It’s been two months and 24 days since I returned to the U.S. after three years of working in South Korea. Living under my mother’s roof and job-hunting started to take a toll on my mental and spiritual well-being. With the travel Jones still deep within me, I decided to eat-pray-love my way out of this funk, and headed to where a Rastafarian once described to me as the “power center of the world.”
In Runaway Bay, Jamaica, the masterminds of the Food Heaven Show, Wendy and Jess, joined forces with the love birds and owners of a bed and breakfast called The Runaway Jamaica. These four put their heads together to produce a five-day retreat of fun in the sun, delectable meals and nutrition talks for a small group of runaways hoping to escape from their stressful realities for a little R&R on J-island. Shortly thereafter, a hashtag was born. Its name? #runawayretreat It was official.
Now, here’s how I ran away to Jamaica…
“Book Dat ish!”
In the travel communities I belong to, we have this saying to encourage each other to just do it!
After booking this all-inclusive wellness retreat, I immediately had buyer’s remorse. I was jobless, and living off of my savings. In full disclosure, I had just spent the month of February and the first week of March traveling to exotic places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. I mean, really, who was I to cure my pitiful feelings with yet another exotic trip? But when you have the means, and opportunity is calling, gon’head and BOOK DAT ISH! You only live once. Right? Don’t worry about other people telling you to ‘sit down somewhere’ and stop traveling. Do you!
Enter Black Girl Magic
Society and other powers that be love to promote the belief that women, especially black women, cannot, do not and will not get along. But from the moment we met and our towels cascaded upon the white sanded Duncan Beach in Silver Sands, a beach we enjoyed privately, we were sisters in the name of Food Heaven. Smoothies in hands and bikinis on fleek, we exchanged names, hometowns, stories and sunscreen. We quickly got in formation: posing for pictures, laughing like school girls, and ready for a renewal of spirit via nutrition. We were a collective of ambitious beautiful black women, blending sweetly together like mango puree.
Love & Luxury
Jeff and Kalisa are a couple in business. They developed their dream of opening a bed and breakfast in Jamaica after one too many harsh winters in New York. The genius in design of this beautiful B&B is the coziness of home overlapping with the luxury of fine living. Most of the furnishings and decor are reused or re-purposed in some way, and crafted by local artisans.
The love of this business couple spills over onto their guests from their passion for work they do in preparing the daily meals and maintaining the B&B’s social media platforms, down to running the business, and surely the love they have for one another.
From the elaborate woodwork to the high ceilings to splashes of vibrant island colors throughout the space to the vintage pieces Kalisa’s grandmother left her dotted as accent pieces in the rooms of this two-story B&B, every detail was… well, detailed with style and love.
Kalisa’s gingerly spirit and overall enthusiasm for the unique meals she prepared for and explained to us was contagious. In our group, we had vegetarians, and people with other diet restrictions such as tree-nut and dairy allergies that Kalisa honored, making duplicate dishes that excluded those ingredients without compromising the taste. (Yes, those of us without diet restrictions tried EVERYTHING laid out for us; after everyone got their first plate, of course.)
Jeff’s energy was more laid back and chill (you know how men are :P). He checked in on us regularly to make sure we were good. They both were friendly and accommodating. It was so comfortable and natural, like visiting family.
The Real Deal
For those of you who know me or read my travel blogs, you KNOW that I have to keep it real, and share the pitfalls of my trip as well. Like I said, I had buyer’s remorse initially, so I was determined to get the cheapest flight possible to no avail. What I thought was a clever idea of choosing flexible days and arriving early to stay overnight at a hostel near the Montego Bay airport was quickly aborted once I arrived. Let’s just say my grown ass is quite over sleeping on bunk beds in dank rooms sharing a space with dusty backpackers who sunbath away their hangovers. I’m good!
After the hotel change (no refund), and paying another cab fare – of which I had to walk in the unrelenting Jamaican sun with luggage in tote and haggled my fair down from 500 to 300 Jamaican dollars, and still got cheated – I was good.
And coming home… Coming home I got punked for 24 hours. Again, thinking I was being clever, I gave up my seat for a flight voucher. What was supposed to be another two hours before boarding my new flight turned into a travelers nightmare. My flight was cancelled due to weather, and the next flight I booked was delayed. After spending the night in O’Hare’s chilly airport (no sleep), I had to pick up my luggage from the Milwaukee airport before heading home. Talk about being hoodwinked.
Those Brownies Though
There was a weed brownie episode. Those who have been there before know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s extremely sobering to experience how quickly fun turns to fear in minutes. Luckily, no one was harmed, and all it took was a good night’s sleep to wear off the effects of that potent piece of ganja someone tried. I was tempted to buy one and try it too. But I’ve been ‘D.A.R.E.ing to keep off drugs’ and “Hanging Tough” since the days of elementary school, no reason I should stop now. O_O Right?
I cannot complete this blog without shouting out the beautiful and talented duo that is Wendy and Jess of the Food Heaven Made Easy. These ladies created a seamless, delightful retreat that kept getting better day after day. I’d been a subscriber to their YouTube channel for about two or three years, watching videos of their healthy, but tasty (looking) recipes. (I have yet to try one out – D’oh!) Both are registered dietitians who teach people of color how to make healthy changes to their lifestyles. During the retreat, each attendee had a one-on-one consultation with either Wendy or Jess. Their easy-going approach set the tone for an irie vibe that still remains among the group, I’m sure. We’re all having #runawayretreat withdrawals.
We came from all walks of life. A couple of writers, a photographer (whose work is featured throughout this blog!), a CEO, a therapist, entrepreneurs, nurse, molecular biologist, and a paralegal, all under one roof celebrating one love, healthy living and black girl magic.
*This long entry barely scratches the surface of all the other wonders on this Runaway Retreat. I’ll be posting smaller blogs as I continue to reflect on this magnificent get away.
So, have you ever been to Jamaica? When was your last trip there? What’s your favorite memory of Jamaica?