This Is Not a Travelogue

I have found myself in one of those massive, 5-star condo/resort things that Americans seem to like. I can’t stop marveling at the sheer size of it. Everything is overwhelming. Too big. My “suite” is nearly larger than my actual house back home. There are acres of pools, surrounded by deck chairs and little pods with billowy curtains. Young men run around delivering strong drinks. It takes almost an hour to walk from one side of the grounds to the other.

The sheer decadence astonishes me. I think about things like water use and where are they getting their power, and good lord how much is the utility bill for this place, anyway? There’s a 4-star, gourmet French restaurant onsite. In Mexico. I struggle with this concept.

My room is, well, for want of a better word, tricked out. Four couches, three televisions, two king beds, two oversized bathtubs (one a Jacuzzi, one not). A private balcony with a minipool, which is sort of a dipping pool that is not big enough to swim in.

I can’t say for certain, but I think there are more staff than guests. The place seems vast and empty. Maybe it’s a seasonal lull. It’s like those hotels you hear about in the post-colonial African bush, fully staffed and running, but with no guests because there are no more tourists because of some overthrow or political unrest or something.

That’s what it feels like. This infrastructure…this superstructure, really, running full steam ahead all around us, for what? Ten percent occupancy? Twenty percent?

All the staff say hello or Buenos Dias as they pass by. They’re trained to do so. For our comfort? To make us feel pampered? Or like “Oh, look, honey! A real Mexican just greeted us in the native language. How quaint!” I wonder if they hate us. If so, how much? These pudgy, pasty lardasses from the rich and spoiled north.

The maids were shocked that we did not want them to come in and clean. Change our towels. Make our beds. I don’t think it was just about tips, either. Probably everybody who comes here wants the full treatment, the 5-star service, people waiting on them hand and foot. It’s expected, encouraged even. We are encouraged to be lazy, decadent, entitled assholes. Hmmm.

There are flamingos, real ones, tucked away in a “conservation area.” We walked down to it. There were fewer than I expected. I wonder if the conservation area was put in just to amuse guests? Or, my inner cynic says, because they wiped out a breeding ground when they bulldozed the mangroves to build this place?

People tell you what you want to hear, so it’s not like I can ask. I don’t have a resource.

The UN is holding a huge meeting on climate change not far up the highway. Security is tight. Armed men line the roadways.  And here I am sitting in Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous-style condos, insulated in a little bubble of entitlement that I don’t really feel entitled to. And even if I were entitled, I don’t think this is what I would choose.

I feel underdressed, even in my room.

Let me reiterate: An actual room is making me feel underdressed.

Of course, it’s not much of a challenge for the room–I am in my sweats and fuzzy slippers, after all. Set the bar low, I say.

The air outside has a little chill to it once the sun goes down. There’s humidity, but it’s not too much. I would prefer more humidity. But the sky and the smells are right. It’s green and beautiful and lush. I can’t bitch about that.

But this is not Mexico. This is not anywhere, as far as I can tell. I am overanalyzing.

Is it possible to understand the appeal of a place while simultaneously being horrified by it? Is this what travel is now, and I’m just a throwback because I think for some masochistic reason that travel should be harder, should be more inconvenient, should involve more personal effort? Maybe it’s now quaint and old school to travel with the expectation that one will learn about a foreign place or culture or people?

I think I hate this place.

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