Cashing in my 401k, adding probably another 10 years to my retirement date to jet out to Jamaica was a decision many people think was foolish and unwise. But to me, those people are uninteresting and quite repetitive. If only they would take as many risks with their life as they do with their words, maybe they too could find a time to carve out a tropical vacation with unlimited booze, food, friends and water sports.
For our 3-year wedding anniversary/2nd honeymoon (yes I realize some people don’t even get one; well that’s their fault really, I personal don’t feel bad) we took off to Sandals Ochi Beach resort in Ocho Rios Jamaica. The resort was enormous, with shuttles running at all times of day and night to carry guests to various parts of the resort. In stark contrast to Sandals Negril, where we honeymooned, Ochi had unlimited land and water activities, bars, restaurants, fire pits, sitting areas, beach chairs, cabanas, pools (around 28 if I’m correct) and more. Enough to cater to hundreds and hundreds of guests without ever seeing the same people more than twice.
As the bubbly, outgoing couple we are, my husband and I made fast friends with 2 couples on the free shuttle bus from the Montego Bay airport over the hour and a half ride to the resort. As “experienced” Sandals clientele, we filled them in on all the amazing things Jamaica and Sandals had to offer, with an especially spicy twist. Already a quarter in the bag, we find our friends quickly. Those who like to have fun, drink, be loud sometimes, and of course, over-do it. The other couples who are there solely for romance and tranquility do not connect with us, quite frankly, we don’t even waste our time learning their names.
The first night there was an inebriated one at that! Having a club level room, which entails a fully stocked bar, full bottles of vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila and a fridge stocked with Red Stripe (of course) red and white wine, juice, water and soda. One of our new couple friends chilled and drank in our room! We took part in the greenery that Jamaica can be known for, socializing, laughing, talking about our weddings, sharing pictures and more. For us, couples resorts are not just for couples to spend quality time together, they’re also about making lifelong friends, which we do well.
The next day, we set out to learn about the resort. Because of its size, it is split into two separate properties separated by a busy road (no one crosses this road on foot, always on the “Hop” shuttle). We had a club level cottage on the beach side of the resort, about a 2 minute walk to the water’s edge. But most people including our friends spent their days up at the main pool and swim up bar. With our bottomless shatter-proof cups full of colorful liquor and non-stop Dino’s pizza flowing, the sun beating down on us it’s easy to forget where you come from. For one week, we were not Danielle the coach, the marketer, Jorge the federal officer, Amanda and Jake the self-proclaimed rednecks from Ohio or Jeff and Conti, the parents on their first get away. At Sandals, no one has last names, and no one wears real clothes. Everyone is allowed to drink too much and act out, because for that one week, all we are to each other, are friends who live in Jamaica, live a life of leisure, never lived in the US, don’t even have real lives; it’s as if all 6 of us along with everyone else around us was born on that Sunday we arrived and will die again at the end of the week, having lived a perfect life.
Beyond the lazy afternoons, the naps, the drinks, the food, room service, sun, swimming, snorkeling, catamaran booze cruises, amazing reggae music that keeps you dancing and flowing with the slight breeze and crickets through the night, I got lost. Lost in the world of heaven, lost in clouds of smoke and sun, never seeing the bottom of my cup. The all-inclusive tropical vacations are as necessary as they are dangerous.
After the first 3-straight days of “over-doing” it. Stuffing our senses with everything the resort has to offer with no boundaries, no one to tell us no, including ourselves, and never knowing what time it was, what day it was, and long from caring about our “past lives”, we hit a wall. A hard, alcohol and smoke-filled wall. Days of the hot sun and infinite alcohol led to a pool-time argument between my husband and a stranger who just didn’t like how he talked. The argument, fueled by straight vodkas and blended rum with little food bloomed into a full on fight teetering on the edge of physicality. Our friends, standing behind my husband on his side, trying to keep him away from this man who we seemed intent on ruining our vacation and everyone else’s. I realized at that point that it was time to take a knee, take a day off from drinking, relax and do something productive. Of course, it doesn’t happen that way, first, people have to sober up. Thanks to our amazing friends, my husband final calmed down, and the jerk who instigated him was escorted away from the pool by the Sandals staff; no doubt in an amazement at the actions they were witnessing. The whole situation seemed out of place to me. This was vacation! This was paradise! Fighting? Negative energy, an unstoppable husband going at this jerk like a freight train off the tracks was identical to coming upon a high-rise corporate building in the middle of a lush jungle. It just didn’t fit. Our surroundings, with the dolphin fountains, the swaying palm trees, the gentle waves crashing on a soft, sandy shore, just did not match up with the spectacle going on in front of us. It was like someone threw a remote at the TV screen disrupting our perfect moment. Shattering my serenity, snapping me back into reality. After it was all done and cleared out, I thought to myself “well that was Sandals first.”
The next two days, we kept to ourselves, my husband because he was in need of some downtime, and me because I was quite embarrassed by his actions. But it gave us some time to reset. Get back into the reality of where we were, and why we were. We went on snorkeling trips, laid lazily by the beach, occasionally swimming out to the floating rafts tethered to the beach bottom. We took longer naps, only walking to walk out to a nearby hammock just to lie back down again. We indulged in a couples massage at the “Red Lane Spa”, one of the best I’ve ever received which brought us back into the peace and equanimity of our much deserved vacation.
Only after the pool confrontation did we realize how close we were to our vacation ending. How soon we’d have to leave paradise to board a plane back to the hell of Massachusetts, to angry and disgruntled people, to working too much and making not enough. Although we had drank our fair share of libations, consumed plenty of island grub and soaked in a summer time worth of sun, arriving back in the states threw us immediately into a depression.
Back into the hustle of cars, cell phones and responsibilities, I must admit I still have not been able to awaken and realize that this is truly my life. A life without the tropical sun, the friends who we’ve known only a week yet miss dearly, a life without naps and being surrounded by water. The negative energy swarms thickly around us here in the real world, and since I’ve been back at work I have spent no less than an hour each day researching a way out. Any way out. Back to a Sandals, another job possibly, another world, another life, any life but this one.
I do realize though that one cannot live the all-inclusive resort life. Yet as I speak those very words, although coming out of my mouth, they seem plastic and wrong coming off my tongue. Saying that seems forced, as if even I don’t believe it. Even as I sit here, 4 days back in the states, I pretend to be a part of American society, pushing my paper and paying my bills, in the back of mind I am planning my escape.