As it turned out, "I'm tired and need to relax" happened most of the time. But actually getting sleep was a lot of work.
Outside of Kingston (the big city) and Port Royal (a spur hanging off the big city), night time featured a chorus of frogs or lizards or nocturnal birds that would chirp from sundown to sunup. This was lovely while enjoying dinner or reading before bed. It was incredibly frustrating while trying to sleep. The noise would die down around dawn, as light started to creep into the room. (There are many nice features of an eco-resort-style cabin. Impervious to light and sound they are not.) Combined with "not the same as my bed at home," the noise and light meant I spent most of the trip accumulating sleep depravation.
This lack of sleep made it hard to accomplish other trip goals. I'd hoped to find some good dance parties on our final weekend (split between Ocho Rios and Kingston). But these tend to start between 8 and 10 and go as late as 4am. By 8pm I was generally finishing dinner and yawning and couldn't fathom having the energy to do anything more adventurous than sit in a chair by 10.
Even chatting with locals was overwhelming: as an introvert, interacting with other people takes spoons, which were in short supply after a night of poor sleep. And in touristed areas of Jamaica there's a constant stream of hustlers and touts and handcrafters trying to get you to buy something. I'd expected this, and have experienced it in some other places I've traveled. But in Jamaica it was extra intense: I don't think I've previously had to shoo away people trying to sell me stuff while I'm eating lunch. One of my favorite photos from the trip is a sign in the Port Antonio craft market that proclaims "No harrasment here" [sic], and it was probably our most pleasant shopping experience. This kind of energy probably meant I spent less money with small-time merchants and led to more meals in hotel restaurants than I'd expected. One of the nicest things about New Kingston was the almost total lack of harassment and hustle: aside from the route taxis honking to see if I needed a ride while walking along the sidewalk and the touts at the big bus center hardly anyone tried to get me to buy something. The little bit of time I spent walking around Port Antonio was also refreshingly free of commercial assault; if we return to Jamaica we definitely want to spend more time in the Portland area.
We found plenty to like, of course. The water was nice, and I got in some fun snorkeling. We met some fun and chill people and ate a lot of tasty food. I had fun taking photos, though I think the number of standout highlights from this trip will be smaller than I expected. We heard some good music (though less than I'd been expecting; while one taxi driver had his car tricked out for big sound, half of them didn't even have the radio on) and I came back with a nice stack of CDs. But I think my big memory of this trip will be "Jamaica… the island where I couldn't sleep."
This trip did satisfy some of my existential angst that had inspired it. I'd been reviewing photos I took a decade ago and said "Man, travel used to really excite me, but the only trips out of the country I've taken since I started this job were for work and a wedding. Am I missing out?" It turns out the answer is no, as long as I'm dealing with autoimmune and sleep medical issues, I'm not missing out on extended adventures in unfamiliar territory. And while my goal this year was "Take a vacation that's not Burning Man, so you come back rested and don't need a vacation to recover from your vacation" there's something to be said about a trip where I've got control of my bed situation.