Love Not Likes: Jamaica’s First Blogger and Influencer Trip
Love Not Likes: Jamaica’s First Blogger and Influencer Trip
A few weeks ago. June 9th to be exact. I had the privilege and the pleasure to go on my very first brand-sponsored, influencer-centered outing in Jamaica. The Love Not Likes Jamaica curated experience is the first of its kind to be held in the country and I was excited to be a part of its inaugural trip. The Love Not Likes community and event is the brain child of digital marketer and story teller Kesi Gardner (creator of the 73 Vogue-Inspired Questions tag); as a way to foster the relationship and bridge the gap between brands and local bloggers and micro-influencers in an effort to promote growth within the two groups.
The idea of the Love Not Likes excursion and experience is to cultivate a network of collaborators and influencers whose ability to capture audiences has become the new benchmark for marketing in the modern world. While at the same time, showcasing to brands the untapped potential and market that lay dormant in the local talent pool of creators. And this day of fun, creativity and forming bonds of friendship and collaboration was the beginning of what would be a pivoting event in the arena of marketing in Jamaica.
This sponsored experience saw myself and 17 other Jamaican bloggers, vloggers, influencers and photographers making the scenic trip from the hustling and bustling streets of Kingston to one of my absolute favourite; and arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world; the parish of Portland. We ventured out for the day of excursion with a vision of developing new friendships and bonds of collaboration, spewing our creativity and doing what content creators love to do most… create new content. With the added mission of creating fresh and engaging content for not only ourselves but also the brands who believed in the beauty of our visions. It had truly been a very long time since I’ve witnessed so much talent in one place and I was here for all of it.
The feeling of excitement and a bit of anxiety permeated through the air as I made my way to the meetup point. It could have been the combination of limited sleep (I had been working the night shift for 24 hours prior and only got off at 8 am and went straight to the meeting spot); nervous energy to the meeting new people and piqued interest of the trip ahead. Can you imagine being on a bus ride with predominantly strangers for over two hours. It was like the Jamaican re-incarnation of the popular TV series ‘The Real World’ and ‘Road Rules’ that came on MTV. “This is the true story, of eighteen strangers, picked to go on a trip, drive in a bus for 2.5 hours, work together, and have their lives taped/create content. Find out what happens, when people stop being polite, and start getting real… The Real World- Portland, Jamaica!” Duhn Duhn Duuuuuuuuuuuuhnnnnnnnn!!!..... You know back in the day when reality TV was a bit more ‘REAL’ and not as scripted as it is today. But, I digress.
Truth be told, I was a bit familiar with a few of the bloggers on the trip from social media and real world interactions. For example if you remember Jhunelle from Simplylocal.life and I went on my blogger road trip last year with Rochelle from Adventures from Elle to Breadnut Valley Falls, St. Elizabeth. Also fortunately for me, my first day of school; will they/won’t they like me jitters were put to ease once I stepped onto our bus which was provided by one of our sponsors, Harmony Tours. The relaxing 30 seat bus housed a group of amazing people that had the vibes and friendliness to make anyone feel welcome to the party. I just want to use this opportunity to send a special shout out to our driver Michael who got us to and from our destinations safe and sound.
We started our journey with a little get to know you session where we were introduced to our travel companions for the day. As well as we received our gifts from our sponsors.
Our major event sponsor was the Those Creative People (TCP) brand who gifted all the travelers with their own beach bag/ tote. Prior to the event, we were given the opportunity to choose our bag design from the extensive TCP beach bag collection. Their most popular bag seems to be the “one bag ah tings” one but I opted to select the “Jetsetta” tote.
The first thing that struck me about the bag was that it was stunningly chic. The bag was an off-white/cream coloured tote with the word ‘Jetsetta’ written in a black type font. The bag was excellent quality. It felt light weight to easily maneuver about the place but also impressively sturdy. Literally, the perfect everyday tote or beach trip bag for the trendy gal. #Hotgirlsummer is definitely keeping with this summer (although it’s also perfect for year-long use) staple.
Within the tote were our other gifted items for our different sponsors. It was like receiving a loot bag at a birthday party or a swag bag at an award ceremony. So many cool trinkets and surprises inside. London Tipton voice ‘Yay me!’
My personal favourite was from The Label Snob who gifted us with cups that was personalized with each blogger’s/influencer’s handle on it. Yes ya’ll I am officially #branded. Not only was it cuuuuuuuuuute, it was also very functional as the libations started flowing a plenty. Drinks anyone?
We also received a Jamaica round towel which will be a beach staple for my beach trips #visitjamaica; Herboo Botanicals Body Oil because the good body should never be parched and glistening is a must; a pair of Ipanema sandals/ flip flops from Sunfactory Jamaica because no beach day or outfit is complete without cute shoes and a fan created by Sharmacgraphics.
Our wanga guts and hungry bellies were kept filled by the National Baking Company who provided snacks a plenty to satisfy the hungry belly throughout our trip to and from. And thirst was never an issue as our sponsors CPJ Ltd and Worthy Park Estate kept the drinks going with Glinter, Lifespan spring water and Rumbar rum cream, rum and vodka alcohol and with this heat whoo whee they were much needed. Many lives were definitely saved lol.
What’s on the itinerary?
Our excursion itinerary for the day included stops to the Monkey Island, Blue Lagoon and Frenchman’s Cove where we would finally end the day and settle down for lunch. Along the way, we also made tiny impromptu stops as inspiration struck and creative energy flowed. The ‘rest’ stops included one at the Castleton Botanical Gardens which is where the feature photo was taken; and another stop at Trident Castle where more of our captured memories were snapped. The excitement that was already brewing form the moments we received our gifted items from our event sponsors was now coming to fruition and appeared increasingly tangible the close we got to our scheduled destinations.
The Monkey Island Experience
Our first official stop took us to the alluring Monkey Island which we made our way to via boat across the Blue Lagoon. For those of you who don’t know, Jamaica is not only a country, it is really an archipelago (that is an extensive group, chain or collection of islands). In fact, Jamaica is the main landmass of a 28-island archipelago, most of which are along the south coast. And Monkey Island (also called Pellew Island) is one of the more popular islands off the Jamaica’s south coast that is open to visitors.
Once we arrived at the Blue Lagoon, we were split into 2 groups and traveled across the open water via boats to Monkey Island. There’s nothing more freeing than smelling the richness of the salt water and feeling the gentle touch of the cool breeze caressing your skin as you make the trip across the ocean. It was both exhilarating and calming at the same time.
After a short journey, we soon arrived ashore and it was time to get down to business while still enjoying our day out. The name island may bring images of a massive landscape, however, Monkey island is pretty tiny. Or, at least only a tiny part is utilized. I haven’t earned my merit badge yet so there was no wondering off into the forest for closer looks. The main focus of Monkey island is its small sandy beach with canopy of trees shadowing it, and a rope swing dangling from a tree branch. The shallow waters are just perfect for a relaxing dip.
The scenic backdrop created the perfect setting for our pictures. Lush foliage and turquoise crystal pools of water set the mood for what have become the some of our most stunning captures. Content creation at its finest went underway. Pictures and video, professional and novice, devices of all shapes and sizes were whipped out to snap and shoot. All the while staying connected and sharing our journey with those not with us on the trip.
We were able to maintain our connections to the outside world, as well as keep our respective audiences up to date with our adventures all thanks to the support of Digicel Jamaica who gifted its prepaid bloggers with the 28-Day Nuff Social Data and Unlimited Talk plan. They were definitely the G.O.A.T. at maintaining our link to our supporters with our real time posts, insta stories and the occasional boomerang. Signal never drop once!!!
Being on a time crunch meant that we had to have our filming sessions interspersed with our play time. Because all work and no play makes for a dull experience. And then it was sadly time to go back to the mainland. But not until we got a proper tour of the Blue Lagoon.
One of Jamaica’s most prized attractions, the Blue Lagoon was once known as the Blue Hole. But due to the popularity of the Brooke Shields’ movie, The Blue Lagoon, a name change went underway. The natural azure has been its most captivating feature for decades. The water is rumored to have a bit of magic to it, as the color changes throughout the day, depending upon the way the sun shines upon the surface. When you first arrive, the water can look turquoise but you may notice that during your boat ride, the water changes to a deeper sapphire or even royal blue.
Our trip around the lagoon saw our boat captain sprouting a myriad of facts about the lagoon and the aquatic life that inhabits it. We were even visited by a few sea turtles along the way who popped their heads up to peak out at who was disturbing their waters.
When we returned back to shore, it was time to return to the bus and head to our next destination.
Just a note: There isn’t any changing area by the Blue Lagoon so it’s best to walk with swimwear already on to limit having to make all kind of maneuvers to get changed and not expose your body. (Unless you’re into that kind of thing; in that case let your freak flag fly).
The final stop on our Portland road trip saw us heading to Frenchman’s Cove. #SundayFunday was in full swing at Frenchman’s Cove because the place was pretty full. Our driver even had to park outside because the inside parking was filled to capacity. This 42 acre resort villa is praised to have one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Finely milled, white, powdery sand that feels soothing between the toes; encasing a clear blue water. An interesting and unique feature at Frenchman’s Cove is that the river flows right into the ocean. Creating a small area of brackish water. There are also swings spread throughout the river where the tall or the stronger of us can hop on and take instagram worthy pictures. I’d just like to say the #swingistoodamnhigh and is not short girl friendly. And after moments of struggling to get on the swing, I threw in the towel and improvised.
Before we resumed out photo shoot, we needed to refuel so we grabbed a quick lunch by the beach’s onsite restaurant. The food was pretty much an everyday tourist menu that had jerk chicken, fish and burgers with side orders of rice, festival, bammy, fries, etc. It wasn’t anything to truly phone home about. And the service was pretty slow. But it hit the spot and filled our tummies. I got the cheese burger and fries with an orange juice I believe.
Once we were full and focused, we were back to the shoot. Only this time it was a race against time to get the best light before the sun set. Even though the beach was filled with patrons, it was scattered enough that we still had space to work with.
The photo shoot went really well and pretty quickly. I guess after Monkey island, we were all pros at this time. :D After the last photo was taken, we spend the day winding down and enjoying what was another fabulous day at the beach. Soaking up the sunshine and swimming in the tranquil blue. All before heading back to our bus for the journey back home.
Overall, I had an amazing time on this trip. I met new and interesting people. I explored new, alluring places. And I created absolutely fabulous content. All while having a splendid time. Sounds like the perfect day to me.
I just want to take this time to thank all the sponsors who supported this trip. Your love, your support and your belief is the driving force behind taking creatives to the next level and we appreciate you for it. Your place as a part of this journey shall forever be stamped in history.
I also want to shout out the spectacular eyes behind the lenses who were able to produce breathtakingly gorgeous photographs. The visionaries MDW Media, Darlington Jones Imagery, Rocket Visions and our eyes in the sky who provided beautiful aerial shots, Kemar Royal @livelikekem.