My big gift to myself for putting myself through graduate school (beside becoming gainfully employed) was purchasing a time share. The has been an outstanding investment for our family as we love to travel and it has saved us thousands upon thousands of dollars over the years. My parents, who were skeptical of the idea, now own three. We still own our original purchase and continue to enjoy new adventures each year. Since C has come along, we have stayed closer to home, limiting our travel to a day's drive or a direct flight under two hours. In doing so, we've spoiled the child with annual visits to Hilton Head Island and Disney and he seems to expect that is the norm. We need to get moving on requesting our exchange week for this year and C, once again, has voted for Disney or Hilton Head. I voted for Hilton Head, and pulled a 3 bedroom in Sea Pines for Thanksgiving week, but M is not confident he can get that week off- bummer.
In looking at all of the properties we can pull, it reminded me of how our travels have changed, not just with the addition of a child, but with socio-politcal developments as well. We had booked the Pueblo Bonita Sunset Beach in Cabo San Lucas in 2006, and despite assurance from fellow travelers that our little man would do great there at 18 months, I had a sense of forboding about it and did some research. Did you know that more Americans are kidnapped in Mexico than any other nation (besides the US)? We had a fantastic week planned, but gave it away to my parents and another couple they are friends with, and we've never had a regret about that decision. In 2008 we decided to give Mexico another shot, but without C in tow, so he went to Nonna and Poppy's for 9 days while we went to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Xcaret. The trip was fantastic and the diving was amazing, but we noticed we were hearing more and more stories from travelers who experienced trouble while traveling in Mexico- police expecting bribes at toll road crossings, passports illegally held, trumped up charges/fines/jail time, increased violent crime, etc. No strangers to Mexico, we've also made a few visits to Cozumel (2001-2004) and one to Costa Maya in 2003 (which was one of our better Mexico visits- jungle tours and a remote beach). When you get down to it though, they are still a 3rd world country, becoming even more criminal and dangerous as drug cartels and opportunists continue to attack.
So, as we discussed where to visit this year, Mexico was removed for the list, likely for a very long time. It's not enough that the US lacks borders, language, and culture when it comes to immigration, but the violence from Mexico is now spilling over into US streets, and not just in border towns such as San Diego and Laredo...major crimes are now tracked back to Mexican cartels in Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Atlanta...when will it end? Did you catch this recent episode of 48 Hours? Powerful! Amazing the family lives to tell, but all too familiar that our own government lacks any type of leverage and that the Mexican authorities did nothing to investigate the crimes. I spent time living and serving in Jamaica and in the Dominican Republic, and I saw the much seedier and desperate side of life that you do not see while neatly tucked away in your resort compound- I'd expect this type of crime there, but it's been eye-opening to watch the developments in Mexico since we started traveling there back in 2000.
In a related note, we hear that crime is up in St. Maarten, and our neighbors were recently mugged there. My brother-in-law reports that Nassau continues to go downhill. He lives on Paradise Island and it's so bad now that the crime is spilling over onto the once immune resort island. We typically travel down there for long weekends, but even that option has become much more guarded and carefully planned. Cruise ships are diverting from that port and we're told that tourists should not book any shore excursions while in port. Passengers with both Disney and Royal Caribbean were recently attacked while on a shore excursion tour. A NJ police officer was also shot at the very popular Cable Beach. We recall the days when, even recently, we could stroll around the streets of Nassau with very little fear. Now, you take your life in your hands when you do so, and sadly, in a country that used to boast a fairly safe crime rate. When will these countries realize the harsh lesson Aruba has had to learn, if you cannot protect the tourists, they will find another island? It's likely a matter of time before our jaunts to the Bahamas will come to an end, at least until it's a safer venture.