Miami, Florida 

I got off the plane in Fort Lauderdale and went to passport control. The officer asked a million questions about Jamaica, looked at all of the stamps in my passport then asked “how do you afford to travel so much, what do you do for work?”. My response of “I worked in a call centre and I’m just careful with my money” was not believable enough. Weird. I got sent to get my case searched and the guy ripped the lining inside to check there was nothing suspicious planted. RIP my case. After it was determined I wasn’t actually a drug mule, I was free to go.

I took an Uber to South Beach and my driver was called Donald. He was an absolute riot. He barely spoke English but used Google translate on his phone every time I said something he didn’t understand. After 5 minutes of me trying to understand his question about a balloon costume I realised he meant swimsuit. Haha. He blasted some reggaeton music and started having a dance party in the car. What a guy. 

I met my friend Vivian at our hostel and we were both so tired so just relaxed for the day at the beach.

On Friday we met up with my first ever travel blogger friend, Jen, who lives here. We went to Surfcomber hotel by the beach and spent the day swimming again. I got sunburned and ended up looking like Rudolph, damnit.

Surfcomber hotel
Being photobombed by Max from Catfish

At night we went on a bar crawl which was wild. We were chilling in the first bar having a few casual drinks until our group left to go to the bar’s other room. The music was blaring, there were stripper poles and it was packed. This girl came out and started dancing in her underwear. People (guys and girls) were throwing dollars at her and guys kept touching her when she was dancing. Hate to be a party pooper but I honestly felt like I was going to cry because I know how dark that industry is. 

After we left that bar we went to the fire and ice bar which was so freaking cool (lol). They gave us giant fur coats and I felt like an old school pimp. 

We got two extremely annoying roommates from Spain who have woken me up around 675 times in the past few days. They were kinda creepy so I told them we were 16 and they haven’t talked to us since. I’m pretty passive when it comes to confrontation but Vivian just tells them to shut up when they’re being noisy. Haha. Travelling with her has been funny because she has absolutely no filter. We got new room mates the other day and because they were brown she immediately asked if they were from India. They gave us a dirty look and said “Egypt” then she realised how racist that was. Oops. 

We decided to extend our stay in Miami so I’ll be here until I go back to Scotland next week. Part 2 coming soon.


My Weekend in Kingston

I took the bus to Kingston on Saturday morning with an Argentinian guy, Alvaro, who I met at my hostel in Montego Bay. We took the local bus which doesn’t have a schedule and just goes once it’s full. Really full. Adam from our hostel walked us to the station and spoke in Patois to tell the driver we didn’t want a private bus. “No man no wan fi charter”. Something along those lines ha ha (soz). We were the last two to get on and the driver pointed to a space the size of my hand and said “sit there”. I sat on a tiny stool in the middle of the aisle with a cushion on the back in between two men. I spent the first 10 minutes of the journey just laughing at the situation. Then my ass got numb. One of the guys sitting beside me was trying to make sure I was comfortable and had enough space. We talked most of the way there and exchanged numbers. We got dropped off in downtown Kingston in the pouring rain then Alvaro and I took a taxi to the Reggae hostel where he was staying that night. I waited there until my Couchsurfing host came to pick me up. Read more about that absolute riot here

After I escaped the Couchsurfing mad house I went back to the Reggae hostel and booked 2 nights there. But before that, I spent the day at the beach with the two Colombian girls. We took a taxi and asked the driver to take us to the beach. After half an hour we arrived at some dirty looking river and when we said this wasn’t where we wanted to be we were suddenly surrounded by 4 guys at the car windows trying to convince us to stay. He finally took us to the actual beach and we asked him if he could pick us up again in a few hours. Instead of leaving and coming back he came to the beach with us, went swimming and then tried to flirt with one of the girls whilst in the water. Good times.

When I got to my hostel at night I went straight to my room and slept for 12 hours. The next day I wasn’t really sure what to do until the hostel owner asked if I’d like one of his friends, Sunny, to show me around. Sunny took me around the streets and it was nice to experience real Jamaica instead of a touristy version like Montego Bay is. People in Kingston are way friendlier too. Except one guy who came and stood right in front of me, took a picture of my face then walked away. I assume it was because I’m white haha. Sunny and I bought custard apples from one of the street stalls and fresh coconuts from another, sat in a park for a while chatting then headed home.

Later that day I met a really lovely guy called Jamieson who lives in Kingston. He took me to a place called Devon House to get ice cream. Obviously 5 year old me couldn’t eat it as fast as it was melting and I ended up in an absolute state. I had ice cream running down my arms, on my legs, my bag and all over the bench we sat on. The scoop of ice cream was massive too which wasn’t helping the situation. Jamieson had to get me two separate lots of emergency napkins then a cup to put it in. So bloody embarrassing. After I had a mini shower in the bathroom sink, he took me up the hills to a viewpoint where you could see the whole city, just as the sun was setting. It was so pretty. 

We took some pictures with his drone then drove to some more viewpoints. By this point it was dark and all the stars were out. So fab. We ended the night at a quiet little outdoor bar where we drank rum and Jamieson tried to get me to dance with him to Despacito. Denied.

The next day I had to leave to go back to Montego Bay for my flight. I got in touch with my friend, Brian, from the bus and it just so happened he was going back home to Montego Bay that day. I got on the bus with him and this time got a seat right up front near the driver. After the 3 hour journey Brian invited me to his place so I didn’t have to pay for another full night at the hostel as I’d be leaving at 3am for my flight. His house was like an absolute mansion compared to the places I’d been staying in. He let me shower and nap there and his friend picked me up and took me to the airport. Super kind. That’s what I mean about not letting one bad experience destroy your trust- a lot of people really are lovely and want to help without asking anything in return. 

Although my trip to Kingston started pretty badly I am so glad I didn’t let it deter me. The last two days in Jamaica totally made my whole trip and I made memories that I will never forget. I’m on the flight to Florida right now where I will spend the next two weeks before heading home. I’m sure there will be many shenanigans to follow.


My First Couchsurfing Experience 

So I couchsurfed for the first time this week and unfortunately it wasnt the best experience. The guy tried to get with me, I felt really uncomfortable and had to leave 2 days earlier than I planned. 

I almost feel embarrassed to write this post. I didn’t want to write it because I feel anyone who reads it will be thinking “what did you expect?” but I want other girls who may be thinking of Couchsurfing alone to be aware. And I’m not going to let this experience put me off- I know there are many people on Couchsurfing who are kind and genuine. I refuse to stop trusting all men just because of a few shitty ones.

I came across this guy’s profile and it stood out to me because he ran a learning centre from his home. I love kids and teaching so I thought it would be a great experience. He had more reviews than the women I was considering asking to stay with so I thought this was the safer option. I checked all of his reviews and made sure the profiles of the reviewers were legit. They were mostly from European females travelling alone but they had all said he was friendly and a great host. I don’t know if they had hooked up with him and therefore didn’t care or if he had only tried it with me. He quickly accepted my request to stay for 3 nights. 

After waiting for 2 hours he finally arrived to pick me up (on foot) at my friend’s hostel. He was pretty normal other than the fact he spoke so highly about himself. Nothing wrong with a bit of self love but I lost count of how many times he ended a sentence with “and that’s why I’m so amazing/talented” or “and that’s why everyone loves me”. Cringe. He listed his skills to me and I almost felt like I was on a prank show. He told me he was the best at pretty much anything you can think of. Dancing, producing music, playing music, football, teaching…you name it.

He took me to his mum’s house as “it was closer and nicer than his workplace and he wanted to get me out of the rain”. I later realised why he did this. His mum is currently living in the USA but his brother was living at the other side of the house with his wife and 3 kids. The brother opened the gate for us, said “evening” without making eye contact, then walked away. The wife saw me and gave me the dirtiest look I have ever seen in my life. Good start. We walked to the market to get some vegetables for dinner and I found out he was also the best cook in Kingston. Who knew? There were goats running around everywhere, causing riots at the food stalls and I got stared at even more than usual. We got back and he cooked me the Jamaican fruit ackee (looks like mini brains, tastes like nothing) with some other stuff. He also gave me some “ghetto juice” which was sugar mixed with water. It was gross so I took one sip and left the rest.

Pretty normal(ish) so far. He told me he had to go away to pick up some other couchsurfers and I would get to meet them in about 1 hour. This was at 7pm. By midnight he still wasn’t back so I went to sleep on the dirty bed, using my bag as a pillow. At 2am he came in and woke me up to tell me he was back. Great, thanks. The other couchsurfers were nowhere to be seen and he told me he’d taken them to stay at his workplace downtown (which is where I was meant to be staying too). 

Then he suddenly starts declaring his undying love for me. He wants to marry me and move to Scotland and was going to miss me so much when I’m gone. Yup. I told him he didn’t even know me and I didn’t come for that, I just wanted us to be friends. And I wanted to sleep. No problem he says. Queue the 967 attempts at trying to kiss/touch me and me telling him no. Each time he would say “Ok I understand”, then try it again a minute later. He said he had never been with a white girl before and that was his dream. I was getting so pissed off and I stood up and shouted at him. I gave him a huge lecture about Couchsurfing not being for hook-ups and if he wanted that he should use a dating site. I told him I came to stay so I could feel safe in a place where I didn’t know anyone but now I felt more unsafe than ever. He immediately started apologising and didn’t try anything again. He said “usually women say no but they actually mean yes and I thought that’s what you were doing”. I can’t even tell you how much that infuriated me but I could tell he genuinely believed that. I was still too scared to sleep but I couldn’t leave in the middle of the night in such a dangerous place. I was completely reliant on him and had to act like everything was fine otherwise I’d be lost in the middle of nowhere.

The next morning after about 30 mins of sleep I packed up my stuff to go. I couldn’t shower as the house had no running water so I felt pretty gross. I told him I was going to stay at the hostel to see my friend before he left. My friend wasn’t even there anymore but I didn’t want him to try to convince me not to leave his place. He said he would take me there but first took me downtown to meet the other couchsurfers at his workplace. I saw there was plenty of space for me there so he had obviously taken me to his parents place so we were alone together. Creepy. On the way there this guy asked if Couchsurfing guy was my boyfriend and I mistakenly said no. He decided he liked me and I sat for about 5 minutes telling him I wasn’t interested but he kept bothering me. Couchsurfing guy said to him once “don’t disrespect her she said no” and he left straight away. I wanted to punch them both. To be fair, Couchsurfing guy did keep saying he learned a lesson from me so here’s hoping. Still gona report him though. 

Obviously it’s Jamaica and I knew it wasn’t going to be very comfortable but here’s where I would’ve been staying if I stayed another 2 nights…

The two other couchsurfers were girls from Colombia who were about the same age as me. The first thing I did was tell them what happened the night before. One of them told me it had happened to her both times she had couchsurfed on her own but never when she was with another girl. That was so depressing to me but they weren’t even phased. They’re still there now. I ended up spending the day with them even though he was still there too because I felt safer being with other girls. When he took me to the hostel at night I had to play along with all of his invitations to go party and explore with them in the coming days. I told him I’d text him…

Luckily I’m safe and comfortable at my hostel now. There’s a big security gate with cameras so you can’t get in unless you’re staying here. I’m just glad I’m alive and well and that the outcome wasn’t much worse. Just another lesson to learn from! 

Jamaica Pt 2 (Fiona don’t kill me)

My first few days in Montego Bay have been fun. I’ve spent lots of time at the beach which is so beautiful.

I ventured out alone for the first time on Monday afternoon when I walked home from the beach. It wasn’t completely crazy but definitely not your average walk home. Two men followed me along the road for 10 minutes as soon as I left the beach. I was scared at first but soon realised they were pretty harmless and just making friendly conversation. When they left and I got to the main square downtown it was chaos. SO busy. I felt like an alien as I walked through the crowds, trying to avoid getting hit by one of the many maniac drivers. Everyone was staring at me, shouting “whitey” and there were kids who had just came out of school trying to walk faster so they could keep up with me and look at my face. 

I wasn’t too intimidated by this as I’d experienced something similar in Ghana and Cambodia, just never on my own. But then I got lost (obviously) and got to a part of downtown where there were loads of policemen, one who had a huge gun. I asked a woman which way I needed to go before I got myself into trouble. She gave me directions and told me “be very careful”. Thankfully I made it home in one piece. I definitely wasn’t gona be doing that in the dark so I spent my evening at the hostel. Everyone else left today so right now it’s just me and one other guy in my room. I don’t know his name or where he’s from and I don’t think he understands me. He just smiles and nods whenever I ask him anything so that’s great.  

There was torrential rain all day today which meant I’d done nothing except nap and read. I didn’t feel like staying home all evening too and I couldn’t do anything with smile and nod guy. So I used Couchsurfing again to make a friend named Ricardo. Couchsurfing is pretty safe because you go by recommendations from other users who have met/ stayed with the person before. It’s a great way to see a place from a local’s perspective too. I’ve made a couple of really good friends using Couchsurfing although I’ve never actually used it to stay with anyone. 

Ricardo came to my hostel to meet me and we went to go to a bar nearby. He was really friendly and about 7ft tall. Like the BFG. When we got there, the bar was closed so we sat outside a corner shop at the side of the road where there was a gathering of people listening to music. The shop was tiny and in the middle of nowhere but had a full bar inside which was bizarre. We got some rum and coke in a little plastic cup and sat outside with about 20 other people who were smoking weed and listening to 90s RnB. I know how dangerous it sounds for me to be there with a bunch of strangers but I felt totally at ease. Vibes don’t lie and I always trust my gut. 

I was introduced to a few of Ricardo’s friends and they were really cool. They all made me feel safe and welcome. They taught me some Jamaican slang words (bumbaclat is all I remember, lol) so obvs I taught them some Scottish words too. Hearing “Och iye the noo” in a Jamaican accent was too good. I felt like I was 15 again drinking on the streets… except I was the only white person there. I felt like the cash me ousside girl and I kept laughing to myself thinking about my mum’s reaction if she saw me there. If you’re reading this, soz babes. I was home safe by 8.30pm.

I plan to go to Kingston at the weekend although I’ve nothing set in stone yet. I’ve heard it’s a bit dirty and not worth seeing but I’m interested in helping out at a school there which I read about on Couchsurfing. I’ll just take it day by day and see what happens. 

As I write this a mouse just ran past my feet into one of the rooms and all I can say is thank god for the top bunk. Time for bed.

I’m in Jamaica!

I’m forever telling people not to listen to the media/others and to go see a country for themselves- most places are safe if you use common sense. But when a guy I know asked why I was afraid to go to Jamaica I realised I was being a hypocrite. So last week, when I saw a cheap flight from Montreal to Montego Bay, I thought let’s do this. This is the conversation I had with my mum when I told her…

I landed at the airport around 1pm yesterday. After some serious questioning from the immigrations officer, I was ushered into one of the side rooms when I said I hadn’t booked my return flight yet. I was scared I was going to get deported or fined or something and sat there worrying for 5 minutes until she came back. She just told me I had to book my onward flight which I did then she let me go. They were super friendly about it too. Thank god. 

So off I went to collect my baggage. I waited… and waited… then the carousel stopped. My bag wasn’t there. I thought to myself “not again” but tried not to panic. Thankfully when I went to the Westjet desk to tell them, my case was there waiting for me. Phew. 

I then went in search for a taxi. My hostel sent an email prior to my arrival giving me various options for transportation to get there. I decided I’d take a shared taxi as it was the cheapest at 100 Jamaican dollars (about $1 US). I was warned I was likely to be told a higher price but I should pay no more than 100 JMD. I asked an airport worker where I could find these shared taxis- he told me he’d call one for me and it would cost $600 because I’m a tourist. He actually said that, haha. I told him it was too much so he said “go wait over there then” and walked away. I asked someone else and he stopped one for me. The driver told me it was $150 but accepted my offer of $100 without too much of a fight. I felt proud of myself as haggling is so not my thing. I got into a minibus full of Jamaicans and felt like a local as I handed over my $100 with everyone else. 

I got dropped off in a part of downtown which was terrifying. It was really rough and dirty. Everyone was staring at me and I felt extremely vulnerable walking up the street on my own with a massive suitcase, especially as a 16-year-old-looking white female. I had no idea which way I had to walk to my hostel (neither did the taxi driver) so I had no choice but to ask the men staring at me. They pointed me to the street I needed (after asking if I wanted them to take me there in their car) but didn’t know of the hostel. I kept walking and thank my lucky stars it was only 2 minutes away. However, the front gate was locked and there was no buzzer. Shit.

I couldn’t use my UK phone to call them so I just stood there waiting for a while (and freaking out) until a random guy came over. He started banging on the gate and shouting to get attention from inside but there was no answer so he left. After about 5 minutes this little sweetheart old man asked if I was ok and as soon as he came over I felt safe. He called the hostel to tell them I was waiting at the gate. 

The owner, Adam, came round to get me and as I looked around the hostel grounds I really felt like I was in Ghana again. When inside though, it was the cutest little house which had two private rooms and 1 dorm room. Adam made me feel so welcome and introduced me to the two guys who would be my new roommates- one from England and the other from Arizona. I’m also sharing with two older women who arrived later. As the hostel is so small, everyone is like a family which I love so much. The guys immediately invited me to the beach so we took the 20 minute walk there. Within an hour of arriving I was snorkelling at Doctors Cave beach around lots of beautiful coral and fish. What a life.

We stayed there until sunset then went to eat at this side-of-the-road restaurant that the guys loved. I ate chicken for the first time in 10 months because I really wanted to try jerk chicken. I had it with “festival” which is a deep fried dumpling thing that tastes like churros. After that we went back to the hostel to change so we could go out for drinks. I showered then passed out at 9pm because I was so tired so I didn’t make it to the bar. Classic me.

We’ve been offered weed by almost every man we pass and I’ve already had two marriage proposals but the guys aren’t pushy at all like they are in other countries I’ve been to. Whilst I still wouldn’t be walking around after dark if I was alone, so far it is so much safer than I expected. I’m glad I came here and got to see what it’s like for myself. I’m so excited for the next 10 days! 

Living in the French-Canadian Countryside AKA Jungle

Two weeks ago I arrived in a tiny little village called Charette, in Quebec. I briefly mentioned this in my last post but as my life is a series of hilarious/unfortunate events, I thought it’d be fun to write about what actually happened. 

This whole work-exchange thing was organised by a website called HelpX (read more here). After a few emails back and forth I decided I’d stay with a couple named Sarah and Bruce and their two girls, aged 2 and 4. Sarah picked me up from my friend’s house at around 10pm on the day we agreed and after some awkward car chat we arrived at their little house with the big red roof. In the middle of the forest. 

In the pouring rain and pitch black, we took my bags inside and I was introduced to Bruce, not before tripping over a bloody FROG at the front door. Whilst they were extremely lovely and kind, it was really awkward talking to them. I was super tired and I could tell they were a bit uncomfortable having a stranger in their home. I went to bed  with approximately 6785 new mosquito bites, listening to the wildlife outside and wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into.

The next day was spent with the cat, Chamomile, as the kids were at daycare and the parents at work. Not gona lie- I was terrified. I felt like I was in a horror movie, sitting in a little wooden house in the forest during a thunderstorm. I’d managed to befriend and offend Chamomile in the space of a few hours after accidentally kicking her on my way downstairs with an arm full of laundry. For about two days after, she ran for her life every time she saw me and I found myself talking to her out loud- telling her not to be so dramatic because it was just an accident, jees.

The evening soon rolled round and I had human company again- the children and their grandma, who spoke no English. Awkward. I was under the impression the kids spoke English when I applied to help but they only knew a couple of words. I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t communicate with them and I wanted to leave because it was so uncomfortable. 

I received this note the next morning and decided I should stay..

That night the 4 year old asked me (via her dad) to take her for a walk and she ended up taking me to her grandad’s house. I didn’t know whose house it was when she walked inside but I couldn’t stop her because she didn’t understand me. Her grandad also spoke only French and must have been wondering who the hell this strange girl was with his granddaughter. I just stood there awkwardly for a while trying to communicate with hand signals before he gave us some candy and we left. 

By the end of the first week, I felt a bit more comfortable and had a new 4 year old best friend. We had absolutely no clue what the other was saying (other than when she would say “come on Chloe” in her little French accent) but I soon realised that you can say anything to someone who doesn’t understand you and they’ll be happy, as long as you smile and act enthusiastic when saying it. We spent most evenings playing together with her baby sister. 

When I volunteered in Cambodia a few years ago, one of the other volunteers kept saying that “love has no language” and I genuinely just thought she was a psycho but as cheesy as it is, I understand what she meant now. I didn’t expect such a bond to be built with these two children without conversation but I’m so happy to have experienced that. And hearing the eldest repeat things I’d said to her in English was so freakin’ cute. She showed me her princess dress one day and I told her it was beautiful. Two seconds later she put her arms around her little sister, kissed her cheek and said “beautiful”.

I didn’t want to go outside much for the first week because of the mosquitos- it was like the bloody Mexican jungle out there. Also because Bruce told me that bears live in the forest. After convincing me it’d be very rare to see a bear in June, he gave me this so I could go for a walk free from mosquitos:

I somehow still managed to get bitten so I was walking around looking like a damn bee keeper for nothing. The next day I ditched the mosquito coat when I went for a bike ride, thinking I was smart for wearing a long t-shirt and leggings.

Wrong. Bloody sweating. It was such a sunny day and I was too hot after about 0.4 seconds of cycling. I got to the railway crossing before turning back and stopping for a little break. Obviously I chose to break right outside the wildest dog in the village’s house. I couldn’t see it but could hear it barking ferociously and I have never been so scared in my life. I’d conveniently stopped at the bottom of the hill and I was surprised at how much I still struggled to cycle up it despite being faced with potential DEATH. After that escapade I took my sweaty self straight back to the house and told myself not to be so frivolous next time.

Wild beasts aside, I felt weirdly emotional when getting ready to leave Charette. Although I got bored on my own sometimes, it was nice to take a break from city life and relax. A lot. And it was nice to just roll around looking like an absolute scarecrow without caring what anyone thought. I also got to see what day-to-day parenthood was like and all I can say is I am not ready for my own kids yet. Chaos. I now have so much more respect for my mum raising 3 kids alone at my age (omg) as well as for Sarah and Bruce who are such dedicated parents. I’m going to miss their two crazy girls.

I’m glad I stuck it out because I’ve gained some happy memories, got over my fear of cats and learned a few French phrases. And I spent absolutely no money whilst there which is a bonus. I can definitely add the last two weeks to my (extremely long) list of unusual experiences. What a trip.

My First Experience With Help X

When I first considered using a work exchange website, I scoured the internet looking for other bloggers who had used them. I wanted to know what to expect and whether or not the sites were worth the money. The 3 main work exchange websites I know of are Work Away, WWOOF International (farm work) and Help X. 

I’d met so many Germans in Canada who were travelling super cheap by working on farms in exchange for food and accommodation. Whilst it sounded like a good concept, I didn’t really see myself feeding baby goats or cleaning up horse poop for fun. So that ruled WWOOFing out. I opted to sign up for Help X as it was slightly cheaper and had more hosts in the countries I wanted to visit. My Help X membership was ¬£18 for a full year.

I was interested in helping in homes rather than farms and I particularly wanted to work with children as that’s what I have experience with. Whilst the Help X website is pretty outdated, I was easily able to select which area I wanted to work in and see what type of work was available there. A lot of the hosts on the site are looking for help on their farms but there are many who just want basic household help. There are also opportunities to work in hostels, on boats and more.

I got chatting to a French-Canadian family and decided I wanted to work for them. I was concerned about safety and whether or not it was legit but the family had some reviews on site from previous helpers so I didn’t worry too much. You can read about my experience at their home here

The work they asked of me was very easy- all I had to do was clean, cook and help put the children to bed, which only took a couple of hours each day. I felt my work was very appreciated and they let me work on my own schedule- as long as the work got done. I was allowed to eat whatever and whenever I wanted from their kitchen. I know that I got a very relaxed host family and I’m thankful for that. Make sure you arrange what you’ll be doing and how many hours you’ll be working before you go. I heard some awful stories from other travellers about having to pick up sticks for 5 hours a day (?) or being treated like slaves. I’m glad I got it super easy.

I didn’t spend a single penny whilst there which was my aim and I was pretty pleased with that. At the same time though, I didn’t really do very much either other than hang around by the house. I spent a lot of my days alone as the parents were working and the kids at daycare. 

Often the help is needed in very remote areas where there’s not much to do. It was great for saving money and getting to know a new culture but honestly, I wouldn’t be in a rush to do it again. I felt I was just passing time there rather than “travelling” or living life to the fullest. If I was to do it again, I’d go for one in or near a city/busier area so I could go exploring when I wasn’t working. 

If you’re looking to learn new skills or save some money I’d definitely recommend using Help X. There are lots of different types of work options available and in my experience it was very safe, straight-forward and reliable. It definitely makes for an interesting travel experience and is a great way to get to know people around the world.