It’s interesting how the mundane moments tick by so slowly, and the exhilarating adventures race by. One minute, I’m on a plane, journeying towards an exotic destination, beaming with excitement, and, the next, I’m flying back home, drooping from exhaustion. Days full of exploration, new sights, sounds, smells, flora, and fauna disappear, although they seemed so full in the moment. I’m ready to be home; I’m tired, but it’s an interesting juxtaposition, to consider the perception of time as it applies to joy versus boredom.
I’m currently en route home from the lush, tropical paradise Playa Del Carmen in Quintana Roo, Mexico. My husband and I stayed at a beachside jungle resort, The Reef Playacar, and it was exactly what I was searching for: a post-card view. There was a healthy balance of relaxation and adventure, and I never found myself in the throes of boredom.
I’m not going to rehash every detail of the trip, but I would like to chronicle the peaks:
1. Taking in the scenery
There is no view more idyllic to me than turquoise water, a sandy beach, and some palm trees. From the moment I first saw the coast, it took my breath away. I had to stop and remind myself to soak in the moment (and the water). There are few times in life that we witness true paradise. If we experienced paradise everyday, paradise, as a concept, wouldn’t exist. I didn’t take a single second of those views for granted. I lied down in the soft sand, letting the surf wash my worries away. The sun beamed down on my shoulders as I gazed out at parasails in the distance, sipping on a tropical drink. I swam out to the sand bar with my husband, nothing but monochromatic shades of blue surrounding us, and we talked about everything and nothing, sandwiched between the ocean and sky. We both thoroughly enjoyed spending quality time at the beach together.The last day, the beach graciously granted us a grand finale, with the most vibrant colors of the whole trip.
2. Animal adventures
We encountered new fauna on our adventures, some wild, some hand-raised.
Not long after we settled into our hotel, we saw an animal that looked as if a guinea pig reproduced with an AT-AT from Star Wars. Apparently, these native creatures, the agouti, are not all that commonly found in the world; it’s not that they are endangered, but they are only found in a few locations, geographically speaking. Our resort was located in a dense jungle habitat, and it was perfect for these little guys. We saw these creatures many times throughout our stay at the resort, typically at dawn or dusk, foraging around for fruits dropped from trees. I am (and always have been) animal obsessed, so seeing an alien animal was exciting. I named each of them, and they made me miss my portly little pig-dog, Charles.
We also got the chance to interact hands-on with some exotic wildlife. We met a precious ring-tailed lemur, an albino Burmese python, a toucan, Macaws, and many iguanas. Getting to see these impressive animals up close and personal was a highlight of the trip. We saw the lemur and python while adventuring through the village. Although I felt a pang of guilt for contributing to people who profit off of animals that should live in the wild, I just couldn’t resist succumbing to the lemur snuggles while my husband channeled his inner Britney Spears circa VMAs. We saw the exotic birds and iguanas at Xel ha, a nature park. The iguanas were, quite literally, everywhere. The Macaws were sparse and relaxing in the trees, but the Toucan was with a handler. One thing I have yet to disclose in my blog is my ornithophobia, or fear of birds. My husband and I took a picture with the toucan, while he held it. Without comprehending exactly what was happening, the bird ended up on my hand, and the picture conveys my anxiety in that moment. I survived somehow; my eyeballs were not, in fact, poked out, nor did I come home with fruit loops, but I do now have a great memory to show for it. My friends commented on the irony of me being perfectly fine handling a large python, but not a toucan. I don’t pretend it makes sense.
3. Xel Ha
Although relaxing at the resort was fantastic, we made a point to go on some adventures while in Playa as well. We spent one day at Xel ha, a nature park. Xel Ha actually means “mixed water” in Mayan. There is a natural river that leads into a lagoon, where the salt water and fresh water mix, creating brackish water. The entire area is surrounded by dense jungle with all types of flora and fauna. We began the day by trekking through the jungle and floating down the river to the lagoon. This was the best decision because most other people trekked straight to the bar. This day wasn’t about drinking and taking in the scenery for me; it was about sober exploration. I’m glad we did this, too, because we had the entire river to ourselves, a stark contrast to a few hours later, when drunken travelers lounging in tubes were everywhere to be seen.
We went back later and snorkled the river, and it was amazing to feel as the water began to mix. The river water was very cold and clear, and when it mixed with the salt water, it became warm and murky. Once you swam out into the lagoon into the salt water, the water was warm and transparent. It was also captivating to see the different types of fish in each region. At one point, I was swimming right in the middle of a school of large fish. One of the fish directly in front of me defecated, and I had to swerve to miss a mouthful, exemplifying exactly how close I was. Aside from the adventure and exercise, the entire nature reserve was one of the most magnificent locations, another true paradise.
5. Witnessing History
I must admit that I was a little disappointed when we decided to cancel our excursion to Chichen Itza. It was just a little too far away for comfort, but I wanted to see the ruins and learn about history. Luckily, it turned out I didn’t have to travel two hours away to see Mayan ruins, only walk about a quarter of a mile from my resort. We were walking into town when we unexpectedly came across Xaman – Ha. There were no crowds or taped off areas. One local meandered around the area with his two dogs, as they climbed up and down the ruins. There was graffiti on one of the ruins; it was quite bizarre, but I’m glad to have seen that the area in which we stayed had such a rich history.
6. Model moments
Our resort offered a 30 minute photo session with a professional photographer, so my husband and I took advantage of getting some pictures taken in paradise. This isn’t something we typically do at home. We only had professional pictures for our engagement photos and actual wedding (I didn’t even do bridal portraits). It was an enjoyable, unique experience, and our photographer was funny and personal. What was supposed to be one 30 minute photo session ended up 2 sessions totaling 3 hours! The first was a sunset session, and the second was a sunrise session. The sunrise was so completely beautiful. We watched as the glowing orb ascended, painting the sky. The last session was on the morning we left for home, so it was the perfect finale of our trip. The pictures turned out lovely, souvenirs to reflect on this particular moment in the sun.
This trip was everything I hoped it would be. The weather was fortuitous; the resort was beautiful and accommodating; we remained healthy and happy throughout our adventures. I’ve heard people say that people should wait until they are older to travel, when you’ve worked hard for years and truly deserve it. Don’t get me wrong; this is absolutely true. When you’re retired, you should spend the rest of your days enjoying the fruits of your labors. However, I don’t think you have to wait all of those years to see the world either. If you work hard and are in a position to explore, it’s important to grasp at that opportunity while you can and see the world in the glory of youth, a break in the midst of the hard work, a reminder of why you work so hard as the mundane and momentous are juxtaposed, just a taste. No one knows what the future holds, and that day, the main course, may never come, no matter how much you deserve it. Taking a reprieve from life to adventure and connect with my husband was wonderful for our marriage. We planned our wedding in the summer with the goal to celebrate each anniversary somewhere new and different. It is exciting and a bit scary to travel to the unknown with your other half, feeling completely anonymous.
I’m ready for the next adventure with my love.