Do you want the truth or the Facebook version?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

This was my response to a friend's text saying,  "I'm dying to hear about Mexico!"

Every winter when we are weary of the gray skies and never ending rain, we begin to ponder a tropical spring break getaway that never comes to fruition.  For the last 7 years that we've had school age kids, the first week of April comes and goes and we feel like we're "the only ones" who are left behind while "everyone else" galavants off to a sunny, exotic locale and returns with their golden tans and stories of their "perfect vacation."  The past 3 years with me being in school meant that my spring break schedule did not jive with the boys' week off.  Prior to that, there always seemed to be a more pressing monetary need that trumped a frivolous expense like rest and relaxation.  Car repairs, a root canal, bills for E.R. visits, food on the table, etc. "Someday.." we would say.  2014 was our someday.

Our original desire was to visit Costa Rica.  The surf was the main draw followed by the natural beauty.  Everyone we know who had been there, couldn't say enough about the magic of the area.  We rallied and got the kids' passports and began plotting our adventure.  While plotting, the typical hijacking of spring break prices began and suddenly the airfare alone would have wiped out our entire vacation budget.  Plan B.  After asking around and doing some research we settled on Puerto Vallarta.  Ultimately it made more sense than Latin America.  We'd stay in the same time zone and not spend an entire day flying each way.  The break is not long enough to warrant a trip that far or the huge expense.  Costa Rica went back on the "Bucket List."

Back to my response.  I don't want to come across as not being appreciative that we got to have an amazing vacation to a beautiful warm and sunny location. I do feel very grateful for this awesome privilege but  I was already dreading the question, "how was your trip?" before we even got home. It's so tempting to respond with "the Facebook version" where I say: "It was incredible.  The weather was perfect, our accommodations were beautiful, the kids got along amazingly, no one complained, my husband and I felt like we were back on our honeymoon it was so romantic, we all achieved a perfect tan and no one was sunburned, we agreed on every meal, went on fabulous excursions and loved just being together. We can't wait to go back."  But that's just not me.  I think you can be honest without being a downer.

 But, when someone then prefaces that question with their story of how boring their break was or "I'm so jealous", I suddenly feel the need to downplay the fact that we went away.  Also, I want to be honest about how it really was.  The reality is that just because you're in a beautiful place doesn't negate the fact that you're trying to navigate your way around a foreign country with 5 people who all have their own agenda while trying to create "amazing memories." It's just hard.  When you wait so long and spend so much money, you really want the experience to be epic.  And usually, it just isn't.  And anyone that tells you otherwise is not being honest with you or themselves.  I always set out with the attitude that I won't have expectations but I always do. Several times during the trip, I thought, "wow, being stuck in a condo together really guarantees that all your family issues will be staring you in the face." I can't say I was expecting that. Jellyfish stings, allergic reactions to sunscreen, sinus infections, running out of cash, staying in an area with no accessible restaurants, teenagers who struggle with getting along, having to pay for two taxis instead of one because you have a family of five and not four were some of the challenging realities of a real life vacation.  Being in paradise doesn't remove these obstacles.  It just makes them more palatable.

But, on the flip side, there were a lot of really positive anecdotes to share as well.  A spacious, well appointed condo with a beautiful view of the pool, palm trees and ocean; a local manager of said condo who bent over backwards for us with her kindness, honesty and professionalism; warm nights walking on the beach with oodles of bright stars in the sky and the ocean waves crashing at your feet; yummy authentic margaritas, guacamole and salsa; happy, friendly local people who truly serve their guests; zip lining and riding ATV's in the rainforest; snorkeling and kayaking at "Hidden Beach"; an unexpected day trip to Sayulita, a super cool surfing town off the beaten path; cool conversations with my teenagers because they weren't distracted by friends; picturesque nightly sunsets; early morning coffee dates with my hubby; meeting fellow Americans and Canadians everywhere we went: devouring books by the poolside and sleeping in.

I do think it is possible to answer the question in an honest way that has equal doses of what you loved and what you didn't.  So the next time you go on vacation and come home to inquiring minds, don't stress about what version of the story to share.  Just share the real one.