I spent the past few weeks on a family vacation in Hawaii. In the course of which we stayed in a few very large holiday resorts. The type where you find thousands of guests all making merry, enjoying beaches and palm trees and frothy cocktails. Where there are massive pools and water slides, health spas and daily activity schedules and kids clubs – everything and anything needed to ensure that you and your loved ones are properly vacationed-out by the end of your stay.
These places have, however, become so homogenous that aside from a few token nods to local culture, being in a resort in Hawaii is no different to being in a resort in Florida, Mexico, the Gold Coast, Antalya, the Costa del Sol, or just about anywhere else that is sunny and makes a living peddling holidays. And in the same way that the resort experience is now a standardised global product, so too is the guest list. Go to any mass-market resort and you will likely wind up rubbing shoulders with people from all over the world.
Inside the grounds of any mega-sized holiday hotel you will find a self-contained ecosystem, a veritable United Nations of holidaying wildlife, all chasing after the same thing: rest, relaxation, a bit of fun, and a suntan. Sometimes making it a hard to tell exactly who is who. So based on my recent experiences, not to mention years of intensive field research, I thought I might share some handy hints, to help you spot the twelve most common creatures you may encounter on your next trip.
Type One: The Family
The most common form of vacation wildlife is The Family. These creatures roam in packs, normally consisting of Mom, Dad, and the kids. Easy to spot, but some skill is needed to properly identify the many different species in the genus, which is where TV shows can help. An overweight Dad, a slightly-harried but semi-attractive wife and idiot Dad-lookalike in tow: species Family Guy. Mom, dad, brat-child and at least one disaffected “I’m too good for this family” child: species Simpson. A mom and dad who clearly hate each other and kids who would clearly rather be somewhere else (species Bundy). Lots of well-mannered clean-cut kids, all turned out in neatly pressed clothes and immaculately coiffed hair (species Brady). The same thing, but add group singing and fundamentalist religious undertones (species Von Trap). A heavy-set group lumbering around looking menacing, gathering periodically to devour huge amounts of pasta (species Soprano). A family where female members only appear in public wearing full make-up and skimpy clothing that makes them look like cheap tarts (species Kardashian). And increasingly you might spot those that don’t readily fall into any other category, such as families with two dads, or an older dad with an obviously much younger trophy wife on his arm; etc. But think species Modern Family, and you’ll be right.
Two: The Chinese Package Tourists
The rise of China as a global superpower means you will find increasing numbers of Chinese tourists at resort hotels around the world. But this species has an entirely different set of operating principles to any other. Firstly, Chinese Package Tourists prefer to travel in large groups, especially if it means they get to follow around a guy with a megaphone and who waves a small red flag. They are most comfortable when wearing a badge with their name on it and the same cap as everyone else in their herd. A visit to a foreign country does not, heaven forbid, mean eating any weird foreign foods, and thus restaurants serving Chinese food are an absolute necessity for this creature. Equally, the Western fad for removing ones clothes and jumping into a pool of water, or bronzing in the sun like a chicken on a rotisserie grill, is unfathomable to these creatures. Thus, you will not find Chinese Package Tourists actually in the water, but instead they will be hovering around the edges of the waterhole, intently watching those in it like spectators at a live show. And of course taking photographs, because that seems to be the main existential purpose of a Chinese Package Tourist: to record every single moment of a trip, in both photo and video format, so that it can be relived over and over again once they get home.
Type Three: The Serious Holidaymaker
Harder to spot, this particular creature is entirely focussed on getting the most out of its holiday. Because, God damn it, we’ve come all this way and spent all this money and so we are going to do and see everything there is to do and see here, and we are bloody well going to enjoy ourselves too! You need to get up early to spot this creature, as chances are it will be out by 7am for another full day of sightseeing and activities. Or you will be able to spot this creature later in the evenings, hunched over while they meticulously plan a fun-filled schedule for the next day. Tell-tale signs that you have found a Serious Holidaymaker are a table covered with maps, brochures, guidebooks, note-pads and discount coupons. Usually this creature is a male, and thus another tell-tale sign is a nearby woman sitting with arms crossed and looking completely pissed off, while several whining children say things like: “but Dad, we don’t want to climb the mountain to see the ruins of a World War II Japanese bunker, can’t we just go to the pool tomorrow instead?” Avoid Serious Holidaymakers at all costs, unless you want to get drawn into a lengthy description about everything the Serious Holidaymaker has done so far. Not just on this trip but on all other trips they may ever have been on as well.
Type Four: The Starving Non-Waif
Mass-market resorts pride themselves on offering extensive buffets, especially at breakfast. Here you will find an assortment of fresh-baked breads and pastries, cheeses, fruits, cereals and yoghurts. Plus a hot buffet: eggs, bacon, sausages, waffles, oatmeal and countless other goodies, both sweet and savoury. Not to mention specialty stations where a chef will whip up an omelette, or cook you a stack of pancakes. And here at the buffet you will also find the Starving Non-Waif. A creature that is usually very fat, but despite being allowed to make unlimited return visits to the buffet will pile its plate so high you’d be excused for thinking the poor thing hasn’t eaten in a month. The Starving Non-Waif may be so famished it will even pick at its food-mountain while loading up the plate. Perhaps shovelling a quick rasher of bacon into its mouth as it waddles along, say, just in case some unforeseen catastrophe strikes before it can get the food safely back to its table. My only advice: don’t watch a Starving Non-Waif eat if you want to hold down your own breakfast, as it is usually a grotesque display of high-speed food shovelling and open-mouthed chewing. Plus stay well clear of this creature at the buffet itself: in the mad frenzy to devour whatever they see, Starving Non-Waifs have been known to inadvertently bite off the fingers of those unsuspecting fellow guests who get too close.
Type Five: The Solo Lech
For reasons that remain entirely unclear to me, there are those who will opt to holiday in a mass-market resort even though they are solo. This creature is easy to spot – sitting at the pool, alone; drinking at the bar, alone; eating in a restaurant, alone. They can also be identified from their reaction to other hotel guests. For example, despite having made the odd choice to holiday alone in a family resort, this creature will then proceed to frequently cast murderous glances at noisy children, not to mention at their parents, as if to say: “I am trying to rest here, can’t you control your brats?” As a rule, The Solo Lech always appears to be miserable and depressed, and hardly ever smiles, except in one specific instance (from which the species derives its name). That is after dark, when the male of this species has the capacity to become incredibly animated and personable as it seeks to attract the attention of female wait-staff, or any other single females unlucky enough to cross its path. Even more remarkable, the Solo Lech appears completely impervious to the obvious lack of interest from said females, and the looks of disgust his conduct may attract from others.
Type Six: The Overzealous New Parents
A species that again is quite easy to spot. In the breakfast room, it will be the adult couple huddled around a single toddler regally perched in a high-chair. The adults will invariably be engaged in a furious fifteen minute debate as to whether Little Lord Fauntleroy’s morning banana should be sliced, diced into cubes, or mashed. In an elevator, these same folks will be pushing an SUV-sized pram, as well as carting at least two backpacks filled with every imaginable baby need: nutritionally appropriate snacks, nappies, bottles, toys, rattles, medical items, creams and lotions of all kinds, blankets, an entire wardrobe of baby clothes, camera, spare camera, video camera, and an iPad loaded with Baby Einstein DVDs. And also a satellite phone, lest a freak earthquake strikes, or an alien invasion army arrive while they are on vacation with bubby. After all, as every Overzealous New Parent will tell you, you can never be too prepared. As a species, this creature is generally harmless and best left to their own devices. Except in one very important respect, which is to never, ever, ever line up behind Overzealous New Parents in an airport security queue. Waiting for all their baby crap to be unloaded, scanned and then repacked will add twenty minutes to your wait, and dramatically increases your chances of becoming a baby-killer.
Type Seven: The Dragon Mother
It is estimated that when their offspring are about seven or eight, about one in fifty Overzealous New Parent females undergoes metamorphosis, and emerges as a Dragon Mother. These creatures typically then supervise a small collection of vacationing young children (often while their male counterpart plays golf), ruling over their roost with an iron fist. Signs you are in the presence of a Dragon Mother: children walking, not running; children sitting quietly at a dinner table and not throwing food around; children waiting politely for you to exit the elevator before they charge in; children waiting fifteen minutes after lunch before diving into the pool. Sometimes you may feel pity for these children, and feel the urge to do something to liberate them from the seemingly cruel, Jedi-like grip of the Dragon Mother. But the best advice is to let nature takes its course, and not interfere. In time you will come to fully appreciate the Dragon Mother, especially after an encounter with the next type of creature.
Type Eight: The Little Monster
That being a completely wild young child: a creature that despite its small size is utterly uncontrollable, noisy and destructive, and a danger not only to themselves but everyone else within fifty feet. Often the end product of Overzealous New Parents, a Little Monster lives for the sole purpose of terrorising other hotel guests. Very often, they appear to be entirely alone, as their parents hope that by distancing themselves and pretending they don’t know the kid you won’t hold them responsible. Little Monsters scream a lot, they shout and have tantrums, and some even swear. They drop food and play with food and toss food and spill drinks, and then still demand more. They pick up everything they see, they break most things they handle, and they often throw things as well. But they are at their most dangerous in a swimming pool, where you should stay well away unless you don’t mind the prospect of swimming through a warm patch of fresh child pee. Some forward-thinking hotels have sought to address this problem by adding a chemical to pool water that turns the water dark blue when urine is present, at least allowing you to avoid the most toxic Little Monster deposits. You have been warned.
Type Nine: The Sickening Honeymooners
Possibly the easiest of all to spot in the wild, these creatures come only in pairs, and seem to be perpetually engaged in nauseating acts of mutual fawning. They walk arm in arm; they stare dreamily into each other’s eyes all day; they feed each other; they watch the sunset together sipping one cocktail from two straws. All relatively benign except where they get a bit carried away, and then you might spot a pair of Sickening Honeymooners furiously making out on a deckchair, or inappropriately grinding in the pool. For which your natural inclination to yell out “get a room” is of no use, seeing they already obviously have one. Finally, it is also worth looking out for a specific Japanese sub-variety of this species, where not only will the Sickening Honeymooners engage in the aforementioned acts of mutual fawning, but will appear in public wearing matching outfits. And often, for reasons that science is yet unable to explain, with Hello Kitty designs printed on the back….
Type Ten: The Sports Junkie
You’re on holiday in an exotic location. The sun is shining; the weather is warm; the water is clear and blue and inviting. Why on earth then would you want to spend the entire day, if not the entire holiday, sitting at a bar staring intently at a TV screen, and watching one sports game after another as you shovel down jugs of beer and buckets of peanuts and nacho chips? Yet this is precisely what the Sports Junkie does. Even worse, this odious little creature will set about trying to ruin your day, by commentating endlessly, loudly discussing the minutia of every match detail with other nearby Sports Junkies (or the poor bar-staff who, being paid employees, have no choice but to smile and look like the actually give a shit), and from time to time shatter the peace and quiet with whoops of delight or howls of despair. This creature can become especially obnoxious towards the end of a long day at the bar, as it sinks further and further into a state of intoxication. Some countries have proposed laws to allow the orderly culling of Sports Junkies, but until then the only sure-fire method of self-protection is to stay the hell away from them.
Type Eleven: The Enlightened Ones
Another species easy to spot in the wild, Enlightened Ones are normally dressed in flowing all-natural linen trousers, baggy shirts, and an assortment of charms, amulets, and tribal jewellery. In a restaurant they will invariably order the “quinoa and mixed squash super-food salad”, or request a gluten-free alternative to the bread basket. Indeed an Enlightened One is usually vegetarian, or at the very least will only eat fish, although if and only if a certificate can be produced to prove the fish was reared organically and hand-caught by unexploited Ecuadorian native fishermen, say. Enlightened Ones practice yoga daily, read books with inspirational titles like “Live Your Life Potential” or “The Light is inside YOU!”, and with minimal prompting will tell you all about their guru, their spiritual voyage of discovery across India, or how they once channelled the Universe after eating peyote in the Mexican desert. All of which begs the obvious question: if you are so enlightened, what the fuck are you doing lounging poolside at the artificial lagoon in the Waikiki Hilton? Please, spare us all, and go back to your tree-house.
Type Twelve: The Russian Budgie-Smuggler
Over the past twenty years or so, a war for the future of male swim-suits has been fought. Board-shorts have emerged victorious. You know: knee-length slightly baggy swimming trunks which have become the official pool uniform for men the world over. Except, that is, in Russia, where for reasons known only to them Speedos remain the preferred choice. You know: underpants-like swimwear that reveals everything about the wearer’s male anatomy, and makes it look a lot like he has a budgie shoved down his crotch. If you see a guy prancing around in these abominations, then you need to know four important things. First, almost certainly he is Russian. Second, tightness is inversely correlated to attractiveness. So the fatter, uglier and hairier the wearer, the tighter and more offensive his swimsuit will be. Third, say nothing. Given he’s most likely Russian, he may well have no qualms with having you permanently silenced for slighting his swim togs. And finally, a Russian Budgie-Smuggler will invariably be trailed by a Russian Budgie-Smuggler’s Woman – normally six-foot tall, blonde, insanely beautiful, coated in a thick layer of glittering jewels, and wearing a miniscule leopard-print designer bikini. What’s so bad about that, you may well ask? Well, if you’re female, the Russian Budgie-Smuggler’s Woman will almost certainly make you feel inadequate. And if you’re male, you will spend the rest of your vacation obsessing over how it is that someone so fat, ugly and hairy can wind up with a six-foot tall insanely beautiful blonde bombshell on his arm, but you can’t…..
So there you have it: twelve of the most common types of wildlife you may encounter when on your next resort vacation. Useful information, I am sure, and feel free to send me updates of any new or rare creatures you may spot in the wild.
Who knows – perhaps one day I might even be able to interest the National Geographic Channel in a TV version.