I Found Healing In The Power Of Silence At A Caribbean Retreat – xoNecole

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There's a true solace and awakening in silence, especially for ambitious women who are constantly tasked with leading households, teams, and companies. When I was recently given the opportunity to experience stillness and tranquility at Tingalay's Retreat, a Caribbean oasis in the West End region of Negril, Jamaica, I was outwardly excited but could feel the twinge of fear and skepticism rising from my gut.
I'd always been afraid of total quiet, especially into my early years, because it meant that either I was alone (something I hated to be) or that something treacherous was brewing in our household that hadn't quite yet erupted. I'd developed a habit of always having the TV on or music playing, even when sleeping, and I'd always try to fill up awkward silences in conversations with laughter or a joke.
So, I decided to challenge myself, welcoming silence as a friend and facing my fears of realization and conviction that could come of doing so, with this trip to Tingalaya's. Here's all I learned about the healing power of silence and the importance of taking time to be totally alone and quiet:

Janell Hazelwood/xoNecole

1. It's super freeing to sit in silence in an environment that truly accommodates it.

The whole vibe of the 4.5-acre property embraces you like a hug from your favorite person in the world. The expansive grounds feature rich, beautiful plant life and trees, from palms to willows. The cabins are filled with warm tones of oranges, red, greens, and blues—all hues that have been proven to evoke feelings of calm, peace, and safety.

There are thoughtful touches within each space, like antiques made from organic materials, African, Middle Eastern and Jamaican art, a private patio with a hammock, and the absence of TVs, so you actually have no choice but to delight in the energy of it all. The landscaping enveloping each structure offers a bit of privacy perfect for simply enjoying your own company.

After being greeted by the host, Sophia (who welcomes all guests and cooks both American and Jamaican staples for breakfast), and spending just one hour in my cabin, I really didn't miss the sound of some reality TV rerun or a classic film. And I didn't feel the need to take out my laptop to stream Netflix, either. (Yes, there's WIFI, which, for some, compensates for the exclusion of TVs in each space.)

I found that just enjoying the island breeze while listening to the birds and property's dogs conversing to be super freeing and a welcome start to my silent stay. I swung on my private patio swing, did a bit of journaling, and then took a walk, passing by the on-site kitchen (where I was told guests could cook and share their own meals).

Janell Hazelwood/xoNecole

2. Silence can facilitate the best damn sleep of my life.

Typically I only sleep well when I've done something physically or mentally grueling (i.e. working out, finishing up a super busy day, or decompressing after a super stressful experience.) Before the trip, I'd also been experiencing insomnia due to the rigors of balancing multiple client deliverables at once while trying to lose a few pounds and meet a fitness goal by a certain date. The worry and anxiety had gotten the best of me, affecting my sleep.

During my stay at Tingalaya's Retreat, I got the best sleep of my life. By the time evening hit, the calming atmosphere I'd enjoyed throughout the day was literally like taking a sleeping pill.

After taking a steamy shower in my ensuite bathroom, which also had antique touches, included lemongrass-scented toiletries, and featured a somewhat open-air vibe, I allowed myself to fully enjoy the massive bed, enveloped in soft cotton sheets and an embroidered quilt. At night, it was eerily quiet (and dark) which added a bit more allure to the experience. I found that if I challenged myself to become one with my surroundings and trusted God in placing and protecting me at that moment, I'd find better peace to sleep, and it worked.

I am no stranger to Negril's West End, having stayed at Airbnbs and hotels there on many occasions. The area is oftentimes filled with the noise of parties and cliff-diving at Rick's Cafe, motorcycles and cars taking tourists to and from Seven Mile Beach, and the everyday sounds of hardworking people just trying to survive and thrive, but this retreat seemed to insulate me from hearing any of it, providing comfort in true stillness and tranquility.

3. Enjoying extensive quiet moments can tremendously boost my confidence in self.

After having a breakfast of callaloo, plantain, fruit, and Blue Mountain coffee (Jamaica's world-renowned brand) alone in their open-air dining room, I decided to take a walk to their man-made beach and cliff area to enjoy the salt-water pool.

I walked around a bit, admiring the pastel-colored cottages (which guests can also book to have a seaside view from their rooms), touring the chic white bar and lounge area (which made me fantasize about the day when my long-distance bae and I finally tie the knot), checking out more of the landscaping filled with the lushness of local flora. I then ventured to the pool, which I had all to myself, to take in the breeze and think about what I'm thankful for.

The whole view of the sea and the rhythmic way it filled up the pool for my enjoyment just reminded me of the wonders of the Earth, the endless possibilities of man, and how important it is to appreciate the good in life through reflection.

Janell Hazelwood/xoNecole

4. Silence helps strengthen my ability to think creatively and without limits.

I spent several days going from the quiet of my room to the beach and pool area, and in those times, I brainstormed ideas centered on self-improvement and impact. Those were key things I wanted to focus on in the new year and I'd made a point to be strategic and more deliberate in reaching my goals in those regards.

One particular thing I wanted to do is finally upgrade my social media presence, particularly on Instagram, and since I'd brought my tripod for the trip, I decided to take a few shots of myself, in a bikini—something I'd been avoiding since gaining weight. I thought, 'Janell, the best way to better engage with people is to be yourself, unapologetically, no matter what transitions or changes you're going through. People can relate to that when it's real.' I got a chance to capture true moments of solace and confidence, and I was super-proud walking back to my cabin later that afternoon.

I was also able to come up with the prototype for a special project that I'm excited to finish and release in the next year—a dream that I'd sat on for more than a decade but could no longer do so once I had the time to truly enjoy the benefits of silence for an extended period of time.

My stay at Tingalaya's Retreat did my body and soul an extreme amount of good, and it reaffirmed why others have deemed it the perfect spot to host yoga groups, small family reunions, and solo sabbaticals. It offered me the chance to truly connect with the best parts of myself, unapologetically and uninterrupted—a peaceful place of enlightenment that I plan to revisit for years to come.

For more on Tingalaya's Retreat, visit their website or follow them on Instagram @TingalayasRetreat.

Janell Hazelwood/xoNecole
The whole vibe of the 4.5-acre property embraces you like a hug from your favorite person in the world. The expansive grounds feature rich, beautiful plant life and trees, from palms to willows. The cabins are filled with warm tones of oranges, red, greens, and blues—all hues that have been proven to evoke feelings of calm, peace, and safety.
After being greeted by the host, Sophia (who welcomes all guests and cooks both American and Jamaican staples for breakfast), and spending just one hour in my cabin, I really didn't miss the sound of some reality TV rerun or a classic film. And I didn't feel the need to take out my laptop to stream Netflix, either. (Yes, there's WIFI, which, for some, compensates for the exclusion of TVs in each space.)
I found that just enjoying the island breeze while listening to the birds and property's dogs conversing to be super freeing and a welcome start to my silent stay. I swung on my private patio swing, did a bit of journaling, and then took a walk, passing by the on-site kitchen (where I was told guests could cook and share their own meals).
Janell Hazelwood/xoNecole
Typically I only sleep well when I've done something physically or mentally grueling (i.e. working out, finishing up a super busy day, or decompressing after a super stressful experience.) Before the trip, I'd also been experiencing insomnia due to the rigors of balancing multiple client deliverables at once while trying to lose a few pounds and meet a fitness goal by a certain date. The worry and anxiety had gotten the best of me, affecting my sleep.
After taking a steamy shower in my ensuite bathroom, which also had antique touches, included lemongrass-scented toiletries, and featured a somewhat open-air vibe, I allowed myself to fully enjoy the massive bed, enveloped in soft cotton sheets and an embroidered quilt. At night, it was eerily quiet (and dark) which added a bit more allure to the experience. I found that if I challenged myself to become one with my surroundings and trusted God in placing and protecting me at that moment, I'd find better peace to sleep, and it worked.
I am no stranger to Negril's West End, having stayed at Airbnbs and hotels there on many occasions. The area is oftentimes filled with the noise of parties and cliff-diving at Rick's Cafe, motorcycles and cars taking tourists to and from Seven Mile Beach, and the everyday sounds of hardworking people just trying to survive and thrive, but this retreat seemed to insulate me from hearing any of it, providing comfort in true stillness and tranquility.
After having a breakfast of callaloo, plantain, fruit, and Blue Mountain coffee (Jamaica's world-renowned brand) alone in their open-air dining room, I decided to take a walk to their man-made beach and cliff area to enjoy the salt-water pool.
I walked around a bit, admiring the pastel-colored cottages (which guests can also book to have a seaside view from their rooms), touring the chic white bar and lounge area (which made me fantasize about the day when my long-distance bae and I finally tie the knot), checking out more of the landscaping filled with the lushness of local flora. I then ventured to the pool, which I had all to myself, to take in the breeze and think about what I'm thankful for.
The whole view of the sea and the rhythmic way it filled up the pool for my enjoyment just reminded me of the wonders of the Earth, the endless possibilities of man, and how important it is to appreciate the good in life through reflection.
Janell Hazelwood/xoNecole
I spent several days going from the quiet of my room to the beach and pool area, and in those times, I brainstormed ideas centered on self-improvement and impact. Those were key things I wanted to focus on in the new year and I'd made a point to be strategic and more deliberate in reaching my goals in those regards.
One particular thing I wanted to do is finally upgrade my social media presence, particularly on Instagram, and since I'd brought my tripod for the trip, I decided to take a few shots of myself, in a bikini—something I'd been avoiding since gaining weight. I thought, 'Janell, the best way to better engage with people is to be yourself, unapologetically, no matter what transitions or changes you're going through. People can relate to that when it's real.' I got a chance to capture true moments of solace and confidence, and I was super-proud walking back to my cabin later that afternoon.

My stay at Tingalaya's Retreat did my body and soul an extreme amount of good, and it reaffirmed why others have deemed it the perfect spot to host yoga groups, small family reunions, and solo sabbaticals. It offered me the chance to truly connect with the best parts of myself, unapologetically and uninterrupted—a peaceful place of enlightenment that I plan to revisit for years to come.
Featured image by Janell Hazelwood/xoNecole

This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevatean online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.

While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
Have you ever wondered if real love is like a romance novel? For Kai, 50, and Hicham, 46, Bouhmad, it is. Kai, who is an adventurer at heart, meets a stranger who believes she would be a great match for his friend, who happens to be Hicham. They connected on Facebook and, after a few exchanges, decided to meet, and while they had a great first date and continued dating shortly after, adventure was calling, and Kai decided to break it off.
However, six years later, another stranger would bring them together, and they reconnected. We can agree that at this point, they were meant to be, and in ten short months, they got married on Valentine’s Day.
Sounds like something out of a novel, right? xoNecole had the opportunity to chat with the lovely couple about their wedding, reconnecting, and having a second chance at love.
Photo courtesy of Kai and Hicham Bouhmad
Kai and Hicham got married on February 14, 2023, in Honolulu, Hawaii in an intimate ceremony, and plan on having a reception in Morocco, Hicham’s home country, later on. One of their wedding guests was the person responsible for their union, Hicham’s friend Karim. Kai reflected on that day when they met.
“I was at a party, and a guy walked in and was like, what’s going on in here? And I was like, well, this is a salon party for the salon that just opened, and they had free food and stuff, and I was like do you want some food?” Kai shares.
When they began talking, Karim brought up Hicham. “He was like, 'I have a friend that I want to introduce you to if you’re single,' and I said, ‘Yeah, that sounds cool.’ So, he was like, 'Well, I’m gonna send you his Facebook information. If you guys can talk on Facebook and see how you guys like each other.' So, that was six years ago, and we talked, and we got along pretty well, and then we started dating.”
Because both of them are into the arts, they decided to go to the movies on their first date. At that time, Loving was in theaters, and according to Kai, she knew when she saw him that she wanted to marry him. “I just had that feeling,” she reveals.
Hicham also recalls their “wonderful” date that extended after the movies at a nearby restaurant. “It was a wonderful moment when we made eye contact,” he says.
Photo courtesy of Kai and Hicham Bouhmad
While Kai saw Hicham as her husband, she wasn’t ready to settle down, but Hicham was. So, they decided to go their separate ways, and Kai began traveling the world. But little did she know that six years later, she would see him again. This time, Kai was visiting an art gallery that had just opened up and began talking to the art gallery owner.
“She [art gallery owner] said, ‘I’m having an art opening, the studio just opened, and we’re having a party next week, and you should come, and my boyfriend has a lot of friends, maybe I’ll introduce you to some of his friends,’ and I was like ‘Oh, okay,’ Kai recalls.
“And at this time, I had already booked my ticket to go to Morocco to explore by myself, solo travel. So I said, 'Oh yeah, this will be fun.' This was in April, and my trip to Morocco was just in August. So, I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll come to your little party, I’m there.’ I’m talking, and then she said 'Oh, my boyfriend is here, and here’s one of his friends.' One of his friends was Hicham.”
This happened on April 23, 2022, and they have been together ever since.
When Hicham reappeared in her life, Kai knew she was now ready to settle down. “I honestly got tired of doing stuff by myself. I was tired, everything I have to do by myself, and I just got tired of that,” Kai explains. “I just felt like I really wanted a partner who’s really supportive and generous and kind, and I really wanted a partner that was by my side.
One of the ways that Hicham convinced Kai to give him another shot was when he wore a cactus shirt to her house, which showed the journalist how much he paid attention to her. “I love cactuses ‘cause it reminds me of the desert. It’s bohemian, I love desert cactuses. When he showed up with a cactus shirt on, I just could not resist,” she says. “That sounds cheesy and cliche and might sound silly, but it just symbolized that he knows me deeply and what I love and paid attention to stuff I care about even though it was silly. That meant a lot.”
Not long after, Hicham knew it was time to pop the question. “Kai gave me [an] indication that she was ready, and so that’s how that all happened.” He continues, “dropping hints, and she was pretty much ready, and I proposed to her.”
Kai admits that they planned their engagement together, including ring shopping, engagement photos, etc.
Photo courtesy of Kai and Hicham Bouhmad
This is both Kai’s and Hicham’s second marriages, and they gave advice on finding love the second time around. They both share the same sentiment about being open and optimistic. Both come from different cultural backgrounds and while that alone could have held them back from pursuing one another, they were open to love.
“Get out of your comfort zone and don’t limit yourself and don’t fear to fail because from failure you learn to build yourself up,” Hicham says.
And at the end of the day, it’s important to establish a friendship first. “Another [piece of] advice, just make sure you like the person,” Kai says, “and that’s really important because you have to make sure even if you have a disagreement or arguments, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, do I like this person? And just make sure you really like them.”
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image courtesy of Kai and Hicham Bouhmad

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