The Family Vacation

The annual Summer vacation is a time-honored tradition in my family. For as long as I can remember, during every single Summer, my family and I spend about a week or so together on some kind of vacation. When my brothers and I were younger, we’d usually go to places like Ocean City at the Jersey Shore or Disney World/Universal Studios in Florida — typical family-friendly type places. But as we got older, we started going to very different types of places for vacation.

When my dad reached his mid 40’s, he had his midlife crisis. Completely out of the blue, he picked up surfing and became absolutely obsessed with it. He started off by taking some lessons in Jersey, and then he took some trips to Hawaii, and eventually he ended up consistently going on surf trips to Costa Rica. I’m not sure if the average person knows this, but Costa Rica has phenomenal surfing. The waves are good everyday pretty much all year round, and they’re the perfect size for any skill-level of surfer. My dad would fly to Costa Rica for surfing so often that he ended up making friends with a couple of locals there, and a few years ago he even bought a plot of land there with the hope of being able to retire, live, and surf in Costa Rica for the rest of his life.

He’s in love with this country, and because he’s head honcho when it comes to how we spend our (his) money, we’ve been going to Costa Rica on our family vacations for a long time now.

Costa Rica is an absolutely beautiful country with great weather, great food, and great people. Being able to go there for vacation multiple times has been a real treat for my family and I, and I’m unbelievably grateful that my parents have given me and my brothers the opportunity to see such a cool part of the world. But every single time we go to Costa Rica, no matter what, I’m always stricken with severe second-hand embarrassment to be seen out in public with my family.

Let me explain.

Although Costa Rica is a really great place to go for vacation, it isn’t exactly family oriented — especially in the town that we go to. The town we stay in is a place called Tamarindo, and it’s a huge surfing-tourism spot. I’d say the town is made up of roughly 75% locals and 25% tourists during the Summer seasons. But regardless of whether they’re there as a tourist or not, every single person in Tamarindo is a surfer, and every single person there looks and acts the part.

Imagine a stereotypical surfer dude, and then imagine a town full of those surfer dudes — that’s Tamarindo. Pretty much every one of the locals in Tamarindo has a slim body covered in tribal tattoos, long, frizzy, sun-damaged surfer hair, and they strictly wear surf clothing brands. On top of that, practically every tourist that goes to Tamarindo is a diehard surfer too, so the only real difference in appearance between them and the locals is the color of their skin. And then there’s my family…

My family looks about as stereotypically American as it can get. My dad is tall, bald, doesn’t speak a word of Spanish, and dresses exactly how you’d imagine every middle aged American dad dresses — Jesus sandals and everything. My little brothers wear nike t-shirts, basketball shorts and sneakers everywhere they go, and my mom is a short Italian woman so she more or less blends in most of the time. I can speak Spanish fluently and I dress a little less American-y than the rest of my family so I like to think that if I were alone in Tamarindo, I’d have no problem blending in. But, I’m sure that isn’t 100% true.

Every time I walk through Tamarindo with my family, I can’t help but feel a little embarrassed. I know we look so painfully out of place, and I can feel every one of the surfer bros in town staring us down as we walk by. When we go out to restaurants in town my dad immediately asks for the wifi password, and he repeats the one Spanish phrase he knows, “buen dia,” over and over again to every Spanish speaking person he meets. My brothers always order the most American foods on every menu, and even while we eat, we’re constantly being harassed by street vendors trying to sell us stupid little touristy trinkets.

Maybe it’s the ghost of teenage angst that’s haunting my now 20 year old self, but every time I go on vacation with my family I can’t help but feel this way. Or maybe it’s just something I’ll always inherently feel. A lot of people grow up thinking that their parents are lame or dorky when they’re kids, and I guess that’s something that sticks with you into adulthood. I’ve definitely seen more than one vacation movie with dorky parents and embarrassed kids in it.

I feel kinda like a spoiled brat right now. My parents give and do so much for me, so I’ll end with this. I love my family. Regardless of how embarrassed I feel around them, I’ll always love them. And no matter how dorky and painfully American-y they are, they’ll always be my family. I’m sure a lot of this embarrassment has to do with me caring too much about what people think of me — something I’ve been trying to care less about lately. So going forward I’m gonna make a conscious effort to just be happy with my family while I’m on vacation in a beautiful country with them.

I felt inclined to write this blog because I’m actually currently on vacation with my family in Costa Rica. Aaaaaand we’re about to go out into town for dinner. Believe it or not, we look a little less American than normal! Hopefully we can avoid the street vendors tonight. But no promises.

Pura Vida.