Traveling, resetting, and questioning the meaning of life

Picturesque view of a pool and palm trees.

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.

Me throwing Sam in the air in the swimming pool.
We were in the 1% of active people here
Large swimming pool with only my two small children in it.
Why is no one else in the pool?
CLose up of Sam's face while being thrown in the air in the swimming pool.
That face, that’s the goal!

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.

My daughter learned to swim underwater first. Breathing? That came later.

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.

Sunset in Tenerife.

4 responses

  1. What an interesting experience. I’ve never done the all-inclusive thing, it’s just not for me. When I took the boys to Puerto Vallarta a couple Christmas’s ago I rented an apartment on AirBnb, it was 4 blocks back from the ocean so we had an amazing view, we walked everywhere, interacted with the locals in our neighborhood, got to see restaurants and people and stores that we otherwise would have missed, and still got to enjoy the more touristy aspects on the beach when we wanted. It definitely had other challenges like grocery shopping, not being able to pop in and out to the beach whenever we wanted, and certainly no pool, but it was worth it to me for the variety of experience.

    With that said it looks to have been a wonderful and beautiful vacation, I’m glad you and the family got to enjoy a break from everyday pandemic life.

    1. It was a wonderful vacation overall for sure. Your plan for Puerto Vallarta sounded more adventurous and def more my speed. Will be fun to do that when the kids are a tad older.

  2. We just got back from Malta – we rented an apartment from, which I find to be much better than AirBnB in Europe. We alternated between easy relaxing days and touring 5000 year old temples. Sometimes the kids complain, but even they have started to like it. We usually eat breakfast and dinner in the apartment, and eat lunch out, which saves us some money, but also allows us to taste some of the local cuisine. We have been doing this sort of vacation since our kids were 6 and 8 (now 10 and 12). 6 and 8 was probably pushing it, but now it is really great. In a couple years, they probably will want to go off by themselves with friends.

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