I just got back from a 5-night holiday in St. Lucia. I travel a LOT, but this was my first time at an all-inclusive — it’s usually very Not Me to go to gated places that are structured specifically for tourists. But two of my friends had separately been to this place on their own and raved about the focus on wellness, the yoga classes, the food, and most of all, the fact that you get a massage or similar treatment every day as part of the package. So in the middle of a cranky cold winter, I dove in. This was my experience.
Day 1: Arrival
Apparently I’m all about the Pampering for this holiday, so I use e-upgrade points to fly business class on Air Canada Rouge. It’s a 5 hour + flight and we’re delayed an hour, but it’s pretty painless. I share my gummi bears with the man in the seat beside me and nap.
When we land in St. Lucia I see connecting signs for St. Vincent, Martinique, Mustique, and remember that Mustique was where Princess Margaret hedonistically whiled away her final years (you can rent her villa now! it comes with 6 staff!). Channeling my own inner royal, I booked a helicopter ride to the resort. Nothing so plebian as getting carsick on a winding mountainy road for me!
Princessey-ness makes me impatient. We have to wait for two people for the helicopter and I mentally roll my eyes and harumph “this isn’t so much faster than driving would be!”
The flight is actually an absolute joy. I thought I might feel motion sick, but it’s like floating, totally peaceful. It’s stopped raining and there are rainbows punctuating the rainforest all around us. The pilot tours us up the coast and sets us down gently. The other couple with me and I can’t stop raving about how magical it is.
Then there’s traffic between the local airport and the resort and we’re back to the ground.
Day 2: (Saturday)
The one major thing I wanted to do this week is climb the Gros Piton, the big pointy “volcanic plug” that’s in all the iconic images of the island. I booked the off-resort trek for my first day, thinking that I would get the 6 am start time out of the way and then sleep in the rest of the week.
Six a.m. (5 in my inner clock) is a cranky start, and ignoring the whole tropical paradise-scape unfolding in front of me, I locate the early set up for coffee and banana bread. Then it’s a bit of a clusterfuck — the resort forgot to book the guide/driver. I remember that this is why I don’t like fancy hotels: I get five times as cross and impatient when things go wrong. The internal “if I’m paying this much I expect better…” track that serves no one starts to roll in my head. They wake someone up who shows up 45 minutes late and I manage to reset my crankiness and we have a glorious time climbing a strenuous 2000 feet of very scrambly ascent in 90 minutes. (More about this later).
Later, I lie in the hammock, have my first wellness treatment (lime and coconut scrub), and eat at the fancy restaurant. I upgrade my food choice from the inclusive menu to the seafood platter. I asked to be seated alone, not at the communal table, because I want to just read and eat by myself. Then I realize I recklessly wrote “birthday” on the registration form when they asked if there was a special occasion (this was a birthday present to myself, but my actual birthday was in early February), and I endure the serving staff singing happy birthday to me and bringing me a decorated plate, while the other patrons look somewhat pityingly at this poor woman celebrating her birthday alone.
I blow out the candle and smile.
Day 3: (Sunday)
I look at the list of classes I can do today, and get a bit paralysed. So many options. I go to 9:15 body stretch (I need it after the Piton hike), and then miss my opportunity for Caribbean Dance Fit because I faff about. I see the real threat of FOMO (fear of missing out) starting to emerge here. I spend a moment pouting that the resident Yogi is off for the day, then I set off for an off-resort walk/run.
It’s hilly and hot but perfect until I feel my arms crinkle in the sun and start to worry about burning them. I spot another pale guy changing a tire under a vehicle by the side of the road and ask him if he happens to have any sunblock. Weirdly enough, he’s too distracted by keeping his vehicle from falling on him to search for toiletries for me. I toil back home and then jump straight into the ocean.
Later, I take out a paddleboard for a while then do my first ever aqua fit class. Most of the older women in the pool haven’t exercised in years and are tentative even getting into the water. The instructor knows how to jolly them along with encouragement and Wham. I’m taken by a young blonde woman having a blast. We both punch the water hard.
Later, I upgrade my daily treatment to something with hot oily rocks, watch a really beautiful sunset, and then go for my fancy chef’s dinner. I upgrade the wine pairings.
I sleep for 10 hours that night.
Day 4 (Monday):
It’s overcast and we’re having a weird climate-changey infestation of seaweed. All of the watersport guys and a bunch of random local people are on the beach picking up and bagging this stuff that is apparently swimming over from Africa. There are bulldozers and much consternation. The seaweed is being tossed up by giant breakers that would make going in the water impossible even it if wasn’t covered in a gross skim of weeds.
I toy with the idea of Doing Nothing but my FOMO kicks in. I can’t seem to lie around and read for more than half an hour without feeling like I’m missing my only opportunity ever to learn how to do Krav Maga or Merengue. I look at a map to figure out the routes for the organized morning walks I never go on and take myself for a two hour walk, punctuated with running some short humid hill repeats.
I listen to a fantastic podcast interview about a pioneering woman ocean explorer and conservationist, who says something like the fact that sentient life exists at all is a miracle and that we should savour every moment. I’m savouring these hills and the view across the sea to Martinique, and the wild ponies who just show up beside the road. The FOMO finally recedes.
My third treatment takes place outside in a weird massage chair, focusing on my head and back. It feels good but exposed. While I’m being petted, I’m FOMO-ing that maybe I should have upgraded to the thai/shiatsu massage.
I try to finish the day with a peaceful yoga class, but halfway into the class the Zen Treehouse Deck is suddenly assaulted with huge puffs of mosquito fog. The yoga teacher is distraught, saying that they were supposed to wait until we were done. I roll up my mat and take my asthmatic self to the gym for an upper body workout, which is just like any other gym anywhere, people sweating and lifting things in a climate controlled environment. Unlike at home, though, when I’m done, I drink a gin and tonic and watch the sunset in my gym clothes.
I upgrade my dinner again, and then feel like I shouldn’t have.
Day 5: Tuesday
The seaweed has vanished overnight, and it’s all tropical semi-paradise again. I do all the things: a hoppy core vinyasa class, a good hot run, and a full body massage from my first massage therapist ever who is fully visually impaired. As I lie there and she feels her way around my privileged tissue, I wonder what it took for her to go to school in a country that’s not very well set up for people with disabilities.
I finish with a sunset yoga class that isn’t overcome with poison fog, keep my eyes open in Shivasana so I can look at the leaves and sky. I eat dinner without upgrades.
Day 6: (Wednesday)
I cram everything I can into my final half day, starting with a 7 am spin class, a facial, and an hour of bobbing in the waves. Today is perfect weather and the perfect sea, and I don’t want to let it go. I finally found a rhythm of balance between movement and stillness.
I pay the bill for my upgrades and am picked up for my helicopter return journey. As always happens when you try to recreate magic, this pilot is kind of a jerk. He takes us straight across the island into the wind, wiggling and dropping the machine on purpose to make us scream. I’m about five minutes away from vomiting on him when we land.
Despite that, I note how chill and relaxed I am at the airport. My business partner laughs at me when I text him and asks how long it will last.
I couldn’t arrange an upgrade for the flight back, and it’s cramped and long. The man next to me has brought literally nothing to do. I want to inform him that farting and jiggling your leg for five hours shouldn’t be a way for an adult man to amuse himself.
Home, I am grateful for the shape of this opportunity, for the money and time and other privileges I have that gave me this window of relaxation. I realize how much I struggle with savouring what is there, with the very real sense that there are so many other things one could be doing at any given time. For me, as always, the lesson is to find peacefulness with where I am right at any given moment. Having a whole resort where the point is to move your body and to have the aches of your body taken care of is a pretty good space to do that in. Just leave the FOMO at home.
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who blogs here on the 2nd Friday and 3rd Saturday of the month as well as other random times.