My first trip away in recent years was to the Dominican Republic in 2006. A friend suggested an all-inclusive trip somewhere, and we managed to get a good deal on a package for a two-week holiday. We stayed in Puerto Plata in the north of the Island. The beaches are not as sandy as in the south and there’s less to see but it was a great holiday regardless. By day we spent our time drinking free cocktails by the pool, swimming, reading on the beach, and scuba diving. We went on several road trips with an American tourist who’d hired a car and packed out with a family he was friendly with and ourselves we would visit local beauty spots and places of interest. We also went on a Jeep Safari that lasted a couple of days. We went right to the border with Haiti and ended up at a shaded bay which was like a taste of paradise. The guy I went with was in bed for ten o’clock nearly every night however which was just when my evening would begin. I made a friend of the chef in the hotel where we were staying and every night would go out. We would make our way to his village which was more or less a bit of shanty town, either on the back of a motorcycle or in a taxi – and hang out in his locality. My impression of the Dominican Republic is that it is poor, really excessively poor. However the people are so very friendly and welcoming that it is hard not to have a good time. Presumably due to not being held back by the thought of materialism, they are nice to the tourist and to each another and never miss an opportunity to smile. This makes for a very laid back experience and feels almost stress free. I enjoyed every minute.