The first day was bliss. Not a care in the world.
The second day was the same. What is this magical place and why is this life so easy and great?
The third day passed in a flash. I don’t remember what happened that day.
I woke up on the morning of the fourth day thinking, there might be something wrong. This feels like Groundhog day.
By the end of the fifth day, I was questioning the meaning of existence. The same food, the same pool, and nodding to the same people who I can’t see because of the masks. Am I living in a simulation? Are these people real? Why am I here?
This wasn’t a bad dream, just the first few days at a post-covid all-inclusive hotel on the first “real” vacation we’ve taken in nearly two years.
Not not only was it not a bad dream, it wasn’t bad by any definition. We were on the sunny island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands for crying out loud!
Despite how this might sound, I am really grateful for the trip. Our kids had an amazing time. My daughter learned to swim in a week, and my son Sam learned that his dad can still throw him up in the air while in the pool. My wife and I worshipped every drop of the sunshine that we could.
We also felt conflicted. On the one hand, the easy-breezy holiday was just what we needed after not traveling for over a year together, and on the other, we couldn’t help feeling like our experience was pretty hollow.
Outside of the weather, this could have been any hotel anywhere. Where was the real Spain? What do people really like to do here? Does anyone at this hotel know how to cook with spices?
Aside from the pool, what are we going to remember from this adventure? Can I even call it that?
Did you have a good adventure? Was it hard or dirty or uncertain at times?
Not an adventure.
Nope. But I did read a good book.
After a few days, I started making a list of things that I wished were happening at the hotel or that I was doing. Here are a few things that I wished were included in our “all-inclusive”:
- Communal tables for dining (obviously a no for COVID)
- Activities to join in with local vendors/restaurants/crafts people
- Hiking/walking tours
- Actual vegetarian cooking (potatoes and roasted veg with a few sauces every day? No bueno)
- Sports (snorkeling, surfing, )
I know, we went to an all-inclusive hotel, which (even with the best ones) struggle to create an illusion of variety in any respect. That isn’t the first thing people think of when they book. I get it.
So, I really wished we hadn’t stayed at an all-inclusive. At least not for more than two days. That much is clear.
Give me an apartment (with access to a pool), a kitchen, plenty of options for food, access to a beach and mountains, and the need to figure the rest out.
After five days of semi-stressful and amazing experiences doing that, THEN I’ll be ready for a day or two, ignoring real people and real culture in an overly manicured all-inclusive.
Maybe my strong reaction is also a symptom of being couped up by the pandemic. Maybe I needed this trip to set us up for a real adventure with the next one. Who knows? The trip was certainly a great chance to reset. Travel, regardless of the type, is great for that. I forgot how different it feels to go to another country, even in a limited fashion like this. You can’t help but be proud that you did it and humbled by how little you know about the world.
Just doing that is an adventure in itself.