Updated: Oct 6, 2019
It's taken me a minute to get my life in order since I returned from a truly incredible, life altering trip to Barbados. I am endlessly filled with inspiration and it's been hard to keep up with the regular grind when my creativity is set alight same time.
But! I decided to wrap up everything in this blog post and share with you the music, my experience and my advice in case you were planning to
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Long story short? Say "YES." to the question: "Crop Over?"
+ IT ALL STARTS WITH TUNE +
The music. Where do I start!?! There is so much wicked tune coming out of Barbados specifically.
Here's the sounds of Barbados Crop Over I can't do without.
+ THE INS & OUTS +
+ NETWORKING + Couchsurfing
I posted my trip publicly on couchsurfing.com and met 2 of my best island links on there. I can't say enough good things about couchsurfing, even if you have somewhere to stay, it is the most effective way to experience a destination as a local and truly connect. Instagram is a valuable tool as always. Bookmark the people you meet into categories so you don't lose track. Tinder
Unfortunately, many have connotations about tinder that keep it in the realm of dating more than networking. But! It is by far one of the most useful networking tools available to us. Just be straight up about what you're looking for. There's a lot to sift through and I didn't meet as many people off there as I would have liked but I know I will the next time I return or we cross paths elsewhere.
Pay for it to swipe ahead and see who's liked you. Be sure you cancel before the month is up.
Fete Schedule While this website has a number of fetes listed, because there are plethora of promotors that work through various platforms, the only way to see everything is via this app. Plugin. Even still, you may face issues with different ticketing systems and sold out events not showing up as sold out. Remember, Barbados is on island time. Arrive at least fashionably late.
+ CURRENCY + They accept both US dollars and Bajan currency. 1:2. This seems simple enough, but when you've been drinking and math is near strong suit it can be difficult. Stick to thinking and communicating in 1 currency.
+ TRANSPORT + The bus system is fairly extensive, reliable and affordable affordable. These apps are useful for getting around via public transport.
Next to that, there's taxi's. expect to spend a lot of money on taxis when you are going to and from fetes that are at odd hours. Get the numbers of the taxi drivers you take so you can have a few to contact when needed. Early morning airport runs are more expensive. Make sure you have a reliable taxi driver. Our guy, Houdini was awesome:
+1 (246) 235 8214
+1 (246) 836 6679
+ ACCOMODATION + I was lucky enough to stay with friends but had I not, I would have couchsurfed for half and got an AirBnB for the other half.
Seems like it'd be easy and people are really friendly, as usual. The best part about couchsurfing though, is getting to experience a country and culture directly from locals. It's not to say the manufactured brand of tourism is lacking, I just want to see and understand all sides. My advice is. where ever you go, always meet up with a couchsurfing host you think is cool. You can stay 1 night or just meet for a drink. It will always add value to your experience.
I looked around, just in case I might find myself in a moment of collapse and need to escape to the inherent safety of a last minute hotel room. Prices and standards vary significantly so seems like there's something for everyone. Book early if you can.
A lot of options, some right downtown, but best booked early due to the rush.
+ FOOD + In order to feel my best, ideally, I'm vegan and gluten-free. I was not while I was there. Maybe I could have managed it if I was more organized but it seemed next to impossible once in the mix. Bajan food is healthy but a lot of the food available at fetes is KFC, Burger King etc. But girl want a little peas and rice, breadfruit and plantains, not fast food. In general, it is difficult to get food and drinks at fetes, lines are long and options are limited. In future, I'll carry snacks with me. Raw almonds, cashews, protein bars, etc. I regret not taking time to go to a vegetable / fruit stand and trying EVERYTHING. Next time.
+ LEGALITIES + - All forms of camouflage are illegal.
- Smoking is not just banned at most fetes but you can't even possess a pack of cigarettes, or any paraphernalia (like lighters). It will be confiscated at the door. There are some you can smoke at but don't assume just because it's outdoors you can.
- Illicit drugs will get you arrested, even for tiny amounts. There are hopes to decriminalize recreational cannabis next year through referendum. Medical marijuana is already in the works. Still, while cannabis seems widely used, it is still stigmatized and fear of arrest surrounds it.
+ FASHION + - Unless you have your entire trip planned and know everywhere you'll be, you need to pack flexible. I did my best to shop during my layover in Miami. I won't leave it till the last minute next time. I might go for a full night layover in Miami just to shop.
- Cultural events beyond the road generally tend to be relaxed attire, jumpsuits, dresses etc.
- Fetes depend. I mostly wore tights, high waist bathing suit bottoms and bralette/ shirt and sneakers. I dress to dance so 9 times out of 10 I was wearing the least amount of clothing at an event. If that kinda thing bothers you but you also wanna feel free from the confines of clothing. Kimonos are key.
- Have a fanny pack of sorts.
- Don't trust body suits with snaps.... ever.
- Have at least 1 fancy dress and a pair of heels.
- It's hot, but as a Bermudian and a person who is generally cold, I never regretted having my hoodie with me for when I left a fete. Especially J'ouvert parties.
- If you have hair, you will need a lot of leave in conditioner. Sand, paint, sun, salt; there's no fighting it.
+ DAY BY DAY . FETE BY FETE +
This trip was completely random...No plan.
My friend David of Nocturnal, who films Carnival events and more in Barbados, Bermuda and beyond, said "You'd love J'ouvert in Barbados...You should come."...
6 hours later I had bought a ticket and 3 weeks later, I was there.
This was my first vacation in 6 years.
Day 1 - July 30
The flight was long. But it was laughs from the moment I got off the plane and David's cousin Tammy and I went to pick up the drunken dudes from a cruise. We hung out in the kitchen talking until the early hours of the morning, gathering all the info I'd need to survive the week to come.
Day 2 - July 31
Woke up way too early and worked out. Waited for the rest of the house to rise. I was lucky enough to be shacking up with boys: David, Dave (both of Nocturnal) and Kevin Crown (International DJ extraordinaire, 3rd degree blackbelt and co-founder of PL90 Fitness).
Went grocery shopping and chilled, entertained most of the day by flow arts and the Dave Mosti vs Kevin Crown makeshift workout session / boxing match.
The hours I spent around the house with the guys, listening and learning would come to be some of my most valuable and inspiring moments in Barbados.
Got ready and headed to Harbor Lights to meet my performer friend, the King of Fire, Pedro from couchsurfing. He invited me to come see the show so that I could spin fire with him the following week at Zirque and Harbor Lights.
The venue is magical, an outcropping of towering palms and giant tiki torches burning around a relaxed picnic table setting and main stage. I was overcome with envy that we don't have a place like it to perform in Bermuda. I was there compliments of the performers but the food and drinks were all inclusive for $97.50US. The performers were fantastic, with everything from fire limbo and stilt walkers to musicians and dancers. To see everything in one show, front and center for that price can't be beat.
RISE Together After Harbor Lights, I headed over to Kensington Oval for RISE Together, sharing a cab with the promoter and Harbor Lights host, the talented and convivial, Kirk Brown. This was a great concert but it was a little overwhelming on my own. Unfortunately, general admission was distanced from the stage. At one point a bunch of girls stormed the fencing. Management fixed it quickly. In my professional opinion...Girls should not need to scale a fence when they're called on stage to split in the middle. (but she did... and it was madness at its finest.) Fantastic concert and incredible performances all the way through. With any event in Kensington Oval, your cigarettes will be confiscated.
Day 3 - August 1
Rested after RISE and then headed to Christ Church to hang with another couchsurfing buddy and videographer / airbnb host, Justin Went. We hung out and got local food at Miami beach, parked off in a magical casuarina grove, hiding from the sun, for snacks and naps.
We then attempted to go to Lush Cooler Party at the Hilton but due to their ticketing system, we didn't know it was sold out. But we killed the time wisely and went to a costume makers house to chill for a few hours while we waited for the next fete to commence.
There, on a quiet street not far from the Hilton, lights adorned a side alley path, leading us behind the scenes through the chaos of carnival creation.
Every color of feather and jewels strewn about in haphazard organization, everyone hard at work with glue guns and wire clippers, a house full of people ticking off the order list of costumes one by one. I was so excited to get to see this side of things and talk with Caleb about the evolution of carnival and sustainability. I felt at home there, knowing that if I lived in Barbados, I'd be right there with them on the grind. If you're looking to get a tattoo or need costumes made, be sure to check out his insta:
Tribe of Leb
Day 4 - August 2
Jabnival Left the costume makers to head to Jabnival in the early hours. We were the first ones there and watched it go from desolate to downright dangerous. By the time Kevin Crown and crew came from Lifted, I was wide open. I can't do this fete justice by writing about it. So you should just go watch this recap from Kevin Crown.
I ditched one crew for another on a random venture into the unknown, where an infinity edge pool assisted in the process of de-sanding my existence. I swam amongst the trees tops, with monkeys hiding out nearby, waiting to steal my shoes. After laundry, sleep and waffles, I headed back to meet the team and get ready for the next endeavour... J'ouvert Morning was on the horizon.
Day 5 - August 3
We headed down to Pirates Cove for a small fete. It was fairly empty since everyone was gearing up for the parties to follow later. Love this venue and hoped we'd find our way back there at some point.
J'ouvert Morning - Caesar's Army Ambush
I had a choice of Mixed Nutz or Caesars Army Ambush. Both were far from one another. Neither were near Foreday Morning, which happens downtown. I was told it wouldn't be the safest option for me down there alone. So I stuck with the team for this one and went to Caesars. We arrived fairly late as Kevin's set wasn't until later.
Music blared from 3 trucks driving around as the army wined beside them. Even though this was a massive amount of people, because it's broken into 3 sections, and you can step away from the music, it's really easy to connect with people. Especially after the sun comes up and the light illuminates everyone.
l made a rookie mistake by wearing a bodysuit that snapped at the crotch. The snaps seemed extra strong....but I was wrong. Here's to the guy that gently put me down when things went awry. I appreciate you.
We headed back to sleep but stopped for some randomness along the way.
Lost in Paradise
This event was something out of dream. Lost in Paradise was the perfect combination of boujee and bruk out. It was like happening upon a secret soca garden, filled with beautiful people and fabulous things. Flowers dangling above and lights glistening across sweat drenched chests. I'd attend this again in heartbeat. This was my kind of fete, 1000%.
I love when an event is relaxed enough to not have a VIP or even a back stage. It's says this whole event is VIP. No separation required. This event is Crop Over's newest event put on by Rorrey Fenty, Jus Jay and Elevate Entertainment.
But like most fetes, it was difficult to get drinks and I hope to see a more upscale option for food next time. Also be warned, there were sections you could sink into the mud or slip on tree roots rising from the ground. Of course, I ninja danced through those obstacles.
I was left with a few questions though... like... Do I need really need to spend time learning popular dances like the Zesser? Cuz I don't have time for that... and where were the aerialists hanging from the trees!? .......Next time. ; )