A Meaning of “All-Inclusive”: Reflections on a Trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

What does “all-inclusive” mean to you? To me, all-inclusive means embracing diversity in cultures, people, and thought, but that definition changed when I went on a long-weekend vacation with my son, daughter-in-law, and friends to a resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It was an all-inclusive-package vacation. I had never been on this type of vacation before, so I was eager to find out more about it. 06

Because I would not be constrained by my pocketbook, would I feel compelled to drink to excess in order to get my money’s worth? Would I feel obligated to try every desert on the menu? I felt a little uneasy about this abundance, since I do better with known limitations. For instance, if I don’t overeat, then there will be more food available to feed the world’s hungry population. (It works only sometimes.)

All-inclusive is, indeed, an all-you-can-eat-and-drink extravaganza. Thankfully, I was able to restrain myself. It helped that my daughter-in-law proclaimed that she and my son were not going to take too much and leave food on their plates. (My son sullenly agreed to this limitation.) But did other people feel less constrained, and did the tendency for humans to engage in gluttony prevail at this all-inclusive resort? Would my optimistic view of humankind be permanently distorted? 7

Actually, I was pleasantly surprised that the excesses seemed minimal. Sure, there were drinks left untouched by the poolside, and plates with leftovers after the buffet was over, but they were not as extreme as I had expected. Although Mexico now ranks as the second most obese country in the world—after guess who?—at least Puerto Vallarta has a ways to go before catching up to the USA in this category.

This encounter with excess and all-inclusiveness leads me to a bigger point. Excess has become part of our globalized culture and society. Excess is profitable: It can be commodified and transformed into profits for all those in the economic maze, such as corporate bundlers who slice and dice travel experiences into neat packages and products to sell to an eager public. My family and I were the affluent global citizens who were bombarded with images of pleasure-consuming excesses, such as a buffet laden with a cornucopia of food delights. 8

“All-inclusive resort” is code for indulge, satisfy every whim, and we were given permission to do just that because we were on vacation. A vacation is a time to get away from the everyday work world. After all, the messaging from marketers is that “we earned it,” which actually is another clever way to get us to consume more.

I probably sound judgmental in making this proclamation. I often think I am a hypocrite for participating in the globalized mass consumer culture while also critiquing it. Although there are other options, such as ecotourism, they are more difficult and expensive to procure than the globalized mass consumer culture, which is readily available and mass-marketed. It is hard to compete with the slick brochures and carefully honed messages of sheer pleasure that lure tourists to consume globalized products and experiences. 9

As I write this blog, I reflect on my experience at the all-inclusive resort. Of course, I had a wonderful time with my family. But the good experience was not that of indulging in every excess of food and drink. Rather, it was being with family and friends, and sharing with them the experience of enjoying nature’s beauty and splendor.

I remember that as a child growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, many of my vacations consisted of going to a cabin somewhere in the woods, surrounding a lake with a host of extended family members. I am sure my grandmother organized the trips; she was the queen of keeping the extended family together. One of the more exotic trips I took with my extended family was to Canada. A native guide took us all out, from the elders to the toddlers, in a flotilla of small boats to fish. It was so exciting to catch our own fish, which our guide cleaned and cooked for us. I still remember how delicious it was. In the evening, my dad would make a campfire, and we would sit around it, telling stories and roasting marshmallows. The accommodations were always very basic—there was an outhouse, not indoor plumbing. The women brought homemade food or cooked on the open fire. Although it may sound rather idyllic, and I know there were frictions among family members, it certainly made a favorable impression on me as a young child. 10

But many of us have lost touch with constructing experiences with family and friends that don’t ravage the environment and cost bundles of money. Perhaps as some of us shift to a transformative worldview, we can transform the word “all-inclusive” from the mass-marketing of consumer excesses in a confined setting to an experience that includes positive human sensibilities, such as connecting with family and friends and communing with nature in a less consumerist way. 11Our family relations and the environment would welcome this change.



Questions to Consider

  1. Think about your favorite vacation. What made it special?

Find out more about the transformative worldview in the book Five Worldviews: The Way We See the World, by Dr. Denise Ames.

Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In January 2018, the CGA will launch the Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program, or Gather. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues, seeing different perspectives, transcending deep political and cultural divides, and engaging with others to create positive change. Please email info@global-awareness.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.

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