Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Written by Sam Van den Haute aka CheckOutSam

Jezus fucking Christ. That’s exactly how I woke up on the twenty second of March. I got tons of messages from friends who knew I was leaving the country soon. Messages like “When did you leave again?” and “Good that you didn’t leave today!” I had no clue what happened and started to open some news apps on my phone. Quickly enough I know what happened. And it shocked me. Me and millions of people around the world.

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Sam Van den Haute has been a full-time world traveler for ten years and has therefore gained a lot of travel and lifestyle inspiration on all continents. Do you still have questions after reading this blog? Ask them in the comments section or send me a message at [email protected] and I'll be happy to help you wherever I can!

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Why on earth did these innocent victims get killed? People who just wanted to have a good time. Relax from the daily stress, maybe even escape from this dark, dark world we live in right now. And while they are dreaming of their holiday destination they get attacked without even being able to defend themselves…

All of this in my mind, together with the fact that I would leave two days later, from that very same airport at the exact hour when the bombings took place made me feel scared. Quite obviously I think.

The stories on TV, followed by yet another ridiculous and unnecessary bombing in Brussels, made me reconsider my vacation plans quite often

But isn’t that exactly what the terrorists want? They want us all to give up our values and comfortable life styles for something that makes us think of medieval times.

I refuse to give in to my fear. And thus I just decided to go on and travel. Next stop: Dominican Republic.

Scared to death, and you can take that quite literally, I left for the airport. With only three hours of sleep I got picked up by my private chauffeur; Yana. A girl with who I get along very well. Kind of my BFF, in modern terms.

Instead of leaving from Brussels Zaventem, my Jetair flight left from Oostende. A significantly smaller airport about 120 kilometers away from Brussels.

The ride goes easy, because there wasn’t that much traffic yet. When we finally arrived at the airport, we could immediately see the flashing blue lights of police cars. Police with scary looking guns were ready to inspect possible danger.

Because we talked about everything, I had already forgotten about the terror attacks that had plagued our country only two days ago. But, when seeing this… I of course immediately thought about it again.

After our goodbyes, I went into the departure hall with my two quite heavy bags. Me, and everyone else, was welcomed very friendly by a couple of stewards from Jetair.

“There is free breakfast for everyone, so take as much as you’d like!” If you would like a drink, then you can get one outside at the bus. Have a nice trip!”

Right in front me, there stood lots of boxes with Belgian pastries we eat for breakfast. Most delicious things ever! We call them ‘ontbijtkoeken’ or ‘koffiekoeken’.

If you translate them literally, they would be called ‘breakfast cakes’ or ‘coffee cakes’.

Because I am backpacking all alone, I of course also sit alone. Obviously a suspicious signal for a lot of people, because I immediately notice the many scared faces looking into my direction.

When I pick up my bags a moment later to go to the restroom, I get even more turning faces.

Scary. Very scary what a cowardly act of terror does with people!

I have to be honest though, because I immediately notice looking around myself. Trying to scan the whole departure hall for suspicious behaviour.

There’s a lot of people here. A lot more than I suspected there would be. Sometimes, armed police forces pass by.

What an alienating atmosphere passes through our little country these last couple of days… Luckily I will be a couple of thousand miles away in about ten hours, where I will enjoy a carefree vacation. Well… There’s always fear… Because my friends and family still are here.

After some more minutes to hours delay, waiting in line and a nine and a half hour flight it’s time to land. The flight has been very comfortable and the hundreds of Dominicans left their first impression on me already: loud but always happy!

When we fly a lot lower it seems as if we have become some kind of theme park attraction. The whole plane shakes and moves and some of the passengers seem to have lost gravity when they jump up in the air.

The loud Dominicans become even louder and start to yell more and more. When one woman starts to pray as if there’s no tomorrow, I can’t keep my smile in anymore. I burst out in laughing! It seriously isn’t that bad of a flight!

One, two, three… A lot more women start to pray to God and ask him to get a save landing.

The women sitting next to me starts to cry and her daughter tries to comfort her.

I still am smiling but try to look outside to see the closing-in city.

When the daughter and I make eye contact, she rolls her eyes and tells me that her mother is a drama queen: “It’s not bad. Every flight like this.” She tells me in poor English.

Once we landed, everything runs smoothly. After we got out of the plane, we needed to fill out a couple of forms and get our Tourist Card ($10 or €10). After that, I exchange some money and I wait at the border control.

When that is finally over, I pick up my backpack and only have to wait a little while longer to arrive in the arrival hall.

The first thing I do is go buy a sim card (always comes in handy!) and right after that I head to my pre-booked shuttle.

After waiting a little while, a friendly non-English speaking driver picks me up and brings me a couple of kilometers further; in the old part of Santo Domingo: The Zona Colonial.

A lot of people think traffic is horrible in the Dominican Republic, but honestly… I think it’s not that bad. Especially when compared to Asia!

On internet I try to do a little more research to see what is definitely worth a visit here, but since it already starts to get dark, I decide not to go out anymore. The touristic parts in the Dominican Republic are quite safe, because there is a lot of police. But once it get’s dark, it’s better to stay inside.

Anyway… I’m tired! At 8 PM I already head to my comfortable bunk bed in the hostel that I’m staying in.

Tomorrow I will go explore the Zona Colonial!

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