Is Cancun real life?

Like many of you, I’m in spring break recovery mode. This was the first — read: only — year of college I did something adventurous. I’ve spent the previous three breaks sitting at home with my parents and puppies, but this year — the last year, the last spring break — would be different. I was headed to Cancun with my five best friends.

Between lounging, zip-lining and hitting up the spa, I was pretty busy — but I had some time to think on the 12-hour trek back to Charlottesville. I was seated next to strangers for a solid three hours, and there’s something about a window seat that makes me think I’m more reflective than the blue water I was swimming in just hours prior.

In a lot of ways our time at the resort was a first-year throwback. Hotels are hall-style by default — though as much as I love Dabney, the resort was a bit nicer and undoubtedly newer. Everyone at the resort was on good behavior and looking to make friends, in a way only seen during the first week of first year. Saying “hi” to our new friends in the various restaurants was equivalent to seeing the “new best friends” you made at frats last night at O’Hill Sunday brunch. And just like in the first-year party scene, some people even developed reputations more quickly than you would have thought possible. In fairness, the resort was also host to far more small children and older folks than O’Hill has ever seen.

But in more important ways, spring break was a window into the real world, and for me, a look into the future — minus the maid service, all-inclusive amenities, an endless pool and a beach only a few steps away. Although my thoughts about graduation have been firmly fixated on having to say goodbye to my friends and my beloved Charlottesville, my week in Cancun opened my eyes to the possibilities of my post-graduation life.

Just being in the airport is the epitome of possibility. Have a little time between your flights? You can go to the wine bar, hit up Bojangles, shop at Brooks Brothers or even get a mani-pedi. So. Many. Choices.

Moreover, you can go anywhere — the world is your oyster. This became even clearer to me when I got on the wrong people-mover and headed to the complete opposite side of the airport. With only 10 minutes to make it to my flight, I was a lone wolf — separated from my pack, who all had the sense to go the right way. I still made my flight, because, at the risk of sounding cliché, everyone ultimately finds his way. There are hiccups and bumps along the way, but we all make our connection or get to our final destination eventually. The people who fare best are those who remain calm and realistic.
Then there was the vacation itself. The hotel bar was a window into post-grad social life. There are new friends out there to be made, people! Awesome people exist far beyond the reaches of the U.Va. bubble.

Three siblings from London can turn out to be your new lifelong best friends — or maybe you should chat with those two weird brothers from Missouri. Either way, they’re your friends for the making. Wherever I am, I can make new friends, and knowing that feels better than the spa’s 25-minute back massage.

And that appreciation for life doesn’t have to end when we cross the more nebulous boundary from recent-grad to 30-something: old people can be super cool. Maybe it’s only the 60-year-olds hip enough to go to the Hard Rock Café, but rest assured, coolness doesn’t have an age limit.

I don’t mean to imply that everyone I met was wonderful and I’ve come back with dozens of new friends. Minnesota Adam, who stretched before showing us his “best dance move” — a failed handstand on a swivel barstool — was probably not worth our time. But even people like him can be fun an entertaining if kept at the appropriate distance.

I came back from this resort week relaxed, not because of the weather but because I feel reassured heading into my uncertain future.

So even at checkout, when Johnny cut our resort wristbands off and told us it was time to go back to the real world, I felt okay. Plus, I’m a quarter of a shade more tanned than I was a week ago.

Abbi’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at

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