25 November 2014

Back to Barbados Days | Answering to the stereotypes of all inclusive travel

Barbados is 4,108 miles from Bath and I feel the distance. It's starting to get chilly here after an Indian Summer. My student meals, though better than most, do not compare to the a la carte meals of The SoCo Hotel and with midterm exams just over I certainly don't feel sun kissed and relaxed.
So rewind 12 months... I had been working full time for over a year by this point and was enjoying my first all inclusive holiday with a work colleague turned friend. I feel families either 'do' all inclusive holidays or they don't. I had friends who would go on all inclusive planned holidays every year, and that was 'their style' of holiday. My family holidays were annual, but low-key - often to France or, when I was much younger, to Guernsey. I had never enjoyed the wonders of drinks on demand or nine courses every day and I felt it was about time I did.
From someone who can be chucked on the wanderlust pile, why would I want to go all inclusive? Well first there is the convenience of it, especially when you're working. Second there is the complete an utter indulgence of asking for a blended cocktail at 11am. And thirdly, because like a true travel fanatic, I was very curious as to whether I would enjoy it.

My worries before I went were:

I thought that I would hate the food, but be stuck with it all week. 
In reality the food was absolutely fantastic and although it had a strong western influence, there was plenty of locally sourced food in there too. In particular, I adored the mahi mahi, which I have since seen on the menu at Wagamamas.

I thought I would feel claustrophobic being in a hotel for days on end. 
I made more excursions in one week than I would have on a standard holiday to the South of France. Barbados is thankfully safe enough to just go and explore, but I know this isn't the case with every 'all-inclusive-holiday-type-destinations' so maybe investigate this before you go. We were happy to walk along the boardwalk and explore the beaches without feeling threatened, unsafe or uncomfortable.
I thought I wouldn't get to see any of real Barbados at all. 
I was lucky. We met some Bajans who took us out for a night out and there was barely a tourist in sight. That said there was a lot of mingling between tourists and locals, much to my surprise. 
Every Friday there is the fish fry with all the locals and we happily went to join in. It's basically one big street party and couldn't be more authentic if it was trying to be. 
Another one of my highlights was getting out on a boat and snorkelling with turtles (below), but best of all was seeing rescued baby turtles released back in to the sea (above).
Barbados persuaded me that there is definitely a place for all inclusive holidays and they do not have to mean a week of repetition in an enclosed pen. Having said this we chose somewhere small with an a la carte menu. As part of our package we got vouchers for excursions and I think without these we may have lulled ourself in to a week of sedentary relaxation without half the amazing experiences.

So here's to ignoring the stereotypes, the pretentious wanderlusts that say all inclusive isn't real travel and cheers to many more holidays full of blended cocktails!
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