Milepost 2-6-16 -We are at a vacation rental in the tropics.
Here’s a tip about travel that first-timers may not discover on their own: The real adventure is often where the real people are. I am talking about the backstory that is on the backstreets of your travel destination. I am talking about the true cultural realities that exist outside the walls of the gated resort where you are staying.
Many travelers see a carefully scripted performance when they go on vacation at the all-inclusive resort. Even the cruise lines that claim to visit exotic islands, as it turns out, may have bought the island and designed an elaborate facade that is only a fake reproduction of the real culture that they are trying to depict. But it’s not real.
If you like it that way, fine. If you want to stay within the enclave, you should be comfortable and safe. Hopefully, you will be able to relax and have a good time, maybe even make some new friends. For you, it may be exactly the right thing. But you might be able to ratchet your adventure factor to the next level with a venture outside the walls.
Culturally, the real fun begins when you leave the reservation. When you leave Front Street and venture to Second or Third Street… or even farther to where the street turns into a pathway.
When the waiter comes to your table at the resort, do you ever ask yourself, “Who is this person? Where does he live? Does she have a family? What’s her name?” Better yet, don’t just ask yourself… ask the waiter.
When I was in the Maldive Islands, my scuba diving buddies asked these questions of our guide, a young man named Ibrahim. After 2 weeks of friendly interaction with him, we were surprised when he invited us to come to his home and meet his wife — they were expecting their first child. This sort of encounter is unheard of in the Maldives where the government requires strict oversight of tourists; it just never happens. But for us, it happened. The day before Ibrahim escorted us to the airport, he started crying, and threw himself at us with hugs and weeping as we parted company. I couldn’t believe it. This was unreal. No. This was real.
This sort of rich adventure can be really hard to find when you are on a 10-day cruise where your movements are scheduled and your encounters carefully scripted. It is hard to escape the confines and get to the raw realities of the real culture.
One of the blessings of the traveling life that Kaye and I are now enjoying is the extravagance of being able to stay as long as we want wherever we want. We love to find out where the natives live, and we have been invited into their homes lots of times. Nobody tells us where to be or at what time. We decide for ourselves.
This winter, we are staying 10 weeks in a little town on the beach in the Dominican Republic. We have learned enough Spanish to be able to venture onto the side roads and back alleys to see how these people really live.
In fact, by planning ahead, we were able to visit an indigenous family in the interior of the country just yesterday. We have been sponsoring a kid through an international humanitarian organization that provides underprivileged children with a quality education and health care. Yorgelis is now 15 years old and we got to meet him. We hired a car and driver who was able to find his way through the maze of backroads and the small towns (on the cell phone with the host several times for directions) to find these guys in an obscure neighborhood far (4 hours one way) from the tourist resorts.
What an amazing experience! Their family is actually part of a community of artists and have a pottery factory in their backyard. Did you ever wonder who makes the vases and bowls and cups that you find in the gift shops at the resorts where you stay? We found them.
We got to tour the school where our kid has been educated for the last 9 years, and then his family put on a demonstration for us in the pottery shop. We could not have asked for a more beautiful experience with an authentic indigenous family. Precious.
We now have some pottery to add to our international collection at home. And here’s the thing: We know the people who made it.
That is the stuff of real adventure.
Here are a few more photos from our visit to the interior yesterday:
I hope you are able to get outside the walls on your next adventure!