Foreign Findings: An experiment in the way we travel

This post is about our recent jaunt to Jamaica, not about Nicaragua… but I’m going to open by telling you about a conversation that took place years ago between my sister and her then-boyfriend, Oscar, a native Nicaraguan who, at the time, had never been to the United States. In this conversation, Oscar casually mentioned that it was his impression that Americans were open-minded, curious, adventurous and free-spirited… maybe a little lacking in personal hygiene, but overall they were okay in his book.

To this, my sister pointed out that he kind of had insufficient data as he had only ever met the type of American who happen to find themselves traveling through Nicaragua – who, for the most part, are chill backpacker sorts, trying to learn Spanish, with a disproportionate penchant for dreadlocks when compared to the overall population of the United States.

Keep this little anecdote in mind as I tell you the story of my recent discovery in Jamaica at my very first stay at an all-inclusive resort.

Granada, Nicaragua plaza

I tried to find a good picture of some Americans in Nicaragua but couldn’t… instead, here’s a random picture of Granada, Nicaragua.

Like I mentioned in last week’s post, this trip to Jamaica was our first time dipping our toes into the all-inclusive pool. I’ve never really felt like cruises or all-inclusive resorts really count as true travel. Don’t get me wrong, they sound nice and relaxing and all that, but to call it travel, at least in my book blog, is a stretch. Because of that, we’ve never really been into the whole thing. However, when you’re almost five months pregnant and don’t really feel like actually doing anything, they start to look okay.

That is how our experiment came to be.

Ocho Rios resort in Jamaica.

Sitting by the pool, and occasionally getting in, was as much activity as I wanted.

Here’s the funny thing about an all-inclusive resort – they include everything. On one hand it was nice because there were no surprise blows to the budget, we didn’t have to spend a lot of time finding each meal and you go into the whole thing knowing exactly what you’ll get out of it. That being said, I couldn’t help but look around at all the sunburned guests and wonder, “Do they know what they’re missing?” Loud conversations comparing all the resorts in a ten mile radius that they’ve visited over the last decade gave me the impression that they did not.

I’m not trying to judge people for their vacation preferences (don’t worry, I’ll start judging them here shortly for other things), I’m just trying to figure the whole thing out. Traveling isn’t for everyone, I get that, but I’m not talking about going where no guide book has gone before, I’m simply talking about going where you might actually need to open a guide book.

Initially, (like on day 1) I felt a little sorry for them because, for better or for worse, it can be really rewarding to discover your own way in a foreign place and I held out hope that some of them might someday branch out to try something different. Then (on like, day 2) realized that would mean unleashing these terrible people onto the rest of the world – something I’m a bit hesitant to encourage. Sorry Jamaica.

The guests were mostly French Canadian, with Americans and non-French Canadians coming in a close second and third. I try to avoid too much negativity on this blog but the cold, hard truth is that I simply cannot come up with a single nice thing to say about our fellow patrons of the resort. And this is coming from me who is normally one of those people that will tirelessly play devil’s advocate to give people the benefit of the doubt. Ask anyone; apparently it can be really annoying.

Andy in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

I realize now that I didn’t get a picture of any of the people, probably because I was so annoyed with them. This is the best photo of any people that I have… just look beyond the handsome guy in the foreground.

So what gave me this negative opinion of my fellow vacationers? There were some big things like suspect behavior that was at best people being narrow-minded and thoughtless and at worst, people being downright racist. There was the overall sense of entitlement, so thick it was palpable. And finally, there was the dreaded stereotypical combination of ignorance plus arrogance that is the bane of conscientious Americans everywhere.

Then there were small obnoxious things like, much to the chagrin of hotel staff, all the drunken, fake Jamaican accents floating around and the fact that the guests didn’t properly wait in lines. As much as I see the merit in a good line, I fully accept that not everywhere in the world observes the fine art of queuing. However, as someone who has been an American her whole life and has visited Canada a handful of times, I can attest to the fact that both of these lands have, as a whole, fully embraced the social construct of STANDING IN LINE AND WAITING YOUR DAMN TURN. Apparently, that is, everyone except the Canadians and Americans at this particular resort in Jamaica.

On a side note: I even witnessed one episode where some of these people’s behavior had caused a hormonal pregnant woman to tear up and then they still cut in front of her while she was just trying to get a piece of toast. To protect her dignity I won’t name the pregnant woman in question, but seriously, do you know who does that? Do you know who blatantly and with full knowledge of the wrongness of their behavior cuts in front of a crying pregnant woman? I’ll tell you who. Terrible people, that’s who.

It was as if people had gone down to Jamaica with the idea that whatever poor behavior they exhibited should be excused because at least they’re bringing their tourist money with them. While it may be true that Jamaica’s biggest money-maker is tourism, I cannot think of a more condescending or arrogant attitude to adopt. How the locals kept up their warm, friendly attitudes toward these hoards of awful people is completely baffling.

View from the balcony in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

It was a shame that these people had such nasty behavior in such a stunningly beautiful place.

All this is what made Andy and I think of that conversation that took place years ago in Nicaragua. I didn’t actually ask any Jamaicans for their take on Americans and Canadians but my guess is that it was the polar opposite from Oscar’s opinion – which is sad, embarrassing and frankly, makes this American gal a little angry.

Jamaica resort pregnancy shot.

Do I look angry? Okay, so I don’t look all that angry. But the funny thing about this picture is that while Andy and I were walking around the grounds doing our little maternity photo shoot, I hadn’t wanted him to take this one because the resort (and the its terrible, tacky, ill-behaved guests) were in the background.

It’s completely possible that the whole thing was a fluke. Maybe I should get off my high-horse and stop being so negative and judgmental. Maybe, since it was my first foray into the all-inclusive world I, like my sister’s old boyfriend, don’t really have sufficient data to make such strong accusations about all resort-goers everywhere.

I don’t really care.

The experiment is over and I see absolutely no need to delve any further into the matter before deciding that all-inclusive travel isn’t for us.

There are other wonderful ways to travel and there are other wonderful ways to vacation that include amazing lodging, exquisite meals and fantastic locations – I think we’ll stick to those. As for Jamaica, like I said in last week’s post, I’m sure there are many a fantastic thing to see and do there and hopefully someday we’ll find ourselves there again – but next time we’ll do things a bit differently.

Ocho Rios, Jamaica at night.

4 responses to “Foreign Findings: An experiment in the way we travel

  1. I am not surprised at your encounter with such folks. At all. That’s how we got our international reputation, methinks. I can’t wait to see pictures of your next trip to Jamaica – a true adventure.

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