When we initially were picking a place to travel for our honeymoon, Jamaica was not on the list and choosing a place that allowed us to give back wasn’t either. We were simply going through all the warm places looking for something romantic, relaxing, and something with a touch of adventure. A few months into looking, Joe was searching online and came across a resort in Jamaica that he really liked. It wasn’t Belize ha ha but I agreed that it was time to quit looking and I’ve heard great things about Jamaica. We sent the option, along with our checklist over to our travel agent and asked her to find a few more places comparable, and send over quotes. If you’ve never used a travel agent, I highly recommend it for international travel!!! Amanda with Live Well Travel (Info. here) made things easy, took care of all the paperwork and dealings with airlines/hotels/transport, and managed all of our questions about the area. It really made it less stressful. We ended up going with Couples San Souci in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and WOW, is all I have to say.
We were blown away by our experience, and I could go on for days about the people working there, the scenery, the building, the food… but this is about the giving. What we didn’t realize when we booked there is that Couples Jamaica created a non profit supporting local schools and hospitals called the ISSA Trust Foundation. You can actually take an excursion to one of the schools on Fridays to see what they are doing and bring supplies to the children yourself. I only wish I had known about this before Saturday! I will definitely be returning to participate. The fee is small and every dime goes back to the school. You can of course pledge more then the minimum fee!
You can find more information on the ISSA Trust Foundation here and see the impact they are making here. I spoke with some of the people who live there and they had nothing but amazing things to say about what the organization is doing for their community.
As we got to know people at the resort, both visitors and native, we fell in love with where we were and knew we wanted to come back. Most of the people we met had traveled there a minimum of 5 times. A place that draws people like that, should’t struggle the way Jamaica does. It broke our hearts. Some of the people we met shared how they gave back. They did things like bring art supplies to their favorite street vendors, or took families out to eat that they had gotten to know over the years. Eating out isn’t a regular thing like it is here. The cost vs. what the average earning is astronomical. We met a very nice local guy that we went out to lunch with, and the food was amazing. The building was open and the place had a hand full of locals but there definitely wasn’t a food stop on every corner like there is here. There was a lot of poverty that you can see as you drive through the country, it’s hard to see.
Even with that, there was also so much beauty to see, in the people, the food, the buildings, the history, the everything there. I think that’s the most precious thing about travel, truly seeing a new place with all of it’s wonder both good and bad. Our eyes were opened and it made a little pit in our stomachs as we enjoyed a “luxury” vacation knowing others around us couldn’t possibly afford the same thing. Some folks that we spoke with couldn’t even leave the country, based on rules meant to keep the country thriving, they wouldn’t be able to see the world, even if they could afford it. Ugh, it was a struggle to hear.
Ultimately in life, no matter how good or bad we’re doing there are always others doing better or much worse. I guess the key is to look for the silver linings or the gestures we can choose to do to make the world a better place. Gestures like giving back to organizations like the ISSA Foundation as a thank you to Jamaica for welcoming us to their home, or bringing paints to the local rock painter because they cost so much to buy in Jamaica and the art they support is just beautiful. We were lucky to have met and learned from the people who have visited there so many times. They inspired us for our future travels and I can’t wait to apply this thoughtfulness when visiting elsewhere to in the future.
We all give back and make an impact in our own way in this world, and every time we do something with purpose we make a ripple in a positive direction. That’s the way I like to look at it. We can’t all do it all, so we just try and do what we can. So the next time that you visit somewhere, take a moment to head off the beaten path, chat with the regular visitors, or just ask the front desk about giving back. It’s not something you even have to ask about directly, just start asking questions, genuinely wanting to learn about the new world you’ve just stepped foot into. Something will fall into your lap, I guarantee it.
I can’t wait wait to share with you some food and wine pairings inspired by Jamaica! Their foods based on what they can grow and raise in small, rural, and very hot environments were filled with fish, beans, fruits, vegetables and more that I love to cook. They’re rice and beans were particularly my favorite with the perfect amount of spices and a touch of coconut, but that’s all for another day <3 Thanks for reading and please share your favorite travel experiences that allowed you to give back too!
One LoveIn Jamaican used to represent universal love and respect for all