*I felt I should preface this post with a disclaimer: if all-inclusive is your thing, then go for it! I just choose not to.
My sweet husband and I were talking about travelling tonight (ok, honestly it happens every night) and all-inclusive resorts were brought up. A super long time ago, I went on a cruise for a band trip (music festival at sea or something) and all of our food was included in the cruise price. A bunch of high school kids with access to room service? Cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Ice cream buffets! Dinners with a pirate!
While that experience was awesome (I was only a freshman and had only really travelled once prior) I would not do it again. I have always felt that places like the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Cabo san Lucas, Mexico were never for me, but I always assumed it was the heat and the crowds. I wasn't interested in sweating buckets and feeling sticky while wandering around the pristine grounds of a resort. But as I've travelled more and seen the impact tourism can have on a certain place, the reason I can't see myself at one those hot spots mentioned above is a political one. When you buy an all inclusive resort package, your money goes straight back into the company you booked with. You're not buying local. You're not really experiencing the locale you're visiting. Yeah, all you can eat buffets and all the slushie drinks you want are awesome, but you can do that at home, for a hell of a lot cheaper. These places have been sanitized and stripped of everything that makes the locale unique. I keep getting reminded of the private tourist beaches in Haiti that are fenced off to locals. Haiti is the only third world country in North America, and the locals are kept off of their own beaches. What kind of message does that send? You'd think that the tourist dollars from those beaches would have helped rebuild the cities devastated in the earthquake, but the destruction and pain is still there, front and center. If I wanted to visit Haiti, I would go and see the real Haiti, even if it's sad and painful.
When we went to Europe, I realized that I loved getting lost, I loved fumbling the language while ordering and I loved navigating the local options for transportation. Have I told you what a HUGE fan of the Paris metro I am? HUGE. Sure, we're American tourists. But we're the kind of American tourists that want to see the world outside of ours. The US is a beautiful place, but it's familiar. It feels as if we can go see any part of the US at any time, while other continents feel special and new. The world is giant and vibrant and I want to be a part of that. Each place I've ever visited, Europe and North America, has a special place in my heart for one reason or another, simply because I feel lucky that I got to visit it. I also understand that there are places in Europe that cater exclusively to tourism, but there's a difference between those and resorts. You're still immersed in the country, soaking up the language and culture, squeezing yourself into tiny cafes.
Here's an excerpt from his book, Travel as a Political Act.
Why do you travel?