Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My First All-Inclusive - Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Since I just got back from Mexico, where I stayed in my second-ever all-inclusive, I thought I should post about my first-ever all-inclusive, so you have some background about why I was hesitant about this trip. 

I went to the Dominican Republic with two of my closest friends (and roommates at the time), Sarah and Stephanie, and while we had a nice time, we were all incredibly uncomfortable. It was a hard year for all of us, I think, our first out of college. We were navigating finances, time-management, public transportation - all the things that make real life real hard - for the first time. This was a vacation I couldn't afford, so my parents very generously paid for it for me, as a birthday gift, and it was meant to be a bit of a break from the stress we were all feeling. We had a nice time. It felt like the first time we'd all really hung out and relaxed since college, but it also felt painful in a lot of ways that I've outlined below.

When we came back, a lot of things changed really quickly, including our friendships. We asked our fourth roommate, who had stopped paying rent behind our back, to leave, and the apartment that I couldn't afford got even less affordable. I think as a result, I got even more self-righteous than I already was (in case you couldn't tell from the below post, I was pretty self-righteous) and some household relations got strained as a result. Stephanie moved out and went to grad school in Italy, and a few months later I moved out and into my parents' house, and I think ya'll remember what happened from there. Despite having seen each other more or less everyday for five years (give or take summers and the year when we all lived abroad in different places), this was our first and last trip as a threesome.

It was a hard time, and looking back on it, I think this trip was sort of a turning point in a lot of ways, but, a day after returning, I didn't realize any of that. I was just remembering myself from days earlier, reading Modern Life and feeling like everything was so unsolvable. It was just a few months after the intense hope we'd all felt at Obama's election, but things still felt terrible. Looking back, things worked out. I wish some things that changed after that trip hadn't, and that we'd all been able to live in the fairy-world that is Sarah Lawrence forever, but that was never a possibility. Instead, things went on in their way, changing fast and slow, and leading me to one day return semi-willingly to an all-inclusive, just five years later. I'll write more about that trip in the coming days.

Originally posted on Small Reviews, March 31, 2009. Photos are new to the post.

March 27-30, 2009

Looking toward the uncertain future?

As you may know, I spent the weekend in the Dominican Republic. We stayed at the Excellence Punta Cana, a resort about an hour and a half away from the airport. I drank, ate, swam, had a spa treatment, did some yoga, and talked to a lot of the staff and none of the other guests. Other than this, I did nothing except lounge in the sun.

First day on the beach. We were all so gorgeous.

This could be the perfect weekend. In some ways, it really was. The food was mediocre at best (the only thing I really enjoyed was lobster at a restaurant that serves nothing but lobster), but the drinks were excellent (by excellent I mean that some had lots of alcohol and all had lots of fruit), and we definitely drank our money's worth. The ocean water was rougher than I'd seen before in the Caribbean, but we did swim in it, and made ample use of the resort's two pools, one of which had a swim-up bar. There are beds on the beach and near the pools, and lounging around in the sun was fantastic. The resort was clearly made for couples, and honeymooners got a special sash for their doors, so my two roommates and I definitely got extra attention from the staff, two of whom gave us their e-mail addresses. There was always someone walking around ready to take your drink order, and at times, just passing out drinks or food. It was lovely to partake in this bit of hedonism.

Before our first dinner.

The beach on our second day.

But, at the back of my mind, there was always a pushing feeling of exploitation, and at times it made it difficult to enjoy myself. The resort system is built to replicate a system of servitude, and while it can be wonderful to be waited on, it's bizarre to be staying in a hotel centered around that. (Did I say this was my first experience with an all-inclusive?) I felt badly for being there because of the food waste, because of the low wages, because of the instability of the job, because I was enjoying myself, and because I was feeling badly. Most of my vacations contribute nothing to a place, but I usually don't go about them so problematically. This, of course, led to my thinking about all the things I enjoy, which of course, led to the thought, all of my happiness is built on exploitation and the suffering of others. My bargain hunting, my traveling, my addiction to diet soda, my ceaseless use of electricity and paper, my existence means that someone somewhere is existing in a completely different way. I don't like having to think about this sort of thing while I'm on vacation, and that's a lot of what I did.

This soup was fine.

The only picture of all three of us from this trip.

I'm not saying that I regret the trip; I don't. I got to spend time with two of my closest friends, who I haven't really spent much time with since graduation, and remember why I liked them so much. I got to rest and relax, and not go to work. I got fantastic drinks and a tan. I also got a more personal awareness of the problems with tourism. The trip was a welcome break from the mundane world I face in my cubicle everyday, and it definitely helped me learn a little bit more about myself. I'm glad that I spent the past weekend in paradise, but I don't think I'd ever go back in the same way. From now on, I think I'll be a little more careful about my priorities as I plan my trips.


  1. This feeling happened to us on our honeymoon in the cancun area. I felt good about things, thinking we were contributing to the economy, blahblah. But then we found out that only 1 hotel in all of cancun is even mexican-owned!! All other properties were owned by US or UK businesses. So now we work to stay in places owned by locals. If we are going to have privilege we want to spend it wisely.

    1. Yeah, I think that's the best way to do it. I'm not going to hole myself up and never leave New York for fear of hurting someone else, but I do want to try and be more conscious of the impact I have and do what I can to make sure that impact is a positive one.