Last week I decided to take a break from my unemployment and take a trip to Jamaica. This trip came about in typical fashion for my adventures – about a week ahead of time I decided to just go. One of my good friends’ boyfriend had booked this trip with his brother, and we decided to tag along. Since I don’t have a job, I figured this would be the best time for me to travel a little more before beginning “real life”.
They had booked a week at Sandals Grande Riveria in Ochos Rios, Jamaica so we followed suit. I was excited to sit on the white sandy beaches and enjoy some “all-inclusive” luxury. This trip was about as far away from my experiences travelling in Zambia and the rest of Africa as you can get, and I will have to say that I definitely prefer the way we did it in Africa. Staying at an all-inclusive resort was nice at times – when you finish a meal, you just get up and walk away (no worries about splitting the bill or tipping), if you want a drink you just go to the nearest bar (and there were plenty). Being at a resort makes you feel totally safe, but it also makes you totally isolated. We could have been anywhere – there was very little that gave it away as Jamaica. During this trip, I discovered that I want to learn more about the places I go: the history, the culture, the people and their everyday lives. The closest I got to experiencing any real culture was watching the commercials on the local TV station.
Sandals is probably a great place to go to celebrate your honeymoon or anniversary, however, it is a terrible place to go if you are single. The whole time I was there I felt out of place and I got really tired of answering “Where is your husband?”, “Who are you here with?”, and other such queries. This was especially awkward since we were usually in a group of four (my friend, her boyfriend, her boyfriend’s brother, and myself) so it was assumed that I was there with him and were according asked to pose for pictures together. I’m pretty sure there may have only been two or three other single people that were there out of the hundreds of guests. My singleness was so strange to everyone there that it made me feel out of place and even unwelcome at times. I knew from looking at the website that Sandals was primarily aimed at couples, but I didn’t know it was only for couples.
The white sandy beaches were also not quite what they were built up to be. There were three main beaches available to Sandals guests…each were about 100 meters long and 50 meters of sand deep. Even if you wanted to take a long, romantic walk on the beach, there was no good place to do so. I much preferred the pools, which were big and beautiful – and came equipped with swim-up bars. We spent most of time in Jamaica parked by the pool. We also tried out some of the water sports equipment, including the kayaks, paddle boards, and a ride on the glass bottom boat. We participated in some of the games, including a beach Olympics, pool beer pong, and even charades. These were fun, but again, I was out of place without a partner.
The food was pretty amazing, and the drinks were free so there isn’t much to complain about there. All in all, it was an interesting adventure and I’m glad I went. However, I don’t have any plans to visit a Sandals Resort again or ever do another all-inclusive trip. After my experiences in Africa and my experiences in Jamaica, I have found that I much prefer the adventure and the unknown excitement that comes with being a part of the culture, meeting new people, and flying by the seat of your pants. Even though sometimes things don’t work out (like missing the train in Dar es Salaam) it always makes for a great story. Having everything all planned out and provided for you makes for an easy vacation, but easy isn’t always better. Some people might enjoy the ease and isolation, but I’ll take the unknown over the totally safe any day.