How Bella Hadid’s Instagram Life Ruined My #Blessed Vacation
Are we putting too much pressure on ourselves to have #blessed vacations? I know I was.
I’ve recently learned of my own mortality. A realization that washed over me, red hot, while I bathed my tender skin in a half bottle of aloe vera and nursed my tender ego in the wake of a failed vacation.
Because, despite having all the necessary ingredients to produce enough ‘grams worthy of #nofilter hashtags—palm-kissed shorelines, rum-infused everything, and eye roll-inducing sherbet sunsets— it is still 2017 folks. The year of tempered expectation. And I blame Bella Hadid.
My partner and I had been saving for months for a tropical vacation. When we finally bought the tickets, I began devouring every related hashtag, bookmarking fishing towns and beaches along the island’s coast. We had planned a packed vacation full of reef exploration, kaftans, and sunbathing in a place not perpetually clouded over (shout out to Portland). I was ready to be the type of person who actually had use for resortwear. And, for a glorious 48 hours, I was.
The second day of our admittedly cliche island getaway was spent wandering along the beachfront, getting day drunk. I was wearing a bikini that revealed an amount of flesh generally considered a no-no to my hometown personality. But on this trip I decided to shed those sensibilities and channel yachting enthusiast Bella Hadid.
I was going to be a girl whose alcohol tolerance doesn’t top out at a two drink max, and whose abs maybe just needed a deep tan to really pop. My first mistake.
Delusionally, I eschewed what would normally be standard practice and went without sunscreen during a day of laying out. It was stunning. The clear water heavy with salt. The breeze blowing with appropriate timing and speed. Sure, there was no yacht, but I was finally getting to catch up on a six-month backlog of The Atlantic.
Reading through the old issues brought me back to that sweet moment in history where pre-existing conditions were not a death sentence and where being “with her” seemed like a sure thing. I went to bed that night rested, sunned, and giddy from my binge on an escapist, elite alternate reality.
Early the next morning I woke to what felt like thousands of needles pricking every part of my body. Turns out I’m not impervious to the sun. I spent the rest of my vacation gingerly placing my blistered body (yay, second degree burns!) on the edges of chairs, clothed in 4XL tee shirts, avoiding the sun and chugging water like it would reverse time.
The burn was so painful I lost sleep. Every toss brought fresh pain. I didn’t want to be touched, which caused a ripple effect of negativity that spread to my partner. I felt so dumb having ruined my own vacation, let alone his.
The sunburn incident completely changed the tone of the trip. As we moved up the coast this new vibe followed us, punctuating any unforeseen challenge with an extra layer of annoyance. An Airbnb change that took us from the ocean to 4 miles inland, unexpectedly expensive taxi rides, and an unfathomable amount of catcalling added to my singed expectations. It seemed that with every move up the coastline, we continued to swing and miss every opportunity to recover the dream vacation we had saved so long for.
Honestly, the best part of the trip was the 12 hour layover in an airport executive lounge where we treated their proclamation of “the complimentary snack bar isn’t a meal-replacer” as a challenge, and showered for the first time in four days. (The water shut off in our last Airbnb. Like, all of it.)
When we arrived home we were, of course, asked, “So, how was it?” It’s hard to be honest about a bad vacation in those situations. Especially in the age of social media, where most post versions of their most effortless, glowy selves. There’s an expectation that you’re supposed to come back from holiday rejuvenated and gently tanned, not ill-groomed and peeling.
But it wasn’t all bad. The land and people were beautiful and inviting. And even if they hadn’t been, I still got the chance to learn a deeply personal, deeply expensive lesson in managing my own, unrealistic expectations. And for that, I can truly say, I feel #blessed.
Words: Rachel Siemens