The first stop of our tour of the Canaries was Lanzarote Island. At grandma’s request, we opted for the simple Beach Transfer tour, which only gave us a brief overview of the whole island as we drove to Playa del Carmen. And to be honest… that 20 minute drive was enough.
I will be the first to admit that there were others ways that we could have spent the day. Lanzarote tourism BOOMS in the summer months, especially because it’s so close to places like the UK, where people are desperate to get away and find some sunshine and warmth. These are things there is an abundance of in the Canaries; at just 100 or so kilometers away from the Sahara Desert, there is heat a-plenty and beautiful sun for days at a time. From what I’ve been told, people in the UK treat the Canary Islands as we in North America treat Mexico (though, please correct me if I’m wrong). The islands boast beautiful, sandy beaches, turquoise water, sand dunes, volcanoes, and cultural hubs, depending on which island you visit. In Lanzarote, we had the option to visit volcanoes, or go off-roading, or even ride a camel. None of these really appealed to us though. Later, on the boat, we would hear how life-changing it was to ride on the camel, or how the landscapes of Lanzarote, due to the volcanic state, looked like alien territory or moon plains… but in that moment, we were happy to just relax for the day. After all, we’d basically been on the go for over a week at that point.
We were dropped off at the beach, herded like cattle to the other side of the road, and instructed where to meet the bus to go back to the ship 4 hours later. Everyone veered off into different directions. Some headed directly down to the sand to snag a beach umbrella before the crowd rolled in. Others slapped their sweaty bodies into plastic armchairs in the sidewalk bars and ordered their first of 5 margaritas. We walked along the palm tree lined streets, checking out the water and debating what this beach reminded us of. Was it Santa Monica Pier in California? St. Thomas? Cancun? Whichever it was, we came away with a somewhat spoiled belief that what we have closer to home is preferable. Let’s not misrepresent Lanzarote though: It is a beautiful place to visit, relax and spend a day.
We spent the time there eating gelato, wandering through the too-expensive stores, and taking touristy photos. As I tried to take photos of the water without looking like I was photographing the topless women, grandma and grandpa searched for souvenirs. It was a nice day, but not overwhelmingly good (or bad). I’d say the highlight was when grandpa finally found a hat he liked, which had been the focus of his attention since the start of our sunny trip.
Reflecting on it now, I think I can recognize why. First and foremost, I am not, by any definition, a beach bum. My skin begins to burn at the mere mention of sunshine, I get itchy lying in the sand, and I hate the way that salt water lingers on your lips and soaks in your hair. (Lakes are a different story… tubing and swimming and racing boats? Yes please. But that’s a story for another time.) In the same fashion, I can think of a MILLION things more exciting to do than browse through tourist-trap stores. Where grandma loves to run her hands across every hand-sewn dress and torch blown glass, I drag my feet and moan, avoiding eye contact because I’m a gullible, salesperson’s dream. So to choose 4 hours of this was a big mistake on my behalf. It’s worth nothing, however, that grandma and grandpa really enjoyed it here. To each their own, right?
Secondly, I did not do my research before I came here, which is unlike me. Normally I’m excited to visit a new city, because I know it’s origin, or what it’s meant to history, or what exciting events will be happening while I’m there. But I knew nothing about the Canary Islands, especially Lanzarote. If I had checked into things, I might have taken a cultural tour, or visited the volcanoes. Maybe I would have known of some secret cove down the street from the beach. My point is, even if it’s just a day excursion, you should look into things to do once you get there, or else you’ll feel the way I did at the end: “I saw some beautiful things, I ate some good food… but I could have done more.” This is what’s tricky about travel. There are so many ways to “do the city right” that if you don’t really look into what’s best for your tastes, then you’ll end up taking part in somebody else’s top 10 bucket list. I ended up spending a full hour sitting on a rock, watching the waves crash onto the beach and wishing I’d brought a notebook. Lesson learned.
So when we got back on the ship, I made a decision. Two days later, we were booked on another day trip to the beach/shopping centers, only this time in Tenerife. I quickly found another option, one that included sightseeing, museums and cultural information. I changed my plans, made sure G+G didn’t mind, and took what I didn’t yet recognize as my first major independent travel step. After all, in a few weeks, I would be totally on my own; it’s a good thing I was already starting to fine-tune the type of travel I enjoy most.