Last week I put on my big girl panties and traveled by myself to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. I used to travel by myself for business, so it didn’t feel like as much as a stretch for me as it would be for others, but I had never traveled to a different country alone.
I have been to the Dominican Republic before, but with a friend. Based on my previous experience in the Dominican, I expected to be able to strike up conversations with people at the all-inclusive resort where I stayed. That was what happened on the last trip and I didn’t see any reason for it not to happen again. What I hadn’t planned on was that I had booked my stay at a resort that appears to be a popular vacation spot for working class Russians. As a result, few of the other vacationers spoke English. Eventually, I realized that while I was there, I was the one speaking the foreign language and that I needed to just roll with things.
On my first morning at the beach a very nice woman from Russia tried to talk to me, but it was difficult to get much further than “Hola,” since neither of us spoke the others’ language. I appreciated her efforts. She was one of the few who tried to strike up a conversation.
Much to my surprise, few of the staff members spoke English. Most conversations were held in Spanish or French. Even the nightly entertainment was conducted in no other language but French. What was interesting was that in my head all of the conversations became background noise. Much like the ocean, the conversations waxed and waned around me without having any impact on my thought processes.
When I did hear someone speaking English I had the strongest urge to run over and hug them. Or at least plop myself down and join the conversation. I almost wish I had actually done it, just to see the looks on their faces.
In the years that I’ve been single I’ve been fortunate enough to travel pretty frequently with friends or family. I have frequently been told how easy I am to travel with. The primary thing that makes me easy to travel with is that I am totally fine with someone else planning everything. In fact, that’s my preference. It’s wonderful when travelling with someone to put all the responsibility on their shoulders. If something goes wrong not only is it not my fault, but I have no reason to get upset since I abdicated responsibility.
Unfortunately, that attitude left me a little unprepared for making plans on my own. It’s not like I’m not a grown ass adult who is fully capable, it’s just that I’ve never planned anything while on vacation. Lucky for me, I really had no need to make many plans.
A minor surgical procedure a week earlier prevented me from being able to swim in the ocean. That made it very easy to turn down all of the offers to go on water excursions. My only agenda for this trip was to be able to spend a lot of time on the beach. My soul craves the beach and I really don’t need to be doing anything else while I’m there. Reading, writing and taking it easy sounded like the perfect vacation to me.
A woman “of a certain age” traveling alone seemed to perplex most of the people I did speak to. Reactions ranged from confusion to pity. There were also the local men who assumed that made me an easy target for whatever they were trying to peddle. That was so funny.
I got conned into going to a time-share presentation and when I refused to express any interest in what was being sold, I got bumped up to a manager. This man immediately asked me if I had slept with a Dominican man yet. When I responded “No,” he then assured me I still had time to get that done. Next he snidely asked me if I was vacationing on my own money or if my ex-husband was paying for my trip. I can assure those who know me well that the man remains unharmed, but it took a lot of self-control to allow him to remain unscathed.
Being by myself, pretty much isolated from social interaction, gave me lots of time to observe the people around me. I learned that women with killer bodies are no less proud of their figures than some of the more rotund ones. I walked behind one woman in a miniscule bikini whose fat rolled and jiggled with every step she took but she strutted her stuff with pride. Another interesting phenomenon was the number of older women with their bikini top covered boobs resting on their bellies. It fascinated me, an American woman, to see how comfortable the women were with their bodies, no matter what their bodies looked like. I have no objection to anyone’s body type and actually respect their being comfortable with their bodies, but much of the beach looked like a bad day at Wal-Mart.
I was also amazed at the number of bad dye jobs. I have no objection to someone dying their hair; I just wish they would do a better job than a flat all-one-color head of hair. I have never seen so much jet black or copper red hair in my life. I can only assume that bad hair dye is a way of life for working class Russians. Both men and women were sporting these stark colors apparently unaware that those colors actually age them more than if they went with their natural color.
As a single woman, I am fascinated by watching how couples interact. At breakfast my last day, there were three couples sitting at two tables; the men at one, the women at the other. I didn’t realize they were together until one of the women spoke to one of the men. I started watching and soon after I saw one of the men reach into one of the women’s bags with her knowledge and approval. I was honestly puzzled by the concept of being on vacation with your spouse and not sitting together.
Traveling by myself without anyone to talk to or distract me was an interesting investment in myself. I am rested and content, but today, it’s back to reality. Work and teaching are both on my agenda for the day. I wish I’d scheduled another off day to adjust, but I can assure you that five days lounging on white sand by a black opal colored sea was totally worth the catch-up efforts.