I love traveling, but probably even more, I love planning trips. I love putting together the budget, researching and planning the itinerary. Maps. Travel time. An hour spent on TripAdvisor or Sygic is an hour spent in my happy space. I could daydream about traveling for hours.
Planning for our November/December 2016 trip to the Dominican Republic was pretty similar. My brother and his wife and children live in the DR, so part of the trip was visiting family and seeing their work. The rest of the trip was about relaxing, hanging out at the beach, eating good food and creating memories.
I also had big ideas about what we were going to experience and learn.
- My spiritual life was going to blossom (and I was going to get great photos for my blog).
- My children were going to experience new cultures and foods. They were going to have their eyes opened to poverty and have a life-changing experience. Probably they would come back to the U.S. and never complain about anything again after seeing how people live in real poverty (OK, I am half-joking . . . but part of me really hoped for this).
- My husband was going to discover a love for world-traveling that would catapult our future travel experiences into a new realm.
Reality was a little different.
Day one we flew into Santo Domingo, the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. It was pouring rain and we were unsure if my brother was going to be able to pick us up or his migraine would keep him at home, which would mean we’d need to find our way from the airport to a taxi to a bus station to buy bus tickets (we don’t speak Spanish) and take the 3 hour drive to San Juan de la Maguana. All by ourselves.
Fortunately my brother’s migraine cleared up enough so that he could pick us up and drive us to his home.
San Juan de la Maguana was beautiful. And not to sound biased, but I am pretty sure I have the most adorable nieces and nephews in the world. San Juan de la Maguana is surrounded by mountains and hills. Beautiful people. Delicious food. We visited villages where my brother and sister-in-law are working and met their co-workers. Their ministry is pretty amazing – if your church is looking for a missions partner or if you are looking for a ministry to support, check them out: Miguelandkristina.blogspot.com
My children did get exposed to different cultures and a different lifestyle. No traffic rules (at least not enforced). Being a minority. Lack of hot water. No air conditioning. Not speaking the language.
They also got sick. So did my husband.
By the end of day four of the trip I had dumped about 1,000 buckets of vomit. I’m exaggerating. But it felt like I did. My 9-year-old thought she was going to die. My husband wasn’t very happy with me and my status as an expert trip planner was quickly deteriating.
Due to vomiting children our bus trip back to Santo Domingo was delayed by several hours, but armed with Ritz crackers and plastic bags, we climbed onto a lovely Caribe Tours bus and made the trip to the capital where we transferred to a private van to take us to Dreams La Romana Resort.
Here is the good, bad and ugly:
- The vomiting continued. We were very careful about not drinking water so I’m not sure if we had a bug or ate something bad. But by the end of the trip we’d gone through lots of bed sheets and Pepto-Bismol.
- The beach at Dreams La Romana was lovely. They had free snorkeling gear, kayaks, peddle boats, etc. I spent hours floating in the clear, calm water viewing fish, stingrays and starfish.
- Even though we were staying at an all-inclusive resort they had sales people who tried (relentlessly) to get us to sit through a sales pitch. We didn’t do it so I don’t even know what they were selling, but they got pretty upset that we didn’t participate.
- The food was pretty good and there was a good variety. We could have probably enjoyed more if we weren’t sick.
- We did not do the upgraded “preferred” package and I thought the beach and pool-area were completely lovely without the upgrade.
After three days at Dreams we headed back to Santo Domingo and stayed at the Real Intercontinental which had just opened. It is a beautiful hotel. Fantastic service. The pool is amazing and the food service was great. Below is the view from our room. Pretty amazing.
The last day we went to the Colonial Zone (Zona Colonial) which is the oldest constantly inhabited city in “The Americas,” dating back to when Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492. We only had a few hours in the Colonial Zone, though for a thorough exploration I’d suggest at least a day (or two) to tour everything.
The Cathedral of Santa María la Menor; the oldest cathedral in the Americas, begun in 1512 and completed in 1540
On this trip we created lots of memories – some good, some not so good. Pepto-Bismol became my best friend. My girls came home from the DR and still complain about “first world problems” but seeds were planted and hopefully their eyes were opened to a bigger view of the world. My husband put his passport away. I’m not sure if he’ll ever get it out again.
I think all of us have a better appreciation for what we have. And we better understand what we don’t have. And what we don’t need.
And that is something that all the trip planning in the world won’t prepare us for or provide.
So until next time (and hopefully there is a next time), “Adios” Dominican Republic. Thank you for the memories!
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