Saint Mary Jamaica - Where me come from
St. Mary Parish - Jamaica - My Roots circa

My Story: How I Caught The Travel Bug

You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that, I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.

Maya Angelou

Catching The Travel Bug

Now, I don’t really know how I caught the “Travel Bug” or if that is even a thing or what you call it.  As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved to explore and have always been curious to learn new things.

I would often get in trouble for taking the long walk home from school, going through the woods, or taking the high road.  On so many occasions, I wandered off the path my mom instructed me to take home and I still don’t know why I couldn’t follow those simple instructions.

I wonder now if it is some genetic mutation in my DNA because my mom traveled with me while I was in her womb.

Okay, that may be a little extreme, but who really knows?

I’d like to share with you a little bit more about my past and how this passion for traveling has shaped me and continues to motivate me.

I believe it’s a passion that has enriched my life, in so many ways.  I hope that maybe this will cause you to reflect on your own passions and inspire you to prioritize them and not put them off.

As soon as I learned to ride a bike which was pretty late, it opened up a new world for me and every day was a new adventure.  

My passion for travel started early and it still continues to motivate me.  I think it should be a priority for everyone on this planet to leave their home country for an extended stay in a different culture at least once before the age of 30.

Childhood Travel Bug Experiences and Family Influence

I was born and raised in the United States of America, but because my parents are from the beautiful little island of Jamaica, I spent many summers and Easter vacations (Spring Breaks) in Jamaica.

My elders and cousins raised me with Jamaican culture at home and I assimilated to American culture in New Jersey for most of my early years and later South Florida beginning in the early ’80s.  

The drastic differences in the lifestyle that I knew in the U.S. compared to rural Jamaica, I think fostered a passion for traveling and learning about other ways of life.

I was naturally curious and loved exploring so much.

I remember sharing a “What I Did Last Summer.” project once in my first week of 3rd grade.  

With a mildly tattered tourist map of Jamaica, I explained to my bewildered classmates about a faraway island called Jamaica.

Keep in mind this was sometime in the late 70’s.  In my class, I shared about my relatives whom I lived with for the summer like Aunt Ine and Mas Doogie (short for Dougal).  

Uncle Doogie had a large black and white school bus that was converted for public transportation and that’s how he would make a living during the day.

Writing Early and Identifying with my Heritage

At this time in the 1970s as far as I can remember my Uncle Joe lived in Annotto Bay, my Uncle Desmond and Aunt Carmen lived in Kingston, and Uncle “Fuzzy” lived up in the mountains of St. Mary.

My uncles drove me to many places all over the island from Ocho Rios to Spanish Town.  

When I was with Uncle Joe I had to keep a journal and he would often test me on what new things I learned about the island.

I do not remember if it was Uncle Joe or my mother that encouraged me to write the journal.  I am guessing that maybe they recognized my interest in reading and writing, and were probably encouraging me to write about my experiences.  

I was only 7 years old on that particular trip, so I don’t know.

I wasn’t always so proud of my heritage.  

As a young teenager, in the predominantly “White” South Florida suburb that I lived in, I never mentioned to my friends that I was Jamaican.  The subject rarely came up.  

But then they would hear my parents speak, ask me where my parents came from because they had funny accents.  

Funny, that I wasn’t even aware that my parents, spoke differently until my friends pointed it out. Sometimes I’d get a little defensive, insisting that they sounded just like everyone else.

As a result, I think in my early teens and pre-teen years, I didn’t want any of my American friends to know my family was from another country. 

It wasn’t till a summer trip to England, where I developed a deeper pride in my Jamaican roots. 

Yeah, it took a trip to the U.K., not Jamaica!

Music/Cultural Influences from Traveling

I can’t write about my travel experiences this time, without mentioning the effect that music has made on the experience. 

I am not sure this is the same for other travel junkies, like me, but for some reason, many of my travels have been paired with a soundtrack or narrative that practically seals the memories in, so they’re never forgotten. 

For me, I can almost always relate my particularly favorite songs with a unique place or experience.

Maybe I caught the Travel Bug in London in 1986.

In the summer of 1986, my parents sent me to London, England to spend the summer with my Uncle “Busha, Aunt Kayla, and my cousins Karla and Robbie.  

It was that summer, when I think I developed a greater appreciation for traveling and the excitement of it.

I was only fifteen years old and, my older cousin, Robbie, escorted me all over London late into the night, almost every night. 

Robbie shared with me some of the late-night cultures of places in South London, and the one place that I remember most and that always stood out to me was a place called Brixton.

Brixton

Brixton is a well-known African-Caribbean community, where many Jamaicans live.

Through the 80s and 90s, it developed a reputation for drugs, gun crime, and gang activity.  However, in recent years, it has seen some gentrification or regeneration, which has caused higher rents, making housing less affordable and an influx of wealthier residents with no connection to the diverse and multicultural community. 

There have been protests against this redevelopment, (Brixton Anti-Gentrification Protests 2015)  I am not sure where it stands now, but it is an extraordinary and unique community I would love to revisit. 

The last time I was there was in 2008 and Robbie once again, showed me a great time at a few of the late-night reggae clubs there.

Based on this recent visit from Passport Heavy’s Jubril Agoro, Brixton is definitely worth a visit if you are in London.


Carnival and the Sleng Teng Riddim 1986

I experienced my first Carnival in Notting Hill that summer from another relative’s home on the same street where the entire parade passed through.

These relatives in Notting Hill had a loud sound system set up in front of their flat on the sidewalk and they were blasting Soca and Reggae Rhythms all afternoon but the one that stood out the most was the “Sleng Teng Riddim” (rhythm).

They played that Sleng Teng “riddim” repeatedly while manipulating the volume control at the same time to give it an offbeat staccato effect.  

With that loop, they could “toast” over or what we would call “rap” in the United States.

Seriously.  Little did I know how influential this style was or how legendary it would become over the years.

Here is an example of how deejays would “toast” over reggae rhythms featuring one of the greats of that time…Brigadier Jerry.  

(Sleng Teng Riddim begins at 1:40)

The summer of 1986 that I spent in England with my family was an extremely influential moment that sealed my love for traveling.

My Uncle Busha escorted me around typically during the day with my little cousin Karla to all of the famous landmarks of London, such as the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Parliament, Trafalgar Square, and more while making sure I got some historical trivia.  

At night, my older cousin Robbie showed me all of the nightlife of London, well as much as he could considering I was only 15 years old at the time. He would have me wear dress shirts and sport coats that kind of helped, since I was already about 6’1″ at that time.

I have many fond memories of that trip, but one highlight came before I boarded my return flight to Miami, and it was when my uncle recognized the reggae band Steel Pulse that was boarding the same flight with me and asked them if they would keep an eye on me.

I had no idea at that time who they were, but it was a memorable trip going through security and customs with a band of long-dreadlocked Rastafarians in the eighties.  They later became one of my favorite bands throughout my teen years, college, and even now.

Here is my favorite song from Steel Pulse and whenever I hear this song it helps my mood and makes me feel so much better.  

Try listening to it.  You’ll see what I mean.


Missions Trip to Mexico – Inspiration and Compassion – 1993

and spend time with the children and do outreaches in the community. That included a juvenile detention center and an extremely impoverished town in the desert outside of Juarez. Life-changing to say the least.

Surfing and Skateboarding – More Reasons to Travel

Surfing is a source. It’ll change your life.

– Movie: Point Break -Kid in Surf Shop.

Surf Trips To Exotic Places

Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica 1996

Playa Avellanes, Costa Rica - 1996

 

Skateboarding Anywhere I Could
Skateboarding as an Adult - 2009
Legendary Kona Skatepark – Jacksonville, Floirda – I finally visited it in my late 30’s ~ Circa 2009
Skateboarding As A Teenager - 1980s
CIrca 1987
Snowboarding U.S. and Canada
Snowboarding in Utah -Park City
Living with the Travel Bug
Somewhere outside the city of Juarez, Mexico
Author and Website Designer | Website | + posts

Brian Dennis is a full-time software engineer, some-time traveler and location-independent entrepreneur.

Chasing his passions in addition to travel in recent years has become a little challenging but even more fulfilling with his wife Betina and 1-year old son Divine.

Currently he is located in S. Florida and continues to share what he's learned with travel tips, guides and some motivating inspiration to encourage others to do more and experience more outside of their comfort zones.

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