Twenty years ago my cousin Sue told me there would come a day when I would fall out of love with Carnival, discover passions further afield. I laughed in her face and blamed it on her recent devotion to Jesus and perhaps being too judgey. Well, the time has come….
Don’t get me wrong, my heart has skipped a few beats when Xaymaca International released ‘Denim Diamond’ and ‘Valor’. I even put a deposit on Denim Diamond, a deposit that I lost. And I find myself unable to stomach social media during the festive periods that I have missed, there is a tinge of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) but there were times in my personal history where even the thought of missing a carnival, caused me physical discomfort.
2018 I had plans to frequent Jamaica, Berlin, Barbados and Notting Hill and pelt a little waist but something snapped in me this very month…….. I turned 40 (I kind of feel ancient even though I shouldn’t after all Janet Jackson had a baby in her 50’s) and I treated myself to some travel and some expensive gifts. It was a foreign feeling to spend so much money at once. For yearsssssssssss, the majority of disposable income (what little there was) went to all things carnival – flights, accommodation, front line costumes, fetes, transportation, etc. For the last ten years Mummy Reds has challenged me consider taking a year off from carnivals and re-directing the funds, considering my champagne (that’s expensive champagne taste, eh) that might buy some serious gear and I should be able to put away some pennies in the meantime.
Another observation I made was how good it felt to wake up in a hotel and be able to take my time, to look around and eat breakfast, sleep in late without being bound to a strict carnival fete schedule. You see, carnival is not a leisurely trip. It is a marathon of activities with events heaped on top of each other and if not planned carefully can leave you exhausted and requiring an additional holiday on top of the one you have just taken.
This week I cemented my decision to skip the carnivals this year (I may still go to Berlin and Notting Hill because they are technically local for me) with the following goals in mind:
- Focus on my health – When I am preparing for Carnival, the focus is very much on the external and weight loss. Ensuring that you can fit into that too-small costume that you ordered and be sexy. I want (NEED) to lose weight but I have a number of health issues that I have neglected in an effort to be semi-ready for the next carnival adventure.
- Save money/reduce debt – The saying is “Carnival is Woman” but “Carnival is CASH” with banks in Barbados and Trinidad offering Carnival loans to those who live locally, it is obvious that Carnival is a huge expense for those that travel to these countries seeking the next thrill. Here is what has to be considered:
- Flight – unless you work for an airline, have access to buddy passes or have an abundance of miles, this is an unavoidable expense. Flight prices fluctuate but during peak seasons flight prices increase (airlines are not foolish, they know you carnival chasers are crackheads). I usually travel in Business or First Class because of my Lupus and Hypermobility, travel has become uncomfortable and additional space and the ability to sleep on a bed is becoming more of a necessity.
- Accommodation – while I have family and friends in many of the carnival destinations I travel to, I like my freedom to come and go as and when I please. I like to be able to sleep in and relax. Again, hotels can be costly especially during festive periods. Sometimes I can offset my costs with points but does the average carnivalist have the miles it takes to pay for a week or two week stay in Barbados?
- Costume – I am not travelling to the West Indies to NOT ‘play mas’! And
as a popular blogger says “Go big or go home” so I play frontline, an option which can cost female masqueraders up to $1600 USD depending on the country she is playing mas in.
- Fetes – manyyyyyyyyyyyy moons ago, the expensive, exclusive parties cost $100 USD. That is now the average cost of your ordinary fete. Multiply that by say 5 and add in one or two exclusive events and you are shelling out about $900 USD for events if you party moderately.
- Clothing and accessories – Come now, you are not going to be seen in the same ole tat you had on at last carnival?! Nooooooooo. You have to buy jewellery, boots (for your costume), tights (which by the way, are extraordinarily over-priced for an accessory you are wearing for 1 day that generally don’t last the entire day), swimsuits (for all of those beach parties and boat rides), etc. The wardrobe costs are variable depending upon the individual (I am sorry but some of you chics are tacky – you are side eyeing me right now but it had to be said!)
- Transportation – You are not walking around an island once you arrive.
Again, while I have family and friends, they have jobs, family and daily obligations. It would be selfish of me to expect my loved ones to drop what they are doing to drive me around. I am a control freak so my preferred transportation method is car hire in Barbados. I am not driving in Jamaica and I am sorry but I am certainly not driving in Trinidad (where in my opinion, they display some of the worst driving I have seen on four continents I have traveled). In other destinations it is taxi. Transportation is costly! 1 week car hire in Barbados can average $300 USD. (I think I just fainted. I am back now)
- Food and Water – I generally lose weight when I am on these trips because as I mentioned previously, I am on the go but at some point, I do have to eat (I try to save my hunger for these expensive all inclusive parties so I can get my money’s worth there but that’s usually when I am least hungry). I have found that food is least expensive in Trinidad and Jamaica. But to be safe, for one week, let’s set aside $300 USD for
food presuming you are not going to any fancy restaurants
3. Increase my self esteem – Carnival, in all of its incarnations was meant to be an inclusive celebration, I presume that to mean larger women as well. West Indian culture can be a cruel one where people make fun of what is different and there is a special intolerance for women who are plus-sized. For as long as I can remember, I have had anxiety prior to all of my trips to any carnival worrying about how I look. Even when I became dangerously obsessed with diet and exercise and was the smallest I have ever been, I was frightened. The dominance of social media and use of smart phones EVERYWHERE has left me fearful that my fat will be plastered in some group chat. So I think taking a year or so to focus on what is real would be a wonderful exercise for my soul.
At the end of the day, we are all wonderfully unique and different things make us tick, drive us to wake up and smile in the morning. I am surrounded by Carnival Chasers. Many of them are responsible, many of them are not. A lot of them have driven themselves into debt for the pursuit of the next Carnival hit and most liked sultry image on the ‘gram. A lot of them have not seen the world or have not attempted to (and maybe seeing the world is not their goal in life). I started playing mas when I was a few months old in Liverpool, as conscious being of 13 years old in Boston, then 17 in Barbados, 20 in Trinidad (1999) so I was chasing carnivals before it was a thing. I have not missed a Crop Over for 21 years. IMHO, some of these Carnival Chasers are doing it for the genuine love of the culture while others are almost in competition to show off how many carnivals they have amassed. I can look back with GREAT fondness at my carnival experiences but I don’t want that to be all I know.
If you plan to attend Barbados Crop Over for the first time but have no idea where and how to start planning, download my digital guide here.
ADDENDUM: I’m not judging Carnival Chasers. However at this age, I don’t want to share a hotel room with someone who isn’t my spouse or vacation like I’m in my 20’s. 🤷🏽♀️
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