No, these aren't crucial decisions. These are super awesome, exciting decisions. They aren't even time sensitive decisions. Let's face it, after all the very important life altering decisions that we've had to make in the last 11+ years, a decision like this is a welcomed one.
You see, even before Alex died we had wondered what we would do for our first Christmas without children. I have no interest in putting up a Christmas tree or decorating or watching Christmas movies. I've got God in my heart and I feel content to let Christmas be simply about the miracle of the birth of Christ. As it should be, I believe.
So, the decision to make is this... do we stick around NWA for Christmas, or do we hit the road? We have pushed our Toronto trip to August because of Drew's work schedule. That gives us a northern vacation in the summer, so it only seems reasonable to head south in the winter. Decision one made. Tropical locale. You won't ever have to twist me arm to convince me on that one.
We started looking around and exploring our options (I've pretty well fried my brain with web searches for days) and found two things. One, it is significantly more expensive to travel the week of Christmas. I'm not just talking airfare, the hotels are also more expensive. Total costs, in some cases, were twice as much as if we traveled a week or two before Christmas. So, we have to decide if going on an adventure together before December 25th, and then spending the actual holiday here with family, is what we want to do. Or, do we go over Christmas anyway? That is yet to be decided.
Side Note: Let's just be clear, part of what we are looking for is an escape from the quiet of our home on Christmas morning. I fear that will be a deafening silence that I cannot handle. Of course, I could handle it, but we may make the decision to fill our morning with a different joy than that which we have known for 11 years. Such as, the joy of the sea and palm trees instead of a sea of wrapping paper and Christmas trees.
Next decision: Where do we go? There is a draw to choosing an all inclusive that takes care of everything for us, but that also sounds like a false world. I'm not looking for falsity, I'm just looking for new and invigorating. I've heard from many who have chosen all inclusive resorts in Jamaica that you best not venture outside of the resort. I'm not interested in that. Sure, I could go off of the too cool photos that I've seen on Pinterest of Bora Bora and the huts on the water. I could. I could also shave my head and get a neck tattoo. That's not going to happen. Just airfare to Bora Bora is astoundingly more expensive than airfare and a full week somewhere a bit more accessible from the US (or anywhere, I would imagine). I mean, it's in the South Pacific for goodness sakes. So, those situations out, I decided to think, instead, what I would like to see and experience. The first thing that came to mind was the Mayan ruins. They fascinate me. We are thinking that if we chose an all inclusive fairly close to the ruins then we could experience the lavishness of the resort AND the history of the land. Going off of that, I chose locations in proximity to Ek Balam or Chichen Itza. (There's the added bonus that Chichen Itza is really fun to say.) Then my sweet friend sent me a few pins of the ruins in Belize. Whoa. Decisions, decisions. So, I checked out resorts in Belize, Cancun, Cozumel and the Riviera Maya. It looks like Belize is going to be a bit out of our price range. I'm immediately scared away from Cancun, because I'm not the slightest bit interested in the party scene. Though, I do realize that that's only an issue when choosing particular resorts and venturing out to such night life. I've gotten recommendations from friends and family who have traveled to these areas and that's been helpful. I've shown Drew about a million and a half options and he has been quite indulgent of my excitement. Finally, though, he said to do my research, make a decision and let him know. That's a job I can handle.
I'm thinking an all inclusive resort where we could lounge on the beach, enjoy the water sports (I only discovered in West Palm Beach last year that I really love snorkeling), have our meals and beverages covered and stay in a safe & beautiful hotel on the water. We could take a tour of Ek Balam ruins and even swim in a cenote. The cenote near Ek Balam is unbelievable to me. (A cenote is a natural sinkhole in the limestone that reveals ground water. There are quite a few on the Yucatan Peninsula.) I mean, really, check this out.
Now, one more consideration. When Drew travels for work he always stays in the Hilton family of hotels. He earns points and rewards based on his stays and that has allowed us to do a bit of personal travel without the expense of a hotel. That's a pretty great perk, if you ask me. Drew mentioned that he occasionally gets emails from Hilton about other resorts and specials, so I looked into it. There are no Hilton resorts on the Yucatan, but there is an all inclusive one in Puerta Vallarta. It's on the Pacific side, which offers an entirely different cultural experience. Sierra Madre, the encroaching jungle (which I am satisfied just to look at and not thoroughly explore) and the local culture. It's much less of a party destination, and I like that. If we chose to go there then we would accrue more Hilton rewards (which means that we could earn enough nights to go somewhere else later) and still have the benefits of an all inclusive resort. All things considered, it would cost us about the same whether we chose the Yucatan or Puerta Vallarta. With Hilton, though, there is the possibility of upgrades thanks to his reward status. The fishing offers more big game than in the bay, which I'm sure Drew would love. There would be no Mayan ruins to explore, but there are some pretty neat tours to visit local villages and land marks, a tequila factory (I wouldn't even need to buy a drink, just a couple samples and I'd be toast), local art markets and, of course, the beach and all it's offerings.
See what I meant? This is NOT a life or death decision. It's just a life decision. This is a pretty awesome decision making process and no matter what (or when) we choose, we will get to experience things that neither of us ever have. That's really the whole point... new things to experience together. Also, it's fairly amazing how one's financial ability and calender availability changes when there are not children to consider and care for. It's bizarre and I wouldn't have chosen it over my girls, but here we are and we're ready to take advantage and explore the world.