I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Dominican Republic for my spring break trip. My girlfriend and I decided to skip the usual stops of Panama City Beach and South Padre for something farther south of the border. She had been on a trip to the beautiful country of Belize on a cruise before, but this was the first time I had ever used a passport. I am a very open minded person and have traveled all over the continental United States, so I felt comfortable with the idea of a new country.
When we arrived at Punta Cana International Airport we were greeted by a very friendly airport staff. We made our way through security and immigration and entered into the heart of the airport. This is where any similarities to airports in the states ended. Workers handed us free drinks of the local liquor, Mama Juana, as we waited for our shuttle. A cat scurried by through the thatched roof airport. I was amazed as people walked by the loose animal as if it were not even there.
Our driver pulled up to the curb and helped us with our bags. The shuttle driver weaved through traffic with ease drifting across lanes as if they were not important. It was so chaotic but so beautiful at the same time. Everyone seemed to know the other driver’s thoughts so there was no real danger, but my American mind thought a crash was around every turn of the wheel. Meanwhile, small-motorized bikes and motorcycles swerved through the cars making their own lanes in narrow corners.
We passed through the city of Punta Cana in the shuttle. The high arching palm trees shaded the downtown district of the city. People bustled about selling goods and the scene was vibrant. But nestled in between businesses were abandoned buildings that held the homes of the less fortunate. As we passed by these buildings, I could not help but feel sorry for those that resided in these places. The feeling was made even more glaring when we arrived at the resort.
The resort was a city in itself. There were shops and restaurants and even a spa all confined behind gates with armed guards. Though I wanted to venture out of the resort walls, I felt helpless against the language barrier. We met only one other couple there that spoke English as a first language. The resort was beautiful. It had multiple pools and world-class beaches, but I could not get over what I saw outside of those walls. A country that had such natural beauty had also a large number of people trying hard just to get by.
It was an extremely humbling experience. It was a great chance for us to get outside of our comfort zone and experience the large expansive world outside of the United States. It made me thankful for what I have here but also made me realize that I take a lot for granted. This feeling could not have been achieved if I had not gone out and done it myself. I encourage anyone who has not left the United States to do so. It was such a great and memorable experience.
Photo: (Ryan Neil/The Reporter)