Every trip has a lesson, at least, for me it always does. We both consider ourselves pretty travel savvy, after 37 countries, we ought to have picked up a few tricks! There are always new things to learn. On this trip, it’s been a more in depth understanding of what sort of travelers we are, or more specifically, what sort we aren’t.
No one likes to talk about negative feelings in travel, but they are so important. And retrospectively, can make great stories.
As I’ve traveled, I’ve come to view trips not as an experience meant to be perfect, or an escape. But rather, I view a trip as an extension of my everyday life, which is expected to have ups and downs. Of course, I travel in part for new experiences, but I don’t expect a complete alteration of my reality. Partially, this comes from the fact that after enough trips, little seems all that new, or exotic. Nicaragua, is beautiful and unique in its own subtle ways, but because of the way we chose to travel this time, we weren’t really affording the chance to explore them.
Nicaragua is a budget location, and since we only had ten days we used this, plus deeply discounted green season specials to travel more luxuriously than we’re used to. It’s been a mixed experience.
While overall, we’ve had a great time, we certainly enjoyed our more independent time in Granada than our time in the jungle resort. In part this is because we had more independence, and felt more connected to the city. It was a perfect balance, we stayed at a nice, well priced hotel, with a discount, so we didn’t feel like we were shelling out an absurd amount of money for unnecessary things, and maintained our ability to dictate our days. Our time at the resort was relaxing, and set in a beautiful location. But, when we got the bill, I felt physically ill. The tours and transfers, which we knew were extremely expensive compared to if we were doing it independently, plus tax meant a bill way above what we had hopped to pay. Though our time spent was great, it was not worth the price tag. Not even close. And that’s hard. But, a good lesson. We want to spend our money on experiences, not the luxury of being escorted by private vehicle. And while we aren’t backpackers, we certainly still appreciate good value. And I have admittedly a whole lot of respect and even a bit of envy for those who find backpacking jaunts to truly be their preference, even if they can afford nicer. Much respect.
Luxury can be a great break, but it is very often simply not worth it, at least not if it isn’t juxtaposed with harder travel. Back in Indonesia, we treated ourselves to three nights at the Alila, Ubud. It was 100% worth it after 24 hours of hard overland travel. Let me tell you, that breakfast would have never tasted so good if we had simply been whisked away from the airport.
Back in Ghana, I can’t tell you how proud we were of our ability to, after a month of a lot of trial and error, being able to navigate the public transport system. And these are the memories we cherish. Being transferred in tinted windowed vans is nice, sure, and occasionally worth it, but memorable? Not so much. Not that every travel moment needs to be defining or special, in fact, that would be exhausting. And this is particular to us. It isn’t better, not worse, just our preference. And it is such a relief! I don’t want to love luxury travel all the time, it’s so expensive, and while money can often buy you experiences you wouldn’t normally be afforded (just look at any Epic Tomato or Truffle Pig trip), but it can also be extremely isolating, and for us, often boring or sterile. Our problem with this resort was that it didn’t feel that special to us. At least not for what they charged. Sure, if you’re a busy, rich, stressed out New Yorker with three days to spare, being whisked away and taken care of is probably your thing. It’s not ours. And that’s good to know. Of course it’s amplified by the fact that no one likes to see their previously so well thought out budget be destroyed as your bank account dwindles and you very much feel like you’re hemorrhaging money. That puts a damper on any situation.
Partially, I didn’t listen to my gut. Back in Dublin I wasn’t sure if it was worth it to step up our level of luxury, some of our friends insisted, yes! It’s vacation, treat yourselves! Why did I listen to them? We don’t have nearly the same travel style. And while our special hybrid of preferences makes research and trusting reviews problematic, I love how we travel, and feel lucky to have a travel companion who shares the same preferences. That is lucky.
So, it was a great lesson, albeit an expensive one, and I feel more confident in our ability to travel more true to ourselves in the future.
We are Flashpacking, adventure junkies, occasional luxury seeking, but mostly just foodie venturing types. And that’s OK. We can admit we can no longer dorm room hostel it if we can help it, and while we enjoy the occasional luxury experience, and believe me, we love a great hotel, we mostly want adventure. We want to climb glaciers in Iceland, speed on scooters through Saigon, eat our weight in street food in Chiang Mai. We love the challenge of learning a new city and being able to navigate it on our own. Our travel niche has always been based in discovery (often via food), not escape. And going forward, we plan on being more true to ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong, our three nights were lovely. And as I write we are speeding our way towards the beach, the sting of the bill slowly dissipating. Ironically, we’re headed to another resort. But this time, it’s within walking distance of the local village filled with cheap street eats and no pretension. There’s free yoga, snorkeling and kayaking. Easily enough activities to fill out remaining days in the country!