I was chatting with one of my girlfriends yesterday and I had asked her if she enjoyed her trip to Hawaii that she took a couple of years ago. Ever since my trip to the Dominican Republic in June, I have been thinking of locations to put on my bucket list of travels- Hawaii is one of them. Although she told me that she had an awesome time, she also told me that it was full of homelessness and it got me to thinking: how is it that we can live in a world where Hell and Paradise exist at the same time? Rock with me for a minute…
When I went to DR, I truly enjoyed my experience. Although it was freaking hot (my goodness), the sun was shining, the air was clear and the water was turquoise and see-through. I went to DR with my two best friends and we stayed in Punta Cana on a resort with flamingoes and peacocks just chilling in the various ponds; I drank unlimited amounts of pina coladas at the beach; we had a beautiful room with a marble bathroom; and overall, just being in that water and in that air brings something different out of you. It was relaxing and peaceful. It was paradise.
At the same time, my besties and I were extremely aware of the poverty that is present in the Dominican Republic. We were aware that the maids who were preparing our rooms may be struggling to feed their families while they cater to our needs while on vacation; we could see the land fenced behind the resort, torn down, infertile and full of sand dunes from construction, that were probably filled with the homes of families whose livelihoods may not have been considered for the sake of the tourist dollar.
Even when I went to the Bahamas on a cruise for my birthday this past December, when walking through Nassau, Bahamas heading to the beach, the streets were filled with merchants attempting to make a dollar. My cousin and I were constantly met with conversations and calls to buy seashells and water corals and coconut water; we were encouraged to buy scarves with “Bahamas’ embroidered on them and handmade jewelry. You could see as plain as day that that area was struggling… and I was there to bask in “paradise”.
How is it that we can live in a world where folks will pay their money to enjoy what is considered to be a tropical vacation, and yet, the inhabitants of that paradise can’t afford to live there? How is my paradise your hell? (Figuratively speaking) That thought makes me so completely grateful and it humbles me to think that those who are serving me, someone who can afford to take a vacation, could very well be going home where they can barely afford their bills. It makes me sad to think that there could possibly be a resentment attached to this dynamic of tourist and server because I am in their land spending my money to enjoy their home for the sake of fun while their home leaves them trying to make it from day to day.
Don’t get me wrong- I am aware that this may not be the case for every tropical or exotic vacation destination… but what if it is? My besties and I took extra considerations on our vacation. We made sure to not create too much mess in our rooms and if we made it to the room while our rooms were being serviced, we attempted small conversation in Spanish and were sure to express our sincerest gratitude for their assistance. We were even sure to leave those two ladies a generous tip at the end of our stay.
I still have Hawaii on my bucket list of destinations that I would like to attend, but I will also strive to carry with me an extra sense of gratitude, care and thoughtfulness. It made me realize that there is so much more going on in the world, so close to the tips of my fingers that I could bump into it and not even realize how close I was to the problem. It’s amazing the paradoxes that exist.