I'll Follow You Anywhere

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I created this blog post as a paid ambassador for Pepto Bismol. All opinions and advice are my own and I only work with companies I genuinely love and have used prior to being contacted.

Travel isn’t always easy as a vegetarian or vegan, and next to New Orleans, I expected Jamaica to be my most challenging destination yet. It’s literally a country that’s famous for its Jerk chicken, for oxtail and beef patties, for having some of the best fast food fried chicken in the world (no joke). I pictured myself living on watermelon slices and bread from the hotel’s daily buffet and that’s about it. But that’s fine right? Vacation diets are a thing?

As it did in almost every other way, Jamaica exceeded my expectations by a long shot when it came to food. Everywhere we went there were vegetarian options at the very least, and a lot of stops had vegan alternatives too! Yes, the staples are generally still meat-based, and vegetarianism isn’t always received with total welcome, but over my five days touring the country I found folks to be much more accommodating than expected.

Though meat is major, the many followers of the Rastafarian religion believes in following the Ital diet, which means a massive percentage of the population not only condemns meat, but many avoid dairy and other by-products too! Here’s how I ate my way through the week:

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1 // Look for local treasures.

There are a ton of amazing veggie staples growing fresh in Jamaica, like avocado, mango and coconuts to name a few, but there are also so many native fruits and veggies that I had never heard of! Look for Calilloo, callabash, okra, star apple, otaheite apple, bread fruit and more.

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2 // Don’t forget to pack Pepto Bismol!

It’s pretty common to experience unexpected upset stomachs while travelling in a new place with new food, and should you happen to end up feeling a bit off from eating spice or over-indulgencing, you’ll want to be prepared! At the first sign of an upset stomach, I fix it fast with Pepto. There’s nothing worse than spending a day on a sunny vacation locked inside in bed! The Pepto chewables are my favourite for trips because you can take them in your purse anywhere in case of emergency, and since they’re not a liquid they’re totally safe for carry on. After all, spicy new food shouldn’t spoil your fun!

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3 // Eat like a Rastafarian

Many Rastas follow a strict “Ital” diet, which means eating only plant based and meatless. A lot of the popular Jamaican restaurants off-resort will offer veggie options as a result, like the soy patties at Juici, which taste a LOT like their famous beef patties without the meat! Also keep your eye out for steamed vegetables, Jamaican curry dishes and corn on the cob.

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4 // Load up at salad bars

When you find veggies, eat veggies! There are days where you’ll be stuffing yourself with fresh produce, but there are also days where the only thing on offer is the fried Festival Bread. If there is a salad bar at your resort, go crazy! Get those greens in while you can so your body feels full and balanced.

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A few of my favourite places to eat and drink //

Scotchie’s – A local favourite for jerk bbq, order one of everything!!!
Juici Patties – With 2 veggie patty options this spot is a winner.
Rick’s Cafe – Get a veggie burger at the grill and watch the sunset.
Zimbali Farms – So many amazing vegan options, and cooking classes!

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Disclaimer: Pepto Bismol provides five-symptom relief of heartburn, indigestion, nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea. To ensure this product is right for you, always read and follow the label.

I'll Follow You Anywhere

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So I’ve already spent enough time talking about the traumatic things that happened while I was in Miami, but believe it or not there was a lot of good stuff too, and I think it’s about time we focus on all of that instead.
Miami is potentially the most pastel city I’ve ever been to, top 3 at the very least. The art deco architecture mixed with ice cream shades were totally drool-worthy every time I went out for a walk, and though the somewhat materialistic culture around South Beach wasn’t my really my vibe, the colourful eye candy around every corner outweighed the general population. The layout of this city is so interesting, with so much ocean around that the whole urban centre felt like one big beach party.

As predictable as it is, I loved Wynwood the very most (The colours! The snacks! The shopping!) but I found little pockets of magic in every neighbourhood I visited! Scroll down for my fill list of must-see spots, AND my photos from the Museum of Ice Cream Miami too!

RAOP Places in Miami //

The Salty Donut
Dreamer Coffee and Juice Bar
Mandolin Bistro
Mrs Mandolin
OTL
Basement Miami
Museum of Ice cream (closes May 13th!)
Lolo’s Surf Cantina
1-800 Lucky
Rainbow Lifeguard towers (all along the beaches of South Beach!)
Vous Church

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MUSEUM OF ICE CREAM:

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I'll Follow You Anywhere

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Antigua is a small island, and before I was invited to visit I can’t say I would have been able to point it out on a map. Famous for their massive annual sailing regatta and coral reefs, this beautiful Caribbean gem is the home of 365 beaches – literally a different one for each day of the year!

Caribbean travel is often considered to be a luxury market, out of reach for the average 20-something, which is why I was so thrilled to find out about Starfish Jolly Beach Resort.

Starfish Jolly Beach is a beautiful all inclusive with an expansive beach just steps away from your room and prices are really reasonable to boot. There are 4 on-site restaurants, bars around every corner, huge pools, and SO many pastel spots! If you’re looking for a vacation with a bustling urban city to explore Antigua likely isn’t for you, but if you’re hoping to relax on a beach and get some sun? Well, there are 365 beaches waiting for you and it’s almost always sunny (seriously).

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My days at the resort were filled with flowers, piña coladas and maybe the best massage of my life – we even went out sailing but sadly we missed the lessons. I was travelling with a handful of awesome girls and the resort welcomed us the first evening with a stunning dinner setup right on the beach. It actually felt like a honeymoon moment and if you’re travelling with a partner I highly suggest this romantic addition to your stay!

Outside the resort we took a Nexus tour, which usually isn’t my travel style (I like to live like a local whenever I can) but I had SO much fun! We went off-roading in an open jeep all over the island, then boarded a massive catamaran for snorkelling with an open bar and local fare to follow. That boat was one of the best days of my 2018 year so far – we danced our butts off, we jumped off the bow (port bow?) and the crew even created a special drink for only our group (some sort of sunrise rum punch magic that was VERY strong). If you’re interested, it was this tour option!

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Other than the tour there wasn’t a lot going on outside the resort with Antigua being such a small place, but we did take a walk to the grocery store just outside the Jolly Beach gates and stock up on Antiguan essentials like Susie’s Hot Sauce (hot tip – it’s way cheaper at the grocery store than a tourist shop!) I’ve also heard rumours of a donkey sanctuary and Stingray City where you can swim with the rays, but sadly we ran out of time.

My overall review? I loved everything about this trip, from the awesome group of girls I got to spend my days with to the crazy cute mint green wicker furniture in our hotel rooms at Starfish Jolly Beach. If you’re looking for an affordable stop in the sun with no worries in the world, this is your spot. Just don’t forget your sunscreen!

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I'll Follow You Anywhere

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It’s not often you get to go to a new place that you know so little about, and looking back I was pretty clueless about Jamaica. Of course I’ve met a lot of wonderful Jamaicans here in Toronto, tried a few patties at the few places with a veggie options and sipped rum punch (lots of rum punch), but when it comes to the geography, language and vibe of the country itself I sort of had my head in the sand. Air Transat invited me on a press trip just over a month ago and though the trip itself was only a couple weeks later I immediately agreed – after all, you guys know how I love saying yes to everything!

For a small island, Jamaica is more rich in beauty and culture than one can’t really imagine without being immersed in it themselves. The sun is SO hot, like the biggest warm hug you’ve ever felt wrapped around you 24/7, and even at night no jackets are needed. The stars are bright and beautiful from almost any vantage point, especially when you’re near the beach (which you basically always will be). Evenings are filled with reggae music blending perfectly with the sound of the ever-present crash of waves and sunrise seems to call thousands of birds from the jungle to a wake up call.

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Transat worked with the Jamaican Tourism Board to build out a go-go-go schedule for our time there, and I am so grateful so how much I got to see in just five days. I know I usually make a list of favourites, and don’t worry I’m going to do a whole separate post about what and where to eat as a vegetarian, but I thought it made the most sense here to go through a summary of the adventures day by day!

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Day 1 //

We arrived in Jamaica mid afternoon and all at once we were shedding our layers like snakes, revealing our pale winter skin beneath. We met Dwayne, our awesome driver for the week, and our amazing guide from the Jamaican Tourism board and headed to the hotel.

We stayed at the Royal Decameron Cornwall Beach and though it wasn’t outrageously luxurious, it was a truly wonderful experience from start to finish. We welcomed with fruit punch in pineapples, the rooms were impeccably clean and minimal, and the staff was out of this world friendly – I cannot sing their praises enough. Except that time they tried to rope me into a dance lesson on the way to the bar… not cool guys! In all seriousness though everyone was so friendly, kind and helpful. I felt welcomed, safe, and at home our entire stay.

After checking in we met for our first dinner buffet, which actually had a lot of vegetarian options like callaloo rice and spicy mixed veggies every night! A couple plates later (a second serving and a separate dessert plate is crucial at a buffet) and we were ready to head out to our first location: Rose Hall Great House.

In all honesty this attraction wasn’t my favourite – the history was interesting but the theatrics weren’t really in my wheelhouse. That said the *awesome* dive bar in the basement most certainly was! Aptly named Thursty Spirits, this spot had the best craft cocktails in town and the vibe/music/decor was killer (no pun intended). Whether you tour the spooky home at night or the daytime to visit the gorgeous gardens, make sure you stop by the basement bar for a couple glasses of witches brew, and don’t forget to tell them Alyssa sent you!

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Day 2 //

When we headed to the Martha Brae River to “raft” I had blow up boats and rapids in mind, but upon arrival it became clear that was NOT the case. In Jamaica rafting means drifting down a beautiful green river through the jungle on a handmade bamboo raft with a “captain” steering at the front (though if you have good balance you might be able to take over as captain with enough polite requests!) It was one of my favourite experiences on the entire trip and a must-see in my books. Don’t forget to stop for a rope swing on the way down and bring cash to tip your captain!

Switching gears from laid back to a bit more wild we drove to Hampden Estate for a rum tour, and my gosh, that rum was STRONG! If you make it out that was be wary of the Rum Fire – it will make your mouth burn for the rest of the day.

Last but not least we toured the historical town of Falmouth. A hub for cruise ships, this town has beautiful Georgian architecture, amazing fruit stands and good non-tourist shops to stock up on hot sauce and jerk seasoning (buy it here, not at the airport!)

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Day 3 //

We had a slightly later start on day three so I spent the morning shooting before heading out to Zimbali Retreats, an incredible organic farm complete with cooking school, yoga, tours and options to stay overnight! We wandered through bamboo forests, under banana trees and around cabbages, learning about this organic farm’s inspiring philosophies, like sharing more means growing more. After the tour (/hike) we returned to the kitchen for the most delicious meal of the whole trip and a cooking demo. I seriously could’ve stayed forever!

Next we drove to Negril’s Seven Mile Beach for margaritas, swimming, and some much-needed tanning time. I really loved this community, with all of its music, colours, and the hilarious rule “no building shall be taller than the tallest palm tree.”

We ended the day with sunset at Rick’s Cafe, named one of the very best places to watch the sun set in the whole world! There’s also a couple crazy fun cliffs to jump off, and you better believe I jumped from every single one!

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Day 4 //

The last day was meant to be mostly free, but we wanted to get out there and try some of the local foodie favourites! We went wild for Jerk at Scotchie’s and discussed the polarizing debate on who makes the best Jamaican Patties (Juici or Tastee?) before heading to our final attraction, Dunn’s River Falls. The Falls themselves were crazy beautiful and perfect for an afternoon dip, plus we got to zipline over them! It was my first time ever on a zipline and by the end I was convinced I need to pick up doing zip treks on my own. SUCH a fun way to get around!

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Day 5 //

I woke up early for some final swimming and beach lounging before we headed to the airport to say our goodbyes. It was pretty tough to part ways not only with such a special country, but with each other too. At least we had our Option Plus upgrade to get us through the line ups crazy quick amongst our tears! Also, don’t skip out on the in-flight chef’s meals by Daniel Vézina – I generally avoid airplane food at all costs but the Orzo dish was so delicious! Exactly the kind of comfort food I was craving on the journey home.

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I have a feeling I’ll be back in Jamaica REALLY soon – what did I miss?!

Special thanks to Air Transat, Visit Jamaica and Decameron Hotels for being such amazing hosts!

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I'll Follow You Anywhere

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I have had a bit of an obsession with all things Mexico for SO many years, yet somehow I hadn’t taken the leap and booked myself a trip. I always admired my late grandmother’s treasures from her travels, the bright blankets and wicker baskets, and only in recent years did I start to recognize they were all Mexican artisan goods from her trips. The only time I got to visit was for a wedding with my family years ago at an all-inclusive in the middle of nowhere (in an area where the waves were too big to swim no less!) and it didn’t feel like Mexico, it felt like a weird bubble of America moved to a warmer place. That was my first and last all-resort vacation!

When the offer to join a friend on her family vacation to Sayulita with her Mom and Grandma came up, I said yes immediately – after all, I had a 2017 goal to say yes to any trip I was invited on! Plus, I’d heard amazing things about Sayulita, a surfer’s heaven hidden deep in the jungle outside Puerto Vallarta, and I was pretty desperate to see it for myself.

It’s hard to put this amazing little village into words – it’s so small but there is SO much life and colour! Picture a paradise where you walk around in a bikini, margarita in hand and sun beaming down on your face, occasionally stopping for the BEST FOOD EVER, and you’re picturing Sayulita – and it doesn’t stop there. On top of the best Huevos Rancheros you will ever taste, this town has a truly inspiring crafts community and the friendliest people you could ever come by. I immediately felt right at home and within the first day we’d established a group of “friends” that we bumped into all week. There’s a ton of vegetarian friendly fare, the dogs run wild but they all have owners and the local shelter does free spay and neutering, and most restaurants don’t use straws in an effort to keep plastic out of the ocean. I felt so lucky to be able to share in such a magical place, to connect with so many locals and fellow travellers and dance under the stars almost every single night to live music. I get a smile on my face just thinking about it.

From surfing (/falling a lot) with my amazing friends at Sayulita Cruz Surf Camp to spending all my money at Evoke The Spirit, I ended up with a way bigger guide to this tiny village than I ever thought possible, and I’m thrilled to share it with you!

Scroll down for my full list!

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Where to Shop //

Evoke The Spirit
Manyana
Révolucion del Sueño
Mura Bags
Pom Pom Market! This is right near the bridge in the middle of town and you can’t miss it.

Where to Surf //

There are a ton of surf schools in Sayulita, but none come close to Sayulita Cruz Surf Camp in my books. Some of my very best days were spent on day trips to empty beaches in their surf van, and though I’m FAR from any good I definitely got better with their help. I can’t wait to get back and hit the waves with them again!

Where to Eat //

Choco Banana
Mary’s Tacos
La esperanza surf cafe
KM 5 Surf Bar
Barracuda
Blue Corn Mama Cafe
Wakika Paletas

Where to Dance & Drink //

Don Pato’s
Atico Breakfast Cafe
Palmar Trapiche
Frente al Punto

Where to Stay //

Hotel Vista Oceana (right on the beach)
El Pueblito De Sayulita (amazing pool!)

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Jo and I are already planning to go back in the Fall for Halloween! What did I miss on this first trip?