I’m a travel enthusiast who hates travel snobs.
Exactly one year ago my husband and I chose the Now Sapphire resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico as the venue of our wedding. It was affordable, exceeded all expectations, and was one of the best travel experiences of my life. One year later we’ve moved on with our travels, but our guests still rave about our week together in paradise and hail it as the party of the year. Essentially, 60 of us unplugged from work, from commuting, from the monotony of life, and from the oppressive gray skies and snow of New York to gather together to drink heavily, enjoy the 80 degree sunshine, and experience something new. I was floored by the resort and have fond memories of the week. I am eternally grateful to the guests who spent their hard earned money to celebrate our nuptials, and I hold nothing against the guests who could not make it to our celebration, well except…one bitch.
Let’s give her a fake name like…Cathy. Cathy did not attend our wedding despite having a more than comfortable amount of disposable income and unlimited vacation days at her cushy, corporate, position. Cathy did not attend our wedding in Mexico because, “she likes to travel for real and being at an all inclusive is not traveling.” I’m lying if I didn’t tell you that I had visions of shoving a pitchfork up Cathy’s ass…you know…to keep the stick that had already clearly been there company.
Cathy likes sleeping in huts with strangers she’s never met and thinks she’s edgy for not getting vaccinated before traveling to foreign countries. Cathy practices yoga and meditation every day while gazing into the eyes of a statue of Buddha’s head in her living room. She doesn’t let the fact that actual Buddhist principles strongly detest having such incomplete shrines of Buddha on display stop her from appropriating the parts of their culture that she enjoys. Cathy does these things not because they add any real value to anyone’s life, but because she thinks it makes her a better person…more woke, enlightened, and chill. In Long Island culture, Cathy is what we locals refer to as, a twat.
It is an indisputable fact that getting on a plane and going to a foreign country anywhere is in itself, traveling. So help me understand this bullshit philosophy that people who visit all-inclusive resorts are not “really traveling.” We travel bloggers and enthusiasts live in an age where adorable young women like to get on their high horse, aptly named Instagram, and preach to us about “authentic traveling.” After all, what can be more authentic than having someone take fake candid photos of you looking at paintings by artists whose name you know, but history you know nothing about. What’s more original and unique than a photo of you standing in tree pose in a yoga class in Bali. What screams I’m too legit to quit like wearing the highly appropriate mountain climbing attire of a FUCKING BALLGOWN as you ascend on a two hour climb to watch a sunset in Southeast Asia. What is more authentic than…ooooh a photo of one enjoying an acai bowl by the beach! Or, captioning your photo on a hammock or water swing with a quote by some author you know nothing about because you don’t spend your free time reading! Or, eating an ice-cream cone, or taco, or piece of pizza and writing some witty caption about how “fat” you are. Or a photo of you walking toward the ocean with peace sign fingers and your tanned ass hanging out?
All inclusive resorts, so long as they maintain a level of safety and fairness to their guests and staff, are the shit, and I intend on spending a lot of my vacation time in the next few years at them. Why? Simple, when was the last time you spent consecutive days truly doing what you want?
I’m not dissing any of my travels, I love them all. But, traveling is hard work whether or not people want to believe that. Any trip to Europe has always felt exhausting. I’m running from sight to sight, show to show, place to place. I’m on another flight or train ride every third day, I’m up at the crack of dawn for sight seeing and out experiencing the night life until the wee hours of the morning again with little sleep. While these are my most fun and fondest moments of life, I’m also arriving back to New York feeling as though I need a vacation from my vacation.
This simply isn’t the case when I visit an all inclusive resort. Critics will say they find “all inclusives“ too restricting or limiting, I say it’s more freedom than I feel anywhere in the world.
No Schedule: As a NYC school teacher, my world revolves on a schedule tighter than a crab’s ass. I won’t bore you with the details, most people with a 9-5 or something of the like understand. Most times when I travel, I am still on a schedule of visiting sights, taking tours, and arriving at reservations. All Inclusive life? No such thing. I start the day waking up whenever I want. I can watch the sunrise at 6AM, or roll lazily out of bed at noon. The only thing awaiting me is lounging by the pool, endless cocktails, food and friends. I can eat as many times a day as I please and at whatever time I want. I get all kinds of wild. I’ve had my breakfast at 1pm and ordered room service at 3 in the morning. There are no meetings, no lectures, no conferences. I’m free to relax, I mean REALLY relax in the sunshine and warmth all damn day. At home, we tend to accept that laying in front of the TV eating Cheetos is relaxing. At an all inclusive resort, splashing to the swim up bar, watching the waves roll in on the beach, and reading a novel under the sun reinforces what relaxation really is. In the evenings, I can spend the night in my hotel room listening to the ocean and nodding off at 9PM, or I can let loose drinking and dancing until 2AM where I return to my room without any need to set an alarm. Out of all the things in life I claim to be the best, I think this is the winner. In one word: Restorative.
To Do or Not To Do: The onslaught of activities at all inclusive resorts is literally insane. There are the usual suspects: kayaking, snorkeling, paddle boarding, etc. Then, there’s the activities the resorts plan which go off roughly every 3-5 seconds. At Now Sapphire, I remember it raining heavily the day before my wedding. One of the entertainment staff informed me that my choices of activity, from 4-5PM would be sushi making, salsa lessons, cigar rolling, and continued to name at least four more activities. All of these happened within one hour! And every hour there were an abundance or more, new, activities! There is always something to see, do, or new to try. Travel should be fun, and not too serious. If we’re being honest, most of us are not changing the world when we travel, we’re there to enjoy what is offered. Sometimes, travel has to be silly, nonsensical, and ridiculous. I absolutely love watching the “pool games” put on by resorts. I’ll never forget my favorite.
My husband and I watched a game of men vs women scavenger hunt by the pool. There were four men and four women, each would pair off and be told to find something and take it from a guest (a chapstick, a dollar bill, etc.) One of the items was a pair of swimsuit bottoms. Whether I liked it or not, I watched an elderly woman rip off her bottoms in the pool and hand them to a contestant, and in that moment everyone laughed. Not at her, but with her, and she laughed too. No one rushed to snap a photo, no one scorned her, it was a rare moment of many different kinds of people coming together to appreciate and enjoy a silly moment and to celebrate that we were not at our office jobs where one is expected to keep their clothing on at all times. In one word: Unifying.
Staying and Going: I usually spend at least 5 days at an all inclusive resort. There are many days where I have no purpose other than to relax on the beach or by the pool. But, there are at least two or three days where I sign up for excursions outside the resort. The critique many travel snobs give to all inclusive resorts is that, “you’re not really seeing the country.” That is a choice. In Mexico I’ve swam in cenotes, toured ruins, and passed time at local bars, clubs, and restaurants outside of my resort. In Jamaica I’ve thrown myself into the chaos and throngs of the streets, visited Nine Mile, and swam in the Blue Hole with locals. An all inclusive resort does not limit you from getting out into the country and exploring. If anything, it just gives you the option to rest and recover in the best of ways of the days you are not out there doing the most. If you don’t stay at an all inclusive, you’re almost forced to be doing something every day in my opinion. In one word: adventurous
Doing Nothing is the Popular Option: In NYC, if you spend your day doing nothing, you’re a waste of life. Few able bodied people spend their day doing nothing in the big apple. There is always pressure to be working harder and longer, to be at happy hour, to be at Soul Cycle. Not for me, but for people who actually exercise and shit, the pressure is there. Where else can you go where the popular activity of a place is to DO NOTHING!? Imagine Skyping a friend from Vienna, Uganda, or Colombia and telling them that your agenda for the day is doing nothing but laying down. The whole culture of all inclusive resorts is centered on doing nothing but relaxing! There is zero pressure to always be on the go and I cannot express how refreshing that is! Laying on a sun bed for hours on end is the best free medicine. It is a necessity you probably didn’t even know your body and mind needed until you do it. In on word: relaxing
Bang for Your Buck: Travel needs to be economical. I’m all for splurging once in a while, but it’s important to be financially responsible. When you have things like children, a mortgage, and bills to worry about, it becomes even more important. Not everyone is willing to live so high beyond their means, and I think that’s a sound principle. An all inclusive resort is often the best way to ensure you do not spend above your budget. Many people see all inclusive resorts as getting their moneys worth considering what you get for the roughly $1,000-$4,000 price tag. That essentially includes a restaurant experience three times a day, quality and comfortable digs, activities, access to things like a gym or fitness classes, booze, in many cases a babysitter for your kids, and if you visit the resort my parents did in the DR, a woman who offers to babysit your husband as well…because she was a hooker. Fun fact, there is no point in your life where your parents talking about anything remotely sexual feels OK. We need to stop perpetuating this myth that people who don’t go to Europe just aren’t trying hard enough. Most of the people screaming at people telling them that “IT CAN BE DONE AFFORDABLY IF YOU JUST STAY IN HOSTELS AND EAT OUT OF DUMPSTERS” are young, able bodied, and without the circumstances that most Americans are subjected to. For many Americans, all inclusives allow for the ability to experience travel without the hefty pricetag while not compromising comfort or quality. In one word: economical
Effortless Cultural Understanding: The people who work in these resorts aren’t actors playing the part of Caribbean or Mexican natives. They really live in these countries, and are often trying to make a better life for themselves. When traveling, it can be hard to meet locals and even more so, to have an in-depth conversation about the way of living and culture of the country. I can only imagine as I’m rushing down the street of NYC, a tourist stopping me to ask me if I can tell them about the culture and way of living in New York. Here, let me show you by throwing my coffee in your face for making me late to work. That’s the culture of big apple in one motion. How does one really have an in-depth conversation with locals if we’re being honest? At an all inclusive, you are constantly interacting with the staff who are themselves authentic locals. Whether you intend to or not, you wind up having conversations with the people who work at the resort as per the nature of folks in the hospitality business and a conversation is actually able to happen much more organically. I remember being hung over and swimming in the pool the day after my wedding listening to two of my guests conversation near me, because I’m a weirdo who listens in. They were discussing how a staff member told them about the low wages many people in Mexico are paid and about the formidable way of life in some parts of the country. “I had no idea about all of that, can you imagine? How can someone live like that?” Two people who don’t travel often at all experienced an effortless moment of learning about another person’s way of life which, as their own words suggest, perhaps changed how they view people outside of their home country. In one conversation, these people were able to reflect on and empathize with the struggles of someone completely different from themselves. In one word: enlightening
Travel is such a personal experience, the memories we make and the lessons we learn and take away. Travel is joy and growth, it is not a competition, or for one to decide the merit and value of another’s travel experience. The hot new trend in the “travel sphere” is this focus on jungle-esque or beach-esque meditative/spiritual retreats focused on yoga, meditation, eating healthy, etc. The irony. The irony of having someone take photos of you as you meditate and worrying about getting the perfect shot when meditation is about focusing on breath and nothing more. Yoga and meditation is about learning to live and let live, but how many of these “influencers“ so harshly critique themselves, or critique others for staying in an all inclusive resort for a family vacation. The irony, that probably the best place for restoring one’s health, mentally and spiritually, and really letting go, is a place like an all inclusive resort.