The trouble with traveling is finding that balance between seeking cultural immersion and indulging in vacation luxuries. Often, the two are mutually exclusive, particularly if you classify yourself an anti-tourist. It’s not that places like Hawaii, Cancun, and Majorca don’t appeal to us, it’s that we know these places have sacrificed native customs for glittering hotels, cheap baubles, and overpriced (sometimes even chain) restaurants. Jamaica—a quick, affordable flight from Miami—is among the ranks of these sellout vacation hotspots. But in Negril, one man has managed to reconcile the divide between local and visiting populations. His name is Randy, founder of La Bella Italia Ice Cream. His shop provides three primary services: ice cream, internet, and air conditioning, essential survival tools for the modern vacationer. But after your emails are answered and you’ve wolfed down scoopfuls of the local fruit-flavored ice cream, don’t rush off to your next guided tour or party boat drink-a-thon. Delight in a view of the Caribbean and a rum drink from the back deck. Randy is not only a lively, entertaining, and personable host, but a suitable replacement for your standard bound Negril Travel Guide. He knows the island and its people as only a local could, but, being American born and raised, offers travel advice as an appropriately cautious adventurer. If a local, unchaperoned excursion sounds too risky for you, an afternoon at Randy’s can serve as a splendid alternative. You can choose to chat with fellow tourists from around the globe or any number of local legends that frequent the back deck. My favorites are Mikey, who’s been growing his single dreadlock for 26 years now; or Matthew, lyricist and singer of the hip-hop group SoundKillaz; or any member of the local police station, which houses a full bar and game room, and whose chief plays country guitar. Whether you’re staying at a posh five star hotel on the other side of the beach, Hedonism (the nearby nudist residences), or the cheap hotel Samsara down the street, Randy’s shop is a must for tourists of all kinds—honeymooners, spring breakers, elderly anniversary celebrators, families, backpackers, and yes, anti-tourists.
By: Allison McCormick