like 'Top Jamaican Attractions' or 'Jamaica's Best Kept Secrets' or 'Best Places to eat in Jamaica', and you are sure to discover a new nugget to try.
I plan to eat my way around the island in February in search of the best sweet potato pudding. In March, I'm going to a random bar every weekend to share a rum with strangers and get their picks for the best beach in their parish. Year 2016 I'm hitting the road.
And lots of us use money as an excuse, both the price of admission into the attractions and the cost of transportation. There are workarounds. Many things are actually free, and almost every Jamaican attraction has a special rate for locals.
No car? No problem. If you pool together with friends and other families, you can get the convenience of a rented bus and driver for around $1,000 a head. My favourite method when travelling alone, or with a small group, is Knutsford Express. They take you to most major tourist towns and back, safely and comfortably.
And don't discount public transportation. Some of the greatest adventures can be had riding a Jamaican country bus. Laughs and stories for days.
So many people travel up and down Hope Road every day. How many of them ever have stopped and gone over to Bob Marley Museum? It took me forever to go there, even though I went to Campion for seven years - walking distance from the museum.
I remember, as a child, Mummy and I used to take the bus to flea market at Police Officers' Club every Sunday. We would buy toilet paper, a bar of Irish Spring and two cans of fruit cocktail and, to me, it was amazing! I welcomed every adventure as a child, no matter how small. The point is, families need opportunities to be families, and Jamaica has so many of them just waiting to be discovered.
In 2016, work to live, not the other way around. Discover Jamaica.