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Why I Didn’t Do a Stereotypical College Spring Break

One of my favorite experiences over Spring Break was when I went to the Dominican Republic and I visited a shanty, popular local hub on a tiny island.  

The workers showed me their kitchen, where they prepare freshly caught red snapper fish. Those who spoke English were eager to share stories about how they grew up helping give boat tours, their eyes gleaming with a love for the place they call home.

My vacation was unique because I opted to visit a place that wasn’t on the top ten places for College Spring Breaks, but still offered the sunshine that most of my friends enjoyed.

Rather than staying at a hotel that has it all, I believe that going to places where you can interact with the locals and make connections gives you a more wholesome experience.

The town I stayed in, Cabarete, is a whirlwind of shop owners, construction workers, motorcyclists whizzing past with surfboards under their arms, and locals soaking in the sun. The bright colored buildings are right on top of each other, and peaking through the small alleys is the beautiful Carribean ocean usually dotted with white capping waves. The town is a Mecca for Windsurfers, and now kite surfers.

The beach isn’t packed with Americans trying to find an open lounge chair to plop down for the day and drink bottomless Mimosas, (all included with their hotel). Kites line the beach as people from all over the world get ready to join the other kite surfers on the water for their next “session.”

I spent my days on the beach watching in awe as local Dominicans performed pro level kite tricks and got massive air.

In my entire time on vacation, I felt like a visitor—not a tourist. I read in a magazine that it only takes five days to become a local in Cabarete, and I truly believe that.

I made friends with a group of three men who saw the direction my mom went in while shopping, and watched as I hopelessly scanned the busy town for her. They pointed saying “Mama” and which way to go. Ever since then, they would give me a wave and greet “Hola.”

My dad became friends with a shop owner who sold him an off centered Presidente shirt. In passing, she would grab my Dad’s hand, laugh, and ask in broken English when he was coming back to swap it out.

Another time, I tried to find a small pack of sugar in the grocery store with no luck, so I asked an employee for help. Ten minutes later, he brought back the amount of sugar I needed in a shopping bag because they did not sell that size in packages.

The locals loved interacting with me, needed me for their economy, and I quickly fell in love with them. Had I gone to an all inclusive resort, I would not have made connections with such amazing people, or helped contribute to the local economy– one that left Dominicans determined to make even the smallest of sales.

Heading back to Temple, I sat on the plane trying to scheme ways to be back with those people for a month in the summer, eager to hopefully meet more people. It was hard for me to say “Adios” not only to such a beautiful island, but also such a beautiful community.

My time in the Dominican Republic was special because I was involved in the area. I made connections with the people, the town, and the culture.

I think when deciding your Spring Break location, don’t be closed minded to an experience that takes you out of your American comfort zone– that’s what travelling is about anyway, not just getting another stamp on your Passport!

My advice—interact with the people who live where you’re visiting, get lost on your way to a coffee shop, eat the local cuisine, find lodging that doesn’t keep you hostage because of all inclusive prices and deals. If you choose to do so, you’ll feel less like the tacky tourist with a Hawaiian shirt on and iPhone at the ready, and come away with memories that you will cherish forever. In the end, it is not only you who will benefit, but the local community, as well.

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