Ah, the best laid plans… Well, we all know what they say about those, right? You can map it all out, plan it down to the minutest details, live in anticipation for months, and envision the perfect vacation. Finally the day arrives and fate takes over, wrestling control right out of your hands. If the stars are aligned just so it may indeed all unfold in perfect vacation harmony. Let there be the slightest shift in the universe, however, and you can quickly find your holiday veering off on its own course rather than adhering to your carefully crafted itinerary.
This is not a vacation horror story. There was no catastrophe that ruined the entire trip. This is more a vacation snafu story, a series of mishaps that removed “perfect” from the vacation equation.
Our journey began last Tuesday morning. We awoke at 4:30 am to catch an early connecting flight only to find it was delayed by an hour due to “crew rest.” Um, okay, this was a new one on me, but I was all for it. After all, who wants a bleary-eyed pilot making a left turn toward Ohio? (No offense intended Ohioans, but we were hoping to end in a more tropical locale.) Thankfully we still arrived in Charlotte with time to spare. We caught up with our friends and happily boarded the plane that would transport us to the Dominican Republic and our all-inclusive resort for five days of fun, sun, and our friends’ wedding.
You know that part in commercials where they are selling you this amazing product at an unbelievable price, and to make it even better they shout, “But wait!” before tossing in some freebies? Yeah, we got the, “But wait!” minus the good stuff Ours came in the form of the dreaded mechanical issues. Wait we did, and then the pilot came over the speaker to advise they had to check one more thing, but he was “99% sure we would be on our way momentarily.” Yay! Except that from my husband’s window seat over the wing he could see that the baggage carts had been wheeled out, and the luggage was already being unloaded from the plane. Sure enough, our ever cheerful pilot came back over the speaker to announce that he was “100% sure we would be flying to Punta Cana, but he was also 100% sure it would not be on this plane.” I like a pilot with a sense of humor as I could picture him cracking jokes as we crashed into the ocean, kind of like the band going down with the ship.
Enter one functioning jet (thank you to the northern blizzard that left plenty of planes on the ground) and we were whisked off, arriving an hour and a half later than anticipated. By the time we were cattle-herded through immigration, hustled to our transport van, and checked in at the resort it was too late to soak up some rays. It was great timing, though, to soak up several Presidente cervezas while strolling the grounds accompanied by great friends and warm tropical evening breezes.
We awoke on Wednesday to a gorgeous day. Knowing that our pasty January skin was in peril, between the two of us we diligently applied enough sunscreen to cover ten people and two large elephants. We hit the beach and enjoyed a thoroughly relaxing day sunning and swimming in the blue-green ocean water. Late in the afternoon we returned to our room to clean up and meet our friends for dinner. I noticed a bit of pink on my nose and cheeks, but it was not bad.
More friends and family members of the bride and groom arrived, and we had a fun table for dinner. We also received our first introduction to mamajuana (or Mama Juana). If you are unfamiliar, it is a Dominican Republican concoction consisting of red wine, rum, and honey soaked in tree bark and herbs. It was originally used as an herbal medicine, and it is purported to have healthful benefits. I cannot attest to that, but I can tell you it tastes like a mixture of cough medicine and what I would imagine paint thinner tastes like. Whew, it does warm your insides up nicely, though! We spent a wonderful evening full of food, laughter, and our new friend mamajuana. If there was a perfect day during this vacation this was it.
Thursday began with the promise of a repeat of the day before. Feeling bolder about facing the sun, we were perhaps not quite as diligent in our sunscreen application. We did spray ourselves head to toe with SPF30, but we did not triple coat this time. Oops. The sun was shining, the breeze was breezing, and I was slow roasting. One of our friends noticed that my back was rather on the red side, and so I covered up right away. We moved off of the beach and to the pool where we were able to seek out some shade. We had a dinner that evening with all of the wedding participants. Once again we went to the room to clean up, and upon showering I noticed several red splotches. Uh oh, this was not good. I popped some ibuprofen and hoped for the best as we headed out for the evening.
We partook of a leisurely meal then hit the resort’s casino for drinks and gambling. I was contentedly losing my spending money to the nickel slots when I realized I was starting to feel unwell. I returned to our room, leaving my husband to guy time. Within about ten minutes of getting into bed I started shivering violently. At the same time I could feel the intense heat coming from my body and lingering on the sheets. I could not get warm despite wrapping up in a bathrobe and huddling under the covers. Oh boy, I had sun poisoning. Strike one. The next thing I knew my stomach started twisting ominously. No, no, no! I brushed my teeth with bottled water. I made my coffee with bottled water. I drank bottled water. This was NOT happening. Only it was. I had food poisoning, or water poisoning, or some other bad, bad poisoning. Strike two. Suffice it to say that I did not need a strike three. I was down for the count and in for an incredibly rough night. All I could think was there was no way I would be able to make the ladies’ luncheon scheduled for noon on Friday. I was desperately hoping I would make the wedding on Friday evening.
Now, the me of five years ago would have chalked the whole trip up to a loss at this point. She would have thrown in the proverbial towel and called it a vacation defeat. She would have stayed a shivering, sorry mess hiding under the covers and running to the bathroom until it was time to board the plane for home.
The me who I am today chose a different outcome. The Karen you know now was not going down without a fight, and she was determined to save her vacation. She hauled her dehydrated, puffy-eyed self out of that bed and off to the ladies’ luncheon (albeit to nibble gingerly at a few “safe” items from the buffet). This me opted to put on her party dress and to take those swollen, angry-red sunburned splotches out on the town (or in this case the grounds of the resort) for a wedding. Unlike the Karen of five years ago, this Karen would not go down in a ball of self-defeating, pessimistic flames!
The wedding was amazing and beautiful, perfectly backdropped by white sand and blue surf. We were blessed beyond measure to be a part of the special day of our dear friends. Yes, I was in pain from the sunburn and in agony from the stomach issues. No, I did not enjoy the five-course dinner served on the beach as I would have liked to. Did I go back to the room later to suffer a repeat of the night before? I did, but I also went back with memories that will last forever. Memories of a once in a lifetime destination wedding, of time spent with friends old and new, of one-on-one time relaxing with my husband, gloriously wifi-free and happily unplugged.
Our return home on Saturday was uneventful. I had two more nights of the crazy chills to look forward to. I am still fighting the stomach issues. I choose to overlook those things, though, in favor of the good stuff. Because that is how new Karen rolls!