Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pros/Cons--Staying in the US for your beach vacation or going somewhere more exotic?

I am currently in the area of St Pete/Clearwater, Florida, to visit with family and friends, and it has made me think--is it worth going outside the US for a beach vacation?? I will try to put together an unbiased list of what seem to be the pros and cons of each, to help you decide if it is worth it for YOU!

What is awesome about staying in the US for your vacation? (Note, some are really obvious:) ) Please enjoy the recent pics I have been taking of the Florida beaches as you read :) (and some stolen from google to enhance certain opinions :))

--You don't need a passport of course!

--You can generally get to your place in a couple hours at most, more cheaply than flying internationally.
But you might sit in traffic more.
--You kind of know what to expect....less stress in packing and planning. You KNOW you are going to see the Wings store, a Margaritaville type restaurant, mini golf, movie theaters, chain restaurants, CVS, etc.
Exotic McDonalds.
--You can pretty much count on knowing that the place you stay will be up to first world expectations.
Probably has hand rails. And rules about not feeding the birds.
--You can be pretty assured that you will be comfortable and have everything you need in a short distance, including emergency services.

--You can probably do it pretty cheaply and know that that 2 star hotel will probably be ok :)
--It is not as hard to find traveling mates as it is just not that much of a commitment.
Not a secluded beach.
--Beach vacations in the US are pretty clean, well organized, and are so used to having tourists that you can feel pretty safe and secure about your experience whether you are going to Myrtle Beach.Hilton Head, etc.

--No major planning ahead of time, you can pretty much picture the whole trip before it happens (if you have had even one beach vacation, you get it. You know what they look and feel like.)
--No dealing with customs or that long trip, long lines, being uncomfortable at times, that scary feeling when you show up at an international airport and don't know what the hell to do next, having to learn a new way of doing things, feeling rigid and or dumb the first time you do anything :)


Ooooook. SO given all that comfort, familiarity, low stress, why go somewhere else???
Note--sometimes the trip I described above is exactly what we are looking for. Not every vacation needs to be an exotic, crazy experience. But, here is what I have learned about why it is TOTALLY WORTH it to push yourself a little! (also note, I am using a beach vacation in Placencia as my comparative place :) )

--Let's start with something shallow.You can drink on the beach! No one cares! In fact it is encouraged! You can drive in the back of a pick up truck while drinking! You can walk to the village with a beer from your house in your hand! This is just FUN and feels like you are really doing something somewhere fun.
--Along with that freedom....getting a sense of different culture is invaluable--even with less restrictions and rules, you realize that everyone is still alive. You are likely to see parents with their kids on the handlebars of their bike, kids running in the streets, small children selling things...and yet, you see happy smiling people who are doing just fine. You may have a realization that it is damn exhilarating to jump off the top of the booze cruise you are on, or not wear your seat belt, or think FOR YOURSELF about what level of risk you want to take.
--This can lead to....pushing your comfort level--being uncomfortable is one of best ways to grow and feel competent and confident! The world can really open up when you realize you can figure it out and get along in a completely different world.
Recent guests dancing to Garifuna drumming
--The expansion in your brain that happens when not knowing exactly what to expect----from a restaurant, store, excursion, driving etc. I don't know about the rest of the US, but I notice that we tend to do a LOT of the same experiences over and over again (chain restaurants, amusement parks, predictable activities.) When you find yourself, say, hiking in a jaguar preserve in the dark, tubing through the jungle, climbing a Mayan ruin, tasting something totally unfamiliar at a street stand....with no frame of reference....sometimes one starts to think for themselves about what is enjoyable for THEM instead of following the recipe we grow up with.
Getting out of a river through the jungle, at midnight.
--Can I repeat this.....the same old chains and stores and predictable experience GETS OLD and mind numbing!
--It is refreshing and exhilarating to do something new....do you remember even eating the last Applebees or TGI Fridays dinner? You'll remember eating at a roadside stand, served Gibnut (a kind of rat.) from a lovely Mayan woman!
Note: I would not eat this.

--Something you can't buy....smiling and connecting to someone totally different than you... makes you feel better about the world!
--You learn more about history and geography, in the most memorable ways, by traveling then by any sort of school or reading!! (IMHO.)

--You certainly get a sense of how privileged we are after visiting less well off places---we are just swathed in comfort and safety. Why leave it? You can't buy being more worldly and having a greater perspective, and how this helps us become more wise.
--One of my personal favorites....instead of Busch gardens or Disney, you can see real historic treasures like the Blue Hole, Mayan ruins, the coral reef, see the way people actually do live in one room houses on stilts, see the actual banana farmers working, walk through a real jungle, etc.
--There is something really priceless about being less scared of things, including feeling lost/stupid/incompetent, like everyone does the first time they do something!

--When somebody says whats new....what a great conversation starter!! You can have a reason to talk about awesome places you are thinking of going and get great ideas from other people doing the same thing. People might actually WANT to see your vacation photos!!
--I have LOVED my vacation here, and especially connecting with people I care about. BUT......everything I can do in Florida I can do in Cleveland...it is warmer, salt water, etc, but the feel is the same.***
***Note. I have also LOVED having first world conveniences....I have taken full advantage of all of them.....I AM very comfortable and I am loving it!!! I am appreciating the way I can go on autopilot a bit here...I just don't want to make a habit of it :)



6 comments:

  1. Loved this part ... "You certainly get a sense of how privileged we are after visiting less well off places---we are just swathed in comfort and safety. Why leave it? You can't buy being more worldly and having a greater perspective, and how this helps us become more wise." Christin

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  3. This is really a wonderful post.

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  4. Love it! I am from Germany and of course over there, when you travel you are in a different speaking country within 1/2 hour. I have seen many countries, cultures and people and your post hits the nail on the head. Everything in the US is the same, there are chains which are the same in every state, and to me, just like you, it is mind numbing. I am looking to take a trip at the end of February and somehow ended up at Placencia Beach - only on the map and web for now of course. I would like to plan a visit but wanted to know if you could give us pointers as far as traveling there. Which Airport to fly into, if it is BZN, what is the best way to get to Placencia? I noticed it would take 2hrs 45 min by car? Thanks much in advance. :-) Mel

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    1. Hi Melmel, you fly into Belize City (BZE) then take a puddle jumper (Tropic or Maya Island Air) to Placencia Airport. It is a 40 minute flight. Driving is fine too but it is a long, long drive. Most people are happy they flew! It is closer to 4 hours and usually more to drive. Best of luck!

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