I leave August 23rd on my next adventure.
Like the proverbial cold feet before a wedding, I seem to get travel jitters in the weeks just before I go somewhere. It’s not the nervous excitement felt while looking forward to a vacation, and it’s not like the necessary preparations for a business trip you have to go on. This is a trip that I chose to go on when an opportunity made my heart speed up, something that I used money out of our family’s budget for, an indulgence that I might be horribly unprepared for that sometimes inspires a feeling of OH MY GOD WHAT AM I DOING?
Here’s the plan:
In less than two weeks I’m going to get on a plane by myself and fly to Mexico. I’m taking only a backpack and a large camera bag for 3 weeks in the Yucatan, an experiment in minimalist travel. The last time I traveled alone I was with a tour to South America, and I over-packed so horribly I considered abandoning my luggage in Peru, so this time I’m trying the other end of the luggage spectrum. I’m taking 3 interchangeable outfits that I’ll wash in hotel bathrooms, my snorkel gear, a sarong for a towel and cover-up, the requisite tiny bottles of shampoo and soap, wear one pair of shoes and pack another, my large camera (Canon t3i) with zoom lens, my smaller waterproof camera (Panasonic Lumix,) my laptop, smartphone and ipod along with all their various chargers. Funny how my blogger tech outnumbers my clothing allowance.
And I just looked at that list and thought “Shit, is that really all I’m taking?”
I’m the trip planner in our family: I usually do months of research, I watch prices rise and fall seeking the best time to buy/book, I read forums and blogs and basically try to think of everything. This is going to be different, a more by-the-seat-of-my-pants adventure. At first this made me a little desperately uncomfortable, but I’ve warmed to the idea of running around Mexico finding my way a few days at a time. I can practice my Spanish: “Hola, soy perdido.”
When I get into Cancun it will be after dark, and I’m not sure if the bus to Palenque will still be running or not. The online schedules aren’t telling, so I’ll have to just go to the bus station and see if I’m too late. If I am I’ll be staying nearby in the Haina Hostel until the next day. If I make the bus, it’s a 12-14 hour overnight ride to Palenque in southern Chiapas, Mexico. Both options would be a first for me.
Backpacking, buses and hostels; yes, I am trying out traveling like a college student at age 38. I like being around other travelers, having a central area to collide with my international and local neighborhood. I’m going to give up some of my privacy in exchange for making new connections. And I’m cheap.
In Palenque I will be in a hotel which appears to be huts in the Mexican jungle in August with no air conditioning: El Panchan. I’m a little apprehensive about the heat, especially after the cool summer we’ve had here in Iowa, but I can always lie on the cool tile floor to sleep, right? The atmosphere looks amazing, right in the jungle just outside the ruins, howler monkeys overhead and live music in the restaurant. I’ll be getting up early and staying up late to learn all I can from my friends at Marginal Boundaries during Blogging Boot Camp. Expect to hear from me a lot as we’ll be going to several amazing ruins and seeking out delicious local food, two of my favorite travel pastimes.
I haven’t booked my transitional lodging yet for the journey back north but it will likely be a few days at someplace cheap in Tulum. The bus ride there is more like 10 hours-piece of cake! I like B&B Posadas las Mapaches because they include breakfast and a rental bike, or Tubo Tulum Hostel because of how unique it would be to sleep in a concrete tube. I like the look of El Punto but the dorms are full and a private room is a little pricey for my budget (that’s right, $55/night is more than I’m willing to pay.) We took the whole family to see the ruins in Tulum last year but I want to wander around and see how the locals live, off the tourist strip.
When I’ve rested a few days it’s back to business and on to Cozumel, the island where my family will be moving next spring. Alicia’s B&B offers breakfast cooked to order by her husband each morning and is not far from our friends, Larry and Karen, who introduced us to Friends of Cozumel. I had planned to stay on the mainland but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see our friends there, and I want to see what the island is like in the summer during the slow season. (How hot is it really?)
There is a lot I want to do so I’ll splurge and rent a bike to get around. I hope to get in a dive with Juan, work with Cindy to rescue sea turtles, stop in at the Humane Society (I was a veterinary technician before I was a nurse) and introduce myself at Cruz Roja, the Red Cross station that provides most ambulance services on the island. The planner in me feels the need to research as well, checking into things like schools for the kids and possible neighborhoods in person. It will be busy, but I can’t wait to be back on the island; just the thought of it calms my worries.
The Grand Finale: TBEX, a Travel Blogger Conference in Cancun. Time to put up or shut up-am I really a travel blogger or not? I’ve been working on making a gradual transition from normal 9-to-5 with commute and mortgage to travel writer and international family life. This conference will be a great opportunity to network and learn from those who have gone ahead, and I want to not only look good but soak it all up. It’s intimidating and exhilarating all at once.
As a special treat my husband Jason will be coming to meet me in Cancun, (he’s my personal IT Specialist.) The conference is on a large resort, but we’ll spend the week at a small apartment I found on Airbnb, the upstairs part of a local family’s house in downtown Cancun. Before the conference we hope for at least two days of diving, to see whale sharks passing as they migrate and the underwater museum, and have signed up to tour the Mayan city of Coba where I am determined to climb the huge central pyramid. At the conference I’m making Jason sit in different workshops than I do with a recorder to get as much information as possible. Does that seem greedy? Plus people love Jason-he makes friends everywhere he goes and can charm people into reading my blog. I only hope I have enough energy left at that point to be charming myself.
Other people I know travel to relax, to lie on a beach and sip umbrella drinks, to get away from it all. I’m going overseas for 3 weeks to work harder than I do at home, to get out of my comfort zone and navigate foreign countryside, and to get us closer to the place we’re headed to. It’s a lot, and sometimes it’s scary, but (deep breath) other people have done it and so can I. That’s the best thing I’ve learned as a travel blogger, that there are other people out there who are like me.
Those who know me best will tell you that if you say I can’t do something the first thing out of my mouth will be “Watch me.” Sometimes I just have to tell it to myself: “Watch-you’re about to do something incredible.”So I spread my trembling arms wide and bow to my audience. Get ready friends, family, and armchair travelers, and you will be amazed at what I am about to do-as will I.
What am I missing from my packing list? In the past I’ve taken everything from toilet paper to pepper spray (that one was an accident!)
I hadn’t listed swimsuits or the box of business cards that it will be my mission to empty! Anything else?