Rochelle Knight is a medical doctor from Kingston, Jamaica with a love of travel and writing. She discovered these passions in medical school and found a way to fuse them by starting a local travel blog called Adventures from Elle in 2016.
Tell us about your travel blog, Adventures from Elle, and what do you enjoy about blogging?
I started Adventures from Elle because I fell in love with discovering Jamaica’s hidden gems, and wanted a platform to record these experiences for my own memories and to help future travelers. So far, I’ve visited and written about nearly one hundred places and there are still so many left on my list to visit. I enjoy the privilege of sharing stories about Jamaica with the world and showcasing the island’s off-the-beaten-path gems. Blogging also challenges me to hone my writing skills and encourages me to check off new places from my bucket list.
You recently wrote a book. Tell us about the book and why it is a must-read for having travel adventures in Jamaica?
Friends and strangers alike often reach out to me for ideas on where to visit, which gave me the idea of writing a travel guide. Sightsee Jamaica captures all the places I’ve visited and those still on my list in an easy-to-follow checklist, grouped by both parish and category. I’ve also included travel tips and covered special regions like the Blue Mountains and Cockpit Country. Sightsee Jamaica is a must-read because it’s one of the few Jamaican travel guides written by a local, and I’m sure even locals will learn about dozens of new places worth visiting. I hope the passion and research I’ve put into the book will inspire more Jamaicans to explore Yaad, and I hope foreigners will get a chance to explore Jamaica like a yaadie.
What is your best travel tip for traveling around Jamaica?
Ignore TLC’s advice and chase the waterfalls! Jamaica has a lot of porous limestone rock which allows our waterfalls to take on this sprawling cascade appearance. This makes them easy to climb, and they give a cold invigorating shower. Visit as many of them as possible, and enjoy the street food on your way to these waterfalls.
How do you balance being a doctor, blogger, and traveler?
It’s not easy, but I believe in work-life balance so I try to carve time for hobbies despite the long shifts and an average of three days off per month. For me, spending time in nature is therapeutic so I aim to take at least one day trip each month– even to a river not far from Kingston. Longer trips are reserved for vacation leave. I use light days at work or days off to publish new posts. Quite often, what ends up getting sacrificed is sleep. I’ve stayed up into the wee hours of the morning before just to finish a new blog post when I get a creative burst of energy. In short, I make time for writing and travel because both give me an opportunity to destress in a healthy way. It’s a delicate balance to strike but I’ve managed to make it work for nearly three years as a practicing physician, and even before then as a medical student.
What is your most notable mishap on one of your adventures traveling around Jamaica?
Before I got a car, several of my earlier trips were undertaken with public transport. The hidden gems I like to visit are located deep in the country, and one thing about rural Jamaica is that it’s notorious for unreliable public transport. I hiked to the lovely Kwame Falls from Robin’s Bay in St. Mary back in 2018– a four hour hike round trip. My friends and I got back to the Robin’s Bay village square at around 5pm and nearly couldn’t get a cab to Annotto Bay, where we’d need to catch a bus back to Kingston! A bartender in the community tried helping us out by calling the four taximen in the community, but only one answered. He kept saying “Soon Come!” until we nearly lost hope about reaching home that night. Thankfully, he eventually reached and we both got home safe and sound, albeit hours later than we’d planned to get home.
What off-the-beaten-path location in Jamaica would recommend?
I highly recommend visiting the Blue Mountain Peak, Jamaica’s highest point, at least once. It’s located at 2,256 metres (7,402 feet) above sea level, which makes the climate on the trail almost temperate with average temperatures of 10°C. The tree species and birds on the trail are seldom seen in any other corner of the island, and the views are absolutely beautiful. It’s an experience I think every Jamaican and visitor to Jamaica should have at least once. Also, the communities of the Upper Rio Grande Valley in Portland are a must-see for lovers of off-the-beaten-path travel. These lush thick rainforests are home to dozens of untouched waterfalls and loads of heritage, being home to the Windward Maroons of Jamaica. These communities include Ginger House, Cornwall Barracks, Comfort Castle, Nanny Town and Millbank.
What was your most amazing discovery traveling around Jamaica?
The diversity of Jamaican landscapes still blows me away. This tiny island manages to have majestic mountains, sweeping valleys, deep caves, sparkling blue lagoons, gorgeous waterfalls, long meandering rivers and postcard-perfect beaches. Also, I marvel at how quickly the cityscape vanishes on a road trip. You’ll end up in what looks like deep “country” mere minutes after leaving the city.
The one place outside of Jamaica you want to travel to in your lifetime?
I want to visit at least one of the world’s Seven Ancient Wonders. As an avid history lover, the remnants of an ancient civilization such as Machu Picchu in Peru, the Egyptian Pyramids or Chichen Itza in Mexico are places I must see at least once in my life.
Share with us a funny or interesting photo from one of your recent adventures and tell us the backstory?
On a visit to Hanover last year, I took a detour from my road trip after noticing some craft vendors and a sign which highlighted Jamaica’s heritage trail at the Tryall Estate. The craft vendors saw the interest my companion and I took in the area’s history and encouraged us to enter the property and see the waterwheel for ourselves. The waterwheel turned out much grander than expected, and I still marvel at the fact that so many bits of history are hidden across Jamaica in plain sight.
The street food that you must have in the Jamaican countryside is…
No road trip which passes through Middle Quarters, St. Elizabeth is complete without pepper shrimps. These gigantic red-hot shrimps are boiled and seasoned to perfection with Jamaican Scotch Bonnet pepper. Honourable mention goes to fresh coconut water straight from the tree.
A phrase you use far too often?
Like a stereotypical Jamaican, I use the phrase “No problem” far too often. However, this is the life I strive to have– irie and with zero problems, ha!
In a nutshell, your philosophy on travel is?
My philosophy on travel is sustainable tourism– try to leave the lightest carbon footprint you can and support local communities where possible. The fuel used and emissions generated from the transportation which makes travel possible is very damaging to the environment. Therefore, the least we can do is choose to travel with companies and stay at establishments which actively try to minimize their impact. We can play our part by not littering, taking part in beach clean-ups and trying not to harm animals and delicate ecosystems for our pleasure. We should also try to leave money in the hands of locals by supporting their art, shops, BnBs and restaurants. I believe tourism should be mutually beneficial for both tourists and the community.
Thanks for the interview. Any closing thoughts?
I’d encourage everyone to travel as often as possible, whether it is to explore your own home town or visiting far and distant lands. Most of us don’t know our own backyards as well as we think we do, and it’s not until we’re tasked with showing a foreigner around that we realize this. Travel is humbling. It teaches you to adapt to change, and to see life from a broader perspective. Also, travel can be adapted to most budgets. Local day trips are the most affordable trade-off for overseas vacations or long luxurious weekends. These are lessons I’m glad I learnt early and is a philosophy I often preach. Thanks again for having me!
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