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nythroughthelens: “ Surprises are almost always worth it! * This post was written by me through an activation with HireInfluence on behalf of Southwest Airlines. Although I received compensation for participating in the campaign, all thoughts and...


Surprises are almost always worth it!

* This post was written by me through an activation with HireInfluence on behalf of Southwest Airlines. Although I received compensation for participating in the campaign, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

It all started with a box that showed up in the mail with a message on it. 


The box was from with specific instructions to not open until December 2nd when I would find out where I would be traveling with Southwest Airlines for a mini-getaway. 

Do you know how hard it was to resist opening up a box that specifically is not meant to be opened until a certain date?

Very hard. 

But I did it. I waited. And on December 2nd I opened the box on a livestream,


and discovered a plethora of awesomeness like…


…a new pair of Rayban sunnies!


a handy travel water bottle, and most importantly


that I would be going to Montego Bay, Jamaica!

So exciting! I had never been to Jamaica so the prospect was extremely enchanting. I actually hadn’t realized that Southwest flew to a number of international locations prior to this so it was pretty cool to know that an airline I enjoyed immensely could get me to a fun tropical place like the island of Jamaica.

And so on December 12th, I took Southwest Airlines to Jamaica. 

My hotel room at had quite a lovely view:


I ended up spending the next day on an all-day adventure through the hills and mountains of Westmoreland Jamaica. A tip I always have for travelers is to get off the beaten path and explore the area you are visiting with a local:


And that’s what I did. Above is Oneil, my wonderful host who not only drove with me for hours on end but also told me what it was like to grow up in Jamaica. We stopped quite a bit to talk to people and enjoy the views of the lush inland area of the island. 

Our ultimate goal was to get to Negril for sunset. 

And we made it! Another tip I like to share is to let the day unfold without having too much planning. When the day started, we both wanted to see how far we would drive inland and see how we felt by the late afternoon. And spontaneously we decided to head to Negril to check out some beautiful sunset spots that Oneil knew about. 

This was what greeted us in Negril…


The sun was already low in the sky and we walked along the 7 mile stretch of beach to wait for the sunset. 

One other tip is to be patient and to let nature do its thing. Photography is an art form of patience and surprise. You never know what the sky will do, for example. 

We certainly did not know that the sky would go from how it looked above to this…


…in just a matter of a half-hour! 

It was one of the most memorable and beautiful sunsets I have ever experienced. 

I made sure to not skip out on drinking copious amounts of the local Jamaican coffee before I left the next day. Always make sure to find out what a place is known for and try out the local specialties. In this case, the coffee in Jamaica is some of the best in the world. 


Mmmmm. So good. 

I left Jamaica with many beautiful memories which is how I like to leave any destination I travel to. 

I would like to thank Southwest Airlines for this incredible opportunity and trip of a lifetime. It was a great experience and was fun to take everyone on my social media along with me for the journey (there was also a giveaway that I posted about in which was so fun too!). 

Hope you all have experiences as wonderful as the ones I had in Jamaica at some point in your traveling!

nythroughthelens: “ Cruise. That word sends a wave of ambivalence through the collective consciousness of probably 90% of people under the age of 40. At best, that wave of ambivalence is tempered by a hint of curiosity. At its worst, it’s accompanied...



That word sends a wave of ambivalence through the collective consciousness of probably 90% of people under the age of 40. 

At best, that wave of ambivalence is tempered by a hint of curiosity. At its worst, it’s accompanied by a roll of the eyes and/or mild disgust. 

It’s definitely not a form of travel I ever would have expected to enjoy. 

And yet, 2 weeks after my first cruise ever in my life, I am feeling none of the above emotions despite going through the entire spectrum of them prior to embarkation. 

I was asked to join the inaugural voyage of to the Dominican Republic earlier this year to share the experience of helping out local communities with my audience via my photography and while I was extremely skeptical, I also have spent the majority of my career embracing every opportunity to learn and grow. What better way to grow than to run head on into something I wasn’t comfortable with?

Fathom is a new cruise venture that deals in the realm of something called social impact travel. Rather than offering just the traditional cruise offerings every cruiser has come to know and love, Fathom provides a way to help out local communities on the ground. 

While I could just share a plethora of photos (which, who am I kidding? of course, I will do that anyway!), what I think speaks louder than the photos of this sort of experience are the series of snaps I did while I was on this cruise. .

Snapchat allows you to record video in 10 second segments and it’s pretty much a perfect travel companion since it’s very much the raw experience and thoughts that end up creating the story of each day. 

We left for the Dominican Republic aboard the ship called the Adonia from the port of Miami during a ridiculously stunning sunset…


We would spend a night and full day at sea on the way to the Dominican Republic. While at sea, there were various workshops aboard the ship that focused on education about the Dominican Republic, social entrepreneurship, social good, storytelling, among other topics. 

There were also other more typical cruise activities like dance classes (more about that later!).

Day 1 in the D.R. - Vivienne in the Library with a book…

Note 1: I did not photograph or video my first impact activity (I did end up Snapchatting my other impact activities ) which was teaching a household English in their home. The person I was assigned to teach was extremely shy and intimidated by the process (but quickly warmed up!!!) and the last thing I wanted to do was to intimidate her further by recording. 

The experience was humbling, wonderful, weird in all the best ways, and I learned quite a bit of Spanish as I taught English to my student and her neighbors. Fun!

Note 2: That’s right, I mentioned briefly that I read a book. This was due to the fact that wifi at sea was quite limited which had the effect of causing me to explore every nook and cranny of the ship leading me to the ship’s beautiful library. 

I am a voracious reader but I cannot remember the last time I was on a travel assignment where I lingered in a library and then took a book back to my room to read for the night. The library aboard the ship is absolutely incredible. It’s curated by the crew and the selection is literally one of the best I have seen. (for the curious, the book I read was Mary Roach’s Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (really good).

Note 3: If you watched the above, you will note my mention of dancing. Don’t worry, I literally talk about dancing in all the other stories too. That’s because I went to almost every dance class on the ship (I love to dance). :) Had so much fun!!!!!


Day 2 in the D.R. - Chocolate, Sunsets, 18 Year Old Rum

Note 1:  I snapchatted most of my experience helping out a women’s collective in Chocal, a factory and farm where chocolate is both grown and processed. Was fun and heart-filling to help increase their production. 

The women all run the entire production and their families help out. This has allowed them to live close to where they work (a rarity on the island) and has boosted their income potential.


Actual chocolate! We ate some of it. We also got to explore the chocolate plantation a bit after we helped the women’s collective. 


The people of the Dominican Republic are so incredibly warm and friendly.

Note 2: I spent the afternoon after the chocolate activity exploring some of the island which as you will have seen in the video above included a finely aged rum which tasted like whisky (I am a whisky lover so this was wonderful), a look at some very old amber minded on the island, a very old fort, and a very, very beautiful sunset. And I ended the night dancing. Of course!


Sunset in Puerta Plata.

The dusk that evening at Amber Cove, where Fathom docks while in the Dominican Republic, wasn’t so bad either…


I will share the rest of my experience later this week in Part 2 of this series where I will also share my overall thoughts on the pros and cons of the entire journey. 

Until next time…

(via nythroughthelens)