On the last day in Jamaica, I gathered my things slowly, taking in the time I had spent on the island. The night before, after returning from Negril, I spent the night laughing and drinking myself into delirium with my family and newly acquired friends. Before heading out, I took advantage of a ride out into the ocean in a small, Hobie style sailboat with a skipper. You could chew the humid air, but as we pushed out into the water I quickly felt it thin out from the tradewinds that met our little vessel. As we sailed further away from the island, the gentle waters became choppy, eventually becoming waves and even deeper white horses. We didn’t say much. Then again, there wasn’t much to be said. The ocean is what bound us. Looking back at the island becoming smaller, sinking under the horizon I began to feel that Jamaica had taken root under my skin while the sun baked the salt water on it above. It was a place that reminded me of something real but unsaid, tangible, amorphous and ethereal all at the same time. Jamaica felt human, unvarnished, and wild. From the day I came to Jamaica, I’d felt that things were always spiraling beyond my grasp, pulling me out of my comfort much like the wind was pulling my increasingly fragile feeling dinghy. More than once I thought I’d be flipped into the drink or at the very least lose my glasses as the cool waters whipped across my body and face. And just when I thought we’d gone too far, in an instant, the skipper turned us around and we made our way back towards land. I’m going to miss this place, I thought to myself.
Before I ever left the U.S, I had tried to construct, orchestrate, and otherwise micromanage an experience that wasn’t mine to do. Jamaica reminded me of that at every beat of the trip and of the old saying about making God laugh. Sometimes life, and for certain Jamaica, is better experienced than it is planned. It’s a lesson I took with me as I made my way back home, but not before the kind ladies at the duty-free shop offered me a sex juice aphrodisiac in the form of a drink called Magnum. It featured, rather comically, an ingredient called “vigorton”. They swooned as they talked loudly about how much they drank of it and how effective it was. The entire trip the Jamaicans I’d talked to were so reserved and stoic in some ways. Perhaps I’d been talking about the wrong things. Perhaps I hadn’t been listening. Maybe Jamaica wasn’t all that hard to grasp after all. It had been there all the while. All the locals wanted me to do was have a good time, to have some Bob Marley, a lot of drink and little love, and most of all show respect. They said as much, time and time again.
I might not have gotten it then, but I certainly get it now. So often along the trip, I was asked if I’d consider coming back to Jamaica, and each time I gave a perfunctory albeit half-hearted commitment to do so. It’s the same one we all give when making plans to visit lost acquaintances or anywhere that generally takes effort. Jamaica was a place that I never wanted to go but busted my ass to get it. I went on one of those all-inclusive deals that I cannot necessarily say I’d do again. It’s disney (small “d”) and that’s not necessarily the kind of connection I like to form with a destination. I enjoy traveling when it’s real, true, and most of all, wild. Jamaica, with its beautiful lands, delicious food, and frank yet earnest people, is all of those things and is a place I can’t wait to get back to. Yah-man.