What Does Responsible Tourism Mean?

What Does Responsible Tourism Mean?

Reading Time: 13 minutes

This post may contain affiliate links, for more information read our full disclosure The travel industry is throwing around this term: Responsible Tourism or Sustainable Tourism. So what does Responsible Tourism mean? Each year we travel, consume, photograph and share on our social media channels, exposing friends and family to expand their knowledge of the cultures of the world.

The world gets a little bit smaller, those in different countries can see your social media posts on Instagram and Facebook and may compare it to your lives. Animal rights, environmental responsibilities are becoming more and more talked about….especially the use of plastic. Stop and question what you think you know about plastic vs paper bags, look at the whole environmental impact. Look at how the production and use of plastic impacts and effects low-income households, did you know there is an actual place called ‘Cancer Alley’? In our ever-increasing virtual connection, what can we do as travel addicted wander lusting Instagram posting fiends to be more responsible when we travel? First things first….to understand what it is.

What does Eco-tourism mean

Responsible Tourism is a multifaceted approach, which includes:

  1. Minimizing negative social, economic and environmental impacts while traveling
  2. Generating greater economic benefits for local people and enhancing the well-being of host communities
  3. Improving working conditions and access to the worldwide industry
  4. Involving local people in decisions, markets, and trade that affect their life and chances at life.
  5. Making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, embracing the diversity.
  6. Providing more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues.
  7. Provides access for physically challenged people
  8. Is being culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.
What does Eco-tourism mean

There are many different ways that this can be addressed and focused on. The Culture Trekking Community is one that focuses on numbers one, five, six and eight. Creating a community where ideas, religions, cultural idiosyncrasies are both shared, respected and embraced. As the Community grows I want to improve awareness on environmental impacts as well as fight the uphill battle of having more meaningful human connections. Today I will focus on the latter.

Where the idea started for my own Responsible Tourism:

The video was quite graphic when I saw this 2 years ago, but it really impacted me in so many different ways. The moral of the story is…..you don’t know what you don’t know until you educate yourself on how small choices like using single-use straws can impact the environment. I now carry a reusable metal straw in my purse at all times. This video is where responsible tourism started for me….watching this turtle in so much pain made me feel like I needed to do more for the environment.

It isn’t just the plastic straws, it is garbage that is left strewn about in all the different places that I visit. I remember walking behind someone in Yellowstone National park…..they dropped a wrapper on the ground (a large one). I was so frustrated by this because they had a bag they could have easily slipped that wrapper into. I picked it up and gave it back to the tourist, who naturally acted like they dropped it by accident (even though I watched them look around before dropping it). It is not that hard to slip those wrappers into a pocket, a bag, in your shoe….anything but on the ground. Taking a few more steps to ensure your rubbish gets into the proper receptacle is not as hard as you think…..as Nike says ‘JUST DO IT’!

Another video that truly impacted me was one man in India, who returned to his home to find the beach he loved filled with garbage. He knew he had to do something so he started knocking on doors and aims to be that change he wishes to see in the world. Take a look at the video & then I want to think about how much of a difference we could make if each of us committed to picking up 3 pieces of trash wherever we travel to. What about taking an extra garbage bag on a local hike in your hometown? We could all use a few more squats in our day, right?

Why am I showing you all these videos? A picture is worth a thousand words (or so they say), but I feel that videos are the way to make an impact that can create change. What is better than a video? Visiting a place like the Washed Ashore Gallery in Bandon Oregon (several displays are located throughout the United States, see the Washed Ashore Exhibit Locations for more information) can both teach our generation and the generations below us how to protect our earth and save our oceans.

Traveling can be an exotic thing full to the brim with activities that will make your friends envy your life & maybe even despise you a little. The more I travel the more I realize that I want to make a difference in the world, no matter how small it is. Ecotourism and Volunteering for cleanups and service can help connect our communities, open minds and hearts, and help start the change we wish to see in the world.

Supporting Companies with good causes:

What does Eco-tourism mean

Save the Baby Turtles!

A Blogger friend of mine in Fort Lauderdale Florida was able to participate in the nighttime protection of hatching baby turtles. These baby turtles get confused by the city lights and instead of going into the ocean (following the moon), they follow the city lights. This leads them to be run over or crushed by bikes, cars or fall into holes they cannot get out of. What these volunteers do is once the baby turtles hit their 10-foot periphery line, they gather them up in a bucket and take all the confused little fellas to the ocean where they set them free. They also move beach chairs and sandcastles to allow for the mothers to come to the beach easier and lay their eggs. Check out her post on Saving Baby Sea Turtles and how you can help or participate!  

Soul Flower Clothing Company

As soon as I found this clothing company, I know I had found my tribe. Just look at their tagline:

Soul Flower is a natural clothing brand for kind souls and free spirits. Mindfully made with natural fibers and heartfelt art, we design our threads with kind vibes from start to finish. We seek inspiration in the simplicity of everyday life – in nature and in music, in free-spirited adventures and in like-minded souls. We create clothing in a way that supports our planet, spreads a positive message, and most importantly — helps you express yourself.”

what does responsible tourism mean

Beyond the message of Freakos‘. When looking into building your eco-friendly and ethical wardrobe, look no further.
The inks they use have a low impact on the environment with citrus solvents being utilized. They reuse paper boxes and packing materials to ‘keep the story going’. All cotton that is used in their clothing is organic cotton, recycled fibers or hemp. Not only do they focus on the clothing, but they also decreased the catalog printing and now use recycled paper with soy-based inks. They are also green office certified (aka: energy wise usage of products and environmentally savvy).

Why is this important? Small companies like this are able to be more environmentally friendly and I support those who make an effort to do so whole-heartedly! I feel privileged to be able to collaborate with this company as I love their manifesto, Soul Flower’s practices, and policies and their clothing is SO COMFORTABLE!

What does responsible tourism mean?

To all my big headed ladies out there (I’m talking literal, not egotistical) – this is the place you should get your headbands! Every time I wear these headbands I feel a little better about myself, I read the inspirational message printed on it and cannot help but feel inspired to finish out the day with a bang! Plus, let’s be honest, sometimes a girl just needs a headband to decrease the stress of doin’ da hur….ya feel me? To get your headband:

What is responsible tourism

The other items I have personally tried and fallen in love with so far are the yoga pants and shirts. If I’m being honest, I wear the pants EVERYWHERE! Not just because the pants are comfortable, but because they have the most adorable prints on them that inspire me to continue to be Eco-friendly in my day to day life & inspire me to live a simpler life to help have less of an impact on the environment.
I wore the shirt for two days in a row people! I know that’s gross but it has been so hot over here, and it is so light, airy and cute with the little leaves on it… I couldn’t resist

Personal Note: It is sooooo hard to find cute and comfortable clothing as a curvy woman — so to find a company that caters to my desire to be eco-friendly and embraces those of all shapes and sizes really just gives me warm fuzzies and I want to shout out from the rooftops how much I appreciate and love them for this.

You don’t just have to participate in environmentally friendly activities at destinations you visit. You can start being environmentally friendly to companies just like Soul Flower. Check out Soul Flower Summer Specials today!

Other Ways to be a Responsible Tourist:

Be Respectful of Religions and Cultures:

Look at local customs and rules when entering churches across the world. Do not make derogatory jokes or compare those within the country to something you deem as ‘more sensible’ or ‘better practices’. Do not impose your beliefs on those within the country unless prompted to. Respect the cultural idiosyncrasies of what is considered ‘normal’ for that country.

What is responsible tourism


The bottom line is, just because something, someone, or a country as a whole does something different than what you know to be normal — doesn’t mean that it is wrong. There are some exceptions where it endangers basic human rights, practices, or harms/mutilates any animal or human being (obviously). Even if you do see something wrong, intervening as a tourist could land you in jail – be careful, be cautious and if you have a concern about the country/destination use a guide that you can ask questions about what is appropriate or if you can do something/intervene without landing yourself in jail.

Be Respectful of Shop Owners Overseas:

Do not take photos of products, items, or anything in different countries that could affect their livelihood. Do not get offended if they ask you not to take photos, there is a reason! Unnamed countries citizens will visit these economically struggling countries and take photos of their products and produce them at a fraction of the cost, but they are not authentic products.

What is responsible tourism


Moroccans, for example, rely on their skill and artistry of furniture, clothing, architecture, woodworking to profit from their craft and provide for their families. How many times have you visited a country and thought, ‘Oh I can get that back in my own country, I don’t need to buy it here’. This is why it is so important….so many countries rely on tourism and the money it brings in to put food on the table. So please….before you take a photo in a store, ASK the owner if it is ok.

Be Aware and Educate Yourself on Regional Issues:

What is responsible tourism

Human trafficking, terrorism, and so many more unsavory things happen in this world. I have too much of a tender heart to focus in on the negative all the time, so rarely listen to the news – but I do search for those individuals who have the capacity to handle situations such as this. I support them, I share their stories and donate when I’m able to.

It is important to be sensitive to cultural and religious practices (as part of Responsible Tourism) that help to positively define a culture, but that never means we should tolerate those who continually violate the basic human rights of food, safety, and shelter.

With having experienced Rape and sexual assault myself, the topic of sex trafficking is a very passionate topic for me. Operation Underground Railroad is a team of individuals of highly specialized individuals who have years of experience in special forces, law enforcement working proactively since 2013 with local governments that I wholeheartedly support. This is a video that had me in tears for how grateful I was to the men & women who do this. Please support them in whatever way that you can….
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_CgQcNkUlw&feature=youtu.be
If you would like to Donate to O.U.R. please feel free to do so, if you are unable to donate, then try and Volunteer for O.U.R. to help aid in their efforts.

Small changes can make a big difference:

Wear environmentally friendly products:

  • Keep any soap while camping at any location away from runoff areas (at least 100 feet).
  • Bury or pack out your human waste. Look at the requirements for each camping spot you visit for their rules and regulations.
  • Wear environmentally and Ocean friendly sunscreen as this often washes off the ocean, causing damage to coral and marine life.
What is responsible tourism

Biodegradable products:

  • Bringing your own straws, skip the straw at Starbucks. If this doesn’t make sense, please keep watching the video of the Turtle above until it does.
  • Get a recycling bin or start a recycling group in your neighborhood. (More information below on recycling that could be available in your country).
  • Make a list of low-cost companies that produce Biodegradable Products and keep a list. Hand the list out to anyone who uses straws, show they alternatives. Don’t force it down their throat — educate with KINDNESS! Honey works better than vinegar when trying to entice people to change their daily habits or companies to change the status quo.
What is responsible tourism

Utilize the Reusable Grocery Bags:

  • This is such a simple change that we can all do (especially those of us in the States). In most other countries they are charging for the plastic bags, yet when we implement it here to try and help support the environment….everyone loses their minds! They tried to do this when I lived in Texas and I would stand there and see with my own eyes, these grocery baggers get verbally assaulted for doing their job and charging for the plastic bags. Come on people…..be better than that……do better than that…….realize that this isn’t just about YOU and YOUR needs, but for the betterment of humanity and animals. If you still aren’t convinced that plastic bags are a big deal, watch this video of the whale found dead with hundreds of pounds of plastic bags in its stomach. If that doesn’t convince you, well…..I don’t know how to help you become a better human being.
  • I need some advice myself on this one….grrrhhh….. I have all the reusable bags I can handle. I start daydreaming on the way to the grocery store, then out of habit, forget to take the reusable grocery bags I brought off the garage wall where I put them so I wouldn’t forget them. If you have some advice on how to remember these things…..let a girl know in the comments below.

A Call to Action for Responsible Tourism:

Ecotourism

  • Here is a great resource if you would like to participate in Ecotourism on your next trip: Ecotourism.org

Volunteering through worldwide programs/cleanups

Companies that Participate in Eco-friendly Product Production:

Clothing: Patagonia, Thought Clothing, Encircled Clothing

How to encourage clothing companies to not use plastic hangers

Straws: The Last Plastic Straw is a great website for a list of all the different types of straws, where to get them and how they are better than the plastic straws. There is also a site completely dedicated to Living a life without plastic, this is where I get my reusable metal straws (bamboo and glass is also available).

Home, Pets, Cleaning supplies and more: Life Without Plastic gives you so many bamboo or steel options that can replace many of the household items that have or contain plastic. Gift certificates, gift registry, and points program are also available on this site to help you invite friends to the #noplastic movement.

Trash Bags: Biodegradable Trash Bags, Green Legacy Tall Kitchen Trash Bags

Grocery Bags: Reusable Grocery Bags

Sandwich Bags: Eco-Friendly Reusable Sandwich Bags

Recycling throughout the world: Recycling in the States (contact your city councils to arrange this), Recycling in Australia, Recycling in Canada, Curbside Recycling available in New Zealand please check your local city councils, Recycling is also available in the United Kingdom for each household (mandatory supply of bins from government), Spain also has recycling available in some areas, and the Netherlands actually pays you to bring in your recyclable materials (typically at grocery stores).

IF YOU HAVE RECYCLING IN YOUR COUNTRY AND IT IS NOT LISTED HERE, PLEASE LIST THE RESOURCE OR WHO TO CONTACT BELOW  🙂

A Must Read Plastic Free Blogger: If you are like me and feel a little overwhelmed by how many things in your home contain plastic, visit Beth Terry: My Plastic Free Life Blogger. She will teach you, take you step by step through the process and show you how to live a plastic-free life.

Worldwide Plastic Pollution Coalition – Now NO ONE has an excuse to not participate in reducing their plastic use. This is a global alliance of individuals, organizations and businesses working together to stop plastic pollution.

what does responsible tourism mean

How To Tour Responsibly:

We have such a duty to protect creatures who outlived the dinosaurs, are essential to our planet’s ecosystem – the Sea Turtles. We don’t have to start being Eco-friendly or participate in Responsible Tourism practices only when we are traveling. Get involved in the activities now, one goal or plastic straw at a time.

Be respectful of religions, people, cultures, and races as long as they do not infringe on basic human rights to live life peacefully, safely without fear of bodily harm and can provide for basic human needs of shelter, food, and water.

Get involved in volunteer programs locally where you can help end human trafficking, gang violence, opioid epidemics, and so much more. There seems to be an Instagram hashtag or Facebook group for everything these days. If you have any suggestions for local groups you are passionate about, please let it in the comments below with a link to their site.
Teach those around you, share the information on your social media platforms….it just takes one rock in a pond to start a ripple that turns into a wave. Be that change you wish to see in the world.

How do you like to contribute to Responsible Tourism?

What is the most important thing to you regarding Responsible Tourism?

What to See in Trinidad & Tobago (from a local)

What to See in Trinidad & Tobago (from a local)

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Meet Suzanne Bhagan a fellow travel blogger extraordinaire from Hot Foot Trini. She gives you tips on what to see in Trinidad and Tobago, recipes, and how living there has been.

Hi Suzanne, I’m so glad you decided to be featured on Culture Trekking! I’m really excited to be able to connect with Trinidad and Tobago through you, its always such a pleasure for me to meet locals and get the inside scoop & learn about the culture and people. 
So let’s start by just asking some questions about you if that’s ok, and then we will move onto your country and what it has to offer visitors.
Me: What are some of your hobbies?

Suzanne: I like traveling (of course), reading, and hiking. When it comes to reading, I enjoy reading fiction or nonfiction set in different countries, particularly if written by authors that call those countries home. Regarding hiking, I like climbing hills and mountains. Nothing like Mount Everest though!

Me: What do you do for work?

Suzanne: I’m a freelance writer and editor. I’m also a Meaningful Travel Insider (MTI) for GoAbroad. As an MTI, I research and write blog posts on meaningful travel, work, and study abroad.

Me: Who are you closest to in your family and why?

Suzanne: I’m closest to my husband, Jesse. He’s my favorite travel buddy. He’s great because he’s very resourceful and solutions-oriented when we’re on the road.

Me: What is your biggest aspiration or dream right now?

Suzanne: My biggest aspiration (of all time) is to write a travel book. I don’t have a theme yet but I’m working on it!

Me: What is it that drives you to get up every morning and be disciplined to see that dream fulfilled?

Suzanne: I continue to write and blog as much as I can about traveling, studying, living, and working abroad. I also devour lots of travel fiction, nonfiction, blogs, and articles. I’m generally very self-motivated and deadline-oriented so getting the work done is not a problem. Plus, I love doing what I do and that’s enough motivation in itself!

Me: What is your most embarrassing moment?

Suzanne: Too many to mention. I tend to block out embarrassing moments. 

Me: That’s ok, I do too unless something reminds me of what I did that was embarrassing and then I end up laughing at myself at random which just adds to the embarrassment. Alright, next question: What is something you have personally done that you are really proud of?

Suzanne: I’m really proud of the fact that I was able to live in a country (Japan) where I didn’t even speak the language.

what to see in Trinidad and Tobago

So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of Trinidad and Tobago. I first learned about you when you posted something on She’s Wanderful about how immigration officers didn’t believe your passport was real because they didn’t realize it was an actual country. How frustrating and anxiety-driven that situation must have been!

Me: What is it like for you to have people not realize it is an actual country?

Suzanne: It’s pretty annoying. Sometimes, I get tired of the blank faces and wish I had a map to show them that it actually exists. Without a map, it’s hard to explain where my country is because many people out there aren’t too clued up on world geography. For example, many people I’ve met thought Trinidad and Tobago was in Africa or the US! Go figure!

Me: Why do you think it is not well known to the world yet?

Suzanne: It’s not very famous because it’s not well-marketed in the global tourism industry. For example, it’s not the typical Caribbean country most people think of, like Jamaica or Barbados. However, travelers can learn more about my country because there are a lot of novels based in Trinidad and Tobago. I highly recommend A House for Mr. Biswas and Miguel Street by VS Naipaul and A Brighter Sun by Sam Selvon. These novels capture Trini culture very well.  

Me: Do you think that driving tourists there would be beneficial for the country/people?

Suzanne: Tourism is well established in Tobago, the smaller island. A lot of tourists also come to Trinidad, the bigger island, for Carnival (a huge festival similar to the one in Rio but with its unique flavor). However, tourism isn’t a big money spinner in my country because the economy is more energy-driven (oil and gas etc.).

Me: So tell me about the people there. How would you describe the people of the country compared to the rest of the world?

Suzanne: Trinidad and Tobago is very diverse. The population is made up of people who came from all corners of the world: Europe, Africa, India, China, and the Middle East. The native population, the First Peoples of Trinidad and Tobago, has also remained but is quite small.

Me: What is something you are proud of that your countrymen do that you find yourself often bragging to your friends about?

Suzanne: I’m pretty proud that the people of Trinidad and Tobago created the steelpan, the only acoustic musical instrument to be invented in the 20th century. Every Carnival, there’s a massive steel orchestra competition called Panorama. It’s a must-see for visitors. I’m also proud that Trinidadian-born fiction and travel writer, VS Naipaul, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001. We also have a fantastic literary festival for Caribbean literature, the Bocas Lit Fest.

Me: What types of religions are in Trinidad and Tobago?

Suzanne: There are so many religions in my country: Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Spiritual Shouter Baptist, Orisha, Rastafarianism, even Baha’i.

Me: Honestly, I haven’t even heard of some of those so I may have to go do some personal research before I can even think about asking more questions on that one. I really like the fact that there are in fact so many different religions in your country. I’m a big believer in that. Ok, so next question: 

Me: What is a spot you would frequent as a child?

Suzanne: As a child, I loved to go to the beach. In Trinidad, I loved Maracas, Las Cuevas, Mayaro, and Manzanilla beaches.

what to see in Trinidad and Tobago

Me: What are 3 hidden gems of Trinidad and Tobago that you wish people knew more about?

Suzanne: I wish more people knew that Trinidad and Tobago is a birder’s paradise. One of the best places to see them is Asa Wright Nature Center. I would also like tourists to visit the Temple in the Sea at Waterloo. This temple has a great story behind it. Trinidad and Tobago is also a chocolate powerhouse so visitors should check out the cocoa estates on both islands. Chocolate in Trinidad and Tobago is made from trinitario cocoa beans grown there, the highest grade of cocoa beans in the world. It’s the real stuff!

Me: What is your favorite food there that you can’t seem to get anywhere else?

Suzanne: Bake and shark, hands down!

Me: Food is always a great way to connect with people, I’m definitely going to look those up for sure. Do you have a favorite recipe that you would like to share with the Culture Trekking community to try?

Suzanne: One of the easiest things to make is Trinidadian corn soup

Me: Is it safe to travel in your country as a single female or with a family?

Suzanne: That’s a tough one. I would suggest that single females and other travelers be cautious when traveling alone in Trinidad and Tobago because there is a crime problem. Find a reputable tour operator or local guide to show you around.  

Me: What about racism? I know racism is a hot topic right now in the United States. How do those in Trinidad and Tobago handle that, or is it something not frequently thought of?

Suzanne: Although many locals claim “all ah we is one,” racism still affects everyday living in the country. It’s something that subtly permeates every level of society. Many people ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist.

Me: Would those in the LGBTQ be welcome and safe there? If not what would be some suggestions you have for them when traveling?

Suzanne: Trinidad and Tobago, like many other Caribbean islands, still has a very conservative attitude when it comes to gender and sexuality. LGBTQ travelers are welcome but may get unwanted attention from some locals.

what to see in Trinidad and Tobago

Me: Are there areas you would suggest avoiding while there?

Suzanne: Avoid crime hot spots like Laventille, Enterprise, and Beetham.

Me: What are the major tourist traps?

Suzanne: I don’t think we have any tourist traps in Trinidad and Tobago!

Me: Do you have any favorite camping spots or hiking trails you would suggest?

Suzanne: Hiking is very popular on both islands. I would suggest going with a local guide or tour group because the trails are not signposted and you could get lost in some areas. I highly recommend hiking to Paria beach and Rio Seco waterfall.

Me: What about your favorite hidden beaches?

Suzanne: You can access hidden beaches by boat on both Trinidad and Tobago. You need to hire a local guide to get all the deets.

Me: When I say home, what does that picture look like in your mind?

Suzanne: In my mind, home is not a place. It’s the people who matter most to me.

Me: That is such a beautiful thought, I’m definitely going to remember that one. How do families there spend time together?

Suzanne: Different families do different things but in general, families spend time eating out, going to the cinema and malls, visiting relatives, going to the beach or river, and vacationing at beach houses across the two islands.

Me: What are marriages like there? Does the woman or the man propose? I need to find a country where the woman can propose myself, lol.

Suzanne: Marriages are generally love matches but there are a few arranged unions. Man or woman may propose although traditionally, men propose.

Me: Do you have any closing thoughts for my readers you would like them to know or take away from this?

Suzanne: I would love for your readers to learn more about Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the Caribbean. We are so much more than beaches!

Me: Well Suzanne, it really has been a pleasure speaking with you and I hope one day to be able to meet you in person. You sound like a fascinating person, with loads of adventures awaiting you around the corner. I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions and help my readers learn about your fascinating culture and connect with Trinidad and Tobago. I hope that they have been as enthralled as I have been in reading your answers. Thank you so much for your time and if my readers wanted to get in touch with you, how would they do that?

Suzanne: They can check out my blog: Hot Foot Trini or connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.


Alright folks, that is it for today. I hope that you enjoyed this featured follower post. I want to sincerely thank Suzanne Bhagan for participating and being willing to answer all these questions. I love being able to connect with different cultures and communities throughout the world. 


For more posts like this, check out: 

7 Safety Tips When Hiking the Jungles of Jamaica

12 Things to Know Before Visiting the Island of Delos

A Jamaica Shore Excursion

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Well, Jamaica changed me, at least it did with the people that I was able to encounter there. I am not one who likes to follow the herd. I wanted a unique and private Jamaica Shore Excursion where Patricia (my cruise mate) and I could bond, enjoy nature and take lots of cool pictures

Booking Our Jamaica Shore Excursion

We met up with Carolyn, from Barrett Adventures, and her tagline “off the beaten path” was literally like I found a kindred spirit a half a world away! I LOVED Jamaica, her, and the adventures she had in store for us. So I talked with Patricia who was very hesitant in doing anything that did not involve the overly priced shore excursion, with 80 other people photo bombing you throughout your expensive trip.

Through my negotiating powers, and begging and pleading, she agreed to do go with Barrett Adventures; but said I would be held personally responsible by her husband if anything should happen to her. She said she was only half joking (insert large gulp). Well we got to Jamaica, Carolyn was there waiting for us with a sign, and she quickly whisked us away from the main town center ahead of the crowd. We started winding up the hills, were taken through the small beach side towns, and would stop frequently to show us the different plants that were so abundant on the island for anyone to eat.

Jungles in Jamaica

I had no idea how much Cocoa plants look like acorn squash! Not only that but how tough the skin is to cut through, the sticky outer shell that has an incredibly slimy texture, but is so sweet you think you just ate a piece of candy, and then the slightly powdery bitter center that is the chocolate bean itself.

It was the part she said next that really got me, “now you see how it has that bitter taste? Think of how much sugar they are actually putting inside chocolate to make it taste so sweet. Something to think about”.

Travel Tip: Here is a guide everything you need to know about Jamaican Food

We continued on our journey, Carolyn told us about how she ended up in Jamaica. She was actually one of the only female divers that were able to be accepted into a diving school. When she told her parents, they nearly disowned her and chained her to her bed. But Carolyn’s adventurous and strong-willed nature propelled her to what she calls her life today. She left the East Coast, with all its stuffy over cramped buildings and headed to the ocean, where she was this young woman who was keeping company with…. well….. roughens of her time. Guys who were likely just let out of jail and a diving job is what they could get. She put up a good fight, learned how to swear like a sailor, sail like the best of them, got her own boat and toured around the islands of the Caribbean. She actually met her husband in Jamaica, as a chance meeting. He was so enamored with her that he came to the place where she was staying, knocked on the door and pronounced, “I would like to marry you, and I’m not leaving until you say yes”. Well, he stayed out there for about a week or so, and Carolyn decided that if he was that determined, why not. So they got hitched an started up, ‘Barrett Adventures’, which is now one of the top rated tours on Trip advisor.

We came to Mayfield Falls entrance, walked down the slippery entrance, while the locals were just walking down barefoot and fancy free— literally — yes this did include exuberant singing and conversations with all the strangers who were walking along the same path. One such fellow decided to befriend me, can’t think of his name at the moment because I was kind of crushing on him a little bit. So sue me, I have a thing for foreign guys, something about the accent makes me want to swoon……lest I digress.

He ended up being our guide, and was so fun! He would help us over the harder spots when we were hiking up the river, then sneak ahead and jump out right in front. Having worked at the Trauma 2 Hospital at night, I pictured one of the more terrible cases I had helped with & I was going to watch it happen right before me into this shallow riverbed. Well like all magic tricks, and to my shock…wonder….awe….there was no mangled body, he just disappeared below the water & came up smiling like a little kid at our shocked faces. At one point I even joined him, as afraid of heights as I am, I climbed up a very precariously built ladder onto a tree that had been cut in half as my landing pad. Patricia was yelling, “BE CAREFUL!” and then, “JUST DO IT!” while laughing the whole time. I was hyperventilating because I’m so scared of heights, well of what happens after you fall, as I have seen the worst of the worse in my day— but I did it. The feeling of being weightless for about 10 seconds, everyone holds their breath…hoping you jumped out far enough not to who everyone what the inside of your skull looks, then the rush of the water as it swallows your toes then legs then shoulders like a very hungry boa constrictor; only to emerge victorious & giddy with Adrenaline. Ahhhhh… I love the Adrenaline rush, and it is kind of like you won the talent show, as everyone claps & laughs. Bonding……isn’t it great. Well, on with our show, our guide showed us all the hidden caves where you could swim under the water and come up breath for a few & swim up river again.

Where are the pictures you ask of this amazing adventure? In a cruel twist of fate, my camera battery died about 20 minutes into the trip! Yes, you can all groan and cry a little for me…. I was devastated! How would everyone know how much fun I had?!?! Well, as they say, the show must go on— and I dare say, I enjoyed my time so much more than I possibly would have if I would have had that camera in proper working order. I actually looked around me, smelled the things around me, laughed a little more, stressed a little less about how I looked & who would notice my rolls and cottage cheese on my legs. Who cares! I think this is when I really started to appreciate that I had a body that was working, I could do the hiking, I could keep up (relatively well, lol) — and my memories and being able to connect with the people I was traveling with actually is what made it all so worth it. We got to Mayfield Falls & we were the only ones there, it was so BEAUTIFUL with 4 cascading waterfalls one after the other, gurgling, swirling and spinning like a dance under the bamboo canopy of the Jamaican Jungle with 4 unlikely people enjoying God’s green earth & this hidden gem, off the beaten path.

In order to keep schedule and not be stranded in Jamaica without our passports we quickly moved on to the hike through villages and the Jungle. This is where we met Harry, the mysterious man with the unspoken rough past, standing there in his tank top, phanny pack, shorts that were far to big for him & emblazoned with (what should be the countries official plant) Marijuana leaf. I was a little nervous at first seeing him, but as soon as he started speaking, I relaxed and his jovial infectious nature & positive vibes just had us all laughing and really enjoying our time.

He took us through the Jungle and pointed out all the plants. There was one plant that when Slavery was a still present was planted around fields — it has a special characteristic to it. That if you touch it, it will close its leaves rapidly for about 20 minutes & all that is required is a light touch. This way if the slaves tried to run, the ‘owners’ could catch them and know exactly where they had run to.  When I saw this, suddenly I became quiet and wanted to cry, its like the earth of this place testified of what he was saying, and its almost like I could feel a glimmer of how trapped these people had felt…..and for so long. The cruelty that humans are capable of, against their own species……it makes the strongest of us cry. People may think this sort of thing doesn’t happen today, or are just blind to it, just like they were in that time period, excusing it as a, “oh it’s just how the world works right now” — but thank God above for those who had the courage to stop the atrocities that happened on this beautiful island.

Next we literally bushwhacked our way through the thick vines, overhang, wet a slipping and a sliding over the humidity coated palm and banana leaves. Through a village, where Harry secretly showed us some Marijuana plants; how they grow etc….. Being a Physician Assistant, I have never actually tried the stuff, and care too much about my license to try it for recreational purposes; but again, was amazed at how humans fight over this small unique leafed plant that is only about 12 inches tall. I was beginning to feel the weight of how humanity is so backwards.

There is abundance in Jamaica, someone from the States may come to Jamaica and think, “look how poor they are with their tin roofs collecting the unsanitary water from the rain. Look at the terrible life they have”; but in reality….the people here have more opportunity and communal community than anything I have experienced within the USA. We may be the greatest nation in military and monetary value, but sometimes I feel we traded that for things that have far greater importance….I will let you think of your own opinion on what those things missing in the States could be.

In the end, this trip humbled me in ways that were very surprising…. I realized how selfish I was, how much beauty and quality of life is really in the eye of the beholder, how much the media contributes to skewed images of what the ‘perfect’ life is because of how lucrative commercialism is. I know some may disagree with me, but living a life of luxury and showing off my amazing trips became less important to me. The stories of the people I meet, their lives, their hopes, their fears and what drives them to get up everyday are the things that I vowed I would cherish the most from this trip.

7 important safety tips & good info for when hiking the Jungles of Jamaica

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I didn’t really know what to expect when I was told we would be hiking up waterfalls and through the jungles in Jamaica. I guess I didn’t realize how thick the vegetation could be in Jamaica, or how slippery. So here are some tips that I wish I would have known before going, and other tid bits of fun I’m sure you are going to enjoy. 1- It’s very humid, this should be a ‘duh’ moment for me, your on an Island in the Caribbean….of course it is going to be humid. But when your base is in a desert you forget you have to prepare for this kind of environment. Be sure you drink water or have a beverage that has electrolytes in it. You tend to lose quite a bit of salt when you sweat. DSCN1246 2- Have moisture wicking clothing on you, with a swimming suit underneath, and some water shoes. I love my Keen shoes, the real ones, not the knock offs, one because they can go in the water & don’t give me blisters when I get out; two they have good air circulation which is nice when you aren’t wearing socks; three they have a rubber toe on them that protects you when you are clumsy like me and tend to stub your toes on every rock and branch in your path. Only draw back to this was that because there are open areas on the shoe, I finished the hike and found a tick embedded in my left foot. Our guide, who is from New York originally, had alcohol with her, and was able to remove it. She said that because they are on a more of an isolated Island, that the ticks don’t typically carry disease like they do in the States.

Lyme disease is typically associated with White tailed  deer, and other animals that typically do not reside in Jamaica, so the incidence is much less common. From one Medical Research article that I found, it appears that those who claim to have positive results for Lyme Disease, were actually false positives due to other cross reactive parasites that are found in Jamaica such as : Treponema pallidum which is typically given via Sexual Contact, and can pass to the fetus (baby).

article found here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7855925

3- If you have balance issues, I would suggest bringing some hiking poles. Hiking poles typically cost $16-$60,  depending on how much of an avid hiker you are. I typically place these in my check on luggage as the pointy ends found on many hiking poles, may be considered a safety hazard on most planes. I can usually fit them in after my suitcase is all packed and I place them at an angle.

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4- Don’t be afraid to try the food picked up off the side of the trail. I drank water from the river when my guide said it was ok, I tried the Turmeric plant he pulled up off the side of the trail, I ate 2 seeds from a Cocao plant we stopped at along the side of the road, drank the water of a raw coconut, and chewed on a freshly picked sugar cane stick. All of it was delicious, and I didn’t get sick once.

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5-  The trails in the jungles of Jamaica are sometimes very difficult to find, and if you don’t know which way you are headed, it is easy to get lost. I am pretty good about following an established trail in and out, but the soil is so rich and the weather is optimum for plant growth; so the trails have plants that grow over them quickly, large Palm leaves that have fallen cover the trail making it almost impossible to know where to go unless you are a local. The good thing is that guides there are pretty reasonably priced, just make sure you arrange one prior to arriving to make good use of your time there. If you would like the guide that I used while there please email me at: gypsysouladventure@gmail.com & I can provide you with her information.

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6- There are 5 species of snakes on the island & none of them are poisonous, One that is the protected Yellow Boa. there is no need to fear this creature as it typically goes after the smaller animals, and typically goes out at night to hunt. It can grow up to 6.5 feet long, so likely if you see it, you aren’t going to miss the yellow monstrosity.  The other 4 include the Jamaican Blind Snake eats small insects, Thunder snakes that feed on small vertebrates, the Black racer that feeds on frogs, lizards and birds and is reportedly RARELY seen, and then Garden snakes and hunt fish, frogs and lizards. So really no snakes to really be worried about.

7-  Make sure you wear good Mosquito repellent as there are some things that can be transmitted through mosquito bites there. ie/ Zika is a concern there according to the CDC, and a case of local transmission of Chikungunya Virus (sx: fever/joint pain/rash).

For other health information recommended by the CDC before visiting Jamaica head here: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/jamaica

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5 Hidden Gems of Jamaica

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1- Mayfield Falls – Top 5 Hidden Gems of Jamaica Just hiking up to these falls is amazing! You see, you actually have to hike, swim and climb up this river, with these little pools– that actually aren’t so little. You typically have a guide that you pay around $20 for near the entrance (which takes about an hour to drive to); and then at the entrance you have some great souvenirs & a place to change your clothes, some makeshift lockers (I recommend putting valuables in the car you came in, locked nice and tight). Make sure to bring some good water shoes, because the rocks can be a little bit slick. DSCN1250DSCN1262Our guide randomly would hike ahead of us, and surprise us by jumping into the hidden pools in front of us. It was so crazy! you are up to your ankles in water, and here he is jumping from trees 20 feet above you, and you think, “OMG! HE IS CRAZY AND IS GOING TO DIE!” But then he magically would disappear in these pools a few feet in front of us, and pop his head out grinning from ear to ear. He did this about 14 times with us, and it wasn’t until about the 10th time I actually started to join him. So If you have a chance to visit Mayfield falls, I highly suggest doing it! Top 5 Hidden Gems of Jamaica : Mayfield falls

2- H’evan Scent Zip – Top 5 Hidden Gems of Jamaica
This Zipline is in Saint Ann’s Bay, and actually not only does it strap you in, you also have an option to go together whilst sitting on swing set seating. It takes you soaring past different areas of the Jungle, gives you REAL coconut water freshly picked from a coconut & has different options as far as Ziplines you can try. The best part is, its not as crowded as some of the other Zip-line areas throughout Jamaica, which is what I LOVE — I’m not one to be ‘a part of the herd’- so this is a perfect option. Top 5 Hidden Gems of Jamaica
3- Secret Falls -Top 5 Hidden Gems of Jamaica
We didn’t end up having time to go to these falls because they were on the side of Ocho Rios & we had too much fun hiking through the Jungle, but this is one of the Falls our guide actually recommended. Who also happened to be from New York & had lived in Jamaica for over 25 years. Top 5 Hidden Gems of Jamaica secret falls
4- Rasta Highlands – Top 5 Hidden Gems of Jamaica
I never thought I would be hiking through a REAL JUNGLE! It was really hot & humid, but I didn’t even care because of how amazing it was to see the abundance of natural resources in this place. From an outsider’s perspective you would think, ‘wow look at how terrible their living situation is’ but when you see how many resources they have, literally at their fingertips’ — that’s when I started to think that maybe we, in the developed countries, are the ones that are ‘poor’. For this journey, I would recommend a guide, as the underbrush requires you to use a machete, and those are not exactly good things to pack on an airplane, lol. Plus as you can see with the picture on the right, most of the trails are covered in thick discards of the vegetation; please note that this vegetation can get very thick & slippery due to the humidity– especially going down a hill. So this is another great reason to have a guide. We were also told that there are areas that you do not want to venture, that Marijuana is grown, and their Marijuana farm owners can get very protective and want to start a fight if you cross into their land, or try and pick their products without asking. [gallery type="square" size="large" ids="1753"]
5- The Blue Mountains -Top 5 Hidden Gems of Jamaica
The hike to get here I would say is easy to Moderate, but well worth the view and close to the Montego Bay and Mayfield Falls area. Very serene & quite, I loved our guide and how she gave us the history of Slavery in Jamaica and the different plants that were introduced there when Columbus came & all the spices that were available there naturally. Top 5 Hidden Gems of Jamaica : The Blue Mountains Contact Carolyn Barrett Adventures in Jamaica that for the hike up Mayfield Falls, through the Rasta Highlands, seeing the Blue Mountains and meeting locals and how they live their daily lives would only cost around $170 per person. This was WELL worth the money for this, especially since we were on a time constraint with our Cruise ship. She also offers snorkeling & scuba diving sites, as well as yacht trips around Jamaica and the different surrounding islands– as she has lived on many of them for throughout her life. Enjoy the Top 5 Hidden Gems of Jamaica and get the real Jungle adventure, I promise you won’t regret it! Happy Travels, Happy Tales and See you on the flip side 🙂
For more articles like this read: My Jumanji adventure in Jamaica Complete Guide to Jamaica – by Boundless Roads 7 Safety Tips when hiking the Jungles of Jamaica]]>