Last week I was fortunate enough to travel on a press trip to Jamaica. I have done a number of these trips over the years and they are usually a mix of amazing and super busy with a back-to-back itinerary packed full at an exotic location for just a few short days.
But this trip was exceptional in one way; the people.
I had the privilege of spending my days with eight other female writers, women from across Canada and the US. Add another 2 women from the PR agency and 1 from Jamaica Tourism Board and we were 12 women together in a bus. The potential for conversation was endless!
Traveling with 11 people you don't know can be intimidating. In some groups you may find one or two people you connect with or no one at all but rarely do you find camaraderie amongst the whole group. With this group we did.
I mean, how often does anyone get the opportunity to travel with a group of strangers consisting of 12 cool and diverse women? It rarely happens.
We had a fabulous time together. Daily I had the opportunity to learn about each of them and was inspired by their strength and drive. Being in each other's constant company I was reminded that, beneath the surface, we all have a story to tell. And tell them we did!
At the beginning of our trip we supported one of our fellow travellers as she faced her fears and swam with the dolphins.
Facing fears with the support of new friends at Dolphin Cove in Negril.
I cooked and danced and laughed with the seriously friendly staff at Beaches, Negril and this wonderful group of women laughed along with me (or was it at me...). We missed our kids together as we slid down the water slides in Beaches' Pirate Island water park and marched in the Sesame Street parade quietly fighting over our favourite characters.
Getting to know the gang from Sesame Street at Beaches, Negril.
As a few of us swallowed up Gravol in the hopes of avoiding sea sickness we embarked on a great ocean adventure. We boarded the Island Route Tours catamaran clad only in our bathing suits and took off on a wavy and wonderful ride anchoring in front of the well known cliff diving (a few in our group took the plunge) and hang out spot of Rick's Cafe.
Lounging at Rick's with a view of the cliffs.
The press group on the bus where a lot of our conversations happened.
Things really took a turn toward the girlfriend-ish when our group arrived at the luxurious Half Moon, A Rock Resort. This spot truly is paradise with 400 acres of pristine gardens and beachfront, breathtaking views and a peaceful, relaxing vibe. As we explored other areas of Jamaica we had pockets of time to enjoy Half Moon. I could have hung out here with this group for weeks.
The main beach at Half Moon.
One of my favourite things to do when I travel is check out the spa - I seriously had one of the best massages I have ever had at Beaches in Negril. Heaven.
The spa at Half Moon is called The Fern Tree Spa. It is the largest on the island of Jamaica and probably the most beautiful I have seen. It was seriously the definition of serenity and visitors to the resort have access to the facilities within the spa whether you treat yourself to one of their services or not.
One of the pools at The Fern Tree Spa.
An outdoor bath amongst the trees and flowers.
There was a lot of laughter on this trip but what I valued the most was getting to know each of these women. Listening to others, when we are open to hearing what they have to say, can be both humbling and inspiring and this was certainly the case with this group. Each accomplished in her own way with valuable life experience, I learned so much.
So, what does all of this boil down to? For me? The power of women. In a spectacularly beautiful environment I was given the gift of getting to know a group of women I would have otherwise never had the privilege of meeting. I got to spend 4 packed days listening to their stories, laughing and learning from them. What I thought would be just another press trip turned out to be the beginning of some amazing new friendships.
Have you ever been surprised to find friendship in an unexpected place?