Rising and shining has been delightful these past few days, as I am on vacation in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and have the Caribbean Sea greeting me every morning. After a dark, cold, challenging winter, it was important to take some time in a bright, warm, easy location, for Tom and I to relax and enjoy each other away from the realities of our New York life. So we did what so many people do, and what I thought I would never do – we went all-inclusive.
Not that there is anything wrong with that, I think, defensively. As a prototypical Gen X kid, I thought I invented the ironic eye roll (we all did – watch “Reality Bites” if you don´t believe me), and things like all-inclusive resorts, cruises, corporate retreats – anything with a buffet, really – were considered impossibly cheesy and uncool. Things that yuppies did. Things that regular people did. Average things. I stayed on rainy sides of sunny islands, shared sleeping space with more than my share of lizards, broke the ice in the toilet after snowshoeing into a remote mountain cabin and woke up in a tent surrounded by coyotes, all in the name of authentic fun. A vacation was that much better if it required work.
But here I sit. Typing at a computer in a lovely cafe where the coffee and tequila are free, facing a beautiful pool and beyond that, the amazingly blue sea. I am grateful I let go of my self-righteousness when it came to vacation destinations. I am grateful I let myself take it easy. I am grateful I lost my 90s-era smirk somewhere along the way.
That is not to say that I don´t have moments of judgy judginess, despite wanting to be better than that, especially when observing “regular” people doing what “regular” people do. Breakfast, in particular, has been fascinating. It is the only buffet of the day and a chance to mingle with the broadest cross section of the hundreds of guests who are staying here. In a corner of a vast room is a table of fresh tropical fruit: mango, papaya, passion fruit and pineapple that I haven´t been able to get enough of. I fill plate after plate with fruit and follow it up with scrambled huevos dressed with pico de gallo, fresh guacamole and fresh cilantro. I like to think that I’m using my sense of taste to appreciate my surroundings – that seeking out the local flavors are another way to be present in this place, on this vacation. I know this sounds smug, because I feel a bit smug (disguised under a veil of concern) when I see people walking to their tables with overloaded plates of brown food: pancakes, bacon, waffles, hash browns, sausage, all the diner favorites, sometimes accompanied with stiff cantaloupe if they are being healthy (see! There is the judgy judginess right there). I know I am an adventurous eater (thank you, mom!), but I hadn’t realized how different I am from other people until I compared our breakfasts. I know that people tend to stick in their comfort zones, and that is one of the reasons they come to an all-inclusive in the first place, but I didn’t think that comfort zones involved so many processed carbs and butter. And with fresh passion fruit right there for the taking! So despite being in a place where regular people vacation, I am still not regular, if the breakfast plate is any indication.
How great is that? How amazing it is to realize that it doesn’t matter how my surroundings are packaged; I bring my oddness, my uniqueness with me. I can lay by the pool with a flower behind my ear and a fruity cocktail in-hand and not lose myself. Not become regular. I pack my best self with me, no matter where I go, and if I could go back and talk to my younger, 90s-self, I would try to convince her of that, and try to get her to stay on the sunny side of the island. It is beautiful there.
Until next time. Adios!