Journey with Jo

Follow me as I blog about my various journeys across the globe, making budget travel look luxurious!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A few weeks back, I got the absolute pleasure of spending the St. Patrick's Holiday on the wonderful, beautiful, picturesque, underrated island of Montserrat.

For those that don't know Montserrat is an island in the Caribbean and is a BOT (British Overseas Territory). 

Blue field with Union Jack in the top left corner and coat of arms in the field

It is most commonly known for volcanic eruption that occurred on July 18, 1995, which destroyed a significant part of the small island, including its capital city, Plymouth. The volcano has been relatively dormant since 2010 and is kept on close watch by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

Why St. Patrick's Day
The island's Irish heritage dates back to the 17th Century when they first started inhabiting the island. They came as settlers to the island and eventually, as time and history progressed, succumbed to the power of British settlers. 
Tappin on the steel during the parade
Being that what it is, Irish influence is still alive and well today. The national flag features a woman that resembles the Irish mythical goddess Èriù. She also has in her hands a golden harp, which is the same symbol represented in Ireland's coat of arms. 
A green shamrock is stamped in your passport upon entry and Guinness beer can be found all through the island. Also, Montserrat is affectionately known as "The Emerald Isle", due to Irish history and a slight resemblance to the shape of Ireland. 

St. Patrick's Day is the only other place, besides Ireland, that is commemorated as a national holiday. This celebration is because of the former and also marks the same day in 1768, which African slaves initiated a revolt against slave masters. It happened on St. Patty's Day, because slaves knew many of the masters (who were Irish) would be in a celebratory mood (aka: drunk & merry). The revolt didn't end up being a successful one, but is still a major part of Montserratian history. 
 Miss St. Patrick's 2018

St. Patrick's Festival
This year marked the 250th anniversary of the slave revolt and I am so fortunate to have been there. My both sides of my family, mother and father, hail from Montserrat, so it felt like a homecoming to me. The last time I was there was in 2006, so this trip was way overdue.
Beach vibes with brother & stepmom
Bush rum, guaranteed to put hair on your chest!

Morning views
The official festival season this year lasted from March 9th -19th and was filled with events that included parties, religious celebrations, a theater production, and of course, an early morning Caribbean jump-up filled with paint and powder.
J'Ouvert morning with brother
The dirtier, the more fun!
Good times!
For me, this trip was super important because I got to connect with family and friends that I've not seen in a while. This trip was one of the more recent ones that I truly felt at peace and oneness with my environment. I definitely account that to the Montserrat blood that flows through my veins, but also to the island for being its quaint, beautiful place.
Friends & Family
Nothing like a good sunset
My goal friend
You're talking about a place not ridden with coastline resorts, stuffy tourists and the hustle/bustle those types of places ensue. To be able to relax on a beach without the hassle of locals selling jetski rides or jewelry (no shade) on vacation is priceless. I was able to go for morning runs and bump into familiar faces (and make new friends).  And let's not mention all the delicious food I consumed. 
Typical breakfast: sailfish, mackerel, herring

Fresh, fresh, fresh!

Family love!
All in all, the time I spent in Montserrat was superb. Because of this, I definitely plan on making my home country a destination of choice more frequently. 

I HIGHLY encourage you to visit this wonderful island if you haven't already. Whether it's in March for St. Patrick's Festival, December for Carnival, or any other time during the year, please add this gem of an island to your travel list. I guarantee you won't regret it!
Have you been to Montserrat?
Heard of it and never been?
Never heard of it at all?
Comment below and let me know!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

About 75% (or maybe more) of the trips I take annually are solo trips. I remember my official trip out of the country by myself was in 2015, when I went to Barbados for 5 days. 

I'm not going to lie, I wasn't too nervous to go alone, because I've always the type of person to do things by myself if company wasn't readily available. Movies, dinner, concerts, and other things some have anxiety about doing without others, never bothered me. I've been that way since my days as a youth and its manifested even more into adulthood.
Solo Trip to Mexico City, Nov. 2017
Since 2015, I've been on numerous trips (domestic & international) accompanied by me, myself, and I. 
Walking The Streets of Barcelona, February 2017
Here are some reasons why I think solo travel is ahh-mazing:

You only have to cater to what YOU want to do
Theres no one to consult with about where to go, what to do, what to eat, etc. You truly march to the beat of your own drum.
Getting Lost In Italy, July 2016
You're forced to meet new people
When traveling with others, its typical (for most) to only communicate/interact with those people you came with. Traveling by yourself, makes you vulnerable, in a sense to talk to other people. Whether it be to take a picture for you or to ask directions, one simple interaction can lead to a longer conversation, and in some cases, a connection. 
Sidenote: As a woman, sitting alone for dinner or drinks, I've been privy to bold men sending over drinks or offering to cover my tab. (Perks of being a solo-female traveler ::wink, wink::)
New Friends on the Beach In Colombia, February 2018
Memories to last a lifetime
When I think back to the greatest times in my life, many of them have been on my solo trips. I cherish these the closest because no one else has access to these but me. No one to put their spin or take on. And it's great because I always have a story to tell that is mines and mines alone :)
After a Long Hike in Barcelona, February 2017
You become more aware of yourself
You know that thing...your intuition, your gut?? Yeah, that. You definitely learn to trust it more when traveling alone. After all, there is no one else there to bounce ideas off of, especially when you have to make quick/spur of moment decisions. 
Contemplating If I Should Keep Climbing Further
Mexico City, November 2017
(I Kept Going Though)
For those that are contemplating taking a trip alone, here are some tips that always makes things easier for me:

The overwhelming majority of my solo accommodations are done through AirBnb. I purposely do this so that I can have human interaction at my leisure. It is a priceless experience to live with someone that is from the area you're staying it. I often find that they are able to offer the best tips, because they are local and truly know the ins/outs. I've been saved from so many tourist traps and have found gems within places I've visited all because of my amazing AirBnb hosts throughout the years.
My Bnb Host (Left) and Her Sister, Bahamas
December 2015

My Host, Getting My Bedding Together in Venice, Italy
July 2016
Sipping Piña Coladas in Punta Cana, DR With My Awesome Host
December 2016
I always make sure to book at least one or two excursions before reaching my destination. Going on an organized tour/activity is a guaranteed way to not only do something that interests you while on vacation, but an avenue from which to meet people. I typically book my excursions on Viator or an independent site that I may have found through browsing on the web or from Trip Advisor.
"Night Out With a Local Parisian" Tour in Paris
June 2016
A New Friend a Made at a Previous Excursion.
She Asked If I Wanted To Check Out A Soccer Game And We Did Just That
Barcelona, February 2017
Many cities offer FREE guided walking tours, which I try to do almost everywhere I go, because its at no cost! 
Lovely Photo Op In London, All Thanks To A Free Walking Tour
June 2016
I have met the most amazing people all from booking excursions.
This Cooking Class I Booked in Barcelona Allowed Me To
Continue My Night With Some Awesome People
February 2017

All Four Of Us Were Solo Travelers And Had a Blast That Evening Together 
Most recently, I met several dope, beautiful, kind hearted women while on my trip to Cartagena, Colombia this past February. One my first full day (which you can read about here), I went on an excursion. On this day long trip, I got to meet a few lovely women, which then in turn allowed me to meet many more days after. 
Can You Tell I Was A Solo Traveler Here?
Cartagena, February 2018
I met a few people from New York (my home/current city), a couple of sorority sisters, and others that were in the same Facebook travel groups as me. The connections were real and I hung out with many of them past the excursion I had on the first day.
Dinner With Sorority Sisters I Met On Day 1 in Cartagena
February 2018
Palenque, Colombia
February 2018

Solo Travelers United!
Cartagena, February 2018
I account it to the travel gods that truly worked it out, because not time did I have the feeling of being "alone" during my five day stay in Cartagena.

Travel Apps
Things like Google Maps (download offline prior to arrival), XE (money conversion) and Google Translate make life much easier when conquering unfamiliar territory. 

Again, I am a huge advocate for the solo-travel-life. If you're someone that is on the fence about going somewhere alone, I'd say to plan something domestic, and not too far from home for a quick weekend. See how that fares out and then expand your horizons.

The biggest thing, that I could never state enough is to not let other people discourage you or hold you back from your travel goals! If there is somewhere you really want to go and you're waiting on others (and they don't seem to be making any monetary moves) please, please just don't wait.

Time will still keep moving and days will keep passing on by, so please don't let fear, other people, or anything else prevent you from traveling solo.

Image result for just go travel
I hope this information helped out!

Thinking of traveling solo? 
Anything I didn't address that you're curious about?
Are you a seasoned solo traveler that wants to offer more insight?

Drop a comment below and let me know!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Being that I'm a few days shy of having $3000 in travel money, I decided to share this money saving tip with you all!!

Image result for saving travel money
Check out the video below!

I previously blogged about this money saving tip before, so check out the post here, if you want some more insight

After watching this video, do you think you'd give it a try? 
Any questions about it that I didn't answer? 

Comment below and I'll be sure to get back to you!

Monday, March 5, 2018

The second tour I got to do with Alex Rocha was a trip to the first free slave town in the Americas, San Basilio de Palenque. This town is located about an hour south east of Cartagena. 

On the way there, we pulled over to the side of the road to where a big sign was posted with Alex's namesake. He was rightfully full of pride when he told us that the town located 13km down the road is where his family came from. It was already clear from the conversations with Alex the previous and same day how deeply rooted and knowledgable he was about his homeland, but to hear him talk about the the town of Rocha, you could see the pride exude (rightfully so) from his being.
A proud Alex Rocha!
Driving a few minutes more down the road, Alex let us know that we would be making a pit stop for some local snacks. He compared it to being in the states, pulling over to a gas station for some food, but honey let me tell you, the states has NOTHING compared to the roadside service of Cartagena.

Upon getting off the bus, Alex let us know, or told us rather, that we'd be trying a favorite snack of the locals. He also made it very clear that he wouldn't tell us what is was until after we consumed it. Take a look and see if you can guess what it is...

If you guessed iguana eggs, then you were right on the money! To be very honest, it wasn't terrible. After biting into the rubbery-like outer casing, you're met with a very thick yolk (which I was able to indentify due to my over-consumption of boiled eggs on a weekly basis). 

After that, we sat down and waited for our snack of fried fish and plantains. I was grateful for this time to get to know some "sista-friends" I met while on the tour, but I'll tell more about that in the next post. 
A little pit stop beverage 
When the food is too good to take a "before shot"
The awesome crew of ladies I was blessed enough to be on the tour with
The next stop was Palenque. It's really hard not to be enamored by this place, because its so vibrant not only with the beautiful murals but the aura of the people. As soon as we got off the bus the natives  didn't hesitate to greet us with hugs, waves, and kisses on the cheek. I really felt as if I was at a big family reunion, seeing aunties and uncles I haven't seen in years.

Smart man, he is, to be wearing that shirt :)

It was truly a "warm-fuzzies" type of moment, seeing all these people that look just like you: same hair, complexions and features. The only barrier was the language, which seemed to be no barrier at all when I really sit back and ponder.

Walking the streets was like one big party. From the time we got off the bus, walking all the streets, to the moment we got back on, music and laughter filled the streets as people danced, laughed and had a good time. They even included us in the festivities.
A good time had by all

One of the members of Kombilesa Mi
One highlights of the tour was getting to sit inside of a home and watching a live performance from the Palenque-native group, Kombilesa Mi. This musical group of young people, founded in 2011, fuses urban rap with the traditional rhythms and language of Palenque. Check out some of their music below. Seriously, press play (don't scroll past) and check it out...their music is sooooo dope!

After the wonderful performance, we passed by some people playing dominoes, so of course, we had to stop again and play. 

We ended our time in Palenque visiting the home of a local family and getting to ask them questions.

After leaving the town, we made a stop for a late lunch/dinner where we guessed it...another fish plate dinner. It was so good I think I may have eaten a few bones in the process on purpose (please don't judge me, it was good)! Two of the people on our tour were celebrating birthday the next coming days, so Alex was gracious enough to have a cake made in their honor which was so rich and chocolate-y and good.

All in all, this day trip was amazing. Even the words I typed up here can't really do justice to describe the amazing time I had. Again, if you ever head to Cartagena, this tour is a MUST DO, especially if you're someone that identifies with your African roots.
Also another shameless plug for Alex, but he had the playlist BANGING on our way back to Cartagena...check it out for yourself!

For more on the history of Palenque, visit this link here.