Exercises you can do in your hotel room

Lately, it’s been a struggle for me to stick to a fitness routine at home, so try to imagine how hard it is to be disciplined about eating healthy meals and working out when I’m traveling. I don’t know about you but being on the road turns my personal routine upside down in so many ways. For example, I never know what my breakfast, lunch or dinner will be like and my mid-morning and afternoon snacks may or may not materialize depending on my schedule. And truthfully, whether I am traveling for work or vacation, the idea of pounding hard in a gym is not very appealing when I could be out exploring.

Basic workout material but you can use whatever is available
Basic workout material but you can use whatever is available

But at the end of the day, it’s about making adjustments and not excuses because it’s very easy to do nothing at all then watch your fitness level fade or the extra pounds creep on. Even after an exhausting or exhilarating day, you can exercise from the comfort of your hotel room to burn a few calories.

First, I always start my exercise routine with cardio. I am not a fan of running but I don’t mind skipping. Thankfully, I’ve discovered that it’s the fastest and most convenient way to get my heart rate up – anywhere.  Even if I forget my jump rope, I can always simulate the action. So do that first, then move on to some toning exercises.

I’ve shared a few options below.


To achieve toned arms, you need to target the biceps (front of the arm) and triceps (back of the arm) from every angle. According to Franklin Antoian, ACE Certified Personal and founder of iBodyFit.com, “generally six to eight reps is good for strength, and 10 to 12 reps is suggested for muscle maintenance to keep the tendons strong and healthy.”

Push ups: I used to do 3 sets of 15 but until my shoulder is fully healed, I do 3 reps of instead
Push ups: Work at your own pace. I used to do 3 sets of 15 but now I’m working my way up from 3 sets of 8.
Bench dips but in this case , I've made them bed dips. Again, I do 3 reps of 15.
Bench dips but in this case, I’ve made them bed dips. With this one, I do 3 reps of 15.
Shoulder exercise: external rotation. Keep the elbow tucked into the waist.
Shoulder exercise that helps with your external rotation. Keep the elbow tucked into the waist for as many reps as you do.


Squats are some of the simplest exercises to include in your workout as you can use your own body weight to execute. Not only do they help you gain definition in your thighs and buttocks but when done correctly, they also can improve your posture, digestion and circulation..

Wall Squats: 3 sets of 10
Wall Squats: I do 3 sets of 10. (They get harder as you increase the reps) You can do it with a pillow or ball or back support.

Lunges – Lunges are a great way to strengthen, sculpt and build several muscles/muscle groups including your butt, hamstrings (back of the legs) and quads (four main muscles at the front of the thigh).  You can do them in a stationary position or walking across a room.

Walking lunges: I do 3 sets of 10 on each leg
Walking squats: 3 sets of 10 on each leg

Leg, Hip and Butt Extensions – Extension exercises strengthen the buttocks, outer thighs and lower-back muscles. There are variations that you can do while standing or bending.

Side and back extensions.
Butt lifts
Butt lifts – whatever the number, I need double. LOL.


There are like a gazillion exercises that you can do to burn belly fat, flatten your tummy,and strengthen your core without access to any equipment. Success depends on your fitness level and the strength of your core (which is a set of interconnected muscles that run up the back and stretch down to the butt and the front and inner thighs).  The most common ab workout is the basic crunch but you can up your game with reverse crunches, oblique twists, planks and more.

Top image – basic crunch. Lower image – oblique crunch. (Your oblique muscles are at the side of your waist).
Reverse crunch
Reverse crunch
OBliques twist
Oblique twist – go 90 degrees to the side, then back to center
An oblique stretch
An oblique stretch
The dreaded plank

And of course, you have to stretch at the end!

Do you have any neat exercise tips you’d like to share?

Editor’s notes:

I usually work out in sneakers but although I’d packed them for this trip, I forgot the bag in my rush to get out of the house for my little weekend getaway. Since I’d planned to use the opportunity to demonstrate these workouts I had to make do with bare feet.  Of course, germaphobe that I am, I had to wash my feet thoroughly afterwards.

For longer trips, I’ve been known to pack my jump rope and resistance bands just in case I can’t make it to the gym or don’t have one where I am staying. But that was when I was on top of my game. True confession? I don’t do that nearly enough nowadays..



Boat building, a revered Bahamian tradition

When I last visited the Bahamian Out Islands, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Joe Albury, one of the oldest living descendants of the famous Albury boat building dynasty.

Joe Albury (front row, second from left) as a young boy surrounded by his famaily
Joe Albury (front row, second from left) as a young boy surrounded by his family

Joe is a soft-spoken man of medium height and build who moves with slow steps. At a glance, his weather-beaten skin tells a vivid story of a lifetime lived on the open seas and under the blazing Caribbean sun. However, don’t let his crown of silver hair and his slightly slurred speech fool you.

Joe Albury in his workshop
Joe Albury in his workshop

He is a testament to mental and physical strength. And his intimate knowledge of his craft is undeniable. I never asked him his age but Mr. Albury must be older than 80. Yet, this wizened seafarer makes boat making look easy – in a studio in his backyard!

The exterior of Joe's Studio
The exterior of Joe’s Studio

His trademark design is called an ‘Abaco dinghy’ and a specially commissioned 13-footer built by Joe Albury will cost you somewhere in the region of US$18,000. As he works on his own and does it in his spare time, expect at least an 18 month wait if you place an order. His boats are very much in demand.

A dinghy in progress
A dinghy in progress

Can’t afford one or have no reason or desire to go sailing? Don’t despair. He sells hand-made 1/2″, 1″ and 1 1/2″ scale models in his store at much more affordable rates. What’s more, the miniatures are made from local woods such as madiera and corkwood so they serve as lasting and unique souvenirs.

The “Yippee” dinghy, built on Man-O-War Cay circa 1948 and displayed near the dock
The “Yippee” dinghy, built on Man-O-War Cay circa 1948 and displayed near the dock

Across the street, his relatives Don and Jamie run the more modern center-console and runabout boat production operation known as Albury Brothers Boats.

A center- console boat design
A center- console boat design

During my brief time with him, I learnt he had no heir or able apprentice waiting in line to carry on this venerable dinghy building tradition. I thought to myself, “how sad!’”  It’s always disheartening to learn that long-held skills will not be passed on to future generations.

Oh, how I loved Edinburgh!

Despite being touted as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, I didn’t have a clue what to expect when I arrived in Edinburgh. To be honest, I secretly wondered if it would be as cold and as wet as London, all the while crossing my fingers and fervently hoping that the people weren’t as “proper” and the architecture wasn’t as pompous. Thankfully, my wishes came through. Cloaked in the royal garb of a castle – an imposing structure perched high on top of a hill – the city is nothing short of magnificent.

A view of the Holyrood Castle
A view of the Holyrood Castle

Like a vibrant woman with a megawatt personality and a deep-rooted sense of self, Edinburgh is statuesque and regal, and resplendent with poise and grace. Clearly, she’s lived a colorful life and has aged gracefully, yet she remains a delightful reservoir of new discoveries. I absolutely loved the three days I spent in her warm embrace.

Below is a list of things you should try to do while there.

Stroll through the Georgian New Town where people watching and window shopping on the ultra-chic Princes Street will come naturally. Make time to pop into a local coffee shop, take your picture with a kilt-wearing bagpipe player or simply admire the surrounding architecture that is neoclassical and Georgian in design.

Having a little fun on Princes Street
Having a little fun on Princes Street

Try traditional Scottish meals. Two popular dishes are mince and tatties (ground beef and mashed potatoes) and haggis. The latter has a pudding-iike consistency and is made up of sheep’s entrails (heart, liver and lungs) mixed with spices, oatmeal and stock. Be warned: it is not for the faint of heart!

Discover snippets of Scottish history amidst the cobblestone streets of medieval Old Town. With the Royal Mile at its center, this section of town has several narrow alleys and concealed courtyards that beckon with whispers about the days of old. Not only are the short flashes of time-travel captivating, but the fine craftsmanship and detail on many of the Reformation-era former tenement buildings will leave you standing in awe. The most prominent structure in the area will be the 800-year-old St. Giles Cathedral; both its exterior and interior are exquisite.

St. Giles Cathedral
St. Giles Cathedral

If you have even the slightest hint of Scottish ancestry, visit the Tartan Weave Exhibition where you can search for your clan ancestry and crest. I found my family’s tartan ( a checkered cloth pattern) on my maternal side. Afterwards, slip into the Museum on the Mound where you will see, among other things, its million dollar exhibit. That’s the closest I think I’ll ever get to the real thing.

Have lunch at Maison Bleue, an intimate retro-style bistro that is tucked away on Victoria Street, just off the Royal Mile. Its menu is inspired by French, North African and Scottish influences and you can get a delectable three-course meal for a reasonable price.

Banoffee pie, a traditional English treat made from bananas, cream and toffee from boiled condensed milk,
Banoffee pie, a traditional English treat made from bananas, cream and toffee from boiled condensed milk.

Check to see what’s playing at the Festival and King’s City Theatres.  Their shows range from dramatic plays to concerts and dance performances designed to please all audiences. When I was there, I saw a dance recital featuring a touring troupe from the Netherlands and the show was fantastic.

Book a day excursion that gets you out of the city and into the gorgeous Highlands. I went on an eye-popping ride through the industrial heartland into Glasgow and then across the Firth of Clyde to see Loch Lomond, Britain’s largest expanse of fresh water and the reputed home of the Loch Ness Monster. From there, a whimsical adventure began. The rounded lilt of our driver/tour guide acted as musical score and the visuals that emerged all around us served as the main scenes in what looked like a period-piece movie set. The imagery was so surreal,  I was very nearly convinced I was driving through a big-budget Hollywood sound stage. But it was the real deal.

Surreal scenery in the Scottish Highlands Photo courtesy of the internet)
Surreal scenery in the Scottish Highlands ( photo from dangerous-business.com)

As the bus meandered deeper and deeper into the refreshingly unspoiled countryside, our view alternated between nonchalantly grazing cows and sheep; stretches of blessedly noise- and pollutant-free open spaces; and riotous untended patches of wild thistle, heather and bluebells that sometimes stretched as far as the eye could see. (Bluebells are flowers that actually look purple and they only bloom once per year. They are stunning.)

Highland Cow Photo courtesy of www.photography-scotland.com)
Highland Cow – look at him long enough and his mouth twitches. (photo from www.photography-scotland.com)

Take a scenic ride to see Stirling Castle in the Trossachs, nestled in the foothills of the Highlands. The former home of the Stewart kings and queens of Scotland, it later served as a military garrison and training facility, Today, it is a tourist attraction. If you go, a visit to the Tapestry Studio is a must. At the time I visited, I was fascinated to watch two women who were trying to recreate the tapestry in the King’s and Queen’s rooms. We were told they had been bent over one design for three years already when I saw them, That little tidbit certainly highlighted the level of detail involved in the process.

A replica of what a medieval kitchen looked like at Sterling Castle
A replica of what a medieval kitchen looked like at Sterling Castle

Set aside some time to enter the hallowed halls of the National Art Gallery of Scotland in order to capture the spirit of the Renaissance era and others leading up to the 20th century via their displays of fine art.

And the icing on the cake is this: you absolutely MUST take a hike up to Carlton Hill to stand on tip-toe and try to kiss the sky. The view, that feeling of weightlessness and the crisp freshness of the air, are incomparable!

Capturing the scenery on top pf Carlton Hill
Capturing the scenery on top pf Carlton Hill


Editor’s Notes:

You may have noticed I didn’t list one pub or whiskey bar, right? They are there but they are just not my thing, (smile)

Applying for a visa: Aaargh!!!

Brand Jamaica!!
Brand Jamaica!!

I am PROUD to be Jamaican. It’s a non-detachable part of my psyche and my socialization. My national pride is reflected in my distinctive accent, my “we-can-do-all-things-we-set-out-to-do” confidence, and a hearty appreciation of our indigenous delicacies like patties, jerked meats and the national dish – ackee and saltfish. Regardless of where I go, and the pleasure I derive from exploring far-flung destinations, there’s just no substitute for our food, our culture, the landscapes, our people and that irreplaceable island swag.

But sometimes, just sometimes…I wish I carried a second passport.

The evolution of the Jamaican passport
The evolution of the Jamaican passport

The challenges and inconveniences some passport holders like myself face when planning trips can be disheartening and downright annoying. Not only does the need to apply for a visa limit spontaneity in vacation trips, it also can impede our ability to work as well. What’s more, the process is costly and quite invasive. Depending on the country and category of visa needed, application requirements may include all or some of the following:

  • a job letter
  • a bank statement
  • police background checks
  • biometrics (i.e. fingerprinting)
  • proof of itinerary (airline and hotel reservations)
  • an invitation letter, conference attendance documentation etc.

And, let’s not even talk about the fees!

Passpot rank varies by country (PHoto courtesy of grcity.com)

It gets on my nerves occasionally, because sometimes I just can’t be bothered with the hassle. Thankfully, I’ve never been denied a visa but the hoops I have had to jump through to travel to Egypt, London, Brazil, China, Europe, and the Cayman Islands are noteworthy. The easiest process I ever had was with Dubai. It wasn’t even a stamp in my passport; the entry visa was delivered via email.

In former roles, I also missed two opportunities to go on work-related trips to Anguilla because it is a British Overseas Territory, and I needed a UK visa to get in. Yet, I was able to travel to the Turks and Caicos (another UK Overseas Territory) multiple times with my Jamaican passport and US resident card. So, clearly the rules are not consistent.

In a recent study, Jamaica ranked 98 in the Global Passport Power Rank 2016 index, with a visa-free score of 77. That means Jamaican passport holders have visa-free access to 46 countries and can obtain a visa on arrival at an additional 31. Other Caribbean neighbors rank much higher:  Barbados (132), Bahamas (129), Antigua & Barbuda (124), St Kitts and Nevis (124), and Trinidad and Tobago (12). See the link with a full country listing here.

Where does your passport rank, and have you had any challenges getting to where you need to go?


Traveling for work: Photographer

So far we’ve talked about international development, destination promotion and training jobs with travel benefits and the features have all been informative and fun reads.  This month we’re mixing things up a bit.

Like I said, the goal of this feature is to inspire people of different ages and backgrounds to explore various careers that can take them around the globe, so I feel it’s time to highlight a job in a non-corporate environment. Enter Steve “Semiyah” James, a Jamaican with many talents.

Steve James specializes in event photography
Steve James specializes in event photography

Steve, I know you have a solid educational background and several years of hard-earned private sector experience but you’ve always seemed to enjoy your hobby-turned business endeavors more. Am I right or wrong?

You’re right. I have an MBA and a bachelor’s degree, as well as significant experience in hotel management and telecommunications sales but outside of my family, the things that bring me the most joy involve reggae music (Lovers Rock in particular), entertainment and photography.

Steve in studio with band members of the group Steel Pulse
Steve in studio with band members of the famous reggae group Steel Pulse

When I listen to you speak, I can sense the depth of your passion for those fields but for now, tell me about the photography. 

I’ve had a fascination with capturing images for as long as I can remember. Before things went digital, I was the man who had 25 photo albums and whenever I got the chance, I would pull them out  to take a trip down memory lane with friends and family.

Taking a sightseeing trip in The Bahamas by van
Taking a sightseeing trip in The Bahamas by open back van

Were you taking the pictures or posing for them?

{He chuckled before responding} A bit of both but mostly the former. Back in those days, I would carry around four-tube flashes and keep stocks of 35mm film handy. I even remember taking a photography course in high school that involved huddling over negatives in a darkroom while my classmates and I learned how to use chemicals, controlled light and photographic paper to make the magic happen.

Let’s fast forward to today. I know a similar type of magic has taken you to some cool places and allowed you to photograph some very interesting people. Tell us about that.

Because of my photography, I’ve been able to visit places like Gambia; Manchester and London in the United Kingdom; and New York and California in the United States. 

Steve rests awhile after passing through 14 villages to get to Kunta KInteh Island in Gambia
Steve rests awhile after passing through 14 villages to get to Kunta KInteh Island in Gambia

Some of my Caribbean trips have taken me to Guyana, Antigua, Saint Kitts & Nevis, The Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Saint Croix, Saint Thomas, Turks and Caicos and other countries as well.

George Town, Guyana
Amidst the hustle and bustle of downtown GeorgeTown, Guyana

In your typical down-to-earth and humble fashion, you’ve deliberately omitted any mention of the people you’ve photographed during those trips. You’ve traveled extensively with the famous Jamaican crooner, Beres Hammond, haven’t you? Who else has been a subject in front of your lens?

Yes, I have traveled with Beres as his personal photographer. Life on the road with him and his Harmony House family has been phenomenal. 

Singer Beres Hammond feeling the love from fans at at performance at Reggae Sumfest
Singer Beres Hammond feeling the love from fans at a performance at Reggae Sumfest

I’ve also gotten assignments from print and online media outlets to cover other music concerts, reggae festivals and events like the first Back to Africa festival, a UK-based Lovers Rock Reunion show, Reggae Sumfest, Rebel Salute, Sting, multiple Jazz and Blues festivals and many more. 

Female DJ Lady Saw on stage during Reggae Sumfest's popular Dancehall Night
Female DJ Lady Saw on stage during Reggae Sumfest’s popular Dancehall Night

Over the years, I’ve photographed numerous reggae and dancehall musicians both on stage and behind-the-scenes. My lens has captured established global icons like Jimmy Cliff, Steel Pulse, the late John Holt, Shaggy and Buju Banton. I’ve also taken pictures of up and comers like Chronixx and Jesse Royal, plus other stalwarts like Vivian “Sugar Love” Jones and so on.

Performer Bugle on stage
Performer Bugle working through his hit list

What have been some of your favorite times?

I enjoy capturing the intimate moments the fans never get to see. The spontaneous times when the entertainers and band members are playing dominoes or when they are telling jokes on the tour bus and bantering with each other during a flight. 

A spirited domino match while waiting for a flight
Musicians in an airport playing a spirited game of dominoes while waiting for a flight
An exclusive picture of Buju Banton returning to Jamaica after his last concert in the Bahamas prior to his arrest
An exclusive picture of Buju Banton returning to Jamaica after his last concert in the Bahamas prior to his arrest

I also like taking nature shots in the destinations that I visit and getting up close and personal with some of the local food spots. I’ll be honest, in the latter case, the meals are usually so tasty I’ve often halfway through the food on my plate before I remember to snap a picture.

Do you find the time to explore?

Of course! You have to make the time for what you enjoy.  When I travel with Harmony House, we tend to fly to the location two days ahead of the event to make allowances for potential flight delays or other unpredictable occurrences. In between set up, sound check and show time, we leave the hotel and go in search of local experiences…and food. 

A popular seafood restaurant in The Bahamas
Oh Andros, a popular seafood restaurant in The Bahamas

When I travel on assignment, I have more time to myself so I check with the hotel staff for ideas on interesting things to see and do.

Are there any great stories you can tell us about traveling with a celebrity like Beres?

He’s a very private man but I don’t think he’ll mind if I share a few tidbits with you. When I travel with him, it’s a breeze getting through immigration and customs because he gets VIP treatment wherever he goes. A similar standard of service is extended to his band.  The longest wait time is the period in which the airport staff stops processing passengers in order to get their pictures taken with him. Believe it or not, sometimes all lines cease to move while they are getting their selfies. No matter how often I witness his effect on people, I am always amazed.

Fan filled with tears of joy as she is about to meet Beres for the first time
Fan filled with tears of joy as she is about to meet Beres for the first time
Radiant fan after she meets Beres Hammond.

I also remember one incident where a fan got to meet him backstage. Just the actuality of being in the same room with her rendered her immobile. She was crying her eyes out. Beres called her over and gently spoke to her, and it was like watching a beautiful frozen statue melt as she gradually found her speech and regained control of her ability to move. It was a sight to behold! 

One last question: can you tell us anything about him that most people wouldn’t know?

He has a good sense of humor and he would love to meet First Lady Michelle Obama.  In fact, he would love to sing for her someday.

“Say what now?” I asked, with a twinkle in my eye.  I couldn’t outrun the thought that even with the amount of swag that President Barak Obama has, he better not put up too much of a resistance if the incomparable Beres Hammond gets to show Michele Obama ‘what one dance can do’


More about Steve James

In addition to his photography work, some of which has appeared in Billboard magazine, United Reggae.com. Reggaeville.com and on CD covers, Steve also hosts a radio show on Bess FM and organizes customized sightseeing tours around Jamaica that delve into the music and culture of the island. He can be reached via email at: [email protected] and you can connect with him on Facebook and Instagram: @semiyahsteve.