As I was walking through Minnesota’s North Shore trails, I started thinking back on the person I was 10 years ago. The person who took the perfect photos on the beach with a brand new Victoria’s Secret swimsuit. Multiple new swimsuits. One for each day. I looked down at my dirty hiking boots and realized that girl is gone. An overwhelming feeling of thanks and gratitude took over. Just like I once hid behind perfect clothes and well-done hair, I had once hidden behind the all-inclusive resort and the false sense of security it offered.
You know what I told people after my first time at an all-inclusive resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico? I told them, “It took me a full 24 hours to actually relax.”
I told them this so they knew they should plan a longer trip because just calming the F down long enough to enjoy it would take at least 24 hours. If it was true for me, it had to be true for everyone else, right?
The question I really should have asked myself was, “How stressed are you?“
What was happening in my life that sitting in a pool and sipping drinks was not enough to help me unwind? Was there really so much tension in my life that even an all inclusive resort on a beautiful beach was still not enough? At least not until after 24 hours.
I made it a mission to relax. For me, at the time, it was sitting on a beach and sipping mojitos all day long was what I needed to do the trick.
Hot, tired Mexican workers would tread down the long, sandy, beach toward me with a cold drink so I would give them a dollar. I noticed that they remembered me and would go above and beyond to serve me. –For a dollar.
They would bring me my food or drinks and I would arrogantly tell myself, “Ahh. I deserve this. I have been working so hard.”
It’s true, I would get sad when I would see employees at the resort get sweaty, and work so hard just to pamper me. But, I told myself I was helping support them and their family. I was helping to pay their paycheck. Wasn’t that noble?
What I began to realize was that most of these Mexican workers were trying to feed their families on their salary. Which was around $300 per month.
Not only that, but they were there all day, every day, with maybe a single day off during the week. Plus, their main objective was to keep me happy.
So work hard, keep me happy and I’ll help you barely get by financially.
During our second all-inclusive vacation in Riviera Maya I started noticing how we were drinking earlier and earlier into the day. It was fun, acceptable and encouraged.
Yet, I sat there on the beach, knowing full-well things were crumbling at home, (we were 2 months away from selling our house) and this trip was a last-ditch attempt at trying to keep my marriage together.
Drinking didn’t feel sophisticated or fun. It felt necessary. It’s what everyone around me was doing. Just getting wasted. Trying desperately to make this moment count because soon we’d all be going back home to jobs that left us exhausted and discontent.
Soon, we’d sober up and head back to the lives we ran away from.
The third time we did all-inclusive, we opted for the Dominican Republic.
Our marriage was on track, we had finished our first round of paying off debt, and had finally started getting our priorities straight.
There weren’t any new bikinis accompanying me on this trip.
Living in our smaller house had brought so much contentment and peace.
We were finally spending more time together as a family and life became much more care-free.
Plus, my desire to constantly consume more and more was fading. Fast.
One night at dinner we sat down with a mother and daughter from Scotland and a husband and wife from The Netherlands. (Tom thought they were from Neverland…it’s a whole thing.)
This time I was consciously trying so hard not to be “American.” Not to be a drunk, belligerent, arrogant person. That wasn’t who I was anymore, so I sure didn’t want to convey that to these new people.
I listened to them rattle on about their adventures and the places they had seen and then they went on to list about 20 locations they wanted to see in the US. Burning Man (pass), New York, LA, Florida (why?).
As I listened to them talk about all of the things they were dying to see and do in the US, I realized I hadn’t even seen or experienced most of these things. I was always so desperate to get away. Desperate to escape.
What if I tried just being more content with where I was?
I didn’t want to tell Tom, but the entire time we were in the Dominican I thought to myself, “Is this it?”
The thrill of sitting on a beach with booze was leaving. Actually, it was gone. I didn’t enjoy it at all.
I wanted to get up…go somewhere…learn something.
I wanted to make something more of my life.
I didn’t want the life I needed to escape from and I didn’t want times of travel to be lost in a drunken fog.
Now more than ever I noticed the world outside of the resort. It was scary to see but so easy to get quickly tucked away into a false paradise behind the gates.
Looking away and pretending that I didn’t feel guilty, privileged, or spoiled no longer felt like an option. It felt like ignorance.
I no longer felt my patronage at these resorts was in any way benefiting the people who lived outside the gates.
I wasn’t sure what I could do to actually help them, but I knew I could no longer tuck myself behind the resort walls and tune it all out.
So we let our passports expire. We started appreciating what the world has to offer right here at home.
I started learning about the world instead of just pretending to be a traveler of it. I’m no saint, no expert by any means, but I’m definitely more aligned with the person I want to be.
And I much prefer being content 24 hours a day.