Why I love traveling with my mom

Have you ever traveled with a parent as an adult? Some people say they don‘t enjoy themselves when they do, but my experience has been the total opposite.

I. Simply. Love. It!

This is how the chips fall with my folks. My Dad is a stay-close-to- home kind of guy, but once the destination forecast says clear skies and good weather, my Mom will have her bag, passport and swimsuit packed in a heartbeat. I know I may be totally biased here, but I think that ready-to-explore at the drop of a hat trait, especially as a senior, is utterly cool.

Easter Monday Beach Lime in Grand Cayman
Easter Monday Beach Lime in Grand Cayman

So here are all the reasons I love traveling with my Mom. [I invite you to share your stories about vacations with your parents at the end of this post.]

Mom ALWAYS has snacks on her. I don’t know how she does it or even when she stashes them in her handbag, but I am absolutely certain I can count on her to have a few save-me-from starvation treats just when I need them most.

She is very low maintenance. I never have to worry about any troubling mood swings, diva-like silences, or loud outbursts when we’re together.

Taking a brief time out in Bimini The Bahamas
Taking a moment to enjoy the calming sea breeze after a dusty and humid walk downtown in Bimini, The Bahamas

We enjoy the same things so planning day excursions is never a hassle. Cultural immersions? We’re both into them. Scenic drives? Oh, yes! Historic and educational tours? Let’s go.

Reading the fine print of the sign next to the four statues in Nobel Square in Cape Town, South Africa

We can read each other like a book so it’s easy to communicate without words, especially in large groups.

She can make friends with almost anybody, and she asks a ton of questions, so I always end up with more local insights when I travel with her.

Quizzing the tour guide on some finer detail of the oral history lesson. Pedro St James, Cayman Islands

For someone who makes no bones about using all her senior citizen privileges at banks and other places of business, she still has a joie de vivre and sense of adventure that is superior to most people 1/3rd her age! 

Camel ride in Egypt
Camel ride in Egypt

She is a ready-made roomie so I can forego paying additional dollars for the single supplement to have my own room on packaged group tours.

I never have to worry about getting all my souvenirs to fit into my luggage for the trip home. I must admit I’ve learned a trick or two over the years but my mom is still the best packer I know.

She’s not shy about taking goofy pictures. Oh, no. I just share my creative vision for a shot and she’ll gladly pose or go behind the camera to snap me.

Playful pictures with Statues in Key West
Grab their suitcase, Mom! [Playful pictures with Statues in Key West]
And finally, at the end of an exasperating or exhilarating day, her hugs are still FREE and they come with no strings attached.

Sunset shot at Table Mountain, South Africa
Sunset shot on top of Table Mountain, South Africa

Can you tell I just LOVE my momma?  I do!

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.

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.



Canvas goods infused with family traditions and values on Man-O-War Cay

What began as a small bag and purse-making operation in a modest seafarer’s home more than sixty years ago, is now ‘Albury’s Sail Shop’; a notable landmark and viable business on Man-O-War Cay. Travelers who enjoy visiting places with character or appreciate owning original products that are not mass produced need to add this shopping find to your things-to-do list, if they are ever in the Out Islands of the Bahamas.

Albury's Sail Shop, Man-O-War Cay
Albury’s Sail Shop, Man-O-War Cay

Miss Annie, the warm and affable matriarch who runs the family-owned business, has an endearing “Come Home to Mama” personality that envelopes you as soon as you enter the store. A third-generation seamstress, she invokes feelings of happy gatherings around the dinner table and triggers an unexplainable desire to run around giving random bear hugs to every third or fourth person you meet.

Miss Annie at her sewing machine
A smiling Miss Annie at her sewing machine

Albury’s Sail shop uses sturdy canvas – material that is integral to the production of boat sails – to make colorful hats, bags and other products that are one-of-a kind. The shop’s extensive line is impressive in its own right but even more so given its history. Miss Annie’s ancestors started the cottage industry by making small draw-string bags from leftover scraps of canvas.

A sampling of the various styles and patterns available at Albury's Sail Shop
A sampling of the various styles and patterns available at Albury’s Sail Shop

The best part is, the shop’s open floor plan allows you to stand inside, lean against a wall outside, or perch beneath a jalousie-style window and watch the production process unfold. I was pleasantly surprised that the items are all reasonably priced in spite of the labor-intensive process.

The machine Miss Annie uses was owned by her grandmother before her. Like a trusted horse that knows every foothold of a cliff because it has gone that way before, three antique but well-oiled and functional sewing machines lead the seamstresses through the ropes. The only difference was rather than the clicking sound generated by trotting hoofs, the room was filled with staccato bursts akin to whirring hums.

Ladies sewing canvas bags in Alburys Sail Shop
Two other ladies sewing canvas bags in Alburys Sail Shop

I encourage you to stand still for a few minutes and watch the ladies work. Then I implore you to  let the gentle island breezes lift you up and transport you back to a simpler time.

Editor’s Notes:

There is no way for me to verify this but I’ve read that celebrities like Robert Redford, Perry Como, Kenny Rogers, Andy Garcia, Kenny Chesney, Derek Jeeter, Beyonce, Jay Z and Leonardo DiCaprio have all crossed Miss Annie’s threshold. You should visit with her too.

I stayed at the Abaco Beach Resort when I was in The Abacos.

5 postcards from around the Caribbean

I was born and raised in the beautiful island of Jamaica and while I grew up with an appreciation for my country’s lush tropical vegetation, white-sand beaches, rolling hills and scenic roadways,  I sometimes took those assets for granted. Interestingly, as I grew older and travelled to, or lived in other countries I realized how naturally stunning my country and other islands in the Caribbean really are. As islanders we live where people dream of going on vacation and we should pause more often to take it all in.

Below, I’ve compiled a few images from just five Caribbean islands to illustrate my point.

Da Conch Shack, Providenciales
Beach tables at Da Conch Shack, Providenciales (Turks and Caicos)


Lush foliage at Goblin HIll Villas at San San in Port Antonio, Jamaica
Lush green foliage at Goblin HIll Villas at San San in Port Antonio (Jamaica)
The Hermitage
Majestic mountain range, enchanting gardens and a traditional Caribbean-styled home at The Hermitage (Nevis)
Colorful kayaks along Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands)
Colorful kayaks along Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands)


Elbow Reef lighthouse, The Abacos (Bahamas)
Elbow Reef Lighthouse, The Abacos (Bahamas)


Hotel Review: Abaco Beach Resort

Abaco Beach Resort and Boat Habour Marina is a sea-lover’s paradise.

Hotel reception area
Hotel reception area

72 of its guestrooms boast scenic ocean views and the good news is you don’t have to bend your head out of shape or hang preciously over your private balcony to enjoy the stunning visuals.

Every room has a clear ocean view
Every room has a clear ocean view

The resort also has four one-bedroom suites and five two-bedroom villas. (The villas are garden view.)

Room in the two-bedroom villa
Room in the two-bedroom villa

Plus, the icing on the already attractive ‘vacation cake’ is the section they call The Residences. It consists of nine two-and three-bedroom condominiums and… OMG bite me!

Abacao Beach Resort
Abacao Beach Resort

The rooms’ dark wood tones, refreshingly warm and vibrant wall paint, sumptuous fabrics and tasteful details capture the island-luxury feel perfectly. Living area in The Residences

Bedroom in The Residences
Bedroom in The Residences

But that is not all.

With 198 boat slips that accommodate vessels as large as 200-feet do not be surprised if you go for an early morning run or swim and run into a seaman walking his dog or sweeping his deck.

The marina is popular in the boating community because it provides a safe harbor; electricity, fueling, cleaning and detailing services; and 24-hour security. Additionally, customs and immigration clearance that can be obtained on-site.

198-slip marina
198-slip marina

Of course, no resort experience would be complete without good food and a variety of activities.

At Abaco Beach Resort there are two great meal options – Anglers Restaurant for plated service and the centrally located Pool Bar for more relaxed fare. Activities run the gamut from non-motorized watersports to diving and snorkeling, bone, sea or deep fishing; bird watching; biking; island hopping or shopping and more

Pool with swim up seats by the bar
Pool with swim up seats by the bar

From the moment I boarded my flight and the attendant greeted all seven passenegrs with his, “Hello, please sit in rows eight through twelve in order to balance the plane” line, I should have known this trip would have been different.

Once you enter The Abacos zone, mundane reality and rigid structure exit the building.

Disclosure Statement: I visited the resort as an invited guest on official business but this post was not a condition of my stay. In fact, up to the time of writing and publishing this, no one at the property even knows I have a blog. My Travel Stamps readers can rest assured that my thoughts and comments will remain 100 per cent true to what I feel and experience. Always!

The Abaco Life

I was sitting on a bar stool completely engrossed in lively conversation when the unexpected happened. One minute I was learning local slang words and the next, I looked up and – muddasick -there was a taut young butt gyrating wirh rhythmic speed in front of me.

Pool Bar
Pool Bar


I hadn’t seen it coming. With soca monarch winner Machel Montano’s music thumping loudly through the speakers, I certainly hadn’t heard it coming. Yet there it was, a mere touch away.

I resisted the crazy impulse to slap it. And the clichéd move of reaching into my wallet for a dollar bill to toss it.

Honestly, my restraint was due mostly to propriety; not modesty. I was among business colleagues and the butt in question belonged to someone I had met while island-hopping that day. The young man was a fireball of positive and uninhibited energy so when he invited my group to the resort’s popular Tuesday night karaoke party, we agreed to go.

Watch the clip below to get a glimpse of the behind the bar action.

The night was ton loads of fun but admittedly, I got much more than I bargained for.

First, there was that attention-grabbing, ‘Oh no, is this really happening to me right now?’ lap dance. And second, I was cleverly cajoled into playing lead ‘vocalist’ in a hastily arranged trio meant to rescue the Michael Jackson’s 1982 song Pretty Young Thing from total butchering at the hands of well-intentioned teens. More YouTube and Vine than MTV generation, they weren’t even born when that Billboard hit ruled the charts.

Don’t get me wrong though, I am not complaining.

island hopping in The Abacos
island hopping in The Abacos

I deliberately shared that story to say this: that impromptu, light-hearted and double-over-with-uncontrollable-laughter scenario summed up the essence of what I came to know as ‘The Abaco Life’. You can’t read about it or simply hear about it. It is something you must experience.

The fabric that holds #TheAbacoLife together is a beautiful tapestry of unscripted moments, uncomplicated and fun-loving interactions, and the quintessential less-is-more philosophy that ultimately leads to true quality of life.

I’m serious. The Out Island spirit is delightfully infectious. It will make you smile inside and out.