On a Rock, In a Bay, On and Island, In Jamaica: Rockhouse Spa

Something to know about me when I travel: me + jet lag = a headache. Almost inevitably. Unfortunately my time in the paradise that is Jamaica was no exception. I struggled with a splitting headache through the first two days of vacation, choosing to have fun despite the pain, hoping a bit of relaxation would eventually help my head catch up to the fact that we were on vacation. But by day three, I needed more than a bit of hope and the regular administration of Excedrin Migraine.

Enter the Rockhouse Spa.

The award winning spa was just what I needed to finally kick the headache.

This place was incredible. From the moment I walked into the open air building, I felt a sense of calm. The space struck the perfect balance between “Jamaica” and “spa” – light rock and dark wood, sunshine and the sound of trickling water, brightly colored and relaxing spaces set amid green tropical plants.

For my treatment, I chose the signature bath house bathing ritual, which was said to release tension, boost immunity, and reduce pain. It sounded like exactly what I needed.

After checking in and changing into the provided robe, I was led to a cozy chair where I got to soak my feet in a copper tub of flower petal laced hot water. I allowed my body to sink into the chair as I took some deep breaths and settled into a sense of calm.

After a few minutes, I was given a lovely foot scrub with the spa’s signature island mint tea scrub to welcome me to the spa.

Despite not feeling quite ready to move from the comfortable chair, I was led away to a treatment room for a much needed 60-minute aromatherapy massage.  It was wonderful. As each moment passed, I could feel the pain in my head begin to ease.

And then, the best part, my own private bath with an unmatched view of the ocean.

The sunlit bathhouse was beautiful and quiet, the sound of the ocean gentle and soothing. The deep soaking tub was full of steaming water infused with a combination of Jamaican botanicals designed to help me relax and recover. Dandelion, cerassie, green tea, green rooibos, lemongrass, lime leaf and spearmint floated in the the water, pleasantly scenting the room in combination with the salty ocean air. The Epsom salts, sea salts, and baking powder also mixed into the water added to the detoxifying powers of the bath.

After ensuring I was comfortable in the bathtub, my spa therapist brought me a tray of fresh island fruit for me to eat during the bath. I consumed the energizing and healing ginger shot (it burns in a good way) followed by a bite of banana and a sip of water, before being left alone to enjoy.

There are some moments in life that seem almost too wonderful to be real, even as you’re living them. For me, this was one of them. I soaked in the infused water, the heat settling deep into my body. I ate the cold tropical fruits, enjoying the contrast of the warmth of the water and the coolness of the fruit. I gazed out at an unbelievably blue ocean, simply being in the moment, taking in every second before I woke up from what was surely a dream. I could not imagine how this moment could be any better, any more beautiful.

And then, there were dolphins. At first, I almost did not believe my eyes, certain that my entranced gaze had led me to misperceive the movements of the ocean. And yet, there were more. As I sat there, ensconced in the bath, I watched as a pod of dolphins made its way down the coast, smoothly breaking the surface of the water one at a time. It was all too much and I did that weird thing that I do and cried at the beauty of it all. This spa experience redefined bliss.

At the end of it all, when my spa therapist gently suggested that perhaps it was time to get out of the bath, I reluctantly left the warmth of the water. The ocean breeze was pleasantly cool on my skin as I dried off and took one last look around the bath house. And then I noticed it. For the first time in days, I did not have a headache. And I was genuinely relaxed, perhaps more so than I had been in months. The aromatherapy massage, the therapeutic bath, the tranquil place – all had worked together to heal me.

And there was still more. Thankfully, I did not have to jump right back into reality (although, to be fair, being in Jamaica hardly qualified as reality). I was able to sit in the garden, an ice cold towel on my neck, for the last bit of my spa experience – a tea ceremony.

I sipped my tea and savored the moment.

You may be wondering what Brandon was doing during all of this. I believe he was snorkeling and jumping off of things. As I was finishing my tea and debating the merits of never leaving the spa, the peace and quiet was interrupted by someone “whispering” my name rather loudly. After rather disturbing the spa vibe, Brandon found me sitting in the garden. He filled me in on the excitement of his morning and I shared the relaxation of mine. And I believe we both felt perfectly happy in our individual choices and somewhat sorry that the other had chosen to spend the morning in such a manner, each certain that our choice of activity was the best one. But because this is my blog, I get the last word. My morning at Rockhouse Spa was one of my favorite mornings and my spa day was obviously far superior to any morning spent snorkeling and jumping off of things. Plus, I finally got rid of that darn headache. That, my friends, was worth every penny.

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A Year in (Financial) Review: 2017 by the Numbers

So let’s get reeaaalllly personal for a sec. Let’s talk about money. Specifically just how much money I spent on travel in 2017. I began tracking this partly due to my own curiosity – although I generally budget carefully prior to taking a trip, I take a relatively relaxed approach while on vacation, so I’ve never paid more attention than to know that I stay close enough to my budget to count. Secondly, sometimes this level of detail could be helpful to those considering planning their own vacation. If money talk isn’t your thing, you may want to skip this post. If it is (or if you’re just curious) read on!

In this total, I am including all major trips and weekend getaways that I took in 2017. What I did not include is our many camping trips, even those that felt more like vacations. Mostly because the mountain air distracted me from my cell phone enough that I forgot to keep track. Overall, our spending on camping trips was minimal due to most campsites being inexpensive (ranging from no cost to $31 a night on the very high end) and most camp activities being on the cheap (read: free) side. However, camping was the vast majority of the travel and weekend getaways we did over the summer. I also did not include the out of town conferences I attended. Because those were not paid for by me. Other than those oversights, I think the list below is comprehensive. Also note, for most of my travels, expenses were shared with Brandon, so I’m documenting what I actually spent, not the total cost of the trips.

California

Transportation (aka gas money): $40

Lodging: $125 for a hotel on the way to Cali. Brandon paid for the VRBO where we stayed for the weekend.

Food and Drinks: $150 with additional meals paid for by Brandon

Tours and Activities: $32

Total: $367 for an elegant weekend in California wine country

Portland Weekend

Transportation: $41.26 for gas, valet parking, and an Uber

Lodging: $143 for one night at a chic hotel

Food and Drinks: $105.84 (I didn’t track this, but Brandon probably spent about this much for our “fancy” dinner out in Portland)

Tours and Activities: $11.45 for a couple of books from Powell’s; the thrill I got from longingly exploring the bookstore? Priceless!

Total: $301.55 for a fun weekend away from small town life

Arkansas

Transportation: $845.69 for flights, a rental car, and gas

Lodging: Free – one of the many great things about visiting friends and family

Food and Drinks: $220.84 spent mostly on coffee, we also enjoyed many amazing home cooked meals

Tours and Activities: Despite being free, time with friends and family is invaluable

Total: $1066.53 for Easter weekend with my favorite people

Jamaica

For this trip, I actually tracked both my expenses and Brandon’s, so I’ll provide both. Just because I can.

Transportation: $373.92 for me – taxes and fees for the flights (which were booked with airline miles) and airport parking; $405 for Brandon – mostly transportation while in Jamaica, including to and from the airport and our driver for the day we went to the south part of the island

Lodging: $623.73 – I paid the deposit for Rockhouse and paid for a hotel in San Francisco so we could get some sleep after arriving back around midnight and not having a flight home until later the next morning; $650 – Brandon paid the remaining Rockhouse balance

Food and Drinks (please don’t judge…): $585 for me; $738 for Brandon; I don’t think either of us have any regrets – so. much. lobster.

Tours and Activities: $306 for me, including some relaxing spa time; $288 for Brandon

Other: $413 for me – a trip like this had some extra stuff, like yellow fever vaccines, but this also includes souvenirs, travel insurance, and dog sitting; $255 for my love, whose insurance, unlike mine, did not cover the $225 vaccine…

Total: $2301.65 for me and $2336 for Brandon for an amazing, life changing, magical week in paradise (side note, our plan for splitting expenses apparently worked perfectly – Brandon brought cash and used his credit card at the hotel and I covered any and all other expenses that could be paid for with a credit card)

Wedding Dress Weekend

Transportation: About $25 – expenses for gas and valet parking were split between myself and 3 sweet friends

Lodging: $65 – not a bad per person price for a gorgeous and roomy suite in a fancy hotel

Food: Maybe $150, I didn’t track this particularly well, but we had some amazing meals

Tours and Activities: If I don’t include the $1300 I spent on a wedding dress, wedding dress shopping was pretty much a free activity 😉

Total: $240 for a super fun women’s weekend finding the most beautiful wedding dress that has ever existed

Grand Total (not including camping trips and conferences): $4276.63

Of course, these are just the broad categories. If there are specific things you’re curious about, for instance the cost of a certain hotel or tour, I’m happy to share! I will confess, this was interesting for me to calculate. And if I’m being honest, I feel like I actually  spent less than I thought I had. I know this is still a lot of money, but traveling, at least for now, is a priority in my life and something I choose to spend my money on over other things. I can’t think of a single trip or experience I would change from 2017 and I am incredibly excited about my travel plans for 2018!

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