Why Jamaicans Should Prioritize Regional Travel for 2020 and Beyond

The Caribbean is one of the world’s most diverse cultural and ethnic melting pots for such a relatively tiny geographical space. We speak four official languages, namely English, Spanish, French and Dutch, because of our dark colonial ties to the four main European metropoles of that era. As a Caribbean native, I grew up aware of our common history, origins, economies and challenges but that’s about it. There are a myriad of beautiful subtle differences between our cultures and people which we don’t and perhaps can’t learn about in the classroom.


Also, I’m not sure how different it is in the rest of the region but in Jamaica, we scarcely learn about the non-Anglophone West Indies at all. I perhaps know nothing more about those islands than their names and capitals. The cost of a plane ticket to a nation just an hour away or less often ends up costing much more than a plane ticket to say USA or Canada. It’s such a shame and prevents us from getting to know our neighbours better. Nonetheless, here’s why I believe Jamaicans (and West Indians at large) should step over our picket fences and get better acquainted with our Caribbean neighbours for 2020 and beyond once you have the means with which to do so.

doubles jpg
Trinidadian doubles. Taken from Mother Earth News

To enjoy the delicious foods which make each island unique. Our islands share a common history so our food influences are the same, namely Amerindian, African, European, East Indian and Chinese. Our ingredients and spices are similar since we share the same tropical maritime climate and hence grow similar foodstuffs and have access to lots of fresh seafood. That being said, the combinations are endless and shape up to form dishes and flavour profiles unique to each country. Doubles from Trinidad, crab and dumpling from Tobago, flying fish and cou-cou from Barbados, oil down from Grenada and I could go on. There are lots of beverages to choose from too like Stag and Carib, the unofficial national lagers of Trinidad, and Pitons, the golden lager from St. Lucia. backlit beach caribbean cloudsTo enjoy the unique natural beauty of the islands. Most Caribbean nations are blessed with a similar diverse geography as Jamaica– rugged mountains and karst creating delightful cloud forests, swift flowing rivers, cascading waterfalls and numerous caves and sinkholes with impressive stalactites and stalagmites. The beaches are equally as stunning with some offering unique attractions like swimming with flamingos at Flamingo Beach in Aruba or swimming with pigs in the Bahamas. Antigua is said to have 365 beaches, one for every day of the year, and while that sounds too good to be true, wouldn’t it be exciting to see how many you can cross off the list on your vacation there? Many of the Eastern Caribbean islands have volcanic activity too giving rise to the world’s only drive-through volcano in St. Lucia, and numerous other sulphur springs and interesting sites. There’s also the Pitch Lake in Trinidad, the world’s largest naturally occurring source of asphalt, and Guyana has the world’s largest single drop waterfall which looks spectacular by air or land, the Kaieteur Falls.

Playing Mas in Trinidad Carnival. Taken from Life by Sydelle
  • CARNIVAL! Carnival in the Caribbean is said to have originated in Trinidad and Tobago shortly after the passage of the Emancipation Bill in 1833. Before that, Blacks weren’t allowed to participate in the French festivities of joie de vivre which took place between Christmas and Ash Wednesday. Fast forward to today and there’s one on almost every island. The dates are nicely dispersed throughout the calendar year with one in nearly every month and Montserrat heads the list with their carnival on New Years’ Day, January 1. I’m a pretty conservative and introverted person so jumping half naked in the city capital, sweaty and wining on strangers sounds nauseating but the hypnotic pulsating beat of soca music and that glorious sweet sound of steel-pan could get me to do almost anything. With that said, you may find my alter ego at Jamaica Carnival in 2020 and playing mas in Trinidad Carnival 2021, a rather expensive undertaking these days though I’m afraid. Something about the darker beat of jab soca entices me too so Grenada’s Spice Mas is also on the list.

  • man hand fruit cocoa
    Cocoa in Grenada
  • Besides Carnival, there are many other island festivals and cultural experiences to get lost in. The greatest time to visit an island is when its best is on show. Similar to Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee which has finally gotten an annual festival in March, Grenada’s Chocolate Festival in May celebrates cocoa, its different varieties, blends and products. Visit what makes each island unique like touring the spice farms of Grenada, the tobacco farms and factories of Cuba and even learn how to cook another country’s national dish on a culinary tour. woman closes her eyes raising her right hand
  • Brush up on your languages. Many of us have had exposure to Spanish and even French at the primary and secondary level, but those skills quickly vanish since we don’t get much opportunity to practice. Look no further than our closest neighbour Cuba to hone your Spanish, and Haiti to the east to hone your French. Yes they mostly speak KreyΓ²l, a French-based creole, but French is the official language of the country and is widely spoken especially amongst the educated. The regional variations in accents, inflections, dialects and creoles are delightful to hear too and for the English-based ones, are pretty easy to comprehend once the speaker slows down and enunciates. In 2014, the CNN even ranked the Trini accent as one of the world’s sexiest accents, the only West Indian accent to make the list (I’m offended!). They described it as “an undulating melodic gumbo of pan-African, French, Spanish, Creole and Hindi dialects that when adapted for English, can be sex on a pogo stick.”
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    Wrap Up

    photo of person standing on beach

    Wow, I’ve said a mouthful. Have I convinced you to see more of the Caribbean yet? I’m all for regionalism but there’s a lot more which needs to be done to strengthen ties in our region such as the creation of a common passport, possibly a common currency, have all member states respect the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final appellate court for our region and making free movement from state to state easier. Our only true successes so far are the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC)’s creation of standard exit examinations for the region, the University of the West Indies, our only regional university, and perhaps in the arts and sports through CARIFESTA, cricket and the CARIFTA Games. Here’s to strengthening our regional ties through travel. πŸ₯‚ If we start demanding lower airfares to travel across our region and show the big airline bosses that regional travel is lucrative because we’re genuinely curious and interested in knowing our neighbours, maybe more direct flights and lower airfare costs will be the reward.

    Are you a reader from the Caribbean? Drop your flag in the comments section.

    β€˜Til next time.✌🏽

    Until the next post, keep up with Elle on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

    Published by

    Rochelle | Adventuresfromelle

    Adventures from Elle is a travel blog for locals & visitors who want to experience the best of Jamaica, one adventure at a time. The blog is curated by Rochelle Knight, a junior resident (M.D.) in internal medicine and published author. She began the blog in 2016 as a medical student & wants to see the world, starting with her home country. Purchase her book 'SIGHTSEE JAMAICA' on Amazon and join her in Jamaica!

    36 thoughts on “Why Jamaicans Should Prioritize Regional Travel for 2020 and Beyond

    1. That was a great post. I am all for Caribbean integration, however I think it sadly will never truly happen. The political landscape, legal and government systems of each island are so unique and share a strong tie to the historical background of that island, as a result true integration could be difficult. I am from Barbados. I lived in Trinidad for a few years while studying at UWI. I now reside in Jamaica for the past 4 years. I have had the invaluable opportunity to attend UWI in Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica at different stages of my educational career. I have travelled to a few Caribbean islands before and my wish is to visit them all! Each island has so much to offer and I encourage all those who can afford to travel go and visit at least one other Caribbean island every year or every other year. You won’t be disappointed. I agree that the regional airfare is too expensive and that hinders many of us from vacationing in the region.
      Rochelle do enjoy your trip to Trinidad and we your readers look forward to seeing some nice blogs about your travel experiences.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Thank you so much!
        Unfortunately I, too, know deep down that true integration will never happen either but I’d love to see more unity than we have now in the future. It’s my dream to visit every Caribbean island as well. πŸ™‚ I hope to have that invaluable experience one day of seeing another island for a longer period of time than vacation like you have. Best wishes!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Doc! First congratulations on keeping up a super blog while studying and qualifying.
      Second Barbados is the best island. πŸ‡§πŸ‡§ πŸ˜†
      I too visited Curacao when I was little, and lived there for 7 months or so – loved it even though I was scared of the big lizards. I have also been to Grenada, Antigua & Barbuda, T&T, SVG….and you are correct the fares should be lower because all the islands are uniquely gorgeous. I only visited Jamaica via a Jamaican friend’s slides and am itching to see it for real
      Thanks for having a read of my blog and commenting. Buzzed me up!

      Liked by 2 people

    3. I didn’t visit any other Caribbean island but Jamaica until I took that cruise last year. Mom wants to do another one again.

      I will say that visiting other Caribbean countries was great but only reinforced to me that Jamaica was the best one. πŸ˜…

      Liked by 3 people

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