Immersed in Jamaica
Wednesday, June 14th, 2017
Disclaimer: The trip was complimentary and comped by Jozu For Women. However, all opinions in this blog, social media posts and online reviews are solely our own.
Canna Luxury Tours is constantly on the look-out for new opportunities that benefit the cannabis community and our clients. One of the reasons we brought on Mia Voss as a Brand Ambassador for our team was her extensive experience as a Luxury Travel & Lifestyle Blogger. Mia learned of Jozu for Women, a travel agency & portal designed especially for women travelers during our trip to SXSW. Jozu had invited Mia to Jamaica for a VIP experience in Negril which included Tmrw.Tday, a cultural festival focusing on wellness, collaboration & personal growth. When Jozu learned of Canna Luxury Tours, they were intrigued with our concept and invited Founder, Charlie Stivers to come along as well to explore what many would consider the modern day, Motherland of Cannabis as well as potential business synergies between our two companies for future wellness & business tours.
In addition to Mia & Charlie, the group included entrepreneurs from around the world. Mainly consisting of female business owners, diverse in age, experience & industries. A perfect group to share our message about cannabis education, wellness, canna-investing & the rapidly growing industry. Among the attendees: Jennifer Selinger, Visual Journalist with Jennifer Selinger Productions, Katherine Lugo of Luka Cosmetics, Haley Woods & Mary Love with @GirlsLoveTravel, Julie Ross Godar of SheKnows, Samantha Regimbal of @TheBossyBabe and Jesreen Kaur with Jozu.
More about Jozu For Women: Jozu is the first of its kind platform that helps women explore, discover, book and experience travel better and safer. Founder, Stephenie Rodriguez has been deeply entrenched in the tech world for years and has not only brought her brainchild Jozu to life but she’s also created & maintained, Mighty Media Group, an award winning, integrated inbound marketing agency specializing in digital, mobile, social media communication and strategy. Another key member of the Jozu team is Franz Weathers, Co Founder & Chief Happiness Officer and a Jamaican native.
A little about Jamaica & our Irie Experience
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The heart & soul of Jamaica IS the Irie experience. Everyone urges you to slow down and enjoy. Even the internet can be a bit slow and seems to adopt the Jamaican culture of “relax & stay present”. Our weeklong adventure in Jamaica was definitely an Irie Experience: “the way you feel when you have no worries”
Divide & Conquer: Although traveling as a pair, Mia & Charlie went on separate expeditions to fully optimize their fact-finding time in Jamaica.
The trip began in Montego Bay (also known as Mobay) when the entire group flew in to be greeted by a Club Mobay representative. Club Mobay is a uniquely Jamaican, first class lounge experience. Jozu had promised a VIP experience and this was the first of many luxury touches.
Since Franz grew up in the area, he was the perfect tour guide for Charlie. They were also joined by Josh Mulrine, videographer & owner of Digital Content Studios. Josh flew in from Canberra, Australia to be a part of the JozuNegrilVIP experience!
Charlie, Franz & Josh visited the Rasta Indigenous Village. It is an authentic village full of their culture and lifestyle. It has 4 2-story bungalows that are minimal in the accommodations: basically mattresses and sheets on top of plywood. This is the perfect spot if you want to immerse yourself in the Rasta culture, diet and wellness.
Rastas are self-sustainable farmers with an emphasis on vegetables, herbs and (you guessed it) ganja. Music plays for their benefit but entertains all. Typically, visitors are dropped off at the nursey and hike through the knee high deep river and 10 min walk. During the first part of the trip, the island was drenched with tropical storms (which is typical of May) so the group drove to the farm directly because of the river flooding because the Rastas knew they were there to discuss business (rather than experience the typical tour). The Rastafari are excited to open their village to more tourism to help them grow. They expressed interest in bringing more equipment and resources to help them be more productive in their farming methods.
To truly understand the Rasta & Jamaican culture, it’s important to dig into the history of Ganja. As with the US, marijuana/ganja has been demonized for quite a while – we found a couple of great resources on Ganja & it’s connection to Jamaica:
The emergence of Rastafarian culture cemented the culture of cannabis in Jamaica. Rastafarians regularly use cannabis spiritually during ceremonies as a meditation aid. During “reasoning” sessions, Rastas gather to smoke the “holy herb” and discuss moral quandaries while passing the ganja clockwise around the circle. In times of war, the passing of the ganja is done counterclockwise to connect with “Jah,” the singular God that Rastas worship.
When you hear the term ‘ganja’, the first thing that comes to mind might be Rastafarianism. Rastafarianism is a religion that began in Jamaica in the 1930s, combining Protestant Christianity with mysticism and a pan-African political consciousness. Rastas use ganja (cannabis) as part of a spiritual, meditative practice. Interestingly, however, the word ‘ganja’ does not originate in the Caribbean. Rather, ‘ganja’ is of Sanskrit origin, an Old Indo-Aryan language from the Indian subcontinent.
Read more here: The Unexpected History of Ganja – BloomWellBend.com
In addition to the Rasta Indigenous, Franz and Charlie headed up the coast to Blue Fields to meet a Rastafari farmer that is also looking to grow his farm and tourism. He is very conversational and has had some worldly experiences with Peace Corps. Charlie showed up in a High Times t-shirt and he immediately shared his story of being featured in the magazine back in the early eighties. He mentioned he thought he still had the copy. Later in the afternoon he met up with the group at their next stop with an old, tattered magazine folded in half. Expecting to see a classic High Times mag, it was actually a High Life Magazine from Amsterdam written in Dutch.
During the first of the trip while Charlie was exploring, Mia and her group explored the island in Mini Coopers with Island Routes, an adventure company specializing in car tours. They experienced the best local spots which included an authentic Jerk Chicken spot, a coconut & beer stand, Ricks (hello cliff diving), Jimmy Buffets and the many sights & sounds between Montego Bay & Negril. The countryside is lush & lovely with light blue water splashing onto the cliffs.
We all met up in Negril at Country Country, where we stayed for the remainder of our visit. Nestled on 7 Mile Beach, Country Country has cottage/bungalow style accommodations & includes a pool, restaurant, bar & plenty of private beach. We absolutely LOVED this hotel – perfect for a group gathering. We all had our own balconies/porches in our respective bungalows so we could go off on our own for privacy & then also meet up, share, commune, drink wine & share each of our experiences during the trip. The dense foliage along the paths also created privacy & seclusion. The onsite pool was small but did the trick if you needed a break from the beach. The hotel also has a restaurant & bar – what else do you need? You can read Mia’s full review here.
For the rest of the week, we experienced so many adventures including:
Tmrw.Tday Culture Fest – This was a very well put together event, considering it was their first! It was wonderful to meet up with so many like-minded travelers & locals. Festivities included yoga & meditation sessions on the beach with various yogis, artists & vendors, and playing Dominoes with the locals. One of the highlights of the Culture Fest was meeting David Wolfe and his team. In addition, there were concerts (Protoje), classes and more. We didn’t participate as much with this event since Jozu treated us to so many great activities, but we do plan on talking with them further about TT18.
Sandy Haven Resort: Another lovely spot located on 7 Mile Beach – a well-appointed hotel, beach & restaurant. Sandy Haven is an exclusive boutique resort built in modern urban style set on the famous 7 miles white sand beach location of Negril with 35 units of luxury guest rooms and suites. We loved sitting down with the owner & manager and hear how they created an exclusive space on the beach and their passion & commitment to Negril, the community, their staff and clientele.
Rockhouse Hotel / The Rockhouse Restaurant & Bar, Negril, Jamaica – The restaurant has one of the best views & their food is fresh, local and amazing. We look forward to exploring this spot more in the future as the hotel has rooms with ladders that go right into the ocean! There were cliff jumpers to watch and you can swim to other platforms to jump in yourself. If you do go in the water, watch out for sea urchins!
Wine With Me, Jozu planned a “Little Black Dress” event at this lovely new wine bar & restaurant owned by Cecille Levee. Cecille and her husband Kevin are both power partners in the community and Kevin is one of the owner / operators of Hedonism II, located on the island. We were served amazing local food & dined with other Jamaican business leaders who drove from MoBay and Kingston to meet us – mainly all women who hold influential positions here and in other cities across Jamaica. It was a powerful room to be among these impressive women and hear their stories.
Hedonism II – Of course we had to visit once we met the Owners! Jozu planned a lovely dinner for us at the Resort. It’s quite a fabulous dining experience at HII – their Executive Chef and Executive Sous Chefs were both awarded the Best Cuisine Awards in Jamaica in 2016! Chief Pleasure Officer Michelle Facey and Lethan toured us around the facilities and we were incredibly impressed. It’s a very well-run establishment – incredibly professional. The grounds are quite sprawling & a perfect place for a vaykay for the lifestyle-minded. Yes, there were mirrors on the ceiling of the hotel room we toured. So of course, we had to take pics!
Travellers Beach Resort – A 7 Mile Beach quaint hotel that also has an educational giveback program called NEET aka Negril Education Environment Trust. Our group participated in painting brick blocks with the children onsite and also donated books. If you are Jamaica, you must stop by – it’s $10/person to paint a block and the funds help build their library.
Luna Sea Inn – Charlie & Franz toured this lovely inn which has 8 rooms and is located right on the shore. Amenities include a private beach, small pool and full service restaurant. Luna Sea is another example of a woman owned & managed business. Linda (the owner) and her VP, Heidi gave us a tour of the Inn which is an oasis!
Zimbali Retreats – One of the highlights of the week was a Farm-to-table dinner hosted by David Avocado Wolfe as part of the Culture Fest. It was held at Zimbali Retreats owned by Mark and his wife, a native Jamaican and practicing Rastafari. She and her staff are amazing cooks and David Wolfe treated us to one of his salad dressings made right before our eyes with fresh ingredients. This retreat is a bit tricky to get to but it’s a trip worth taking. A couple of miles up you see the sugar cane fields and farms. As the elevation changes you arrive at the Retreat. Huge double doors open up into a rustic and cozy wood finished villa with 3 bungalows, a wide open kitchen and nooks to visit and enjoy authentic Rastafari meals and an after dinner joint. Their countryside is full of medicinal foliage, cacao, water springs, and fruit trees.
Over dinner we were able to have close conversations with the owners, David Wolfe and his staff. We also met other local Jamaicans including a local female DJ as well as Sharon Feanny, a yogi based out of MoBay. She holds her own retreats and wellness sessions and often is a guest yogi at others’ events. We shared our excitement for the opportunities in Jamaica. Little did we know she was the instructor for the next morning’s yoga session!
The last day of our trip included a beach yoga session with Sharon which was a great way to cap off a weeklong journey of discovery and self care.
We hung out around the tmrw.tday base and enjoyed another meal featuring local fresh & tasty fare. This bowl was a little explosion of everything Rastafari. It was so good and filling. There was more fresh ingredients we already were fans of like jerk chicken, jack fruit, bread fruit, plantains and a few new ones included. And, of course, some of the local ganja.
The last afternoon closed with outdoor lecture session with another Rastafarian who talked about the cultural difficulties of the legal system and cannabis and the century old demonization of ganja. We also met up with Bali, a local business man as well as a local grower. All were approachable and shared their vision on local projects – GanjaLand and G Jam.
Our last night was spent with the group, sharing the stories of our week-long experience. We really were fortunate to be paired with such an amazing group of inspiring entrepreneurs from around the globe – all courtesy of Stephenie, Franz and Jozu. We look forward to partnering with them for future Jamaica tours.
Overall, we met an amazing array of people and experienced fun & unique adventures. Any traveler or someone who wants ganja experiences and culture peppered in to their visit to Jamaica, would cherish this trip as a part of memory-making, adventurous lifestyle.
A final note on Jozu: From the minute we stepped off the plane, Jozu made us feel like luxury travelers. Every single thing was taken care of from transportation to local sights & sounds. A gift bag at the hotel contained everything we needed including a baseball cap, sunblock, bug spray bracelets (super KEY item!), turn down gifts every night, local rum from Chris Blackwell, wine, and thoughtful gifts. We are excited to partner with Jozu for upcoming trips to Jamaica that immerse our clients in the Irie Experience.
Look for future Canna Luxury Tours in Jamaica in 2018!