99 and counting: Rakay Bennett goes from dreamer to globetrotter
The freedom to explore and immerse herself in unfamiliar cultures that she only had knowledge of through reading books is something that Rakay Bennett could not wait to experience. It all started with one step, a pursuit of happiness. And since then, she has been living the dream on her globetrotting adventures.
“I began my Dora adventures in 2011, when I migrated to Qatar. Since then, I have made it a habit to do the most at each destination,” Bennett told The Gleaner.
Just how many destinations has the guest relation manager at the Hilton Hotel in Qatar visited so far? She has graced over 99 countries with her vibrant presence. “The journey has been fruitful and rewarding,” she said, adding, “It is a means of escape from reality. It gives a true sensation to the word ‘vacation’. For me, travel is my way of hitting a reset button.”
She gave greater insight into some of her favourite countries to date. Number one on her list is Bali. Bennett was immediately enticed by the culinary offerings, noting that food there is amazing. Travelling to and from via motorbikes was both exciting and liberating. And she was fascinated by the country’s carefree culture. “The freedom of living carefree and simple each day with not many worries was the primary reason I considered migrating to Bali,” she shared.
Visiting Egypt was monumental in so many ways. It was her first ever solo trips and she was able to visit the cities of Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and Alexandria, soaking in the sights of breathtaking pyramids, the ancient ruins and the River Nile. “The locals treated me either like a celebrity or a citizen, welcoming me into their homes and willingly dining with them each day. The pyramids and historical sites were the icing on the cake,” Bennett declared.
Exploring the ruins of Rome and the Vatican City in Italy was surreal. Imagine laying fresh eyes on the masterpiece more popularly known as the Sistine Chapel. “It was the best masterpiece I have seen,” she highlighted.
Enamoured with rich history, Rome certainly did not disappoint in giving her quaint antiquity, “Being present inside the Colosseum gave an insight to how the experience must have been for each spectator and warrior. The food was incredible and the gelato was one of the best I’ve had.”
For Bennett, New Zealand screamed opulence and liberation like no other. “Island vibe was present, but there was a level of sophistication that embodied the lifestyle.” While she encountered racism in Australia, the opposite must be said of the land of the long white cloud. “The people were very warm and friendly.”
Then there’s South Africa, Cape Town to be more specific. Cape Town was and will always be a ‘vibe’, according to the traveller. The people bear similar markings of Jamaicans, so she felt right at home. And like yard, she would be motivated to return for the music.
One of the down sides to travelling as a Jamaican is the many visa requirements for entry into a new country. Although the processes are oftentimes tedious, the adventures are certainly worth it.
Once those obligations are met and the plans are booked, Bennett is not catching flights without her passport and travel document, toiletries, a clean change of travel clothes, camera, power bank and of course, money.
“I have yet to dive in and discover west Africa. Places like Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Cape Verde. I’m looking to make Ghana the lucky 100 soon,” she shared. Also high on her travel list are countries like Fiji, Bora Bora, Iceland and Lisbon.
Admitting that sacrificing time and money for travel can be a deterrent for others, she explained that once you prioritise adventures, it will be much easier to create the budgets needed for any trip.
“Also, some persons tend to be fearful of the unknown or think pessimistically about change and difference. But life is forever changing. Never constant. So it’s a set back when fear gives rise to dormancy and a stagnant life. Travel encourages you to be fearless in your daily life. Once people illuminate the fears they have with flying and with the things they see on television or hear in the media, they can see the real beauty of travel and feel the development of the mind,” Bennett said.