My Unplanned Romantic Adventure At A Surf Camp In The Dominican Republic
I can’t swim. Actually let me clarify: I am a shitty swimmer. I can perform a sort of freestyle that resembles a dying fish. And I do consider myself a doggie paddling connoisseur.
Nonetheless, for my next vacation I decided to go to a surf camp in the Dominican Republic.
“Are you crazy?” my friends asked, fearful that I might kill myself with my utter lack of aquatic skills.
“You’re not seriously going to learn how to surf are you?”
“Well no, of course not,” I would retort. “That would be an exercise in suicide.”
No, I was going to surf camp to get some much-needed sun, drink fruity umbrella-festooned libations and perhaps get a little writing done. I have long been a proponent of solo vacays. The thrill of the adventure and the excitement of not knowing what’s going to happen next had metamorphosed into a sort of crack-cocaine addiction for me.
Will I be carousing with Germans as I climb Masada at 3 a.m. or befriending firefighters over drinks in Costa Rica? How exactly will I get from point “A” to “B” when there are unexpectedly no buses running and I have no currency? The adrenalin rush of figuring things out and making friends on my own was completely lost when I traveled with friends. It’s like riding a bike solo as opposed to tandem. Or better yet, skydiving.
However, I was facing a serious conundrum: My backpacking-through-Europe-on-a-shoestring-days were long dead, and the last thing I wanted to do was stay in a hostel. I didn’t want to spend my time hanging out with drunk pot-smoking 20-somethings who were just out to get laid, and I didn’t want to come back to a hostel dorm to find two people having sex in the bed next to me or find a couple getting it on in a dark corner of the lobby.
And unlike my backpacking days, I actually had something I didn’t have then: some money (as well as a better appreciation for cleanliness). I had traveled solo extensively for business, but that was different. I spent most of the day in meetings and spent nights chattering with whomever happened to be at the hotel bar, all on the company dime.
While regular hotels are great for groups of people, it is hardly suitable for the solo traveler looking to make friends. I needed an alternative. After being inspired by that movie The Holiday — when Cameron Diaz does a home exchange and meets a sexy and eligible Brit played by Jude Law — I too did a home exchange. Unfortunately, not only did I not meet Jude Law, I spent most of my time by myself. After all, how many people are you going to meet staying in someone else’s apartment?
So where does an adult solo traveler go for instant camaraderie? For deep conversations with strangers about the pros and cons of Keynesian economic theory? Or the subliminal meaning of Beyonce’s latest video?
It was by accident that I stumbled onto a surf camp. Upon pouring through copious guidebooks, asking Facebook friends for their advice and scouring Trip Advisor, I came upon a cute surf camp in the Dominican Republic named Swell Surf Camp. The camp was owned by two British expats, and offered a pool, free breakfast cooked to your specifications, a billiards table, board games, a TV and assorted DVDs and best of all, a communal dinner that ensured that without doubt I would make friends. And at $70 a night it hardly seemed like the kind of place one would find college-age kids seeking drunken vomit-inducing revelry and meat market hookups. It seemed perfect for a solo globetrotter such as myself. I booked my stay immediately.
Laptop in hand, I arrived at the camp around 11 a.m. It was relatively quiet as everyone had just come back from an early morning surf lesson and thus had passed out for a mid-morning nap.
“So,” Marisa the camp manager started explaining, “Surf lessons are everyday at 630 a.m. We–”
“Oh I don’t surf.”
She looked at me as though I just said I had three feet. For the record, I do not.
“So what do you plan on doing while you’re here?” she asked.
“I just came here to write and drink a few cocktails. I figured this was as good a place to do that. But I do other stuff!” I pointed out lest she thought I was just totally nonathletic. “I also ride bikes and do yoga.”
“In that case, there is a yoga class that meets down the street, although they haven’t really gotten their schedule together yet.”
She showed me to my room upstairs that overlooked the pool. With two double beds, a closet and spotless bathroom, it was a vast room for what it cost. I couldn’t help but wonder why I hadn’t thought of this before. It was total genius.
But would there be anyone interesting to talk to or would I be stuck hanging out with couples gazing googly-eyed, college kids on drunk/makeout patrol, or even worse, socially-stunted types who had no choice but to travel alone?
After a brief nap, I headed downstairs to the communal kitchen. Marisa was playing a spirited game of poker with a 40-something gentleman sporting glasses and a shiny bald head.
“Rachel”, Marisa said, “Meet Nate.”
My experience with men of a certain age flying solo in warm locales is they are looking for one thing: prostitute punany.
Surprisingly, Nate was not that guy. A self-made man, he had retired early and came down to surf camp solo several times a year to kite surf. Razor sharp, Nate was like a walking encyclopedia of everything that had ever happened in the known universe since the beginning of time.
The rest of the guests were equally as interesting, intelligent, and mature. There was Adam, who had just spent time in Haiti doing non-profit work; Jacob, a banker visiting with his shy girlfriend; David, who had decided to treat himself to a vacation post-divorce; and Linda and Mark, fellow New Yorkers who were taking a much-needed vacation before their pending nuptials in a year.
It was just what I was looking for: mature, intelligent, sociable adults of all stripes and nationalities. Over the next few days, we ate dinners together, went through copious amounts of beer and wine, played pool and went through many rounds of poker. In between, we would take dips in the pool or lay out. I was quite pleased with myself for discovering this new secret of solo travel and made it my mission to visit surf camps in other countries as well.
There was one other person staying at the camp: Brad. Brad was the 22-year-old tall blond surf instructor at the camp. He was on a post-college jaunt around the world, with the Dominican Republic just being one of his many stops. He was intelligent, funny and very cute. He also drank too much, had $10 to his name and spoke in that special dialect only reserved for those who are either surfers or are under the age of 25. Nonetheless, he seemingly fit in with everyone else despite his younger age.
So, after a night of drinking when Brad flipped on the TV and invited me to sit next to him, I didn’t hesitate. Slightly tipsy, I sauntered over to Brad.
“What’cha watching?” I asked.
“Mad Men“, he said as he patted the bean bag next to him and took another toke off his joint, “Watch it with me.”
I poured myself a glass of wine from the kitchen and plopped down next to him. He left so little space for me that my leg was now grazing his.
“So, do you have a boyfriend?” he asked.
I couldn’t help but giggle. Was he seriously hitting on me? I couldn’t remember the last time a guy actually used that as a line. I think I might have been 22. I looked at him through my tipsy gaze. He is really so cute, I thought to myself.
I’m not sure what was said next, but in a matter of minutes we were furiously making out. Omigod, I thought to myself, Am I really making out with Brad in the middle of the den floor? What on earth am I doing? The security guard was making his rounds and I anxiously tried to avoid him catching us. Brad was sliding his hand up my skirt when all of a sudden we heard a splash.
I turned around. It was Nate. He was casually relaxing in the pool reading a book as if nothing was going on, yet he was fully facing us. I wasn’t sure if he saw anything, but regardless I wanted to melt into the floor from utter embarrassment. I hid my head in Brad’s chest.
My skirt was hiked up, my hair was a mess, I was drunk, Brad reeked of weed and I was this close to having sex on the floor with a 22-year-old surfer. So much for trying to escape drunken collegiate types. A wave of shame engulfed me. I had become exactly what I was trying to escape. But then I remembered one thing: Unlike in my younger years, I actually had a room. A private room.
“Let’s go upstairs,” I whispered.
“OK,” Brad replied.
And with that, we scampered upstairs.
By Rachel Khona
About the Author
Hailing from a magical land called New Jersey, Rachel is a writer and performer living somewhere in the 5th dimension. In addition to serving as contributing editor for Vaga, she has written for Cosmopolitan, Inked, and Ask Men and been featured as an expert on How About We and the Broadminded show.
She has performed at the Word Bookstore, Inner Monologues, Standard Issues, and Speakeasy Stories. She is currently working on a memoir about being raised by a conservative Indian family, swindling European cab drivers and scaling glaciers. Find out more about Rachel at RachelKhona.com or follow her on Twitter at @RachelKhona.