Photo via Ashley Hyde
Travel has a way of changing your life in an impactful way. That’s what happened to Ashley Hyde, who runs one of Jamaica’s most promising new travel companies, Touch the Road Jamaica. In 2011, Connecticut-raised Hyde visited Cape Verde with her college for a program on migrant workers who’d been deported back to the island nation. During her senior year, Hyde applied for a Fulbright scholarship to continue her work with deported migrants. Fulbright didn’t have any Cape Verde programs, so she opted for Jamaica instead.
Outpostings sat with the savvy entrepreneur at her home in Kingston. Here’s what we learned.
She chose Jamaica because Cape Verdean migrant workers felt a kinship to Jamaicans
“I was looking for opportunities to help deported migrants when they returned home,” she says, “and to use a skillset they might have developed either in prison or on the streets.” But when Cape Verde wasn’t an option, she recalled Cape Verdean migrants mentioning they had identified most with Jamaicans. “Jamaican deported migrant workers had a very similar situation when they arrived back home—they were stigmatized and disenfranchised…so I erased Cape Verde on my Fulbright application and wrote in Jamaica.”
She left grad school to make an impact on the Jamaican community.
When Hyde’s year-long Fulbright scholarship came to an end, she returned home to pursue a graduate degree in international development. But after three months, Hyde decided her time was better spent on the ground, and made her way back to Jamaica in 2012.
Photo via Touch the Road
She founded an ultra community-minded travel company.
“Touch the Road was like a culmination of my Fulbright,” Hyde explains. The company sends travelers to destinations (Hyde calls them “pockets”) all over the island. “These creative pockets were not people with a whole heap of money that were able to build something, and it wasn’t pretty, glitzy or glamorous.”
One of her favorite examples is a hidden bakery behind a rasta shop, where the owners used a coal stove to bake pineapple cakes. “I said to myself, ‘This is the craziest cake I’ve ever had in my life. Why aren’t traveler’s seeing this? And how do they see this?’”
So she created Touch the Road to facilitate the process of Jamaicans showing visitors their island. “I wanted to show the rest of the world the hidden Jamaica, and I wanted to show them that with Jamaican tour guides—in part to create more jobs, but also to build upon this idea of people actually helping people. The world can go to places like Ibo Spice, places like Trench town and Gordon Town. These are the small places that are no where on the map right now.”
She also started the country’s newest music festival
Hyde teamed up with local band Raging Fyah to launch Wickie Wackie Music Festival. The two-day concert fair is all about “socially conscious music,” says Hyde, referring to the musical movement to impart positive social messages into the lyrics. “If you’re making conscious reggae music in Japan, you should be at the festival,” she says.
Grammy-winning group Morgan Heritage, Jesse Royal and Kabaka Pyramid all graced the stage at last year’s festival, and while Hyde can’t share details for this year yet, she promises the lineup is nothing short of “epic.” The festival is set for December 2 – 3, 2016.
She loves Jamaica’s take on life.
“In Jamaica, you can take the time to get to know yourself and other people. It’s really taught me to just sit and relax,” she says.
She’ll always feel at home in Jamaica.
Hyde suffers from “the travel bug,” as she explains, but she’s not planning on parting ways with Jamaica any time soon. “I’m always going to have a place here in Jamaica. For the rest of my life.”
Follow Hyde and her adventures on Instagram at Touch the Road.