La Romana 2019

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But instead, you had to go to the Dominican Republic, eh? As if that country didn't have enough problems, already. I'll get back to this.

Over a month ago, my wife and I decided to go on vacation. We'd been through a very tough year, which included one major surgery each, my changing jobs three times, and both of us moving out of our apartment, due to Airbnb doom that had turned our once happy building into hooker central station. Being so exhausted and needing to relax, we did something we normally avoid: we made reservations at a big, all-inclusive resort. We picked a room in La Romana, Dominican Republic.

A few days before our departure, though, my wife found a news article about American tourists dying at a seemingly alarming rate precisely in La Romana (not at our resort) and a couple more places on the island. What to do, what to do? I started monitoring the web for more news. As days went by, our worries grew: more and more tourists suddenly recalled their own stories about getting sick there and surviving by a miracle. American media went into a frenzy, and Canadian media seemed to follow suit. We even considered canceling our vacation, although that would mean no refund.

But then it dawned on me that we were probably just letting irrational thoughts manipulate our minds. Two main points puzzled me: first off, no correlation was being found among the deaths, other than perhaps adulterated liquor from the minibar of a single resort, which would have maybe linked three deaths to each other. And second, why were people suddenly recalling being sick there? Could that be due to simple suggestion? Rather than listening to random, panicky reports, I got myself informed and reasoned as such:

1) Last year, 14 American tourists died in Canada (that's almost twice as many as the current count in the Dominican Republic), yet nobody is calling for an investigation against us

2) Well over 2.5 million Americans (and about 4 million more from the rest of the world) travel to the Dominican Republic every year and make it safely back home

3) As far as I could tell, most tourists who died had serious preexisting conditions. It doesn't really matter whether or not their doctors told them they could go on vacation: when you have a heart condition, and/or are obese, and/or you're on heavy medications, you're always at risk

4) No matter the frenzy, the US was NOT (still isn't!) recommending against travelling to the island

5) I had a very strong suspicion that at least some of these people, by simple stats, had acted like plenty of tourists do on vacation: they ate too much, drank too much alcohol and not enough water, got severely sunburnt, and kept going from extreme heat at the beach to extreme cold in their rooms.

Long story short, I announced to my wife that there may be some truth to the adulterated alcohol, so we could simply avoid drinking from our minibar, drink little alcohol in general, and monitor how we felt, at least in the beginning. She agreed and we both decided to stop worrying while sticking to our plan.

Enter madam "I could have went to Greece" and all her cohort: as we boarded the plane (around 8 AM), alcohol started flowing. Within an hour, the woman sitting in front of me had already gobbled down a glass of wine and a can of beer. Now, if you think that having so much alcohol by 9 in the morning is normal, I've got news for you: either you've lived under a rock your entire life or you're most definitely an alcoholic. By the time we landed, a good number of people were clearly on the happy drunk side of life. When we got to the resort, we were welcomed with more alcohol, which we put down two seconds later, almost untouched. By the end of the day, guess what? We noticed lots of people who were eating like pigs, drinking like crazy, had serious weight and health problems, and acted like they didn't.

In the end, we spent an amazing week there - as a matter of fact, it was one of the best holidays of my life. We were very much pampered, the staff was professional, courteous, and went always the extra mile for us. The beach was gorgeous, the ocean was nice, the snorkeling was fun, the food was good, and the little alcohol we had (too hot to drink!) was fine. Full disclaimer: we didn't always drink enough water and we got nicely sunburnt, but that was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.

You know when trouble came? When we flew back to Montreal. There was a huge storm over the area, so we were forced to land in Toronto, instead, and fly back home the next day. As we were circling over the city, the drunkards and the stupid all came to life: they started screaming against the crew, adamantly stating that the airline had planned for that mess right from the start (they wouldn't explan why, of course), and demanding a huge refund. The level of "smartness" is fully encapsulated in what "madam Greece" screamed at the top of her lungs, dramatically trying to convince every single passenger that it takes about 6 hours to fly to Greece from Canada, which is an obvious lie. The same lady and another group of five idiots proceeded then to make phone calls, exchange text messages, and even browse the web during our descent to Toronto, because of course safety is just not an issue to certain douchebags.

So, my plea to you: avoid giving in to a panic that is seriously hurting the economy of a friendly, amazing country like the Dominican Republic. Be wary of sensationalism, take things with a grain of salt, and, if at all possible, be a smart tourist!

Still not convinced? I'm sure these articles will put things into perspective for you:

Tourist Trap

Media frenzy over Dominican Republic deaths causing more harm than good

Infected Blood Comics

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