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Jobs with Travel Benefits: Sport Marketing

It’s been a while since I posted a Jobs with Travel Benefits feature, so in order to keep inspiring people about career choices that can open the door to travel, I sought out one of the busiest people I know and asked her to answer a few questions. Meet Carole Beckford, a published author and multi-faceted woman who has worked for many years in an industry primarily dominated by men. She’s become such a go-to source, I am convinced she knows almost as much, or more, about every type of sport invented than what would be considered humanly possible. Carole Beckford

Carole, you’re an established media and communications professional who has worked in various industries, and you’ve met a lot of important people and accomplished many things in your impressive career. If you could sum up your biggest achievement in one sentence, what would that be?

I was happy to work as a publicist with one of the greatest athletes in the world – Usain Bolt. The fact that he is JAMAICAN made that experience even better. Carole Beckford and Usain Bolt

Please tell my readers what you do now. I know you’re a master at multi-tasking, so fill us in on any side ventures you have going on too.

I am now head of marketing and communications for Cricket West Indies. The role gives me an opportunity to shape the way people view West Indies Cricket, and more importantly, help the players maximize their efforts using media as a tool. I also lecture in Sports Journalism and Marketing online (when I have the time), and I take online courses as often as I can to keep me relevant and informed.

Carole Beckford

How does travel factor into your current position?

I travel throughout the Caribbean to attend meetings, matches, and events related to cricket, so I know the region really well. From time to time, I’ll make the occasional trip to the sub-continent, but I haven’t done that much in the last three years.

Carole Beckford

I know you’ve crisscrossed the globe extensively in past positions. Over the years, what countries captured a little piece of your heart?

I love the UK and Europe. Those places were where I spent a lot of time with Usain. I got to see a bit of Daegu, South Korea too. Carole Beckford in South Korea

Back then, I also visited the U.S. for media tours. Most of the time those trips were short, but England still holds significant memories for me. A trip from London to Birmingham by bus is always interesting, no matter how many times you do it.

Did some of those places grow on you after a second or third visit, or did they make a good first impression from the get go? What caused you to change your mind, if at all?

I am not the best tourist, and I have only recently begun to make an effort to see attractions and do more while in a destination.  The first impression better lasts…or else (smile). I am doing better as I now go in a day earlier to look around. The truth is I prefer to test the “mojitos”. For me, that experience is way more exciting. When I return to a country it is generally for a sport-related event, like a match, game or a conference. Carole Beckford

What resources do you use for travel advice & tips?

I am old-fashioned, so I do not use apps at all. I conduct online research, and once I book my ticket and accommodation, I tag the things I like in my mailbox so I can refer to them later. I also talk to the locals as that’s a way to become more familiar with what is happening in the streets. One major tip I’d like to add here is that while it’s always good to interact with residents who’ll make you feel at home, you must always be aware of your environment.

What’s your best travel memory, and what was the most bizarre?
It’s hard to pick just one. Cymru, Wales was quaint but fun. The Cardiff Castle was also a real treat. In addition to that, I had a blast on the streets in Ouchy, a seaport and popular lakeside resort located south of the city of Lausanne, Switzerland. It literally sits at the edge of Lake Geneva halfway across the globe, and yet they had Jamaican curried chicken on a menu in one of the restaurants!

Carole Beckford

Sampling red wine at a few vineyards in Lisbon, Portugal gave me a nice rush too. And I thoroughly enjoyed the Sound of Music tour in Austria.

My most bizarre experience was when a colleague/friend fell prey to some pickpockets in Salzburg, Austria. But she wasn’t harmed and recovered from the shock quickly.

Do you think a person’s experiences in different parts of the world can impact his/her outlook on life?

Absolutely! Travel adds perspective on people, experiences and helps with adaptability.

Finally, let’s go through a few trivia questions to have a little fun. Are you team roll or fold when you pack? Do you prefer the aisle seat or window? Are you a print or mobile boarding pass user? Would we spot you at an airport with a carry on or heading to check your bag? And do you rely on ear buds or eye patches for long-haul flights?

I fold for short trips as I never check luggage, but I roll for trips longer than a week. Incidentally, I never do laundry on a trip because it’s always easier to buy what I need.
I prefer a mobile boarding pass and the window seat generally, although I’ll opt for an aisle seat if I’m with a group. No earbuds or eye patches for me. I do not like having anything in my ears, plus I sometimes read a book and I sleep easily anyway.

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(All photos accompanying this post are courtesy of Carole Beckford).

To keep up with Carole, you can follow her on Twitter or visit her website for sport industry updates and insights.

Jobs with Travel Benefits: E-Commerce & Business Development Manager

Great news! My Jobs with Travel Benefits feature is back this month, and I’m super stoked because I get to kick off this new set of career-inspiring stories with a fellow Jamaican wanderlust maven.  I’ve known Tara Bradshaw for 10 years, and during that time two things have been constant: she’s either been off exploring some far-flung destination, or she’s been diligently planning her next vacation.

Checking out the street art in Wynwood Art District, Miami
Checking out the street art in Wynwood Art District, Miami

Travel is definitely high on Tara’s priority list. I’d say fashion and shoes (the latter being another shared interest) are too.  It’s very likely she will beat me up for even mentioning this, but good food ranks high for her as well.  You would never guess her MAJOR foodie status just by looking at her, though. That’s because with her svelte frame, she could give Chanel Iman and Kendall Jenner a run for their money on any lifestyle magazine shoot!

But enough with the ribbing. Here’s what she had to say…

So Tara, you’re the E-Commerce & Business Development Manager at one of the most established and respected travel agencies in Jamaica. What does that role involve?

My role focuses on the e-commerce and development side of the business. Trafalgar Travel has always embraced technology, and we have a number of proprietary e-commerce solutions for corporations. My team and I are responsible for the development, roll-out, marketing and maintenance of those products.  In addition, I also book flights, hotels, honeymoons, cruises, and family reunions on behalf of clients. However, the majority of my work surrounds projects related to technology, and any electronic commercial transactions that relate to travel. On a regular basis,  I prepare proposals, make presentations, do demos of the products, write contracts, and sign on new accounts.

In awe of The Great Wall of China
In awe of The Great Wall of China

I love it when I get asked  “do people still use travel agents?”, because I’m proud to call myself a well-rounded travel consultant, and I’m confident of the value my colleagues and I have to offer.

I heard US TV personality Steve Harvey say something in an interview some years ago that has stuck with me for some time. He said, “your career is what you’re paid for, but your passion is what you’re made for.” Would you say this role gives you the best of both worlds?

I think when you have the opportunity to work in an industry that you love, you do get the best of both worlds.  Before this job, I spent a maximum of a year and a half in any position I was in.  I even disclosed that fact in my interview, and warned my employers that I may not be around after six months!  Close to five years later, I’m still here… and that says it all to me.  I love to travel, and I also love helping others to plan their trips.  I feel very lucky to be able to get paid to do something I’m so passionate about.

What are some of the destinations you’ve been to as a direct result of this position?

I’ve been fortunate enough to go on a few work-related trips since I’ve been at Trafalgar.  In my very first year, I went to Nice, France for a supplier visit.  I’ve been to Cancun for a trade show, Toronto for a training course, New York on a new airline’s inaugural flight, and Amsterdam for a conference.  The business development aspect of my job also allows me to travel to events and conferences if I identify potential opportunities for Trafalgar.

Having fun at the botanical gardens in Amsterdam
Having fun in the botanical gardens in Amsterdam

I’ve known you long enough to guess you’ve squeezed some sightseeing time into those trips. Tell us about some of the fun things you got to do in those destinations.

I try to make the most of any business trips I go on, whether it’s exploring the city after the work portion of the day has ended, or adding some personal days before or after.  I usually compare costs of the “official” dates versus the cost for the dates including my personal days.  If there’s a difference in cost, I pay the balance.  It almost always works out cheaper than if I had to buy a ticket on my own.

I research the destinations (and weather) beforehand so that I have an idea of what’s happening around that time.  I like getting a feel of local life and am always on the lookout for any special events happening during my stay.  I’ve been to museums, food festivals, wine tastings, art galleries, botanical gardens, and lots more.

About to sample some xiao long bao (food dumplings ) in a Beijing hutong (alley).
About to sample some xiao long bao (food dumplings ) in Beijing.

In addition to work-related travel, you globetrot quite a bit in your spare time.  How far in advance do your plan trips, and what tools do you use as inspiration to build your itineraries?

I tend to plan my trips way in advance, sometimes even up to nine or 10 months beforehand. I have booked a few spur of the moment trips, though.   My personal motivation is just always having a trip to look forward to.  I don’t really use a particular tool to build my itineraries, I just research several destinations and websites and seek out things that interest me.

I follow a ton of travel accounts on Instagram, so I’m inspired by many of the posts I see.  I seek accommodation that’s in a central location or very close to public transit.  I also read local destination blogs in addition to the usual sites like Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, TripAdvisor.  I especially like the local blogs to get information on what and where to eat.

Outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok
Outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok

You have a fantastic Instagram feed. How do you decide what images to share? Also, when you travel solo, how do you get the best destination photos with you in them?

Thanks!  Honestly, I don’t have a strategy to which images I share.  I just post the pictures I love.  My preference is to take photos of the destination itself, so having travel photos with me in them aren’t usually my priority.  I absolutely do not own a selfie stick.  If I really want a photo with me in it, I’ll usually offer to take another traveler’s picture, and then ask him/her to return the favor. The exception was my very first solo trip, which was to Beijing. I booked a 30-minute private shoot with Flytographer, a company that contracts local photographers in several destinations around the world.  That was awesome.

The Jamaican dollar is not very strong on the currency exchange market right now, yet you’ve been to some truly long-haul destinations on your own dime. What are the top three tips you can share with persons who are on a tight budget and do not believe that travel is affordable for them?

This is such a timely question.  Just last night I had a friend say to me, “I need to do what you do to rack up your miles.  Or do you get passes?  What do you do?”  I replied that what I do is purchase tickets and she said, “Oh, for your office?”  I said no…. for myself.  Like a regular person.  LOL.  I think most people are under the impression that I travel for free, but I pay full fare just like everyone else.

My top 3 tips are:

1.  Try to save in a foreign currency that’s stable and strong, if possible. Travel from Jamaica is less affordable than travel from other parts of the world, but it is still attainable.  Have a travel goal in mind and save monthly towards it.  Research your destinations – airfare may end up being the most expensive part, but meals and accommodation are usually very affordable.

2. Understand the difference between cost and value. Just because something is the cheapest, doesn’t mean it’s the best value.  You could book a hotel that’s dirt cheap, but then that also takes you 45 minutes plus taxi fare to get to any major attractions, which will waste your time and money.

3. Be flexible, especially if you’re traveling alone. Be willing to make more than one connection.  Be willing to travel in Economy class.  Be willing to leave from a different airport.  Be willing to travel in off-season.  Consider traveling mid-week instead of on the weekend.  I have persons who ask me for the absolute lowest cost, but yet have exact specifications on date/time of departure, which hotel to stay in, and which class to travel in.  Again, it comes back to cost vs. value.

Thanks for that great bit of advice, lady! The best thing about your tips is that they are easy principles to apply, wherever you live in the world.

The famous Chain Bridge in Budapest
The famous Chain Bridge in Budapest

You can follow Tara’s adventures – at home and abroad – on Instagram. Her handle is @tarabarrra.

(All photos used in this story are courtesy of her.)

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About Trafalgar Travel

Trafalgar Travel  was founded in 1995 and has enjoyed 21 years of success in the industry.  The agency has been recognized by the World Travel Awards as the Caribbean’s Leading Travel Agency for 10 consecutive years.  They are the largest travel agency in the Caribbean, with offices in Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, St. Kitts and the Bahamas.  Trafalgar Travel also has an in-house software development team focused on creating technological solutions for the travel industry.

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Editor’s Note:

My goal is to make this a monthly feature, so if you know someone who has a cool job with travel benefits and he or she wants to talk about it, please email me at mytravelstamps@gmail.com. Thanks!

Traveling for Work: Military Service

During Fleet Week 2015, I was able to interact with service men and women aboard the USS Wasp (LHD1), a multi-purpose assault ship that accommodates the full range of Navy and Marine Corps helicopters, conventional and new landing craft, and amphibious vehicles.

The USS WASP (LHD 1) is designed to accomodate new landing craft, air cushion (LCAC) for fast troop movement over the beach and Harrier ii (AV-88) vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) jets that provide close air support for the assault force.
The USS WASP (LHD 1) is designed to accommodate new landing craft, air cushion (LCAC) for fast troop movement over the beach and Harrier II (AV-88) vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) jets that provide close air support for the assault force.

It was an informative experience where, by nature of a guided tour, I got a tiny hint of the equipment and technology used in battle and the magnitude of the sacrifice brave military personnel make for us to maintain our freedoms.

Entrance area of the ship
Entrance area of the ship

The horrors of war are numerous and the devastating effect it can have on lives, both at home and abroad, is unquestionable. Yet, thousands of people enlist each year. In spite of the risks, both veterans and those in active service say military training also teaches valuable life skills. Things like teamwork, attention to detail, self-discipline, how to function in stressful situations and leadership are some of the benefits of enrolling. Of course, persons in active service also get to travel the world!

During my tour of the ship, I spoke briefly with a navy officer and a marine about their trips abroad. We were in groups so I had to slip my questions in between the regular presentations and while my fellow tour participants were looking at the exhibits and learning about the rigors of active duty.

Navy officer Jayme Graham
Navy officer Jayme Graham

E6 1st Class Officer Jayme Graham is a ship serviceman who has been in the navy for 12 years. She is in charge of maintenance and materials management onboard which means she liaises with vendors and suppliers that repair the ship. As part of the navy, she’s traveled around the world to transport marines to their call of duty and has spent time in many far-flung destinations, including Australia and Malaysia. She liked Australia best.

Young Marine Corporal Spader
Young Marine Corporal Spader

Corporal Spader was newer to the service. He’s been a marine for just over three years and with his USS Wasp assignment, he had to quickly learn to live amongst the 900 other people onboard. State rooms for the officers are above board while everybody else lives below deck. His tours of duty have taken him to Thailand, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines so far. With a shy smile, he told me he enjoyed Thailand best. I didn’t have enough time to find out if that was because of the tasty food, the friendly locals, the Instagram-worthy imagery or the women but at his tender age, I suspect it could be all of the above.

What do you think; would you enter military service?

Below are some images from my visit.

Random hotties. Excuse me, I mean badass marines who know exactly how fine they are.
Random hotties. Excuse me, I mean badass marines who know exactly how fine they are.
Bottom right is a robot that is sent ahead in battle to do reconnaissance, It has three cameras, goes up to 8 ½ inches in reach and zooms 800m from the laptop it is attached to. It weighs 50-60 pounds and travels up to six miles per hour. It comes equipped with about two hours of battery life.
Bottom right is a robot that is sent ahead in battle to do reconnaissance, It has three cameras, goes up to 8 ½ inches in reach and zooms 800m from the laptop it is attached to. It weighs 50-60 pounds and travels up to six miles per hour. It comes equipped with about two hours of battery life.
Light armored vehicle (LAV) - Light assault (LAV 25A2
Light armored vehicle (LAV) – Light assault (LAV 25A2) delivers accurate and destructive direct fire against lightly armored vehicles and material targets.

 

 

 

 

I asked these guys to give me their intimidating look and bless their cute little hearts, they obliged. They are standing in front of a mine resistance ambush protected vehicle (MRAP 4 x 4). It is designed for combat engineer teams in areas where mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are known threats. The MRAP can ford hard bottom water, crossing up to 39 inches deep, allowing the vehicle to operate under most environmental conditions.
M41A4 Saber
Now these guys right here? HOT!! In the forefront is a M41A4 Saber heavy anti-tank precision fire weapon system designed to engage and defeat armored vehicles and other hard targets such as field fortifications (bunkers, buildings etc.) Maximum effective range is 3000 meters.
Chopper
Chopper that can take off from and land on the ship.

 

I'm ready for take-off. Where are we headed next?
I’m ready for take-off. Where are we headed next?

Traveling For Work: Guinness World Records Attempt Judge

Tavia Levy
Tavia Levy, marketing executive at Guiness World Records

Meet Tavia Levy, a perky twenty-something marketing executive who was born in Jamaica but is now living in New York City. With her millennial “I can do anything I set out to do” mindset, she already has a built-in formula for fun and career success but when you add an anything-but-routine job at the US headquarters for Guinness World Records to that, a life that’s already good gets noticeably better.

Tavia, please tell my readers what you do.

I work on marketing programs that target businesses and consumers.  So, for example, I promote our services to companies that may want to attempt a record to launch a new product, celebrate a company anniversary or create a once-in-a-life-time customer experience. I also design marketing campaigns to promote the Guinness World Records 2016 annual book and Gamer’s Edition.  

Okay, that sounds like you have an important role to play and clearly there is variety in your tasks but forgive me for being so candid, it also sounds very normal. At a company that verifies records like the Heaviest Weight Lifted by a Tongue and Fastest Half Marathon Pushing a Pram, some days must be extra-ordinary.

(She chuckled and chided me gently about my rush to get to the good stuff).  Well, you didn’t let me finish. Sometimes, I also get to judge world record attempts around the country and overseas.

Outside the Roman coliseum
Pinch me,Is that really the Roman Colloseum?

(Like an animated kid, I started rubbing my hands together in glee.) Yes, tell us about that, please!

My office covers North and South America and the Caribbean but the company only has three full-time judges on staff so their calendars book up quickly. When that happens, other team members get to travel to verify that world record attempts have been performed according to the guidelines.

Where has work-related travel taken you and with the range of records out there, how do you prepare for that?

It’s a steep learning curve. Shortly after I started here, I began working alongside full-time employees who have been judging record attempts for a while. By ‘shadowing’ them I learnt how to carefully review and familiarize myself with similar records. I was later sent to London for a week of intense training where I attended media training and stage presentation classes.

Many focal points in London
The budding jetsetter capturing many focal points in London

After the week, I continued to understudy the full-time judges before I could go solo. A little over a year has passed since then and already I have been to Dallas once and Canada twice to adjudicate events. I’ve also traveled to Las Vegas and San Francisco for conferences.

Enjoying Toronto's harbor front
Enjoying the sights and sounds on the harbor front in Toronto

Tell us about some of the most memorable records you’ve observed and/or officiated at.

After my London trip, I ‘shadowed’ the record for the Longest Dance Relay at MTV here in New York City, an event that lasted 24 hours. That was crazy fun! And perhaps the most unusual record I’ve observed to date, was the Fastest Time To Type A Text Message On A Touch-Screen Mobile Phone. To break the record, you had to type a sentence that had every letter of the alphabet in it.  Brazilian teenager Marcel Fernandes Filho, the guy who held the record for doing it in 26 seconds, did it in 17 instead. He was sponsored by Syntellia, a software company that designed a new Fleksy keyboard you can download to your phone.

He was so fast, it was amazing! I mean, could you type this sentence in 17 seconds? The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.

London again!
London again!

SURE I could. (Yeah, right.) Days like that sound like so much fun.  Do you get to fit any destination experiences into those trips?

Absolutely! After that trip to London, I took some personal time and extended my trip so I could visit Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Amsterdam – in a whirlwind nine days. Europe was such an amazing experience, I’ve been bitten by the travel bug ever since. In fact, I’m headed to Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand soon for vacation.

Do you do anything differently when you are traveling for work versus pleasure?

Well, the truth is, I mix business with pleasure whenever possible but I pack much less for work trips that’s for sure! Everything else is pretty much standard. I troll TripAdvisor for reviews; research restaurants on Yelp!; download DuoLingo if I’ll be in a foreign country ( and sometimes it can be helpful even if the mother tongue of the country I am visiting is English); and I find great map apps.

In front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
In front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

What are your top two travel tips?

Become Flightdeal.com obsessed like I am. The site publishes glitch fares and is a great source of daily updates on the best discounts. Plus, sign up for an airline credit card and use it for everything you can, even your rent!

One final question because I know you will soon have to go pack for your next trip.  What would you say to that person who is sitting at home and dreaming of seeing the world but isn’t sure where to begin?

Don’t be overwhelmed; it’s possible! I’ve always wanted to travel – ever since I was little kid – but I didn’t think I could ever afford to do so. Thankfully, I landed a job with travel benefits but I’m also learning how to be resourceful about traveling on my own. Take my word for it, you don’t have to be a millionaire or work in a travel-specific role to see far-flung lands.

Look at me, I have a bachelor of science in journalism! I thought I would be writing newspaper and magazine articles or writing, editing and publishing books. Who knows, the best-seller lists and Pulitzer prizes may come at a later date but right now, I’m snapping pictures, collecting memories and relishing this chapter of my life 100 per cent.

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If your company is interested in attempting a world record, you can connect with Tavia on LinkedIn. Or if you want to keep up with her travels, you can follow her on Instagram @taviaxcx. 

To read more travel stories from Jamaican travel blogger Tommie, you can visit her blog here or connect on FaceBook, Twitter or Instagram. Just type in My Travel Stamps.

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
IMG_0913_resize
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’

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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: semiyah@gmail.com and you can connect with him on Facebook and Instagram: @semiyahsteve.

 

 

Traveling for work: Professional Trainer

For the third installment of the Jobs with Travel Benefits feature, My Travel Stamps chatted with the charismatic go-getter, Karyn Williams-Sykes. A former director of training and development with The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management in Dubai she now runs her own business specializing in learning and development.

Karyn Williams-Sykes, professional trainer and consultant
Karyn Williams-Sykes, professional trainer and consultant

Karyn, I’ve known you for more years than any of us cares to admit publicly and for all that time your jobs have been hospitality and tourism related. What attracted you to the industry?

The simple answer is I genuinely LOVE people. I know it sounds cliché but it’s true. Interacting with, being around, and observing people really tops the list of some of my favourite things to do.

What do you do now? 

I design and deliver customized training programs for companies to help them enhance their customer service delivery and systems. I also host Leadership Workshops as well as consult and train in Food & Beverage service. Most of my clients are in the hospitality industry but I also work in education, banking and government.

 

 

What tasks are the most challenging and which ones are the most rewarding?

My biggest challenge has been branching out on my own because it involves building my clientele and growing my business, both of which take time. The most rewarding aspect of what I do is the actual delivery of training. EVERY single time I deliver a program, I learn, grow, and get to meet new people. It’s a calling that just keeps on giving.

Delivering a Training program
Delivering Wine Training in Sri Lanka

It sounds dynamic and rewarding but here’s the clincher for my readers: does your job involve travel and if so, where have you been?

Yes it does. Either my clients come to me or I go to them. Of course, it is more economical for one person to travel than it is for a group so I have been very fortunate to have benefitted from many all-expense paid trips because of my job.

During my eight years in Dubai, work-related travel has taken me to Sri Lanka, London, Italy, Kiev (Ukraine), Papua New Guinea, India, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, The Maldives and Singapore.

Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
The Ukraine
The Ukraine

Business travel or longer-term stays based on work opportunities also took me to Jamaica, Barbados, St Lucia, Martinique, Grenada, Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cayman Islands.

Jamaica
Jamaica

What travel perks have you enjoyed because of what you do?

The biggest perk? Business Class travel! My former company booked most of its flights with Emirates Airlines and their Business Class service is phenomenal. It includes a chauffeur for all airport transfers plus access to global lounges where the cabin crew welcomes you by name and remembers your drink.

In addition to that, over the years I earned many frequent flier miles that translate into free upgrades and benefits when I travel for my own pleasure. I’ve also enjoyed staying in numerous 5-star business hotels and resorts for work, as those were my clients.

What has the first-hand knowledge of different cultures, practices and perspectives taught you? 

I’ve learnt that people are all the same in spite of different religions, different foods and different music. People want to feel they belong, they want to have quality time with their friends and family and they want to be safe.

Soaking up some news and culture in Sri Lanka
Soaking up some news and culture in Sri Lanka

I’m curious, did your experiences allow you to appreciate your background more?

Definitely! I learnt to appreciate Trinidad and Tobago’s diversity, our educational opportunities, our freedom and our openness. All these things have made me better at my job and better at getting along with others.

Statue in Trinidad
Hannuman Statue in Trinidad

I’ve seen others struggle with cultural flexibility, sometimes with just being able to talk with others. By contrast, I view meeting ‘strangers’ and going to unfamiliar places as a totally positive experience. I am confident that trait stems from my culture and my upbringing.

Can you share one of your funniest travel stories with us? Knowing you, I am sure there are several.

Living on this side of the Atlantic, I often find that nobody knows where I am from (Trinidad & Tobago). Even people from India, a country we feel we have such strong ties with, have never heard of us. So when I landed at Indira Ghandi International Airport in Delhi for the first time, I had a very memorable experience. The immigration officer looked at my passport, looked at me and looked back at my passport quite baffled.

Dehli, India
Humayun’s Tomb in Dehli, India. This tomb was built by a widow for her dead husband who was an Emperor.

‘Your name is Indira?” he asked.

‘Yes’, I responded. “Indira is my middle name. My father named me after Indira Ghandi”.

“But where is this country? Where are you from”? he asked with increasing bewilderment. Clearly confused, he invited two of his colleagues to help him solve this mystery. By this time, I’ve been living in the UAE for 4 years, so I knew the drill.

Me:      “Do you like cricket?”

Them: “Of course! We are Indian! We love cricket! We ARE cricket!”

Me:      “You know Brian Lara?”

Them: “Of course! Brian Lara is a great cricketer. West Indies!”

Me:      “Well, he is from my country, Trinidad & Tobago.”

Them: “No, no, no… he is from West Indies, in Africa!”

At that point, I took out my tablet with my map app and pointed to ‘The West Indies’ and Trinidad & Tobago. I ended my geography/history lesson with a photo of me and Brian limin’ (hanging out) at his house some years ago during Carnival.

Liming with Brian Lara
Limin’ with Brian Lara

They were so impressed and excited, I got invited to stay in their country for as long as I liked in spite of my one month visa. I also got a Fast Track pass for my departure so I didn’t have to join any queues. In short succession, more of his colleagues were called over to see the photo and meet ‘Brian Lara’s friend’.

That was hilarious. To wrap up this session, let us pretend you are being asked to address a graduating class of college kids who have expressed an interest in jobs with travel potential, what advice would you give to them? You have 90 secs, starting now…

Jump at any opportunity to travel, to see the world, to experience first-hand new cultures, festivals, foods and languages. Even if the job is not your ideal position or if you don’t plan to make it your career, take the job and go as far as you can. The time for ‘settling down’ and ‘planting roots’ will come later….much later. Don’t make excuses for not travelling because you may regret it when you get older.

Leadership Workshop in Kiev, Ukraine
Leadership Workshop in Kiev, Ukraine

I’ve been to school, I’ve studied, I’ve completed degrees and the best education I have had has been from my travels. I hope to continue my life growth with these studies and I encourage you to begin yours today!

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For training needs assessments and consultations, Karyn can be reached at Karyn.Williamssykes@gmail.com. Her professional profile is here: LinkedIn.

(Photos were contributed by Karyn and her husband, Phil Sykes).

Traveling for work: International Trade

I had such positive feedback from my first post about traveling for work that I decided I would try to feature a different career path each month in an effort to highlight the many options available to people who yearn to see the world.

For this month’s feature My Travel Stamps spoke with Matthew Wilson, frequent flyer and world explorer extraordinaire.

Addressing the Bali addresses Bali Trade and Development Symposium
ITC Chief Adviser Matthew Wilson addressing the Bali Trade and Development Symposium

Matthew, what do you do for a living?

I am the chief adviser and chef de cabinet to the head of the International Trade Centre (ITC), a development agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. ITC helps countries and private sector businesses to develop through international trade and improved competitiveness. We assist them to build the capacity they need to operate effectively by equipping them with the tools, knowledge and market intelligence they need to succeed.

What tasks are involved and do you enjoy what you do?

I support the Executive Director in implementing her corporate vision and helping to chart the strategic course for the organization. I love what I do because of the innovation and dynamism involved. My job can range from meeting presidents and Nobel prize winners to attending fashion shows that showcase local designers, visiting coffee projects, facilitating the implementation of trade agreements and visiting underprivileged communities to see how trade works on the ground. It’s fascinating.

Sintra, Portugal -  at the Quinta da Regaleira Gardens
Sintra, Portugal – at the Quinta da Regaleira Gardens

Do you have to travel for work? If so, how often?

Yes, I do. The frequency varies but in one month I can travel at least two to three times for business. Flying for work has become second nature to me because I’ve been doing it for a long time. Before this position, I represented Barbados as part of the Foreign Service for more than a decade and then served in the Cabinet of the Director General of the World Trade Organization.

Wow, that’s impressive. What sort of academic and/or professional background is needed to land those kinds of jobs?

There are many pathways. I have a varied academic background that includes law, economics and history at ‘A’ levels’; psychology and sociology at the undergraduate level; and two post graduate degrees, one in international relations and the other in development studies.

Matthew in Neuchatel,  Switzerland
Matthew in Neuchatel, Switzerland

But surprisingly it is my knowledge of psychology that has really helped me most. It allows me to read and understand people quickly – an extremely useful skill in interpersonal relations and by extension, business and diplomatic negotiations.

I also have to give credit to a series of generous mentors who allowed me to ‘learn at their feet’. I am from a small Caribbean country but I had to operate in a truly global environment, so there was always the added pressure to deliver more at a higher standard.

The term “bleisure”, which means mixing business with leisure, is hot now. Do you get to do any of that when you travel?

Absolutely! Some people differentiate between business and pleasure travel; generally speaking, I don’t. Whether I am visiting some place new for one day or staying longer in a country I’ve been to 10 times, it’s all an adventure. I will find something to explore.

Alfama,  Lisbon (Portugal)
Alfama, Lisbon (Portugal)

Don’t get me wrong; when I travel for business, I work hard. My schedule is often tight and intense because I ensure I make full use of the resources being invested in me. But when the meetings and official events are over, you will find me outside meeting people, hearing their stories, eating exotic foods and listening to local music.

Smiling Samoan faces
Smiling Samoan faces

On more than one occasion, I’ve been out roaming the streets until two o’clock in the morning and I have gotten up at five to explore the area before work begins. Who needs eight hours of sleep when there are interesting sights, food and customs to learn about? Not me, I can catch up on sleep when I get home.

How do you decide what to do in your free time?

I do tons of web research. If you look in my history tab on my computer right now you will see a bunch of searches that begin with ‘off the beaten track’. Blogs are a huge resource for me as well because they give you the true personal experience – the good, the bad and the ugly. For local eats, I tend to check with the concierge.

What is your favorite country to date?

Sua Ocean trench in Samoa
Sua Ocean trench in Samoa

I can’t pick just one. For pleasure, I fell in love with Cuba: the people, the music and the buildings make it a truly special place.

For work, I would have to say Cape Verde, Cambodia and Samoa. I went to Samoa for a United Nations Summit on Small Island Developing States and that ended up being very special for me. The country is beautiful and the people are amazing. Also, the first time I ever spoke in public on trade issues was at a small island states youth meeting in Barbados twenty years before so that moment felt like I had come full circle.

What is your favorite iconic landmark or World Heritage Site? Please say why.

Massive carvings of faces at the world heritage site: Angok Wat in Cambodia
Massive carvings of faces at the world heritage site: Angok Wat in Cambodia

Without a doubt, the Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I first visited it for pleasure five years ago and again for work just last month. It is a cultural and otherworldly experience. Seeing the sun rise over the temple and watching it set on the side of the ‘mountain’ is awe-inspiring. Beyond that, the beauty of the carvings and stone work of the temples are simply incredible sights.

What are your favorite airports?

The ones with the most welcoming people in the countries that do more with less. You will find some of the greatest airport lounges and splashy retail outlets in terminals in Dubai and Bangkok but the people interactions in airports in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Nepal were some of my most memorable. They also stood out because the people were wholly invested in doing their best despite limited resources.

What is the one thing you never leave home without?

My headphones and my MP3 player. In school I was known as ‘the guy from Barbados with the headphones’ and all these years later those two earplugs are still an important part of my life.

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You can follow Matthew on Twitter at: @matthewbarbados