My husband and I recently had the opportunity to sneak away for a weekend alone. It marks only the second time we’ve done so since our son was born eight years ago and so, as you might imagine, it was a treat of the rarest kind. Our destination made it all the better; we flew to Providenciales, one of a string of islands that make up the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean. We were guests of the all-inclusive Beaches Resorts. The experience was luxurious in many ways, which of course, I had hoped it would be. While I thoroughly enjoyed being pampered, this particular trip opened my eyes to something I’m not entirely proud of: with age and increased financial security, I’ve developed into a rather spoiled and bratty American.
The purpose of the trip was to attend a social media event for mom bloggers. Beaches Resorts hosted just over one hundred of us and used the opportunity to flaunt their gorgeous properties and impeccable service. I think it’s safe to say their mission was accomplished; I came away with a clear picture of just how top-notch their accommodations are, due in part to the fact that I stayed in another hotel for a single night prior to the start of the event. The first night’s accommodations stood in stark contrast to those at Beaches.
Upon check-in at the first resort we made our way to our room and opened the door to be met by a most pungent, musty smell. And heat— a wall of hot, wet air met us at the door. I walked in and found a spot for my suitcase, noticing a suspicious trail of what I suspect was black mold near the floorboards. Because I’m a bit of a germaphobe, my next stop was the bathroom; I wanted to sanitize my hands after having maneuvered through the airport and customs. To my dismay, the water from the faucet came out more of a muddy yellow color than clear. To make matters worse, it never got hot, no matter how long it ran. Based on the condition of the room, you might be thinking that we hightailed it out of there as fast as our legs could carry us. Not so. It was late and we were without the means to book another room, much less travel to one. And so we stayed. We went to great lengths to avoid touching anything unnecessarily. We closely inspected the sheets before precariously lying down in the bed for one long and uncomfortable night of tormented sleep.
I wish I could tell you that I took the whole thing in stride. I wish I could tell you that I chose to see the glass half full. We were, after all, on vacation in the Caribbean—something that not everybody gets to do. The sad truth, though, is that I whined. My husband was left with no doubt as to whether or not I wished we had just stayed home. My complaints were getting on even my own nerves but still they spilled forth from my mouth faster than I could compose myself and just shut up for the love of Pete. It was not and still is not one of my proudest moments.
The following morning we woke with the sun and didn’t so much as dare brushing our teeth before putting as much distance between ourselves and that dive hotel as we could. Without the means to call a taxi, we quite literally started walking—dragging our suitcases behind—towards Beaches Resort. Luckily we weren’t far into our journey when an off-duty taxi driver happened by and offered us a ride. We eagerly accepted and he delivered us, as promised, to what at the time seemed like the gates of paradise. We checked-in to our room at Beaches, properly brushed our teeth with crystal clear water and then promptly made our way to the nearest on-site restaurant for made-to-order omelets and a mimosa (or three). It was then and only then that all was right in my perfect little world.
As someone who has done a fair amount of traveling, I’ve always taken a certain degree of pride in being humble—in being grateful for the opportunities with which I’ve been presented. This experience opened my eyes to the fact that I’ve got a lot further to go when it comes to truly setting down my very American expectations and living each and every day gratefully, in spite of temporary circumstances.
I recently attended a conference during which I learned that there are children in Africa who don’t even own a pair of shoes. Often times, they own just a single shoe and they will switch it back and forth between feet when one grows too scratched up or calloused. They walk ten minutes to fetch water and then walk ten minutes back home and have to boil the water over an outdoor fire in the family’s makeshift kitchen before they can even think about drinking it or using it to wash their faces or brush their teeth. They sleep under nets to protect themselves from the risk of mosquito-borne disease. They have access only to the foods they harvest or barter for. All of that and here I am wincing over a musty smell in a Caribbean hotel.
It’s easy to forget how fortunate we are to live where we do and have access to the things we have access to. I only hope that this experience helps me to remember.
And be better.