In Which We Go To Ixtapa With Olivia Travel, Give Ourselves To The Sea

Since Autostraddle’s very first year of existence, I’ve been asking the goddesses — and every ad person we’ve ever worked with — to get me on an Olivia trip. It almost became a running joke, how much I wanted to go on an Olivia trip and how much everybody in my alleged group of supporters was unable to make that shit happen. For a good six months I honed an e-mail draft that I planned to send directly to Olivia, taking matters into my own hands, but never took the plunge, continuing to hold out hope that somebody who knew what they were doing would sweep in, pick me up, and drop me on a cruise ship with thousands of lesbians, barreling towards some beaches or glaciers.

Finally, in early 2016, the heavens opened up and bestowed upon then-Business Director Alex Vega an email asking for a meeting — they wanted to work with us on introducing Olivia to a new generation of travelers. Olivia, which began as a record label for women’s music in the early 1970s and later transitioned to a travel company, is the most successful lesbian-owned lesbian-targeted business of all time. Much like Autostraddle birthed A-Camp, Olivia Records birthed Olivia Travel. Since their first cruise in 1990, which sold out in a week, the company has been providing much-needed safe spaces for gay women to have a kickass vacation and connect with other people like them.

Which brings me to our trip! In November 2016, Team Autostraddle hopped a plane to a place none of us had ever been before: Ixtapa, Mexico. Our travel crew included me, our Business/Design Director Sarah Sarwar, and Abby and Kaylah, who’ve both worked at A-Camp. Before we get too deep into this, let’s get this out of the way: Abby was my fiancee when we planned the trip, but as of a week or so prior to the trip, that was no longer the case. So we were definitely setting ourselves up for success! Would we still have a blast? YES. Well, here’s our very true story, as told by me, Sarah and Kaylah.

Riese: After parking in the wrong garage and taking what felt like a horse-drawn-carriage-speed shuttle to the right terminal and taking a pathway to our gate that involved traversing the length of the Westin Hotel at Detroit Metro airport and subjecting ourselves to what appeared to be a pop-up TSA pod, we felt grateful to have made it to the gate in time to sit on the ground for a few minutes while wondering if Sarah was gonna miss her flight.

Sarah: I was so late to the airport that I didn’t have time to check my bag, so I was literally throwing over-3-ounce bottles into nearby trash bins as I ran towards the security checkpoint like a maniac, only to finally arrive at the gate and see everyone was still in line, waiting to board.

Riese: Sarah showed up sweaty and exhausted about half an hour after we did, having run several half-marathons to make it on time. But it was cool! It was fine! Because we were gonna be on the beach really soon, and it was gonna be great.

Sarah: After I saw the lengthy lines I keeled over with hands on my knees to catch my breath, when I looked up I saw that Riese was casually leaning against the wall, laughing at me.

Riese: We met up with Kaylah at the Mexico City airport, had some food while watching old Menudo videos, and then jetted off to Ixtapa to meet up with the shuttle bus that’d TAKE US TO THE LESBIANS. Although to be fair; our jet was 100% lesbians too. But the entire world out-gayed itself when we got to Ixtapa baggage claim and a butch with a military-style crewcut and cargo pants revealed that in fact she was wearing TEAR-AWAY CARGO PANTS that she could turn into shorts ON THE SPOT. The shuttle took us through town while the Club Med host told us about trapeze, a strip club called ‘Jaguars’ and All The Best Markets.


A picture Sarah drew in her Notes app, inspired by our tour guide

Sarah: The shuttle full of lesbians was a strong indicator that we weren’t in Kansas anymore. We disembarked in front of Club Med, just a giant outpour of lesbian humans. The Olivia team was waiting for us in a wide hall decorated with hacienda-style clay tiles and statues, passing out lemonade.

Riese: Everybody was just so stoked to be there, including Sara Stone, our Official Ambassador, who was our age and A VERY GOOD TIME.

Sarah: Sara is the best – I love her energy! After a celebratory cheers to a great week ahead, we were led to our rooms in the Iguana complex, named after the actual iguanas who hang out nearby. We were very pleased with our room: a suite that began with two single beds, followed by an enormous jacuzzi with a glass shower, and then the main room with an enormous bed and a living space, followed by a sliding glass door that opened onto a balcony with views of the resort and the ocean. It was perfect! Plus there were these little gifts on the bed from Olivia, including schedules of the week ahead.

Riese: We went to our first dinner and saw so many old friends reuniting and there was just so much positive energy everywhere.

Sarah: The dining room had a freakin’ taco bar so I was SET.

Riese: Julie Goldman and Brandy Howard were gonna be there for the first few days so I was texting Brandy like WHERE R U. It’d been two years since I’d seen them and we used to be super-close! Everything from here is a blur until we were at La Estrella — the bar / night-time hangout — already tipsy, and I was running into Brandy’s arms. Everything felt damp and warm and happy.

Sarah: Yes! We were having a gay time drinking with Brandy and Julie, and this (maybe constantly wasted but very attentive) Club Med waiter kept taking orders for drinks. Brandy would order, let’s say, a tequila soda or something, and moments later the guy would return with a full round of tequila sodas! It was brutal! We had to drink them!

Riese: In my experience, Open Bar situations tend to dole out cheap, watered-down mixed drinks, but not these guys. Maybe they’re just aiming for efficiency, but double-shots of tequila quickly add up and we found ourselves at an outdoor table completely filled with glasses by the end of the evening. I think somebody was ordering rounds prior to us finishing initial rounds?

Sarah: After Riese and Abby left, Kaylah and I journeyed to Club O, which’s what La Estrella becomes at night. It was clearly the hottest (only) nightclub at the resort but on the first night, was not exactly packed. The DJ played for small groups of gay women swaying casually to their own interpretation of the beat. We got our FREE ALL INCLUSIVE DRINKS and hit the dance floor. That’s when I learned that Kaylah knew exactly the type of dancing that flooded my heart with joy. The two of us swirled around each other, using our bodies as interpretive vessels for the joy we felt being on vacation for a WHOLE WEEK IN MEXICO! What would the following days bring? They stretched before us, like the gorgeous beach outside, inviting us to dive in…

Riese: If you wanna feel good about yourself and how much you drank the night before, I highly recommend strolling onto your balcony and looking outside to see Butch Yoga in full bloom. And then going to the breakfast buffet!

Kaylah: So, buffets are like… My THING, but I often got overwhelmed with the options. At breakfast I was wandering around the buffet looking like an idiot when I laid eyes on the most beautiful golden triangular hash browns I’d ever seen in my life. These hash browns quickly became the only reason I woke up in the morning after endless shots of tequila and few hours of sleep. In the mornings I’d roll over, look at Sarah, and whisper… “I want hash browns.”

Riese: After breakfast, we retreated to the pool for Julie & Brandy’s pool games. I’d secretly hoped we wouldn’t get WiFi so that everybody could BE PRESENT IN THE MOMENT but it was quickly confirmed on this day that everybody got service — EXCEPT SARAH. Sarah kept my dream alive.

Sarah: I was connected to a slower wifi for the rest of the trip, but was perfectly okay with that–there were plenty of stimulating things happening to keep my ADHD at bay. Kaylah and I had settled into the truth that being at a resort for a week meant it was also perfectly okay to day-drink and do absolutely nothing.

Riese: Julie & Brandy’s pool games involved, mostly, people transferring pieces of fruit from one body to another body without using hands, and it got real sexual real quick because DAMN these ladies were there to have FUN! The raunchy jokes got big laughs and I sat on the edge of the pool with Sarah with our feet in the water. Everybody was just so down for whatever, which’s a big departure from how my generation tends to party, which is with, uh, you know. Very sensitive to all the things! It was kinda refreshing to be in that space for a week — not in a Dinah Shore way, because the majority of travelers were over 45, so it was more of a “life is hard and used to be even harder, let’s have fun and be grateful for this space!” vibe than a “so many hot girls let’s get drunk and fuck” vibe. I’d say it was like 75% couples, but they also had a specific “Solos” program for travelers who’d come alone, and they always seemed to be having the best time.

Sarah: After the pool games, Kaylah and I got some mojitos from the beach bar and headed down to the beach. There were these enormous canopy beds draped in billowy white fabric lining the beach and we settled in to people-watch. Lesbians were playing in the surf, walking around hand-in-hand, and cozying up on the sand. We talked about YA novels and bad romance audiobooks and eventually discovered that we both read Longer Letter Later and the Georgia Nicholson series when we were kids. Wild! I hadn’t ever met another soul who knew those books! THANKS OLIVIA!

Riese: At 4pm we hosted our first activity of the week, “Write Something With Autostraddle.” I made Kaylah and Sarah come as my assistants ‘cause the bar was loud and I was nervous that nobody would show up! But people actually showed up! A lot of them knew Autostraddle, a lot of them loved writing, and one of them was very loud and asked me weird questions during periods of time that were designated “silent periods” for writing. In addition to meeting many humans my age, we met Jenny Block, renowned sexpert and author of many books and articles, and Kathy Belge, known as “Dipstick” of “Lipstick & Dipstick” to Curve magazine readers.

Sarah: One of the writing prompts was writing down a fear we had or a challenge we were nervous to face, and afterwards, Riese collected everybody’s fears and gave them to other writers in the group to write us a short story about conquering that fear or accomplishing that challenge. At the end of the workshop, everybody got the story somebody else had written for them, and read it out loud. Then this happened:

Person 1: My fear was that I’ll never have sex again.
[shortly after]
Person 2: My fear was that I’ll never make out with anyone again.
Jenny Block: You two should talk!

Kaylah: My new favorite person in the world, Jenny Block, helped orchestrate a steamy situation that I later had to tell all my friends about. (There were makeouts involved)

Riese: I basically wrote Julie Goldman fan-fic. Speaking of: her show that night left us all laughing so hard our sides hurt. Like we wished it could’ve gone on and on and on forever because it was so good and so funny and so on point about everything, including our communal excitement over Hillary Clinton’s ascendency to the throne, scheduled for two days down the road. SO BITTERSWEET. Abby, Sarah and Kaylah were laughing so hard they almost fell off their chairs.

Sarah: The way she used her body for physical humor was so damn funny!

Riese: After Julie’s show we begin building our reputation as “the drunk teenagers at the bar every night” at the Glow Party, which involved glow paint and music and of course, more tequila.

Riese: At some point I was outside having a teary conversation with Brandy about how much we miss each other, and then at another point Abby and I were in the pool because somebody told us it was okay to skinny dip after midnight, which may or may not have been true? It felt true, though. So wet with sun-warm skin and tequila pulsing through our collective veins, it was time for bed.

Riese: If you wanna feel good about yourself and how much you drank the night before, I highly recommend strolling onto your balcony and looking outside to see a Butch/Femme soccer tournament led by Olympian soccer player Brianna Scurry in full bloom! And then you can go to the ocean.

The ocean, y’all. The incredible ocean! And the beach that stretches and stretches on, and lawn chairs that are like giant beds, really. The pool was great but the ocean, the ocean was really something else. So that’s where Abby and I went before heading into town to check out a rumored “market” in Ixtapa that’d be full of great finds and wares. Our cab driver insisted there was a better market in Zihuatanejo, and because we are totally chill/impulsive people, we were like “okay!” and he took us there instead. Plus there was no wireless, and it was nice to be disconnected and wandering around a new place.

Sarah: That afternoon, Kaylah and I headed to the auditorium to watch the charismatic Jenny Block wow us with her self-taught knowledge of how to achieve the most explosive orgasm of your life, and learned about how Betty Dodson made her cum. My favorite part of this talk was when Jenny was explaining the three key areas for a perfect orgasm, and asked the audience if they knew what the third one was. A literal 80 year old woman shouted “MY ASSHOLE!” She wasn’t wrong!

Riese: Zihuatenejo is a beach town, busy with people headed from school or work, blocks lined with tiny stores selling blankets, jewelry, sunglasses, dresses. We had a decent lunch at a mostly empty open-air restaurant. We ran into a Club Med employee at the bank, and met his family and told him we’d see him tomorrow. We walked down to the beach, then, and got ice cream bars we didn’t really like, and we looked at the statues and the murals and it was really cool. After a few hours we took a cab back and headed to dinner. It looked like it was about to rain and before long, it was raining. HARD. Julie Goldman hates the rain but we loved it.

Sarah: We did get rained out of the scheduled beach party, so everyone headed into Club O, donned in their swimsuits and swimming trunks w/ bikini tops (classic lesbian beachwear), but we still had a fantastic night! I think this is the night Riese and Jenny were officially introduced? It’s hard to remember the details of most Club O nights…

Kaylah & our new friend Christin enjoying the Olivia nightlife.

Kaylah & our new friend Christin enjoying the Olivia nightlife.

Riese: It’s hard to talk about this day without seeing it like a disaster movie, or like the flashbacks in LOST when everybody boards the plane and all their clothes are clean and their demeanor optimistic and they have no idea that they’re about to spend years on a magical twisting island tormented by a smoke monster and the guy from Person of Interest with a brief cameo from Michelle Rodriguez. We were so innocent in the morning, all of us. We were just a bunch of lesbians at a resort in Mexico, enjoying the sunshine, living life, navigating the complications of being on a vacation with your ex, watching the news with vague detachment and confidence!

Sarah: It really was an inconspicuous beginning of a soon-to-be horrific day. We had all put in our absentee ballots before leaving for Mexico, and I felt pretty confident that everyone in America agreed with my decision to elect Hillary Clinton. We knew we were in good company–all the women at the resort were strolling around high-fiving in their Hillary gear, discussing what a wonderful life we were all about to lead with our first female president.

Jenny had invited Kaylah and I to the morning Hip-Hop dance class with Aarin Burch, who is a powerful and beautiful soul. We had a blast learning choreography to “Rude Boy”. We were totally unaware that at that very moment, probably thousands of rude people were in voting booths making terrible decisions.

Kaylah: I loved having Aarin as an instructor. I don’t normally move my hips when it’s light out, so it was a really nice change.

Sarah: After class was over, Aarin passed out these tiny heart charms that said “I See You.” She explained that even if we felt unseen, she saw the beauty in us and wanted us to be reminded of that every day. It was one of those moments that’s hard to describe, but it was so meaningful and definitely a stand-out of the week in Ixtapa.

Riese: That afternoon was the AUTOSTRADDLE POOL PARTY, which began with Sarah and I hosting pool games (read; wearing bikinis while making sex jokes) and lead into Abby DJ’ing a tightly curated mixed-decade playlist for two hours. It turns out that there is a 75-year-old white lesbian who knows the entirety of “99 problems” and can perform it for you at a moment’s notice.

Kaylah: The pool party was SO MUCH FUN!! At this point I was hooked up to a pina colada IV, dancing to “Back Dat Ass Up” and “Thong Song.”

Riese: In the late afternoon Abby and I had massages, because we love massages more than anything else in the world, even breakfast buffets, and this felt like important research for our trip. They were on these wooden platforms by the beach, protected by canvas curtains that let the light and the ocean sounds in but kept our mostly-naked bodies concealed. It was one of those massages that if either masseuse had offered me an additional hour for another ten million dollars mid-massage, I would’ve quickly said yes. It was quiet and gorgeous and perfect and that was good, because the whole world was about to change!

Sarah: Jenny Block was stationed at the pool in one of those amazing beds for what was called “Getting in Bed with Jenny Block.” This was such a great opportunity that the Olivia staff gave us to connect with a sexpert and ask for her advice in a one-on-one situation. Kaylah and I definitely made sure we got in our five minutes with Jenny, who was quickly becoming our favorite person at the resort.

Riese: We’d made plans to have dinner with Julie and Brandy, which turned into dinner with Julie and Brandy and Dana Goldberg and a bunch of Olivia staff members. They told stories from previous trips and we were all getting stoked for the election party to come that night.

Were we ever so young

Sarah: In the evening I headed out to the beach alone, feeling out of sorts and strange. I took off my sandals and waded into the water and looked up at the sky, which was darkening with a storm that was rolling in from the north. It felt ominous, like something bad was going to happen, and I started to feel an overwhelming anxiety – despite my surroundings, despite the fact that I was in Mexico, on vacation, I couldn’t help but start to lose hope that the night wasn’t going to go the way I had imagined. I was about to head back into the resort when I saw a small, faint rainbow amidst all the gloomy clouds, and for just a moment, a tiny moment, I felt a sense of optimism. That no matter what the outcome of the election, there would always be hope. It reminded me not to lose that hope, even in the most dire circumstances.

Riese: In 2008, I was living in Harlem when Obama won the Presidency of the United States, which means i was able to celebrate his election in Central Harlem and watch his speech on a huge monitor there and it was exactly the best place to be in that historic moment. And fuck was I ready to experience this night with hundreds of lesbians, who’d been wearing their Hillary gear all day and were excited to bash the Donald Trump pinata.

Sarah: The night was young, and women began gathering in La Estrella, filling up the chairs set up in front of the huge monitor. People we’re actually laughing and chatting with their friends, and the energy in the room was relaxed and confident. I’m normally the most optimistic person ever, but for some reason I wasn’t in that state of mind. I felt impending doom.

Riese: I was hanging out with Julie and Brandy at La Estrella, and Brandy was nervous and therefore getting us lots of tequila. They called Ohio for Trump. We had another round of tequila shots. Abby went back to the room to lie down. Still, I couldn’t believe this wouldn’t go our way!

Sarah: I was chain-smoking because it’s what I do under serious stress and pressure, and was passing out cigarettes to Riese and Jenny who were just as shaken as I was. We were all panicking, the smoke from our cigs rising in the air like a signal from a hellfire on earth.

Riese: I don’t smoke but I was, against all odds, chain-smoking like a maniac. And furiously texting with Kristin.

Sarah: The party was awful at that point. Pretty much every lesbian in the room had the same stony expressions that we did. We were all utterly destroyed and pissed and perhaps having out of body dissociations with what was actually happening.

Riese: Florida went to Trump. Abby was hungry, so I went to the after-hours Quesdailla/French Fries restaurant (i mean they have other things on the menu, but, we all know what the point of the place was) and brought her some food. Then I went back to the “party.” It was a sad affair. They called Utah for Trump. Kaylah was on the phone crying, Sarah was sitting next to me crying. Nothing made sense, everything was terrible. But we were also in this beautiful place surrounded by these beautiful people. What do we do now?

Sarah’s texts from last night

Sarah: At the end of the night the Trump piñatas were DESTROYED. They looked as if they had taken a serious, serious beating.

a destroyed donald trump piñata hangs in an auditorium full of depressed lesbians in ixtapa mexico

Riese: Everybody was sad. Everybody at breakfast was sad, even though the hash browns were there and they’re just like McDonald’s hash browns except bigger and free. But it was… somewhat easier, or affirming, I guess, that we were in this hellscape together, all of us nervous about what happens next. After breakfast we went to La Estrella to watch Hillary Clinton’s concession speech.

Some people there together, others alone. Some very old, some very young. I wanted to ask the octogenarians everything, how this feels, how this should feel, what it was like to have been them and to be here and experiencing this with us… but instead I just cried.

Sarah: I met up with Riese at La Estrella to watch Obama’s speech. As he was speaking, this incredible light flooded the place where he stood and the sunshine made a literal halo around his face. He looked like a goddamn angel.

Riese: I felt this profound cognitive dissonance between the beauty of my surroundings and the facts of my life, both personal and political. Two things I never thought would happen had happened, and neither of them entirely made sense to me. I didn’t know yet how much worse things would get, how everything would turn out to be more fucked up than I ever imagined possible at the time. But, then. There was just this time, this ambiguous fear and confusion, these women, all of us being sad together.

Sarah: I cried as the reality of our situation really tightened its focus.

Riese: Every morning we’d walk by 11:15 AM Water Aerobics in the pool like it was a thing other people did. Maybe we’d observe, detached, while prone and lightly sunscreened. But this day? This day I was like “Sarah, we are doing water aerobics right now.” I think that was the first of many moments when I realized how lucky I was to have these distractions immediately available to me — but not in a “denial” way, rather in a way that we were all in this together, everybody at this resort, and were doing what we could to avoid just crying constantly.

Sarah: It was a perfect distraction to the horror of the night before. For a moment in our day we were just bobbing up and down in the water doing these ridiculously impossible moves, crying-laughing, led by a very energetic woman who seemingly revelled in our pain and suffering by skipping up and down the poolside and shouting commands.

Riese: It felt good to be underwater, our limbs as weightless as our hope, kicking and pushing and splashing in a casual floating formation, feeling weak but also alive.

Kaylah: Surprising absolutely no one, I lounged behind the water aerobics instructor looking effortlessly cute while everyone bobbed around in the water. It was hilarious. I liked seeing the pain on their faces.

Sarah: After water aerobics, I headed to a healing yoga session with Richelle, who had altered the course of her traditional yoga class to help dissipate some of our collective sadness. When we entered the very fitting “corpse” pose (the final resting pose), Richelle asked us to do one simple thing: yell. The quiet room filled with the rage of 50 lesbians, our faces screwed up and mouths open, bellowing as loud as we possibly could. Then we did it again. The screaming helped. It really did. Untapped fury that brews in the chest and the mind sometimes just needs an outlet, and I’m really glad I was in that space to get it out.

Riese: I dealt with my pain in the typical way I deal with my pain: by getting an overpriced pedicure. It was great! The spa looked really tranquil and nice overall. Excellent massage chairs, I highly recommend A++.

Sarah: During lunch, Tisha Floratos, the Vice President of Travel, was rushing around informing everybody that there’d be a healing session later in the day. We showed up that afternoon to find hundreds of women gathered in front of a platform overlooking the water, and somehow, even through the horribly sad news that had plagued all of us since the night before, we had come together to find peace and solace. Olivia put on an incredible series of talks, poetry and music, and we sat together in solidarity, finally able to realize what a wonderful gift it was to be in a queer space in such a terribly hard time. Jenny Block gave a speech she later published on the Huffington Post.

Sarah: Then three medicine women led us to the beach and invited us to release our fears into the ocean. Some stood at the water’s edge, staring into the horizon, lost in private thoughts. Some waded into the ocean, scooping up and splashing their faces with water. Some screamed and cried. Some stripped down to nothing and swam way out, letting the waves crash over their bodies. The medicine women lit sage and let it surround us. We all mourned our loss, we all did it together. It was exactly what our community needed in that moment, and I feel extremely lucky to have been there in such a pivotal and scary moment.

Riese: Kaylah’s birthday was the next day, which was kind of a bummer for Kaylah — but it meant we really had to rally and put some energy into making this night A SUCCESS.

Sarah: Sandra Valls put on an incredible comedy show that night and had everyone laughing hysterically. Then we were on our way to Club O to celebrate Kaylah’s birthday. It was time to DRINK TO FORGET, which was a perfect cocktail for an amazing night. We ordered countless rounds of tequila shots and danced our brains out.

Kaylah: This whole day was pretty turnt but once midnight came around and I became a quarter century hoe (25 years old) the party intensified. I did what birthday girls do and didn’t turn down a drink all night.

Sarah: The incredibly cute, charming and talented bartenders had consistently fed us perfect tequila since day 1. But on the eve of Kaylah’s birthday, they pulled out all the stops.

Sarah: Around midnight Rafa poured us what can only be described as a magic–somehow one shaker contained six separately colored shots. It was very on-brand for the Olivia attendees and for Kaylah’s queer quarter century hoe aesthetic.

taste the rainbow

Kaylah: Once the party started to wind down, all I could think about were hashbrowns.

Sarah: Let’s be honest, your number one feeling in Mexico was hashbrowns.

Riese: Abby and I greeted the dawn, grabbed breakfast and coffee and went to the pool to become certified scuba divers. Pretty much everything within the resort is included in the cost — including tennis lessons, trapeze, sailing, etc. — but there are also optional excursions you can pay for through the Club Med Discovery Center, which works with local travel companies. There’s adventures including snorkeling, a half-day sailing and lobster lunch trip, a magical sunset cruise, cultural/historical tours of nearby villages and the coast, deep sea fishing, horseback riding in Playa Larga, something involving sea-turtles and lots of other options.

Our trip was a half-day scuba dive, starting with learning the ropes and how to exist in a wetsuit with an oxygen tank in the pool with our instructor, and then going into Zihuatanejo, where we met up with two guys who’d be driving the boat, and another instructor who looked like the girl who used to be in charge of the renovations in early seasons of Hotel Impossible. I had a crush on that girl so that’s why I remember. There was another Olivia guest on our trip, from Indiana, who had scuba diving on her bucket list.

We took the boat out to a secluded area of the ocean. It was grey outside and the water was dusty, and we were lowered one by one into the very deep seas and it was really cool! I wasn’t super-good at breathing and they had to load Abby and I with a lot of actual weights to get our tiny bodies to stay underwater, but the time I managed to spend down there felt way cooler than the IMAX. SEA LIFE! The instructor was great and so were the boat guys. It was such a cool experience.

Sarah: We happened to be at the pool during the start of water aerobics, and I ran into Tisha who asked if I’d be joining in. I was so jazzed to be talking to her that I immediately said yes, before realizing that I wasn’t wearing a bathing suit under my clothes. So. I got into the pool in my bra and underwear. See! There are so many benefits to being in queer spaces. You’re just like “oh, no cis-het men sprinkled into this mix? COOL I’LL JUST BE IN MY UNDERWEAR DOING AEROBICS”

Riese: We returned to the resort with time to shower and eat before I was hosting Lesbian Pop Culture Bar Trivia with Sarah and Kaylah. The turnout was awesome — a great mix of older and younger women, and I’d designed my questions accordingly. I’m always fascinated by what turns out to be common knowledge and what only a few people in the room know. I offered random bonus points for things like spelling Cara Delevingne’s name correctly. Everybody had so much fun! Including us!

Sarah: We had a lot of dedicated trivia fans–I must say, it was a very steep competition. They were not messing around. My favorite thing about this was how we kept announcing that it was Kaylah’s 25th birthday over the mic.

Riese: It was important pop culture trivia, Kaylah having her birthday.

Sarah: It worked out for everyone because we made it a bonus question at the end! +2 points!

Riese: Julie and Brandy had left on the 9th and Rhea and Cameron had gotten in that same day but we hadn’t seen them yet. I imagined they were hiding in their chateau, feeling like bottomless pits of despair. When we got to the Conference Center that night for Rhea’s show, Cameron found us immediately and subsequently confirmed that yes, indeed, they had been hiding in their chateau feeling like bottomless pits of despair.

Riese: I was stoked for Rhea’s show. Cameron was stoked to hear the official Olivia theme song, which I cannot reveal to you because I want you to experience it as she did, like a virgin, touched by the music for the very first time, when you take your first Olivia trip.

Sarah: This was the best surprise, I had no idea Olivia had a theme song and it raised me to the highest of emotional heights every night! Watching everyone hold one another and sing passionately truly gelled the notion that we were in a very special, unique place.

Riese: Rhea usually opens with “My name is Rhea Butcher. It’s funny because it’s true, I am butcher than all of you,” and everybody went pretty wild when she amended it for this crowd — “but I don’t think that this joke works here. I’m pretty sure a lot of you are butcher than me.” Everybody whooped for that. I love Rhea’s comedy and it’s always transformative to be in a room with a bunch of people experiencing the same tragedy, and having the same outsized need to rip it open with jokes.

Sarah: We had an amazing turn-out at Lesbian Pop Culture Bar Trivia so there were plenty of folks who knew it was Kaylah’s birthday! Thus ensued many shots taken by groups of lovely lesbians who wanted to celebrate with us!

Riese: Abby and I were so tired from getting up early to scuba after staying out late the night before but could not compound the tragedy of the Death of America by being tragic for Kaylah, so we did our very absolute best to rally. I went back to the room for a bit and came back to find my friends perhaps drunker than ever before. Robin, Jenny’s wife and Sara kept buying us rounds of premium tequila.

Kaylah: The hashbrowns weren’t the only stars of the show. The resort could also make a mean french fry. After the buffets close, there is a small restaurant where you can order food until 1am, but Sarah and I never make it before closing because dancing until the lights come on is very important to us.

Riese: I heard Kaylah talking about french fries so I went down to the snack bar. Because it’s the only place serving food that late, literally everybody is there, and everybody is drunk, and most of them are picking up carbs to soak up the tequila their roommate or girlfriend just imbibed. But it was Kaylah’s birthday. So.

Kaylah: Sarah and I were on the dance floor of Club O and probably 123 shots deep when Riese appears at the entrance with a plate full of fresh french fries. I’m talking FRESH! At that moment, I knew that I was in love with Riese. She brought them over to us and I started to tear up! I gasp, “Riese! What did you do?!” and she replied nonchalantly “I waited for like 30 minutes to bring you french fries before the restaurant closed.” She placed them down on a nearby table and we dug in. At one point I remember clear as day, shoving a handful of fries into my cheeks like an animal and running back onto the dance floor. Y’all… Riese is the best person!

Riese: As soon as we got into the pool I started feeling super-sleepy, so I went back to the room to lie down for a minute. A few hours later I was awoken to the sound of Abby throwing her shoes at the sliding glass door that led to the balcony, via Sarah and Kaylah’s balcony! So I think everybody had fun.

Sarah: BIG NEWS. We finally got Kaylah on board for water aerobics!

Kaylah: Somehow I ended up doing water aerobics!! I regretted my decision as soon as the water weights came out.

Riese: Abby and I lounged in a beachside cabana and then took a cab into Ixtapa for lunch. At this point both of my ears were still clogged not even from scuba diving but from some weird head move I’d done in the pool the night before. So I was talking really softly and everything felt underwater, which was actually okay. We went into town and had lunch at The Blue Shrimp. It was excellent, I highly recommend!

Sarah: I normally don’t really know how to kick up my style for parties but I was really grateful that Kaylah was my roommate because she inspired me to rock a pompadour that night!

Riese: That night was Cameron’s show — Rhea found us in the conference center and we settled in for what turned out to be an extraordinarily good time. It felt really restorative.

Sarah: I love Cameron Esposito and have been a fan for a long time. It was great to see her stand-up live because I’m normally listening to her on headphones! Cameron 3-D was even better!

Riese: Afterwards, Abby and I went back to Rhea and Cameron’s luxurious suite to talk about how the world was ending and WHAT THE HELL ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT HOLY SHIT.

Sarah: After Cameron’s set we hit up the Music Factory Show, which was one of my favorite events of the trip!

Sarah: Olivia gathers up talent, staff, and vacationers to perform in one of the greatest things I have ever witnessed. Everyone dressed up in ridiculous costumes and lip-synced to pop songs – and here’s the thing – they were PERFECT. For at least a solid hour, there was an endless stream of people coming onto the stage for a thirty second cameo, some even showing up later for a second (or third) appearance in completely different costume! Also during this entire thing there was a legit tarantula just hanging out on the stage (which was right next to me). When the show was over EVERYONE STARTED FREAKING OUT, and the butches were so SCARED. Eventually a femme in spandex (!!!) casually scooped it up and took it away.

Kaylah: Sarah accidentally sat right beside a tarantula. A real ass tarantula!

Wonderfully drunk photography skills capturing new friends!

Sarah: The last night at Club O was bold and wild–we ended up consuming way too many drinks (duh) and dancing the night away, hoping to hold onto those last remaining minutes of what ended up being one of the most fun and amazing vacations I’ve ever been on!

Sarah: And then, my friends, we found ourselves back home in the forever-changed United States of Whatever. We were tan, we were tired, we had some work to do. All our dreams had come true and we’d do it again in a heartbeat. Olivia fosters a chill and welcoming safe space, and truly this was the most wonderful place to be immersed in during such a tumultuous time. Meeting and connecting with all types of women, from different backgrounds, places and generations was one of the most rewarding parts of the trip–sure, we were in Mexico with beaches and endless tequila, but the thing that really stood out were those connections. I’m glad we were all there together to experience the community that strengthens and heals us, because we’ve got quite a fight ahead of us. And if we can’t have Club Med hash-browns, at least we have each other.

those hash browns though

So, go check it out for yourself — upcoming trips include an Alaska Cruise with Dorothy Allison and Patricia Velasquez, the all-inclusive Punta Cana resort, a relaxing Caribbean cruise, and plenty more. Olivia is also offering some sweet discounts to Autostraddle readers–and you can check out those offers and the full list of their vacations here. We hope you get to experience the magic that is Olivia Travels–we’re so glad we did!

thanks for all the tequila postcard

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3179 articles for us.


  1. Wow, sounds like a fun time! Were there any visibly trans women on the cruise? I’ve wondered how they(we) might be treated.

  2. I know Riese is a cusp and whatever but this is the most Libra shit I’ve ever heard her say ever

    “I dealt with my pain in the typical way I deal with my pain: by getting an overpriced pedicure.”

  3. I can’t even fathom how you all must have felt the night of the election. It seems like you guess had quite an emotional rollercoaster ride that week.

  4. Riese, that was the best most perfectly accurate description of election day that I have ever seen

    • aw thank you, i didn’t think i wrote anything really good in this specifically ’cause it’s not a format i’m very good at so i just kinda winged it so that is VERY HEARTENING

  5. I had to break this up into a couple of different readings after realizing it took place during the election. But I’m glad I made it through and that you guys made it through the re-telling.

    This also confirmed my crushes on Sarah and Kayla.

  6. I got through half of this and had to go buy a weeks worth of hash browns. Then I came home, ate them, and read the other half of this. #hashbrownheaven

    • Honestly!!! I watched as Sarah sat down and the people around her reacted because THEY KNEW THE TARANTULA WAS THERE but didn’t want to scare anyone?!?! But IT WAS A FUCKING TARANTULA!!!! A TARANTULA!!!

  7. This claims, Thanks also to this said Sheila ( is Australian and New Zealander English for a female ) Editor, reporter and/or ‘ ‘ scribe ‘ ‘ for ‘ ‘ AutoStraddle ‘ ‘ for that this i of her said columns for ‘ ‘ AutoStraddle ‘ ‘ on it and it now here STILL recounts also that in this case also, this now here cites also having a case also ” ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ In Which It Goes To Ixtapa With Olivia Travel, Gives Ourselves To The Sea ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ” for herself for herself, for ANYONE whosoever accepts also that this even claims also, Thanks also to this said Sheila ( is Australian and New Zealander English for a female ) Editor, reporter and/or ‘ ‘ scribe ‘ ‘ for ‘ ‘ AutoStraddle ‘ ‘ for that this i of her said accounts for ‘ ‘ AutoStraddle ‘ ‘ on it and it now here STILL recounts also that in this case also, this now here cites also having a case also ” ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ In Which It Goes To Ixtapa With Olivia Travel, Gives Ourselves To The Sea ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ” him/herself for him/herself, for fans, for OUTSIDERS, for readers, for visitors, for others also and even for us, too….

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