I have one essential piece of travel advice: enter without any expectations. This tactic will permit you to wipe your mind of any stereotypes and be more open to experiences. Naturally, before visiting a different country, everyone seems to have advice— mostly the places to avoid and things you shouldn’t do. All useful advice, that I often take with a grain of salt… not entirely ignored but at its core, it is crucial to be aware of your surroundings and never put yourself in tricky places.
That being said, as I boarded my flight to Jamaica, accompanied by my close friend Idiatou, nicknamed Chum, I had zero expectations and loads of excitement. Contrary to the usual input, I had only heard positive stories about Jamaica, and after a particularly rough beginning of the year, we were in need of positive vibes. I sat next to a burly man, soaked in cheap cologne and dripping sweat. I said my hello and set up my nest, prepping music and pulling out my sweater. As I arranged myself, a gay flight attendant, who was sweet and noticeably flamboyant swooped down to our seats and asked if we needed anything. “No, thank you,” we all responded and resumed our activities. The flight attendant roamed around a few times and the snickering began. I began to hear comments about how gay he was and how ridiculous he looked/acted. The giant next to me tapped my forearm and pointed at the flight attendant and hypothetically asked with a heavy accent, “why is he like that?” a question that led him to chuckle and shake his head. I could feel my blood pressure rising at his ignorance and intolerance, and responded rather rudely, “who cares what he does?” He didn’t speak to me again. Many times before, I had heard Jamaica was an extremely homophobic country, often considered to be in the top ten of the world. I tried not to let this single experience spoil my mood and fell asleep rather pleasantly.