5 Best Things to Do in Aruba

What to Pack, See, Do in Aruba

When traveling to the One Happy Island there are a few things you need to know.

  1. On your Departing Flight you will want to arrive at the airport 3-4 hours early. You will go through local AND U.S. customs in Aruba before boarding your flight home.
  2. While Aruba is very developed and you can use your credit/debit card in lots of places, dealing in cash is quicker and much more convenient. Yes, they take U.S dollars.
  3. Aruba is actually one of the safest Caribbean islands in more than one way. It is rated as a Level 1 on the Travel Advisory. This just means to use normal precautions while traveling. Also, it is located south of the hurricane belt which means, no hurricanes! Well, very rarely anyways. The last one was a Level 2 in 2007 that caused minor damage.

Just like every travel destination, there are several MUST DO experiences in Aruba! We have set out to give you a guide to help you plan your own trip to the Happy Island!

5 Things You MUST See and Do in Aruba

1. Hit Up the Beaches!

              The beaches in Aruba are bar none better than any beach we have ever been to. In our last post we talked a little about Eagle Beach and Baby Beach, but we really wanted to make a special note that you should definitely carve out time during your stay to lie on any beach and soak in the sun.

  We recommend Eagle Beach for soft sifted sand and beautifully clear water. Some days, the waves were pretty exciting. There were only very strong swimmers out at these times when the waves began to pick up. This is the beach where our room was located. If it hadn’t been for our exploring minds, we could have easily lounged on this beach the entire week not seeking for anything else. It has everything a perfect beach day could offer. While the beach is hot, of course, Aruba’s wind makes being outside all day very comfortable.

  Baby Beach, located on the southern end of the island in San Nicolas, AKA Chocolate City, is a beautiful lagoon for shallow snorkeling and easy swimming.This is a perfect place for children, hence the name Baby Beach. Big Mama Grill is located on the end where you can purchase food or rent chairs and snorkel equipment. We decided to simply lay out towels under a mangrove of trees and spend most of our time in the water. There is a spot farther out away from the lagoon that has a warning sign for strong swimmers only. Of course, Hilary had to check it out with her snorkel gear. There were tons of tropical fish so close she could reach out and touch them.

2. Take an ATV Tour Through the Desert

               We booked an ATV tour with KiniKini Tours that allowed us to see several signature spots in Aruba. We loaded up on the ATV’s, which you can ride single rider or double, and we recommend that you ride single. We started riding through the town on paved roads admiring the homes and everyday life. However, once you get into the desert, the ride is rough and dusty. This only added to the thrill for us, but with two riders it can become uncomfortable after a while. You will also want a bandana or a cloth face shield of some sort to keep the dust out of all your lovely orifices. We purchased ours for 15 bucks a piece! Save yourself some money and bring one from home! Also, make sure you wear something you don’t mind getting dirty.

 On our tour we got to visit a Catholic chapel on the hill still in use, an old Gold Mill ruin, a natural land bridge, and a natural pool! All of the spots were interesting and beautiful in their own way. Unexpectedly, the views between the rides were just as pleasing. To the right, desert landscape full of cacti. To the left, cliffs with waves crashing. It was simply stunning. The highlight of the tour was absolutely the Natural Pool. After walking down what seemed like 300 steps, you come to a clearing. Just behind slippery rocks that you have to climb over and slide yourself into the pool. The current was strong here, as well. The pool is surrounded by huge bouldering rocks that are blocking huge crashing waves. This was worth the work to get here.

 We decide to swim over to the very distant edge to get an Insta worthy pic. About that time, the biggest wave of the day crashes over the rocks and onto our heads submerging us underwater. Off we go! The current takes us on a wild ride, when the second biggest wave of the day hits us. It certainly gave us quite the thrill and certainly no Instagram worthy picture for us. Back up the 300 steps we go!

3. Tour Oranjestad

Oranjestad is this lovely island’s capital city, and it is where you will fly in and out of Aruba. We spent one morning walking around the city. We found it to be unique because of the mix of cultures which include the indigenous people of the island, Spanish, Africans, and Dutch, just to name a few. The architecture is all different, as well, with touches of Dutch flavor since they are a country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. There are tons of places to stop and eat. We saw food trucks, restaurants on the water,  and elegant fine dining. We could do an entire post about food. As a matter of fact, we will. Also, a variety of shopping is everywhere. We stopped at the local markets and browsed the high end retailers. Our favorite store: the local grocery store.

Transportation to explore consist of rental cars, cabs, and the trolley. We decided to walk, but the trolley would have been a nice option. It is free, after all, and begins at the cruise ship terminal at 10:00 AM. It runs downtown, and the doubledecker offers great views.

4. Explore Chocolate City

 As we have mentioned above, San Nicolas is on the southeastern portion of the island. The locals of the city have nicknamed it Chocolate City because they are proud of who they are and where they come from, and rightfully so. This city will fill your artistic and eclectic soul with culture and appreciation of the roots in Aruba. This is where our friend, Jermaine, is from. Had it not been for him, we would have had no idea what San Nicolas is all about. With that said, if you visit here, we ask to please be respectful and courteous as this is not a very touristy location. This is where people live and celebrate their everyday life. It’s a colorful, vibrant place with restaurants and art galleries to wander into.

Strolling around downtown, the first thing that stood out to us were the murals. OH MY GOODNESS, THE MURALS! The buildings are covered with the most beautiful realistic paintings. They are all spray painted by the locals. Truly, jaw dropping skills here.

We can’t forget to mention San Nicolas is also home to one of the best Carnival celebrations in the world! This takes place around the time of Ash Wednesday usually in February or March. But, if you can’t make it at that time, they also have festivals every Thursday night in the months June through December. This consist of everything from food to crafts to performers to just plain culture.

We would like to state, we headed home before dark, ‘nuff said. That was just our judgement call.

5. Nightlife

After spending the day on the beach, or exploring nature, or wandering through an artsy city you might want to get cleaned up and go out on the town. We try to try out the night life everywhere we go, like we have mentioned before, we have exploring minds and just had to find out what was out there! There is a section called the High Rise area. There are restaurants, places to hang out, and laid back bars located here. We began walking the J.E. Irausquin Boulevard in Palm Beach where we found this lovely food boutique named, Picnic. This place was gorgeous. We quickly became friends with the bartenders there. They were so friendly and answered any questions we had about their life in Aruba and then some. After some time there, we were ready for some dancing. Our new friends sent us over to Gusto Night Club Aruba.

We passed a lot of interesting places you could dip into if you wanted, but our dancing shoes were on. We pushed forward to Gusto’s. This was our place. They had an inside bar with air conditioning that played Caribbean Dance music mixed with American rap. The room opened to the front area that was covered but felt like you were more outside. We danced, we laughed, we experienced.

Aruba was a place of fun and friends for us two cousins. It hit all of our travel senses: relaxation, adventure, culture, art, excitement, and food. Stay tuned for our next post: The Tastes of Aruba!

One Happy Island

Some would say that the happiest place in the world would be Walt Disney World, but Aruba may argue it’s actually their 69 square mile island! Known as “One Happy Island”, the desert like landscape makes for a great playground! We were granted the opportunity to travel with some friends on this trip. We have traveled just us two, with all of our immediate family, and now we are extending our traveling posse to some friends. The more the merrier! Come one, Come all, to the Hilary and Rachel travelling extravaganza! A condo with Hilary and Rachel and Caitlyn and Matthew and Shelby and Zach is bound to look like a circus moved to town.

We want to start this post by saying that no matter where you are in the world, surrounding yourself with good people is the key. We had a blast spending a week with these folks. Some old friends met some new friends, and we all enjoyed spending our days and nights on the island together. While we think everyone should travel by themselves on occasion, getting to share the experiences and creating memories together builds a lifetime bond! Obviously, traveling with a larger group makes things like going potty or getting all showered up for dinner a little more tricky (que Mr. RUN MC here), but it was nothing a little poo pourri and paper rock scissors couldn’t handle.

We started the week on the Happy Island by checking out the condo! We were perfectly located on the edge of Eagle Beach. Check out our view from the image above. We were proudly told by locals, Eagle Beach just so happens to be ranked in the top 3 best beaches in the world! RIGHTFULLY SO!  The beach was sifted soft sand. Where the waves washed and crashed, the sand felt almost like memory foam as your feet sank into the wet sand. Then, once you submerge yourself into the blue water, it’s almost like a looking glass. Standing in chest deep water you could easily count all ten toes! Pristinely clear, it allowed for an easy going mind knowing that you could visualize the sea monsters if they decided to swim anywhere close by. However, the whole week we never saw any underwater animals here on Eagle Beach. It made floating and frailing and swimming very relaxing!

We also made our way to a local beach on the other side of the island called Baby Beach. Baby beach has all the snorkeling! The water is much calmer here, and the fruity colored fish love all the corals and reefs! The beach has beautiful mangroves that provide the perfect shade. You can also rent tents, chairs, and snorkeling gear during the day. It is about a forty dollar taxi ride from where we were on the opposite side of the island in Oranjestad, but lucky for us we got to make more than one trip there because we were graced with the presence of a friend from home who had all the connections. Our friend Jermaine, whom we have hung out with a ton in the states, actually grew up in Aruba. He took the time to fly on down, visit with his family, and made it his mission to ensure we got the insight to all Aruba had to offer! We really appreciated his expertise and hospitality! Because of him, we got to try some local fruit, we ate at two local restaurants that are not easily found on the web, we learned about what it meant to be above the bridge and below the bridge, how the oil refinery was bombed in WWII, what it was like going to school there, their healthcare system, and SO MUCH MORE! It was nice to hear how Aruba takes care of their people, providing healthcare and education to their citizens was impressive to the healthcare professional and the educator!

This trip was unique in many ways to us. The most notable difference being that we traveled with friends instead of family this time around. The world of Rachel’s friends got to collide with the world of Hilary’s friends when we all went out together one night. The night began as a sophisticated and classy night…keep reading to find out if it ended the same way!

We began our night with a wonderfully magical dinner on the beach at sunset! Located just down from Eagle beach was Passions. An elegant beach side restaurant serving 5 star meals. Matthew, Caitlyn, and ourselves splurged here for dinner because who doesn’t love dinner with such a wonderful view? We all shared a bottle of wine, inappropriately loud laughs and comments, a few slow dances, a succulent meal, and of course dessert with a huge sparkler! You should know we made it through this dinner relatively unscathed. With only a few side glances, we managed to all act like adults…for the most part! We started a myriad of picture taking on the beach. We were the first to get out there to capture the beauty of the sunset and our friendships here! It was not long before the rest of the Passions going folks were taking their glamour shots, as well! What can we way? We were trendsetters that night. After our meal and photo shoot, we headed out for the night!

Matthew, and Caitlyn, and now Jermaine all loaded up with the Carryon Cousins for a night out on the town! We had ventured off to an area just north of where we were staying in the “Low Rise” area. This section was full of smaller condos and bungalow type villas where people rented. The area we traveled to was called the “High Rise” . This is where the larger and some of the all inclusive hotels and condos were located. There were several streets here lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Our lovely Matthew was the life of the party this night! We found this adorable food boutique called “Picnic” located in the turn of the street. With pretty lights, and a perfectly boutique color scheme we stopped in for their $5 Cocktail Happy Hour!

It was a smaller venue, and we all filled the place up! Not only did we take most of the seats at the bar, but we filled the place with our laughs and our outrageous personalities! The bartenders there shared with us some local history, some tips and tricks, and our bloodstreams with all the happy hour deals! As the night drifted on, we found our way to another place where the vibes where bumping with bass and a little bump and grind!!! The bar GUSTO hadn’t known what had hit them…and neither did Matthew 😉 The bar was recommended to us by the bartenders at picnic. We told them we had on our dancing shoes (JK, all the girls had on high heels! What were we thinking?) They happily obliged us with this recommendation, and they did not disappoint! We spent our time and money here for sure! We danced the night away, but we knew when Matthew was trying to dance in the streets, our night was coming to an end! Rachel’s shoes had made their way off, Hilary had mysteriously lost a toenail, Caitlyn held it together, and together they held Matthew out the window on the ride home. All the while, Jermaine had ensured all of our well beings……Tuesday night in Aruba had treated us well!

Our friend from Picnic who gave us lots of good places to visit. Pro tip: Listen! Never stop listening to the locals. You can always learn so much from them.

This night was one of our favorites on the island, not because of the drinks or the dancing, but because there were five of us, out in another country spending time together and having a ball! We all come from entirely different walks of life. None of us where in the same career paths, none of us live in the same city back home, yet none of our differences mattered that night. At the beginning of this trip a few of us had only met once or twice, some of us had never met at all, and some of us have known each other our whole lives. It was so unique to get to meet and greet with new and old friends. Seeing how we all meshed and vibed was going to be an adventure in itself, and it was an adventure all its own! I think everyone was cautious the first couple of days, learning everyone’s habits and what not, but by the end of the trip we felt like a small little family. Like we had spent a summer with them pretending to be on The Real World or The Jersey Shore! We are so thankful to our friends for making this trip so special to us! They were perfect roomies because everyone was not afraid to venture out and do their own thing! We all went on different excursions and we all did one together, as well! We ate and cooked and cleaned all at different times throughout the week. We didn’t feel like we had to be hip to hip throughout the entire week. We felt we found the perfect balance between being together and being independent enough not to drive each other batty by the end of the trip!

It was the perfect harmony, or maybe it was just the air in Aruba that made us all happy! It was hard to be angry with the crystal clear water and the larger than life ocean breeze that kept you cool being so close to the sun. As Hilary said “It is AMAZING how hot it is here!” We all learned this one way or the other. Whether at the beginning of the week or at the end everyone of us wound up a little toasted and roasted at some point throughout the trip, but Cailtyn was the lifesaver who bought the burn aid and aloe! We would like to add that one of Aruba’s exports is aloe! There is a big difference in their sun AND their aloe vera! The burn aid and lotion combo they sold locally really made a big difference! We 10 out of 10 recommend you get some while you’re there! Or you can even order you some now at this link, here!

Despite our burns, we really did enjoy our time exploring the whole island. We even enjoyed just walking downtown! Looking in all the shops, and stores, seeing what all they offered at the local grocery store was a lot of fun. We want everyone to experience the love of travel that we do! We want you to enjoy reading about our adventures and helping create your own! This trip we are going to throw something new at ya! We are going to make a travel guide! What to pack, what to see, what to do, and where to eat! We are going to give you all those tips and tricks FO’ FREE! So, if you are interested in Aruba, you will definitely want to stay tuned! We will want all the feedback, so please leave your love, questions, and comments for us here or on our instagram!!

Thigh Gap…wait…Stephens Gap Cave

We are coming back to you after a couple of weeks of no blog posts!

Update: WE ARE STILL TIRED…. then we got sick… and life happened.


We want to know, do yall ever just get in a rut? Do you ever just feel yucky? We know that we certainly do. It seems like things never end with work and life, but we found a way to come back! Sometimes you just have to push yourself through to the next event, to the next moment, to the next chapter in your life! This weekend was our breakthrough.

As you all know, we love to be outside, but we have been a little under the weather for a while. We could tell we had been missing the great outdoors. We had heard of a place right in our own backyard in Woodville, Alabama, called Stephen’s Gap. We saw this place on a fellow Instagrammer’s page and knew we had to go! AND WE HAD TO GO SOON! Yet, it rained every weekend for three weekends straight. This was the weekend it finally happened!

Some important information to know about Stephen’s Gap is that it is a protected preserve, so you have to go to the Southeastern Cave Conservancy’s website to get your free permit. It is really simple and easy to do. There are so many caves in our area that we had no idea even existed, and we obviously have plans to visit many of them this summer!

The directions to Stephens Gap are practically two turns. We have passed this place hundreds of times and had no idea it existed! The trail is about a mile and a half long. The notable thing is that you actually hike up on a slight incline on the way to the cave, which is nice because on your way out after spelunking around in the cave, your trek back to the car is easy and downhill! This is not very typical of hiking here in North Alabama. Usually, you hike down into a gorge or valley. Following, you have to hike up on the way out, which can make the hikes more physically demanding.

We learned a lot on this hike. Just about halfway into it, we learned that you should always bring toilet paper with you when you’re in the woods where there is no indoor plumbing for miles. 🙂 We also learned that hiking post sickness, our stamina was very low. We had hiked at a pretty steady pace for about thirty minutes when we began to feel quite the fatigue. Out of breath and quite frankly frustrated with ourselves, we seriously just contemplated turning around. We knew the next little bit of our hike was going to take some leg work as the incline increased significantly.

But, just like in life, we knew if we turned around and quit we would regret it. AND WOULDN’T YOU KNOW…. It wasn’t but about 5 more minutes of hiking, WE MADE IT TO THE CAVE! Life lesson here for ya folks: DO NOT GIVE UP! You never know what is just around the corner, or just over the hill!

We were no longer out of breath from hiking, but we were gasping at the beauty that was before us! A HUGE hole in the ground that was all-encompassing of the rainfall from the weeks before! We stopped here to gaze at the sights and have a little snack we had packed with us in our handy dandy backpack we got from The Glacier Company. You can use the link to find one for yourself. If you use the code “carryon” you’ll get yourself a nice little discount as well … After tempting the edges of fate, we peered into the vast cave as much as we dared before we decided to just climb on down inside of the belly of the beast!

It was a slippery slope! As we began our descent, we could feel the temperature cool quickly. The rocks were wet, and the mud was super slippery. We stayed low to keep our balance. Any of you have read our previous post know that we are a little prone to sliding down. We eased and slowly lowered ourselves into the earth.

There was a picturesque rock that we were determined to get ourselves on, but it took some thought and some trial and error to get to it! Hilary tried first, then Rachel tried another way. It was the third time that was the charm, but it was definitely not easy… or safe at all, really. BUT,  WE DID IT! After making it onto the rock, our laughs echoed into the cave walls. Rachel was soaking wet and muddy and barefoot and bleeding…. Hilary looked like she descended from Hiking Heaven with no mud, no sweat, and perfectly dry hiking boots. We keep telling you… we are perfectly matched opposites. We both wanted on the rock so bad we could taste it. We just took two entirely different approaches to get there. Rachel wallowed, climbed, and rolled around; Hilary took very calculated and perfectly placed footsteps to achieve the goal. Another life lesson: It does not matter how you get there, as long as you work to reach your goals, you will be successful!

We had taken in all the sights, splashed in the water, climbed all the rocks, and decided our time here in the cave was coming to an end. It was wonderful to take in the cool air and feel the cold rushing water. We felt accomplished. We felt our bodies needed the physical activity after being kept in the house for so long. It was a good day.

We climbed our way out of middle earth and started back down the trail. We laughed and reminisced about our amazing weekend. Rachel was leading the way out, head down, listening to Hilary tell a wonderfully risque story when Rachel not so calmly interrupted her with the word, “SNAKE!!!!!”

About three footsteps ahead, a snake slithered across the trail. No questions were asked. We both started HIGH STEPPING It back the other direction. This was all the while Hilary was screaming, “IS IT A BLACK RACER?! IS IT CHASING US?! THEY ARE SO FAST!  RACHEL, IS IT CHASING US?!!”

Rachel could not help but just ignore everything Hilary said until she knew they were a good thirty yards away and out of harm’s way! Then we both just started laughing uncontrollably. It never fails, no matter where we go together, there is always going to be memories we made forever!

After picking up a stick and braving our way back down the trail to see if Mr. Snakey had slithered out of the way, we found ourselves safely back at our car. A day of hiking was in the books. And now… our next stop…. ARUBA!

Suck It Up

This weeks blog post is brought to you by two tired cousins! This is our honesty post. Our ugly post. Our reality check post.

The luster from our Jamaica trip has officially worn away. With last week’s blog post it really hits home that our trip is over. All good things must come to an end right? Speaking of things coming to an end, Hilary learned just last week that it is “much easier to break up with a new boyfriend if he lives in another country!” 😉

When travels are over there seems to be a lull in all the fun and excitement. And that is OKAY! However, we are coming to you from a very transparent point of view…. We are hella tired. We are tired because we WORK ALL THE DAMN TIME in order to make our finances work for our next adventure! It may seem very lavish that we are traveling several times throughout the year to exotic destinations, but we promise it does not come without a price.

Admittedly though, if we can do it so can you! Hilary works over 180 hours bi-weekly! Rachel is a teacher AND a waitress. There are days where Hilary works from 7 in the morning well on over into the morning hours. The same goes for Rachel, from the time the school bell rings until well after the dinner bell she is working non stop. We do this because we want – NEED – to travel. At the end of the day if it is important to you, you will make a way, if it’s not important to you, then you will make an excuse.

We’ve found this notion doesn’t just apply to traveling. It also applies to saving money, or losing weight, or dating someone. If you want to, you will. End of discussion.

If you want to lose weight, you will work out.

If you want to save money, you won’t buy the new dress.

If they want to talk to you, they will.

All of the statements… all of the truths. Traveling has helped us develop our philosophies in all areas of our lives.

This idea that “You will do what is important to you” is what keeps us both running on fumes a lot of the time. After working a long four hour case with no bathroom break or so much as a drink of water, Hilary knows that it is just a few short weeks until she can bask in the Aruban sunshine.

When Rachel has answered the same question for the 34th time that day, she knows that her toes will soon be in the desert sand of the tiny island. We use traveling as our motivation. As our inspiration. As our fuel to push forward into life.

Here is one thing we know about life so far. Life sucks. Work sucks. Bills suck. Getting called in at 2:00 a.m. and finding out it is your shift that has to close down the restaurant REALLY FREAKING SUCKS. Laundry sucks. Taking out the trash sucks. Having cracked heels sucks. Having a wild chin hair sucks. Getting your tag renewed sucks. There are lots of things in our life that SUCKS! We bear them, we endure them, we mundanely walk to the end of the road and throw the trash into the can. All because laying on the beach does not suck.

Feeling the sun tingle on your skin doesn’t suck. Waking up whenever you want on vacation with no alarm clock doesn’t suck. Feeling your taste buds wonder around the new food in your mouth doesn’t suck. Fitting into last year’s bathing suit doesn’t suck. Seeing the sunset behind the palm trees doesn’t suck. Making new friends doesn’t suck. Falling asleep in a hammock doesn’t suck.(Speaking of which, if you are looking for a nice new hammock you can get yourself one here by using our link!) Laughing with your best friend at 2:00 a.m. doesn’t suck, and knowing you will always have someone to help pick you up when you are down….doesn’t suck.

You can’t have one suck without the other, okay…..  We embrace the sucky parts in our life. In a sense we enjoying the sucky parts (like working) because we understand that the equation to happiness is more traveling. So the more we work, the more we can travel. The more sucky parts = the more not sucky parts!  We aren’t in Jamaica right now floating down the river on an intertube. We are at work saving lives and teaching humans on little sleep, and you know what… it is hard and a little bit sucky. However, the healthy patient and the bright student make it a little more bearable. We are both lucky enough to have jobs that make a difference in people’s lives. We are lifechangers, and that doesn’t suck. Also… it pays… WILL WORK FOR TRAVEL EXPENSES!!!!!!!!

We are working for financial freedom and also to find ourselves in this big vast world. We are testing our limits and plowing through boundaries we always thought we would have. We surprise ourselves every day with what we accomplish. But we warn you… it is not pretty.

There are tears because when we are tired we are both overly emotional, and frustration from constantly feeling worn out between our trips, and delirious laughing because we often wonder why we are even doing this to ourselves. Yet, we know deep down that it will all be worth it. The sunsets, the sunrises, the feel of the new air, the taste of the food… It will all be worth it. Getting to share all these moments with all of you makes it worth it. Getting to experience all of the new things life has to offer us is challenging, but so very rewarding!

One Love

For those of you who have been following our journey through Jamaica know that we have conquered Dunn’s River Falls, tubing down White River, kayaking the Caribbean, a long day of shopping, the infamous Luminous Lagoon, and we have not had one mother daughter dispute yet! And, for those of you just joining us, you should know it has been a crazy ride in just 5 short days!

We made it to our vacation bliss which is where our new place and our new environment has begun to feel like home. However, the end of our time here in Jamaica was quickly approaching! We could feel the air getting a little thicker as we knew we only had about 48 more hours to soak in all the Jamaican culture had to offer. It was the next 48 hours that would really change us.

If any of you know us personally, you already know neither of us has ever met a stranger. Whether it be in the bathroom at a pub or the gas station down the street Rachel and Hilary have both been blessed with the gift of gab. This wonderful quality came in handy early on in the trip. We had the opportunity to meet two locals who were possibly the most genuine human beings we have ever met on the face of this whole globe. It was Monday when these two hit it off with us! We enjoyed chatting with them both throughout the entire week. They are the ones who mentioned we try the local Pork Pit, and they gave us some insider tips on the local way of life. After building a rapport with them they gave us an amazing opportunity later in the week!

We set it all up for Thursday night. Now before you go all crazy on us, and preach to us about safety and traveling abroad we will preface the rest of this story with this statement “We are very competent, safe, aware, and responsible. We are also calculated risk takers and fear missing out on glorious moments.”

Now, where were we? Oh yes…Thursday morning we spent the day resting from our Luminous Lagoon tour, and then prepared for all the fun that was in store for us that night with our new local friends! We had on our cutest dresses and most comfy sandals because that night we were going out into the city like the locals! Although, we must admit to you all, it was VERY obvious we were not locals at all.

Our new friends met us at a local bar, that was conveniently located just behind the police station. 🙂 It was a quiet little tiki hut filled with people who seemed to have just gotten off work and where enjoying a cold one to unwind. There were tv’s showing the local track and field competitions. The high schools were all competing for the titles! It was just like a sports bar here in the U.S. in the way that the old men were laughing and enjoying themselves. The bartender was pouring and serving up all the food and drinks. And the ladies were soaking in the views as the sun was setting on Montego Bay.

It was noted that the lovely bartender served us our drinks with the lids still sealed and allowed us to pour our own drinks. (We told you we are responsible!) We spent some time here chatting about the sports on tv and how this little venue was used for weddings and events… and it was not long after the sun went down that our friends wanted to show us “the newest spot in town”.

Hilary and Rachel gave each other knowing looks and we headed off to a very magical place atop the whole world it seemed! After about a ten minute car ride on the “high road” which is what the locals call the road that leads to the top of the mountain that overlooks Montego Bay. It wasn’t long until we arrived at a very upscale restaurant and bar!

It was here and now we realized our new friends definitely had friends in high places! We were greeted by the owner upon arrival, and then given a tour of the entire place! We were personally all escorted to the FOURTH Floor! This floor just so happened to be the rooftop where you could look out and see the lights shining on the bay like a thousand little lighthouse beacons!

Leaning over the railing with the salty night air on our face, we both pretended we were Rose from the Titanic because that is what everyone should do in a moment that magical. We also unapologetically admit we have no pictures for you guys. It was a time when cameras couldn’t even capture the scenery. It was a time when the clock stood still. When the world stopped spinning. It was a moment when we felt like we were truly living.

A new country, with new food, new drinks (green apple vodka and white cranberry juice is a great Jamaican twist on the classic vodka cran by the way), and now we had new friends. Our friends gave us memories we will have for our lifetime and probably many more lifetimes as we will always tell of this moment when talking of our time in Jamaica. We couldn’t thank them enough for showing us their part of the world. They showed us hospitality, generosity, and what it is like to connect with people who are completely different from ourselves, but also in so many ways….no different at all.

Our night was coming to a close as we safely and soundly were returned back to our resort. We would get to say goodbye  again to our new friends before leaving on saturday, but we knew then that it might very well be the last time we would truly get to enjoy their company. It was a wonderfully sad goodnight.

The last day at our resort was Friday. We awoke with plans to do nothing but bask in the sunshine! That is exactly what we did. All four of us, even the sunburn prone Susie, laid in the sun soaking it all in for the remainder of the time we had. We had a late lunch and we proceeded to capture some styled photos of us all together. We wanted to have these captured moments to always look back on.

Hilary had set us all up perfectly in the “golden hours” of sunlight, which is just about an hour before the sun goes down. We had our silly moments, our serious moments, our moments of thankfulness, and awe, and most importantly our moments of love.

Also, so everyone is not just taking selfies and everyone can be included in the pictures, there are a couple of professional photographers on sight who will give you a photoshoot in just a moment’s notice. We had them take a few shots as well. The pictures could be purchased in the lobby. So after our glamour shots we went to have dinner one last time together in Jamaica.

Our Mommas were the “Supermodels”

After reminiscing on the wonderful moments our trip had provided us over dinner, we went off to the lobby to see how our professional shots had turned out. Rachel isn’t one for pictures that much, and decided to opt for the views of the ocean while she put full trust in Hilary to choose the perfect pictures.

While walking away from the busy lobby, Rachel headed to her favorite sitting spot. Which was unusually crowded this time of night… There were only a few seats left. She noticed an older gentleman dressed to the 9’s sitting over by himself a bit. She decided he was a safe bet, and kindly asked if he minded her joining him.

….. This was the beginning of one of our most favorite two hours of our lives.

It wasn’t too much longer before Hilary had joined them. Assuring Rachel the pictures turned out perfectly and introduced herself to our new friend.The conversation with this new man began quickly and flowed effortlessly. Our new friend was Aubrey, which just so happened to be the name of our Paw Paw (southern word for Grandfather). We felt as if that might have been a little bit of a coincidence since they both ran moonshine back in the day! Our new friend Aubrey informed us that he was soon to be 99 years old in just a few short days. It wasn’t long before we were starry eyed listening to his life stories. And believe us, he had many!

Aubrey was born into family where one side was dirt poor, and the other side was very rich. He told us neither side of his family was interested in him and at the age of nine he was living with his aunt and grandmother working as a slave in Jamaica. He told us how he soon took to the shores and landed in Florida as a young teenage boy. He began working in the kitchen of a restaurant for a Jewish man. He said the money wasn’t coming in fast enough for him so he started running moonshine on a bicycle at night. Although, he told us he wasn’t quite aware what he was actually doing until the moonshine gig got him arrested and deported back to Jamaica.

At the young age of 19 he headed back to North America, but this time…to Canada. From Canada he found himself a job that allowed him to travel all over the world. He landed in London, and decided to call it home. In London, he met his wife. He pulled out his wallet to reveal a lock of her silver hair, and a picture that revealed the fairest, most beautiful lady. The picture was them on their wedding day. He told us “We fought like hell to get married”. Aubrey, a dark Jamaican man, and his wife Gale, a fair skinned blonde, were not exactly a typical match back in the early 40’s in London. It was after he met his “brainy” wife, as he described her, that he began to go to night school. With her help, he went to night school for ten years to become an expert in the steel industry. He showed us his ring on his hand that he received after graduating. It sparkled with a red ruby on the top. He told us the five keys to his life that made him successful.

  1. Money
  2. A good woman
  3. Scotch
  4. A good cigar
  5. A good dog

We were in awe of the life this man had made for himself, and as he would take long draws from his cigar, we would hang on his every word like the smoke hung in the air. A man born into slavery, retired a millionaire. As he continued to talk his voice gave way a bit as he began to tell us why he was not sitting with his wife that night.

Their whole lives together they loved to travel. After he had made himself a successful man, they spent their times traveling to different countries all over the world. His favorite country was Ireland with the hills and the castles. His wife’s favorite…. Jamaica. They would visit the resort we just so happened to stay at every year. He told us every year around the turn of spring they would come to the resort and have a private dinner on the beach. They always had a bottle of champagne and she would always say “woohoo” every time she heard the bottle pop. It was her favorite drink. He told us that while she never smoked a day in her life, she would always sit right beside him, in the chair Hilary was sitting in, teasing him about how the last bit of the cigar made him stink, but she never left his side.

It was with a smile and a crackled voice that he began to tell us how the doctors informed him two years ago that his wife was very ill. The doctors told him that he was not to carry her on any more travels. She suffered from Alzheimer’s. It was around her birthday that Aubrey began to ask Gale what she would like to have to celebrate her next year of life…. To which she replied…. Jamaica. He informed her again of the doctors orders, again to which she replied…. Jamaica.

Against the doctors orders they hopped a plane to Jamaica. As tears begin to well in our eyes, he told us of the last time they spent together in Montego Bay. They were on the beach at their private dinner when the server brought their usual bottle of  champagne…

“I knew my wife was no longer with me when the bottle popped and she just looked off into the distance without so much as a single woohoo.”

It was two weeks later upon their return home that Gale passed away. It was year later, he was at their same spot, smoking his usual cigar, sharing his life with us. Telling us all about what “One Love” really meant.

Tears were streaming from our eyes, and his, as we all basked in the heartache that love often brings. His cigar was almost gone by now as the hours had past. We knew it was getting late , and we had early morning flights to catch the next day. Our time in Jamaica had come to a bittersweet end. We stood up to say our goodbyes and began to walk to our room.

Shortly realizing we needed a picture to document a moment that forever changed us, we swiftly turned back to take our picture. It was then that  we realized we were not the only captive audience. Everyone around the sitting area had stayed to listen to Aubrey share his story with us. The bystanders and listeners where so quick to help us capture our moment in time. After our pictures, our hugs goodbye, and our tears wiped away… Aubrey said “Goodnight, I will see you both next year!”

Despite having an amazing time doing all the “tourist attractions” we know that the reason we travel is because of all our new friends. The people we meet along the way help to take our cultural blinders off a little at a time. They reveal to us worlds of new stories, and heartbreaks, and new ways of life. Our new friends in Jamaica revealed to us our One Love. Our One Love is traveling. It brings us all the other things we enjoy in our life. We enjoy nature, and food, and culture, and people. Our One Love of traveling brings us all the love we will ever need.

Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life -and travel- leaves marks on you.

Wa Gwan

We have made it to mid-week in Jamaica! No one has food, sun, or alcohol poison, so we had considered it a successful week thus far. Up until this point, we had spent our days trying to figure it all out, but we were starting to settle into our comfort zones nicely. Humans are very adaptable and thrive on routine. At this point, we knew where the convenient bathrooms were located on the grounds and our favorite foods at the buffet (Hilary: the peanut butter oatmeal. Rachel: the hashbrowns with cream cheese). We had also found our favorite spots away from the rest of the guest to relax and watch the waves crashing. Now, Jamaica was starting to feel like our new home. We had found the vacation bliss! The moment when your new environment feels like home, and it isn’t even close to time to pack your bags back up!

Vacation bliss is our favorite times during a trip. When you begin to experience the real culture and build your courage up to be braver and more adventurous, it really creates some magical moments. Not to take away from Dunns River Falls or the White River tubing because they were great, but our truly magical and life-changing experiences were yet to come!

We warn, you should never become too comfortable in a new place like this. Just as we had begun to get our bearings we set out on an adventure to go kayaking on the Caribbean! At our resort, you could rent out a kayak and take off free of charge. You just had to sign up for a time slot. So, we did this really cool thing where we convinced our mothers to do it with us! Mainly because we wanted to have fun teasing them for being so old and decrepit that they could not do it as well as we could. We got quite the kick out of imagining them tipping over and trying to get back on! The guys who helped us get started with our kayaking adventures where there for all the poking fun and joined in the conversation with us. They were nice. They made it fun. We trusted them…..

They helped us with our life jackets, handed us our paddles, and set us on our way. They were super helpful to our mothers, as well. The guy helped them in safely and off they went, also. We were all out rowing to our heart’s desire, yet it wasn’t too long before we realized our mothers had turned back for the shore. We started laughing, we guessed they tired quickly and headed back. Just to ensure their safety, we headed back to check on them. Since, ya know, we are so loving and caring like that. It also had nothing to do with the fact we wanted to see them try and get out of the kayak onto dry land without falling over.

However, from a short distance behind them, we were kind of let down by the fact they eased out of the kayaks on the beach with poise and grace to our surprise. We were proud. Joyful. Thankful to be on this trip with our moms! We were quite amazed at how well they had handled themselves.

We coasted our way back, easing up to the guys who where wading in the water ready to help us out like the gentlemen we just knew they were. The young man eased us closer to him, took our paddles for us, told us to keep our legs inside the boat, and then he grabbed to the side of the boat with his hand, AND HE FLIPPED US OVER INTO THE WATER!!!!!!!!

All the while we were out in the water, the guys and our mothers plotted evil against us! Can you believe that?! Why would they play with such sorcery? We were just in shock! Literally, it shocked the hell out of us as the cold saltwater came rushing toward us unexpectedly! Ladies, you should know Jamaican men are not to be trusted in such a manner! Their smooth Jamaican accent will soothe your ears. However, your eyes will burn, and you will cry FROM THE SALT WATER THAT GETS IN YOUR EYES FROM YOUR MOTHERS BETTING THE GUYS TO FLIP YOU OFF YOUR KAYAK!

We managed to get back up on to the beach where our mothers were about to pee themselves (told you, old and decrepit!). We could not believe they had betrayed us like this.

We all had our laughs, but now we have trust issues beyond repair. Thanks, Mom!

We went to rest our bloodshot eyes and awoke early Wednesday morning. We had set out on a shopping tour with a guide from our resort. We started off at some higher end shopping centers which offered an array of Jamaican goodies and souvenirs along with some summer dresses! We will note that the only place in Jamaica that did not accept American cash or American Credit Cards was, ironically, the Pizza Hut located in the shopping plaza. Hilariously, this is our luck!

Speaking of lunch, after we had done a little shopping, our amazing tour guide did us a solid! We really wanted to try a local restaurant. The locals were a bit skittish to give recommendations outside of our resort, but we had heard “The Pork Pit” was the best place in town. Our tour guide allowed for a “Pit Stop”.  From our resort it was going to be a $50 taxi ride, yet she did this out of the kindness of her heart! We had to get our order to go, as this was not a part of the normal tour. However, when you are out and about in a new country and you get the opportunity to try some local food, DO NOT sit on the bus like the others on the bus did. When we had the great opportunity to eat the Jamaican style Jerk Chicken, we absolutely took it! We ordered a WHOLE Chicken, beans and rice, and the famous “festival” that we mentioned in our last post (which is a sweet corn fritter). We took the time to look around while they prepared our food and then hopped back on the bus.

We only had one more stop to make on our shopping tour and we while we were asked to not eat on the bus, we couldn’t help but give it a taste test. The aroma of all the seasoning and spices were making our mouth water! The little pulled piece of chicken melted into our mouths as we pulled out onto the famous Hip Strip.

We stopped at a little open-air market that was filled with vendors selling arts and crafts and all kinds of goodies. This is a buyer beware situation here. These vendors were very pushy. They are like your used car salesmen on crack! They are there to haggle, and trade, and make deals! It was a fun experience if you enjoy getting some souvenirs at a good price, but only if you’re willing to make a deal. If you feel as if it is hard to say no and walk away, the tour guide suggested you stay on the bus at this stop.

When we got back to the resort, we had to load all of our shopping bags up to the room. We had so many bags we had to place them in the back of the bus instead of holding them in our seat! We had so much fun, but we WERE READY TO EAT! We hauled all of our stuff up to our rooms and met in the lobby to chow down. It was some of the best chicken we have ever tasted! 10 out of 10 recommend.

Now, at this point, we had been going pretty hard for a couple of days. We had been hiking and tubing and swimming and shopping! But, the fun was not over yet! We had just a couple of hours to be back in the front lobby to catch a ride over to the infamous “Luminous Lagoon”. The Mommas and Rachel were pretty tired at this point and considered rescheduling the tour; but, the strong and willful Hilary lead us all to one of the most amazing excursions of all!

Maybe it was the fact that we were all suffering from a little exhaustion. Admittedly, we were all a little skeptical about how “luminous” this lagoon would actually be. We put on our big girl bathing suits and hopped on the next tour bus.

It was on this tour we met Tony. He was our driver. We all sat in the front closest to the drivers and the tour guides, so we could get a first-hand look at driving on the WRONG side of the road. We like to talk it up with the guides and driver. This is how you get all the good information. You should also know , if you are lucky enough to have Tony as your driver, you can give him a pretty little smile, and he will let you roll down the window so you can feel the spicy island breeze in your hair.

On this particular instance, we had a tour guide who was new to the whole thing and sat in the back, kind of quietly, but Tony was quite the tiger! He was so much fun to talk to and gave us lots of good information about the local things to do there. He was very conscious of us being safe, but also having fun and experiencing all Jamaica had to offer!

Entrance to the Luminous Lagoon

We arrived a little later to the Lagoon than we had planned due to some booking issues at another hotel. Pro tip: when booking these tours, longer than expected waiting and driving time is just a part of the process, so hang tight and be patient. Remember, you are now on island time!  When we arrived, we had some time to have a quick sit down meal and watch a live show before our tour into the Lagoon began.

When we boarded the boat, we met our lovely captain, our lifeguard, and our “paparazzi”. As soon as the boat left from the dock, the true magic began to happen before our very eyes! In this particular lagoon, the White River flows in and meets with the salty water of the Caribbean Ocean. The warm salt water and the cool freshwater mix and create a perfect environment for these luminous microorganisms! When these microorganisms are disturbed or moved around they light up an iridescent blue! We all expected it to glow, but we never imagined it would be as bright as it was!

As our captain drove the boat into the dark night on the lagoon the motor from the boat left a sparkling tail of bright blue water behind the boat. After about a 15 minute ride out into the lagoon, he killed all of the boat lights and asked who was going first?!

We never hesitated. Our hands went up and he escorted us to the side of the boat where we were the first two people to be fed to the pitch black waters! However, as soon as our bodies made their way into the black water it was a splash of neon blue! This was the most shocking experience we have ever partaken in. We literally could not believe our own eyes! As people started to gather their bravery on the boat, splashes of blue begin to light up the night.

It was a great shock to both of us as we heard loud screams and laughter as BOTH OF OUR MOTHERS DESCENDED FROM THE BOAT BY STYLE OF CANNONBALLING, JUST LIKE WE DID! We laughed and played in the water for well over twenty minutes. Splashing and making “glow angels” was definitely a highLIGHT of the trip! We made a solid point of being the last ones back on the boat. We didn’t want to leave the lovely lagoon.

We will note a few important things. First off, if you’re not the best swimmer, they do give you a life jacket if you want one, but you’re only in four to six feet of water. Also, there are no sharks or predatory fish in the lagoon because of the brackish water; however, there is a silky weed and mushy green mud on the bottom that will occasionally feel like something (cough cough, the Loch Ness monster) is sweeping by on your legs. The “paparazzi” will be there to take pictures of you in the water, and all of the pictures he takes can be purchased on the docks for thirty dollars. You get ALL the pictures for that price, and you receive them on a jump drive. If you were to lose your jump drive during your travels you can also get them emailed to you.

This was a day in our lives that will forever be etched into our memories! There were so many unique experiences we had all in a short twenty-four hours. However, the next two days in Jamaica would be the best to come. We hope you stay tuned for next week to learn all about our new friends we made. Also, we are going to tell you what it is like overlooking all of Montego Bay at night! Check in next week for all the “juicy” stories

No Wet, No Fun

The Carry On Cousins go INTERNATIONAL! Just when we thought the world was not ready for us… the world quickly showed us we were not ready for it! This was a life changing experience for us in so many ways. We learned so much in just a short week. We learned about another culture, different food, different landscape, different people, and even about ourselves. As we embarked on this journey through Jamaica we were thinking about you guys, our readers, and how we could capture our beautiful moments in order to allow you to see what you could expect if you ever visited there.

So, we are prefacing our next few post with this statement: Our writing and pictures will never even almost live up to what we experienced. We will not be able to deliver to you the taste, the sounds, the sights, or the emotions we experienced. We ask you to read our post with one purpose, and that purpose is to help you book your next trip. It does not have to be to Jamaica, but you have to travel. You have to go and experience something new in your life.

Now, let us begin with the fact that an international flight is an experience all of its own. TSA can be scary, but we promise if our Momma’s can do it, you can too! 🙂 Hilary and Becky flew to Jamaica and got the party started on Saturday. Rachel and Susie followed closely behind arriving on Sunday. Our meeting in the lobby looked as if we had not seen each other in years. When it had only been the weekend before that we were sitting on the front porch laughing that the next time we saw each other would be in another country. Needless to say, it was the longest week of our lives!

After everyone was accounted for in Jamaica, we got a slow relaxing start. We got situated in our rooms and then quickly made sure we got our money’s worth from the all inclusive package! However, we must admit, day one we were not in the best head space. It is almost shameful to admit that we were in a new country on a trip we had been looking so forward to, yet we were still feeling a bit down and out. Honestly, there were Itty bitty bikinis and abs walking around everywhere it seemed, and by the end of the night we found ourselves throwing a pity party on the beach by ourselves. The beach was empty and we were just sitting there talking over our own insecurities. We were talking about fears and how our life may not turn out the way we thought it would. We think it is important to note that while in the pictures we are all smiles, there were definitely tears on this trip. We want you all to know that we often experience this on night one of our travels. It is almost like we experience a little bit of culture shock in a way. This is the residual effect of pushing oneself out of the comfort zone. It was not that we were sad and depressed but rather, a little uncomfortable in our new place. However, whether it is tears or the ocean, the salt water is the key to healing.

And with that notion, we did some self validation and began to say how thankful we were to have this opportunity. We began to talk about how we were going to try and make this the best trip EVER and….. just about that time, there was a loud POP of a champagne bottle behind us in the distance. This beautiful couple was having a private catered dinner behind us. We two single ladies rolled our eyes so far back into our heads and just laughed until we cried. The irony of the situation was undeniable. Our life is a comedy movie and yall are just getting to watch it unfold! We decided to let the couple have their privacy and headed to our room for the night.

We felt better the next morning by visiting the place where all the drinks (coke, sprite, and water, of course) were served all day free of charge! It got our spirits lifted and our inhibitions lowered! We had not been together for more than twenty four hours before we already needed a nap to calm us down from all those Cokes and Sprites we drank! The guys behind the counter really know how to work those fountain drinks, let us tell you!

It was on day two that we booked all of our excursions and the good times of exploring and learning really began to roll now that our “spirits” were taken care of! We spent the rest of the day sleeping and soaking in the sun.

Tuesday morning came early with an all day excursion! We were off to hike the infamous Dunns River Falls, spend some time on a private beach with food and drinks for lunch, then tubing down the White River. You can check out more details on booking your own tour here.

Keep in mind, cruise ships dock on Wednesdays causing a rush of crowds.

We hopped on a 25 passenger bus with our driver, Randy, and our tour guide, Yanice. They provided safe travels and stories and tales of the country and the excursions we would be doing that day. They gave us interesting facts and information about local way of life, food, and government there on the island. For example Ochos Rios stands for eight rivers. The river we floated down there is called White River because of all the limestone rocks. When the water washes over the limestone the water turns a milky white! Limestone is also a big export for Jamaica, as well! We played a little Jamaican trivia long our ride to Ochos Rios, and admittedly, Rachel loved every minute of it! (And yes, of course, Rachel knew the answers to every question, just like the studious teacher she is.) Randy and Yanice made our ride very enjoyable with their charismatic and warm nature. We do want to inform you that when you book these tours you will be making a few stops at other hotels to pick up passengers along the way. So, understand that while it may only take thirty minutes to drive straight to your destination, your ride may be a little (or a lot) longer depending on where your hotel is located and how many people will be traveling on the bus with you. However, with the “more the merrier” attitude you will enjoy getting to converse with the passengers and the guides, as well.

When we arrived to Dunns River Falls, we were not exactly sure what was in store for us. We had seen pictures and watched videos but nothing quite prepared us for the journey ahead! We were under the impression we’d be hiking more alongside the falls, but no. You go right up the middle of a 950 foot tiered aqua blue waterfall! This was a beautiful and challenging experience! There were kids and grannies alike attempting to climb up the wet rocks and flowing water but we warn… this is not for the faint of heart or for the weak ankles! Speaking of ankles, your footwear is very important. Online and at the Dunn’s River Falls they will recommend water shoes, however, we saw many people losing their footwear because of the rushing water. We both had on waterproof sandals that had straps we could tighten to our comfort. The ability to tighten our shoes made us feel as if our footing was more secure and we didn’t lose our footing or our shoes like some of the other hikers. Rachel had on Teva’s and Hilary had on Chacos.

Now our mommas set this one out, and let’s be honest, we were all glad they did! We had an amazing time, however, you hike the falls with a group of twenty or so while holding hands to work your way up the falls. Since you have to hold hands to help push and pull the group along the rocks, it is advised to get between some folks of the same ability as you or else you’ll find yourself feeling more like Stretch Armstrong!

After the exhilarating hike, we traveled a short ways to the private beach. Here we splurged for an upgrade, and it was well worth it! We had long layout chairs on the beach instead of the regular chairs like the others. We also had unlimited drinks and much more succulent food! We had an appetizer, a festival ( a corn fritter like roll that is AMAZING), a main course that consisted of jerk chicken AND lobster tail. We were also treated to a little strawberry puff dessert. There was a small place to purchase Jamaican goodies, as well. However, we knew we would be going on a shopping tour the next day, so we opted to save our money here. The beach was very scenic and had great photo ops!

After filling up on the food and drinks, we headed to another gift shop for a prompt tasting of the famous Blue Mountain Coffee. Here we got to see all the school kids walking home from  their day at school. Since Jamaica was a British colony until 1962, the schools adopted some of their traditions. For example, they are required to wear uniforms, and it was quite a site to see all the youngins!

We then headed to the river for tubing! It was absolutely so much fun just rolling on the river! Our water guide was very energetic and personable! It was adrenaline filled on the little rapids with lots of laughs and absolutely relaxing at the same time! Even though this was considered a “touristy” activity, there were locals swimming in the river that interacted with us and made us feel like we belonged. We floated about two miles down the river before taking a boat pulled raft out into the ocean where the sun was setting. Our bus was waiting on us on the beach.

By the time we arrived back to our resort we were definitely in need of some R&R! We had a morning shopping tour the next day. We had dinner at the buffet at our resort and turned in for the night.

It was only three days into our trip and we had all experienced once in a lifetime thrills! We learned so much about the country! Randy and Yanice made us feel as if we had become a local by the end of the day by teaching us a little Patwah (the Jamaican dialect) and sayings like “Ya Mon”. We found out that in Jamaica there is no such thing as a problem but only “situations”. We decided to adopt that notion for the rest of our lives! Everyone has situations in life that that are hard. We think of them as problems that cannot be overcome, but the truth is that when you really pick them apart they are just situations that have solutions and answers. When we saw how far we would have to climb up the falls, we thought we had a problem! While scanning the waterfalls for quick and easy exits, we pushed through, and standing at the top looking down at the lush greenery and falling water we knew that we had just accomplished a great feat! It was a rewarding day filled with lots of water which means a whole lot of fun because in Jamaica they say, “No wet, no fun!”

We still have four more days to conquer in Jamaica, so stay tuned! We are only getting started! Next week’s post you will get to see what shopping in Jamaica is like! Also, we will show you all what it’s like on the inside of a local Jerk restaurant!

Keeping It In The Family

Let’s catch you all up to date: we have been on a hiking adventure with our dads, New Orleans with our mommas, and now this weekend we spent it with our siblings! We are keeping it in the family! Our family is our biggest supporters and we love having them along on our adventures. They have raised us, shaped us, provided for us, and gave us just enough dysfunction to make us funny.

To start the weekend off Riley, Rachel’s sister, hitched a ride with Rachel to Hilary’s house! This is where the weekend began. We had big plans of a night out on the town which very quickly turned into a girls night in! Riley was full steam ahead seeing it was her Spring Break week from college, but we working girls were running on fumes at this point. So after some much needed catching up we found ourselves nestled quietly in the comfort of Hilary’s king sized bed! The three girls love their sleep!

The next morning Riley was off to bigger and better things since she had to return to school, but we couldn’t leave Heath, Hilary’s brother, out of the sibling weekend. We packed up our things and headed to Hartselle, Alabama. We had a big day of hiking ahead of us.

Hilary had planned a day and night tour of the Dismals Canyons in Franklin County, Alabama. We stopped first to pick up the sibling cargo. Heath and his wife Jessie were going to spend the day with us and they so kindly let us stay the night with them! We began our day of hiking by eating lunch. Everyone knows you need to be all fueled up for your adventures. Also, we like to eat and don’t need an excuse to find good food! Heath and Jessie suggested we go to Cardinal’s! It is a cute retro styled drive in with the best burgers in town! We all ordered and then shared all of our food… family style of course! There were chicken fingers and burgers and onion rings and milkshakes galore. After a little bit of gluttony we headed on our way to the canyons.

We arrived around 3:30 pm and committed to the day time self guided tour. Hilary had called the week before and reserved our spot for the night time tour. The combo day/night tour is $18. A special note: the day time tour can be purchased on site the day of your hike, however; the night time tours book up quick! We will tell you why shortly!

The day time hike was amazing. Moss covered boulders made for a breathtaking site! It was almost as if there was a little leprechaun waiting to jump out from behind the little rainbow. Also, rest assured there was no pot of gold at the end because we looked long and hard!

There were so many waterfalls and trickling springs and run offs everywhere! It was cool down underneath all of them. We shimmied and crawled around on them like kids on a playground. There was fun little bridges to cross and stepping stones that tested our balance… and our bravery.

Also, you should know Hilary is not afraid to jump on the swinging bridge while you’re trying to cross it!

We spent almost three hours exploring the canyons before we decided to hike back out for a break before the night tour. We ate dinner there at the Dismals Canyon lodge and spent the better part of an hour just hanging out and taking in the views.

Now it was time for the night tour! The night tour is special here because it gives you the opportunity to see a tiny little creature that are only native to this one spot in THE ENTIRE WORLD! There are similar species located in New Zealand and Australia but you will only get your chance to see these GLOW WORMS right here in North Alabama! Known as Dismalites, these tiny little fly larva are famous because they have a very unique feature. THEY GLOW IN THE DARK! This is why you will have to book the night tour in advance!

You will need to pack a flashlight along for this hike in the dark! Once you enter the cave the tour guide will teach you how to train your eyes to adjust to the dark and then you’ll begin to see the cave walls light up! It was fun to get to experience something so rare and located right in our very own backyard. Check out the website http://www.dismalscanyon.com for more information, and note the best times of the year to visit is May/June and September/ October.

We had a great time catching up with our siblings this weekend, but the weekend went by so fast! Typically we would be saying that with a frown, but not this week!

The countdown is on to JAMAICA!!!!! This week is what we call “Hell Week”. It will be spent packing, list making, reservation booking, and WAITING! The week before a big trip is always a little bit stressful. We want to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible and that we have everything we need! Becky and Hilary will be flying out of Nashville on Saturday, and Rachel and Susie will be catching up with them on Sunday when they leave from Atlanta.

We cannot wait to have our toes in the sand! But with the countdown approaching, here is our to do list!

1.Pack the carry ons

2. Book transportation from the airport to the condo

3. Secure the passports and all travel information

4. Inform the bank and credit cards of out of the country travel

5. Set up international calling – NO ROAMING CHARGES

6. Don’t lose our minds  

The Big Easy

Last week we told you all how we went chasing waterfalls with our dads. There are some things we should note that is common for us. We have made a habit of riding along on the coattails of our parent’s travels. It was Spring Break of last year when our mothers and crazy and loving Aunt Suzanne were headed down to New Orleans for the weekend. We did not want to miss out on this or chasing waterfalls, so we were wanting to tag along!

We pride ourselves being spur of the moment travelers always packing light and being on the go in a moments notice. It was Friday morning when the leading women in our lives were set to leave that afternoon headed to New Orleans for the first leg of their road trip. Rachel was with her sister, Riley, running around town just doing a few errands when she got the text from Hilary.

“Hey wanna go with our Moms to New Orleans this wknd?”

Rachel immediately with no hesitation picked up the phone to call Hilary. Upon answering after one ring, Rachel wasted no time getting to the heart of the matter!

“What time are we leaving? You better not be joking?!”

Hilary assured Rachel she was not kidding. Rachel turned the car around to go home and pack.

It was just about three hours later that we were in the car, packed, and headed south the the BIG EASY, BABY!

For some, it may not seem that it is this easy, but traveling has always just came natural to us. Becky, Hilary’s mom, immediately booked us a room at the hotel they were staying at that weekend, and it was like the trip literally fell into our lap. Our parents definitely support our love of travel, and for that we are forever grateful.

It was a six hour drive on the road with Susie, Rachel’s mom, Becky, and Aunt Suzanne following behind us in their vehicle. New Orleans had no idea what was about to strike!

We arrived at our beautiful hotel, The Royal Sonesta, located on Bourbon Street! It was about 11 o’clock that night and the valet man was such a beautiful, helpful specimen.

We were up in our rooms in no time. We unloaded our suitcases and got all dolled up with hair and makeup and the cutest little outfits! We walked just down the hallway to inform our mothers we were going EXPLORING! Already in their pajamas, they gave us worried speeches about safety and robbers and killers and voodoo. Our Aunt Suzanne reassured our mothers that we were grown adults with level heads on our shoulders who could make responsible decisions as she walked out the door with us! It was a night on Bourbon for us three girls!

It was a bit past three o’clock in the morning when our heads hit the pillow! By the way, the breakfast served at the restaurant downstairs is a good way to, ya know… soothe the stomach.

The next day was packed full and we hit the city streets early that morning! If you have never been to New Orleans, you should know that the square is full of life! There are boutiques, art, music, and food on every corner lining up the streets. Without spending a dime one could just enjoy the atmosphere.

We rode a horse and carriage, toured a local market, and enjoyed the views of the Mississippi River. It was a great day with great weather and great people. It was late afternoon and we all retired back to the hotel for a nap before going out to dinner!

We ate like the queens we are that night! We had reservations at Galatoire’s 33 Bar & Streak. The food was out of this world! We had a late reservation and when dinner was over we walked out onto Bourbon St. where everything had already began to fire up! It was funny to see our Moms, whom have never been party girls themselves, see what night life really looked like.

After we walked about a block, angelic Becky frantically screamed, “This looks like the streets of hell!” The rest of us could not muffle our bursts of laughs. We almost peed ourselves, although no one would have noticed with the normal stench  that lingers around Bourbon Street. The scantily clad girls, drinks, and beads were not exactly ideal for the goody girls. Our mothers and our Aunt Suzanne once again retired to the hotel. However, it was just the beginning of part two for us!

The trip was very meaningful for us in many ways. While we loved spending time with our Moms and Aunt we really did some soul searching on this trip. This was really the first time we did everything we wanted, when we wanted, how we wanted. We appreciate our mothers letting us be ourselves. It was for the first time we felt we were real adults on a real weekend getaway.This is actually where our story kinda all gets started, if we are honest… and we will fill you in more later down the road how this trip really changed our lives. We aren’t sure  we are ready to spill all the gory details of this trip… Let us just say, we NEVER have to go back to New Orleans. In fact, I am not sure they would let us!

Let’s carry on….Now we fast forward almost exactly one year later… and our mothers have been Jamacian us crazy!!! Oh wait? Did we say that right?? YES, WE DID!

Spring Break trip 2.0 for the mother daughter duos! This time it is gonna be bigger and better and longer!!! We are spending a week in Jamaica for this spring break! We cannot wait! We are super excited to get to spend some quality time doing what we love most with our mothers! We have lots on our agenda and we are excited to get to share this with you! We are going to be letting you know how we planned our trip, where we are staying, and what all we are packing, soon! We want your advice and tips and tricks for this laid back country, so leave us some love in the comments! Check in next week for all the preplanning stuff! As always, pack light and carry on!

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

We have been told by TLC countless times, “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls”, but if you tell us not to… well, we can almost guarantee that we will. This little impromptu weekend adventure was brought on by record setting rainfall here in northeast Alabama! Over the last few weeks, the weather has resembled that of Seattle, Washington much more than the deep south. The ground had soaked up as much water as it could. This meant that the water was running over the edges, cliffs, and runoffs all over our area.

We can definitely say that we come by our desire to travel honestly. Our dad’s had planned a day of chasing waterfalls and we invited ourselves along. We jumped at the opportunity to go exploring with them!

The chance of rain was at a minimum for the first time in over two weeks. Cabin fever had set in and we needed to stretch our legs.

Our first destination was not far. Tucked in the corner of Geraldine, Alabama lies a locally known hot spot called High Falls Park. The park is home to a set of falls that plunge about 35 feet down. There is also a rock formation that has been eroded into a picturesque arch with a walking bridge, as well. It can be very dangerous here, so swimming and diving are at the visitor’s own risk. However, today no one in their right mind would have even attempted such activities. The water was rushing over the falls in enormous volumes. It was beautiful and humbling how powerful nature can present itself.

There are pavilions here for spending the day grilling and a playground for the little adventurers, also. Now, many of you know we aren’t so little, but that will never stop us from acting like children! Travel Pro Tip: When you see a merry go round, you demand that your dad spin you around!

After a wobbly restart we left the park headed for another falls, just about fifteen minutes down the road! The next falls are known as Griffin Falls, located in Collinsville, Alabama. An important note is that this waterfall is located on private land. The owner is awfully sweet to let adventurers on his land, so please remember to be respectful. This fall can be found on a good old dirt road just off of Highway 68. After just a short drive down the road, there is an obvious pull off where the trail begins. It is quite a steep trek to the top. There are lots of rocks that can be slippery when wet (Right, Hilary?).

Rachel’s dad and Hilary’s dad where the first to lead the way. Hilary’s mom was also along for the trip and up the side of the mountain we went.

Green moss lines the trails and makes for lush views. The 40 foot waterfall was a beautiful sight; however, you had to navigate just past the first boulder to get the full view. The higher we climbed, the prettier the view! If one is brave enough you can navigate behind the waterfalls into an open cave to get an ethereal view from behind the water.

There are lots of flowers oddly planted along the cave wall. These were planted and left by a local religious group that meets periodically here behind the water. It was a serene feeling standing behind the falls feeling the mist and splashes of water against us.

Navigating the wet rocks on the way up was a bit unsettling, but as everyone knows…what goes up must come back down. Hilary just came down at a quicker velocity than she expected during one little section of the trek to the bottom.

We all had a good laugh. As you might remember, Rachel took a very similar fall a couple weeks back! The mud never scared us, and then on to the next stop!

The hiking had made us hungry, so we stopped downtown Fort Payne at a local burger joint known as The Strand! Home of the delicious Bonanza Burger and some of the best onion rings around. The service here is unbeatable and the antique decor is all for sale! Be sure and ask for a slice of the homemade desserts, as well. We all shared a peach cheesecake that was divine!

We traveled to the overlook at Little River Canyon. It was foggy atop Lookout Mountain, but that didn’t stop us or the other adventurers from using their Saturday to see the water! After a quick stop there, we were onto Rome, Georgia! Gregg (Rachel’s Dad) and Paul and Becky (Hilary’s Parents) where all up for some antique shopping. There was an Italian place we were wanting to eat for dinner later in the evening. Rome was about an hour drive away. For Hilary and Rachel that meant time for more laughs and more ideas… One of which will probably get us into some trouble……You know what they say…. “When in Rome!!”

Our parents are notoriously always looking for a good deal and love thrifting. However, that isn’t really our “thing”, but knowing Italian was on the menu for dinner we traveled along for the trip in our own car. We figured we could find something to do while we waited for our parents to go shopping, right?

Well about twenty minutes from splitting with our parents we found ourselves in a little corner shop. Gotta do something to pass the time! We paid tribute to our love of travel and our rebellious nature all in one place!

Follow us on Instagram @carryoncousins to see what our tattoos look like!

We were excited to go to dinner with our new secret hidden by our hiking leggings! Rachel said to Hilary as we met up with our parents “Are we going to tell Aunt Becky?” Hilary quickly replied with a sharp “No!?” … deal. We mutually decided we would keep a secret.

We waltzed into the best Italian restaurant called Provino’s with a giddy and sneaky smile.

Hilary’s first words to her mom and me was “Come to the bathroom.” Rachel knew to follow. As we swung open the door to the lady’s room, Hilary peels up her leggings to reveal our not so secret surprise! Rachel just simply followed along and raised her leggings to show hers, too! Hilary just really doesn’t enjoy having a plan as much as Rachel does!   

Our dads didn’t need to know just yet… and, well, this will be a test to see if they actually read our blog!

This wild, crazy, spur of the moment decision embodies how we want to live our life. A notion we coined “The Carry-On Mindset” means living a life for the moment. Valuing what is now. Valuing the moment you are in right this second. We know that tomorrow is a thing, that there is a future, and plans are important to have. However, we do not want to live for tomorrow because we know it may never come. Hilary’s Motto:Plans are made to be broken. Rachel’s Motto:Don’t tempt me with a good time!

When we had the “Best Idea Ever” to create a blog that documented our travels, it began as a travel journal for ourselves simply to let our friends and family in on our adventures. We both had experienced some adversities in our life that had pushed us to make some really hard decisions. The notion of “deciding to be happy” is easier said than done. We often sit back in awe at how our lives where intertwined so closely because we began to make the same decisions at the same time in our lives, and that is what brought us so close together.

We leaned on each other for support when things were not going so great. When we were scared of what the future held, or when we were lonely at all the wee hours of the morning, it always seemed that the other had just experienced the same thing and was able to help talk the other one down off that steep ledge.

We quickly realized that we both had similar coping skills. When we were upset, sad, lonely, or mad as all hell, it really helped us to change our scenery. We would get up and get going on a quick whim to force our brains to process new information so we could step away from the negativity we could not seem to shake sitting at home. We both struggle with not being able to stop thinking about it. Traveling and going on adventures is a way we could force our brains to stop picking apart the one thing that was bothering us and focus on what really matters; being happy with ourselves. What makes us inspired? What makes our heart beat outside our chests? What makes us stand there in awe?

We will never forget the first real trip we ever took together. It was right before we would both take a huge leap of faith. We were both stuck at a place in our lives where we were sacrificing every bit of our happiness to please others. It’s not like we are two selfless, caring, nurturing sweet girls who just get trampled on. If you knew us, you would say right the opposite. We both STRUGGLE with letting people down, and in order to do what we needed to do to be young, wild, and free…. Or young, dumb, and broke more like it…. we inevitably knew that we would hurt a lot of people in our lives.

This post itself may pain a few people because of our decisions made on this very day, but we want everyone to know that the best way to handle life and all of its struggles is to pack light and carry on. You might regret getting a tattoo, but you will never regret travelling! 🙂