Punta Cana, Dominican Republic is a mecca for the winter weary who need a break from shoveling snow and wrapping up in woolen scarfs and hats. This is a vacation idea that my niece Karen and I conceived just three weeks ago. We started out planning a day trip to the spa in Leesburg, Virginia and ended up booking a three-night beach vacation in Punta Cana. It all made sense—direct flight from Dulles Airport, adult-only resort and oceanview junior suite.
From the moment we reach the gate for our 7 am flight, I can feel the anticipation. It also helps to see the rackish straw Fedora hats that everyone pulls out to wear as they escape Washington for the bright lights of the Dominican Republic. Our four-hour direct flight from Washington Dulles Airport to Punta Cana resembles a school bus; it is packed with kids. Apparently parents have no problem pulling their children out of school on a Friday in order to get 36 straight hours of sun ‘n fun over a three-day holiday weekend. (Maybe the kids are studying President Washington’s biography. Nope I see car racing games on their iPads.) But after we land at Punta Cana International Airport, there will be no kids. We are staying at an adult-only resort.
In my opinion, the first 24 hours after check-in are the sweetest because the whole vacation is in front of us. We conspire to soak in as much sun (plus slushy cocktails) as humanly possible. We have a choice of five pools at our resort.
Since we cannot check-in until 3 pm, we simply shed our winter sweaters, socks and sneakers, pull out a pair of shorts from our luggage and walk around the resort. We decide to go to Blue Marlin for a pina colada. After 10 minutes, they lead us to our table for lunch. It overlooks the sea. This is heaven. What is it about that first meal when you start your vacation? Everything tastes so delicious—ceviche soaking in an aromatic lime marinade, broiled mahi mahi topped with lemon sauce, crumbly coconut pie.
After lunch there is a delay in checking in our room, so we decide to wander around the sprawling resort. At the Castle, we discover hanging swings where we can chill and gaze at the ocean.
I follow a couple of rules for how to unwind when I only have 36 hours for my beach vacation.
1) Put my mobile phone in flight mode so I can’t be tempted to check my work email
2) Pretend my resort doesn’t offer free WiFi so I can truly detox from 24/7 internet
3) Resist the siren’s call of social media and don’t check my Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter pages
4) DO not read the news back home
Why this monastic approach to vacationing? Whether I admit it or not, I can wear myself out by constantly checking my iPhone for emails and texts and living second-to-second for internet updates.
Why not live in the moment? What if I actually “rest” on my vacation by listening to a good book on my Audible account or reading a novel on my Kindle? The reality is that the good vibes generated by this mini-vacation will last a lot longer in my long-term memory if I deliberately take “mental pictures” of the scene in front of me.
I like to play a game called Five Senses. The idea is to deliberately slow down and record what is happening around me now.
I look at the aquamarine, wave-tossed sea. The sky is velvet blue fabric unfurled across the heavens. Where does the ocean end and the sky begin? I gaze at the horizon for a long time.
I listen to the sea gulls sing as they dip down to the water and then soar to the sky.
I smell the intoxicating cocktail of coconut-infused suntan lotion and salt in the air.
I feel the burning-hot grains of sand as I tunnel by fingers into the mound underneath my recliner.
And I taste the bubbles of the icy cold seltzer water as it burns my tongue, swirls in my mouth and then slips down my throat.
Where am I? My own little “bubble” in Punta Cana where the world cannot reach me. What is happening? My blood pressure is falling, my stress is but a distant memory and I feel like I am floating. I do not have a care in the world.
So forgive me for not checking for comments or answering emails until I return from my vacation. There is a sign on the door that says “Be back in three days.”
Sea. Sun. Sand.