On a recent trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands, I ate dinner with a man who planted his face into a bowl of yellowtail sashimi covered in yuzu foam. The man was one of seven other writers seated at a table on the patio of a resort overlooking the ocean. We were there on what is called a “press trip,” a multi-day visit to a resort where magazine writers are wined, dined, and pampered in hopes they will return home to write glowingly about their experience.
While these trips have taken me to some of the most luxurious properties in the world, they often are far from relaxing. To give writers the full experience of all of the amenities and activities a resort has to offer, the visits are usually scheduled down to the exact minute. And to grease the writers’ wheels, much of the schedule involves some type of alcohol. More than once have I returned from a press trip in need of three days in bed and a full blood transfusion.
Our first full day in the Virgin Islands started with mimosas on the beach followed by a Bloody Mary–fueled tour of the property. Then it was off to lunch and bottomless Bushwackers, a frozen mix of vodka, amaretto, Baileys, Kahlúa, and coconut cream. That was followed by an afternoon of wine tasting and then a sunset cocktail cruise around the island. By the time we sat down for our alfresco dinner, I was certain any mosquito that bit me would have to immediately check into rehab.
The man sitting next to me at dinner, a young writer named Phillip, was in a particularly advanced state of lubrication. This was Phillip’s first press trip, and while he had been shy and reserved during the morning’s activities, by the cocktail cruise he’d become the life of the party. But somewhere between the catamaran and the patio, Phillip crossed that line of inebriation that transforms one from gregarious storyteller into sleepy toddler. “Are you ok?” I whispered to Phillip as he stared blankly at the bowl of sashimi sitting before him. When he didn’t answer, I leaned over to speak to the woman sitting to my left, but she was busy clinking Champagne glasses with two of the other writers. I turned back just in time to watch Phillip’s face slowly descend toward the sashimi. At first I thought he was making a close examination of the dish, but soon his nose and mouth were fully submerged in the bowl. It was only when I jabbed him with my elbow that he sprang upright, his beard dripping with delicious yuzu foam.
A few months later, during a press trip to Costa Rica, I told this story to a group of fellow writers as we sat on the beach drinking rum punch. When I finished the cautionary tale of “Foam Faced Phillip,” another writer shook her head and said, “I can beat that. A couple of years ago I was on a press trip in a small town in Italy and a writer got so drunk at the welcome party she ended up sleeping with the mayor. Now they’re married.” We raised our rum-filled coconut shells in honor of the happy couple.
In a couple of weeks, I’m scheduled to attend a press trip in Park City, Utah, and I can’t help but wonder what alcohol-inspired adventures await. Will I nap in a bowl of raw fish, or go for a roll in the mayor’s bed? The possibilities are as endless as my thirst.