So, uh, yeah. Turns out I am not resort people.

I was invited by my best and oldest friend to be her plus one at a destination wedding. I wasn’t her first choice, but boyfriend and Spanish speaking friend could’t go. I’ve never been to Mexico before. I don’t love spicy food, or tequila, but I do love travel. For a week long immersive trip, I could learn to.

The wedding party chose a resort, one of those all inclusive joints with unlimited food and poolside drinks, to stay at. Turns out they book out way ahead of time and the first agent the happy couple worked with jerked them around. By the time they freed themselves from contracts and loopholes and started working on their own, many places were booked. They chose a quaint little town some hour or so south of Cancun itself and the wedding party piled on. There weren’t many of us, but we made a cute group, and we all wanted to stay together. For some of us, this was the first and last chance at tropical luxury.

What a fucking joke.

There are some things I hate to cheap out on. I LOVE food. I won’t hesitate to drop two hundred bucks on a really good dinner for me and my favorite book. Glittering wine, rich flavors, a tight menu, all can send me into ecstatic revelries. I try to stick to fairly and ethically made clothing (or second hand) and if I can’t get that, then high quality is non negotiable. I have a soft spot for antique jewelry. And when it comes to experiences: I’m an independent soul. I don’t like huge crowds or noisy places (unless that’s the point like in Times Square or a fireworks show.)

But finishes can go straight into the bowels of hell for all I care. Veneers, false enthusiasm, pretenses, fancy counter tops , overlarge shower stalls, and marketing misrepresentation are among the banes of my existence.

To save money, we spent our first three nights at a condo around the corner from the resort. We arrived a day early, walked around town, found the gelato shop, took a small group tour, sat by our private pool, nestled into our cozy little studio and overall enjoyed our privacy. We got acclimated, we did yoga, we had fresh caught local dishes directly from an open grill, and we made our own sack lunches.

Then we checked out and moved to the all-inclusive resort.

Our nightly rate went from 180 to 600.

We lasted six hours.

Hour one: we checked our bags, upgraded to VIP, and got ourselves a drink by the pool. We were accosted by no fewer than five attendants asking us to sign up for this extra or that before we could just relax.

Hour two: After a Pina colada, aware that our sunscreen got checked with the bags and increasingly disenchanted with our fellow tourists, we explored deserted corridors inside. We found the theater and, music nerds that we are, we made friends with the manager. That was the peak of our experience.

Hour three: our room was ready and we went upstairs. The bottle of tequila and our friendly bellhop were rays of sunshine in an otherwise increasingly unsettling atmosphere.

Hour four: we found some other members of the wedding party on the non-VIP side. The beach was white and sandy, but the gravel they used to build the beach wasn’t soft and silky as I had expected. It required shoes. Several party members indicated they’d be swimming with dolphins soon, an unsavory activity to anyone sympathetic to large mammals trapped in captivity. The tiny cages were visible from our hotel room.

Hour five: noise from construction was far less disturbing than periodic concerted shrieking from the pool area. I hate unidentified noises and from my balcony, it felt like some obscene sunburned water-based ritual kept happening just outside my sight line. The resort’s app said “weird game” was happening in the pool. My general unease moved into the realms of intolerable.

Hour six: I video chatted with sympathetic friends. After expressing my rising unease, discomfort, and dissatisfaction, one friend asked what I stood to lose by leaving. The answer: only money. Inspired to reach out to our host from the previous nights, I felt an immense weight lifted from my chest when he replied “the place is already clean, you can come back whenever you want and have it until Monday.”

I struggled not to wake my friend from her nap to share the news. “We can go back. We get to back to our air bnb.” “What? Are you sure” “Absolutely. I’ve already made the arrangements and we can go back whenever we want.” “Amie, that is amazing news! I thought you liked it here and I’m so glad you don’t! I wasn’t going to tell you, but I cried myself to sleep just now and I’m so glad we’re leaving.”

Hours seven to eleven or so we stayed in the resort, but only because just then, the rest of the wedding party messaged us to come have dinner and drinks. Knowing we could leave at the end of the night and sleep somewhere cozy and familiar made staying a million times easier. When we parted ways that evening, we collected our most immediately necessary items (and the laundry our host agreed to wash for us) and walked our happy little asses back to the condo down the street.

The next three days we came and went at the resort (I barely even tried to get my money back. After some other staff interactions, I had low hopes, and didn’t want to explain to the bride that we had left while the rest of them were stuck.) but we slept and cooked and ate at our private little studio with our private little kitchen and our private little pool. It felt like a personal villa. It was us sized, not some mega hotel built for hundreds of people. We made friends with the neighbor and his dog. The pool was quiet and calm. No one brought me my drinks, but the ones I made for myself were perfectly balanced, not too sweet. The air conditioning cooled us off without feeling like an icebox.

While the quality of the food I think was specifically bad at this resort, the sweetness of the drinks, the crowds, and the overall sense of a lack of control I think are inherent to those all inclusive resorts. I found joy in learning about and shopping at the farmers market. I had a half dozen fresh, juicy mangos all to myself, and my friend (who has a lot of allergies and finds restaurant food hard to navigate) ate at least as many fresh, ripe, creamy avocados. I much preferred my tiny backyard pool with its six or seven guests at it’s busiest to the expanse of fake beach and screeching crowded pool activities. The quirky layout of our studio condo was far more charming than the commercial, standard hotel room, despite it’s third floor balcony. Free tequila is great, but priced out, I’d rather buy my own from the shopping center downtown. And if we’d stayed at the resort the whole time, we would never have found Martin’s gelato shop. It became a nightly tradition to stop by and get sorbet and affogato, chat with the owner, and pet the cats.

Dan Pashman’s podcast The Sporkful isn’t for foodies, it’s for eaters. I feel this motto in every aspect of my life. I don’t give a flying fuck what I’m supposed to like. I am well aware of the ironies and contradictions in my preferences: my favorite clothes are as likely to come from goodwill as American Giant, but never from Gucci*. My favorite jewelry includes diamond studs and rocks I picked up on a hike. My favorite foods include Tillamook cheddar and wheat thins, champagne, Dick’s deluxe burgers, and pate. I’d rather go back to the Herb Farm than the French Laundry. And I’d rather linger by myself on the edge of a mayan ruin, where human interference fades into the jungle, than spend any time lounging in that resort.

I think, like Vegas, I will only ever try again when it’s someone else’s treat. Maybe I chose badly and a different resort would have given me the exclusive, tropical luxury I was promised. Maybe there is a buffet line somewhere on that peninsula that offers fresh locally made tamales and succulent, juicy carnitas. Maybe there is a resort that actually delivers gobs of fresh avocado when asked. I am as open to being wrong as I always was. But maybe I’m just not freaking resort people.