Getting Warmer - NYC to Riviera Maya
It's been a strange few weeks for me. After an awesome six month run, my freelance with JWT ended at the end of January. It was a fantastic experience - I met smart people and got the experience of working for a "big traditional" agency. I also contributed to two major new business wins (Google Enterprise and PUMA). And then was hired to work at JWT Inside - their employee engagement agency for one project. But then last Thursday, it was my last day - except there's always the possibility I could come back for another stint. So kind of a weird - goodbye but maybe not goodbye. While I was trying to tie up any loose ends, finish my project, say my maybe goodbyes, etc. my friend messaged me on Tuesday saying she's in Playa Del Carmen - I should visit. It just so happens that I'm on my other friend's flight benefits since his sister just had a baby and isn't likely to travel but I've barely used them - other than U.S. flights. The weather was really starting to wear on me.. even this charming couple on the Upper East dressed like they never left the 1970's or the East 70's wasn't enough to keep my spirits up in the cold.
Fast forward to Saturday morning at 4am - I drag my suitcase ten minutes to the subway in 25 degree weather wearing a light fall jacket and manage to check in literally three minutes before they close checkins on international flights. My adventure has gotten off to a great start. The flight is full with one standby seat available and the guy who had priority decided to take a later flight. I wish him all the love and karma in the world.
I sit next to a couple pushing 80 - both with some major hearing loss. I know this because they speak so loudly that even the guy across the isle with the noise-canceling headphones can hear them and gives me a sympathetic laugh. But I can't complain as I imagine my bare feet dipping into the sand. The couple wisely advises me not to study or think too hard and to get some sun. I greatly respect the wisdom of my elders.
The crowd at Cancun makes for some interesting people-watching. Retirees going on group trips, quickly changing into warm-weather clothing. I learn that nothing gets more friendly attention in Mexico than a single woman. If I had stayed any longer at the map booth - I would have received a proposal.
TRAVEL TIP: Take the Ado bus to Playa Del Carmen or even Tulum. It runs fairly frequently (I only had to wait a half hour) and only costs about $10 vs. the $70 for a car service. I realized I made the right choice when I was the only non-Spanish speaker on the bus.
I arrived in Playa Del Carmen with only a vague idea of where my friend's apartment was and a meeting time but it was incredibly easy to figure everything out. Playa basically has one main road that doesn't allow cars and goes for about a mile or less. You feel like you're walking in a huge outdoor mall. I dragged my suitcase over the cobblestone streets wearing a black t-shirt, jeans and sneakers in the 80 degree heat and easily located my friend by using one of the three Starbucks' wifi. I suppose there are some benefits of globalization.. I'm also pretty sure that the main drag had more free wifi than all of NYC.
The above is how I felt after squishing my feet into the sand. After two days and nights in Playa walking around what I felt was not really Mexico - more like South Beach / the Jersey shore, I decided it was time for me to check out Tulum. On Monday, after kicking around the idea of leaving on Tuesday - I decided why wait - saw that the bus was leaving in an hour, packed and sweated my way to the bus station. A 45 minute bus ride has led to a world of difference.
As I write this, I'm sitting in a hostel in Tulum, chilling with a Canadian couple and young Guatemalan, getting tips on what to see and do. This -after meeting a guy who owns a clothing-optional resort and horticulturist who can grow and identify about every plant / herb that's ever been used for.. medicinal purposes and seems to be an expert in native medicine.
On to the next chapter. There's a word for this... YOLO.