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  • Damaris Chanza

My Nonexistent Vacation to Puerto Rico

Disappointing is the best way to describe it, and even that doesn’t feel adequate.

My family spontaneously decided to take a vacation to Puerto Rico. My parents would stay for three weeks while my siblings and I would stay for six days since we couldn’t manage the extra time.

I’ll be honest; I didn’t want to go.

I’ve taken plenty of trips to Puerto Rico, but I can only remember one – a month-long vacation replacing my quinceañera. I hated many things about that trip, but it ultimately came down to one thing: family. We visited family, stayed on their schedule, did everything exactly how they wanted it done, and it was terrible.

I’m not proud of it, but I don’t have the best relationship with my family in PR. They claim I’m overly argumentative to the point where I come off as disrespectful. Then there’s the purposely imposed language barrier I create out of spite. The last time I saw them resulted in me crying in my room, consoled by my boyfriend, who reminded me it’s a tonal issue that I’m continuously working on and not disrespect.

So no, despite helping decide to go to Puerto Rico, I did not want to go. I didn’t want to argue with my dad because I was rude or hide in the bathroom in tears because no one would console me.

But then the conversation shifted. We were going to PR and not telling the family for a few days so that we could enjoy the island as tourists. We planned to go horseback riding, kayaking in a river that glows, and take a tasting tour of the Bacardi factory. We were going to waste time at the beach before heading to our beautiful Air B&B. Then on our final days on the island, we were going to take the obligatory trips to my grandparents to visit.

I was cautiously excited by the promise of something different.

I packed my stuff, drove to my parent’s house, piled our bags in the car, and drove to the airport. We checked in our luggage, grabbed our boarding passes, and waited for our plane to arrive. We found a cool machine that prints short stories on thick receipt paper while we waited. My family downloaded Netflix shows to watch during our almost four-hour flight. Finally, our plane arrived.

We took our seats, received the mandatory safety instructions from the flight attendants, and took off. It all went pretty smoothly. I wrote most of the Lightyear post on my phone, my brother listened to music, and my sister watched some Netlfix show she had downloaded.

Suddenly, the pilot gets on the loudspeaker and announced mechanical issues that required us to return to our base airport. He said we should be ready to land in about forty minutes. Who knows how long later, he says we’re stuck in a hold and have to fly in circles to burn fuel because the plane weighs too much. Again, he said it should be thirty minutes until we landed. He eventually announces we’re finally out of the hold and should be back at the airport in thirty minutes. He tells us they have to release some gear, I’m assuming the landing gear, but I know nothing about planes, and it’ll be very loud. It took us over two hours to get back to the airport.

We landed at our base airport around the time we should’ve landed in San Juan.

All the passengers “disembarked” from the plane and went to the directed terminal to find flight information. After waiting too long, we found out our flight was canceled. At almost 5 am, the airport was full of hungry, tired, and angry Puerto Ricans.

The airline was useless in helping people find other flights and was instead offering hotel information. People were crying in the waiting areas.

After futile attempts at getting another flight at a reasonable price that night, we decided that it was no longer worth it for my siblings and me to go on the trip. It would’ve cost a lot more for less time. My parents managed to find another flight for just the two of them. Until then, we went home.

I wasn’t initially excited about the trip, but I was still going. I was hopeful of having a different relationship with the island. To feel that pride, you can sense from every Puerto Rican when you see them holding the flag or talking about “their island.”

But that didn’t happen.

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