Let’s go back to something we previously discussed when I left Punta Cana: The idea of traveling to a foreign country and staying at an all-inclusive resort.
Lots of travel writers get sand in their shorts over this idea – they think we should immerse ourselves in the country’s culture rather than sip daiquiris by the pool for five days.
I’ve always understood the appeal of both sides of the coin – some people are explorers and some are vacationers, some of us like a bit of both. Some people are comfortable with new horizons and feel enriched by the new experiences, and some only have a week’s worth of vacation per year and want to know what they’re going to get for their money – they don’t want any surprises.
And it’s all good – that’s why they make chocolate and vanilla, that’s why we have options.
It’s run by the Ministry of Tourism and it’s a free service to all visitors that come to the island – an opportunity for travelers to spend an afternoon or evening with a local family. They can set you up with a lunch, dinner, or simply an afternoon walk, but we chose to dive right in and have them host us for dinner.
I mean, they offered – the program is all volunteer based (which is why it’s free to visitors) – and they welcomed us into their home with open arms: A fridge full of beer, red and white wine, pots on the stove, stories to share.
Steve and his wife (Terry) had prepared a delicious meal for us: Grouper, peas and rice, salad, coleslaw, Guava Duff and most notably, Pumpkin Conch Soup and Jonny Cake (standing applause, Terry, this was honestly the best dish I ate in Nassau).
Later, I washed dishes with their children and asked them about their lives, and the oldest said she wants to be a lawyer. She said she likes to go to the beach, catch movies with friends. Her little sister plays the piano, and I annoyed them constantly with questions about where glasses and dishes went in the cabinets.
Then after dinner Steve gave me Bahamian dialect advice in between sips of beer. He shared that his brother is making the cowbells for the upcoming Junkanoo Festival. He told me stories of attending the World Cup in different countries (he has been to several of them), and I explained that I’ve been traveling quite a bit the past few months.
The cab was waiting several minutes for us to depart at the end of the night – a group of us must have stood chatting in the doorway for close to ten minutes.
This might be a nice compromise for vacationers and explorers – an opportunity to get out of the resort and get a genuine local experience without sacrificing a level of comfort.
Most importantly, you’ll see that any real experience lies more within the people than it does the surroundings.