How we travel.

I like to travel. Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will know that. And now as I contemplate another country move I’ve been thinking back over some of the trips I’ve had recently.

I had an amazing trip during my Easter break this year and it got me thinking of a few things, mainly about the type of traveller I want to be. The type of traveller every one should be. Of course, you’re your own person, you make up your own mind about what kind of travel life you want to have but here are my thoughts on it.

I went to Cancun for a few days. I didn’t stay in the all-inclusive beachy part of town (mainly because I couldn’t afford it) I stayed in the downtown area. On one of the days I got the local bus to the Zona Hoteleria where the beach is. The only beach I could find access to was the public beach, which was a rocky mess. Hardly any clear sand at all, no room to sit, no restaurants with waiters begging you to have a seat, a drink or a lounger. It was choc-a-block with Mexicans having a whale of a time. It was real authentic Mexican. I thought about those swanky hotels and realized that they probably had their own stretch of pristine, bleached beach attached to their hotel. That’s why it costs so much. Anyway I had a lovely walk along and then headed back on the bus to my part of town.

The next day I was going to spend a few days in Chichen Itza so I could see the ruins and the Cenote, which is near by. I got the local ADO bus. As we drove out of Cancun, I noticed the area becoming more and more desolate, with closed up businesses and properties lying in rack and ruin.

 

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When I got to my hotel in Chichen, which is right beside the main road, I watched the tour busses fly up the road in their droves. And the realisation dawned. It’s tours like this, which are day trips from the swanky hotels in Cancun or Playa which are the cause of the desolation in the surrounding areas. I know that this is not a new notion for some of you, and I apologise for being late to the party….but hey I get it now.

I could have easily booked a day trip tour, paid through the nose for it and been carted about by a guide and shuffled through the tourist highlights of an area but I didn’t. It’s important to go on holiday, it’s important to travel but it’s also important to leave the all inclusive resort and go and see the real country. I got to meet so many interesting people on this trip. One morning at my hotel one of the waiters was trying to teach me Mayan and we had a slow Spanglish conversation about how important it is to keep the Mayan language alive. I was also able to go to the Chichen Itza ruins at 8am, right as they were opening and see them in the tranquillity of the morning before the tourist rush began. My money has gone into the community. Not into the pockets of a corporation who clearly have no interest in keeping a place afloat. Cancun is fine but when you are lying in a four star hotel with waiter service you could be in any resort in any country of the land. When you are pigeon speaking Spanish/Mayan/English with a 70 year old waiter who was born and bred here in Mayan country, well then you really know where you are.

I’m not knocking people who travel and don’t leave their resort, or who only leave it for a day trip in an air-conditioned bus. That’s fine. But that’s not the type of traveller I want to be. I want to really see a place. I want to meet random people and get a glimpse into their lives. I want to spend my money in a way that I think is healthy and helpful. I used to think that any money going into a country was helpful but after driving through the outskirts of Cancun and towards Chichen I can see that it isn’t. If the money goes in to a place via a tour company or big business such as Hard Rock Hotel or Virgin holidays then it doesn’t really go too deep. In fact it may not get there at all.

So let me know your thoughts on how to be a healthy proactive traveller? How do you approach your summer vacation?

Leaving Mexico 2014

It will soon be time for me to pack up and move out of Mexico. We’re talking so soon….30 days (ish). I have mixed feelings on the issue of moving, as I always seem to have when leaving a country or workplace. I guess it’s natural. I have enjoyed my time here so much. Mexico is a hugely interesting place, with a vibrant culture, weird and wonderful customs and people who make you feel like you’ve known them a lifetime. I’m not going to lie. I will miss so much of this life. I adore the school and the kids that I teach. I love the heat and the extremes of weather that we have here. I’ve met some wonderful people who I will miss dearly and I will never forget the time I’ve had here.

It hasn’t always been easy. This last academic year has been the hardest I’ve ever had to face in my role as a ‘strong, confident, independent woman’ but I have learned so much, mostly about me and how I approach situations.

The big one is I’ve learned the power of saying ‘no’, without an explanation which is something I always struggled with in the past. I felt I had to make an excuse if I didn’t want to do something or go somewhere. Now I just say no and have discovered the ability to sit with that even if it feels a little lonely or uncomfortable at times. I’ve learned how to use my energy in a way that is productive and valuable for me. I trust my gut now more than ever, it is so rarely wrong. I’ve also have such a clear idea of who I want to spend my time with in a personal capacity. In the past there were people who made me feel uncomfortable or who I didn’t enjoy hanging out with. Because of my inability to say no I would have just gone on and spent time with them anyway, regardless of how it made me feel. Over the course of this year and my new found ability to say no, I made choices that felt positive for me. It started with an offhand comment from a colleague at a party, basically slagging off my family because apparently it ‘isn’t normal to spend time together without a row,’ which meant we were weird. It was a small moment, which came on top of a hundred other moments which made me realise that I didn’t enjoy the company of these people and what’s more I didn’t need to spend time with them. In the new year I minimised my time with those who made me feel less than amazing and I have felt so much better for it.

I’ve learned how tough my body is and how a balance between body and mind is so important. I battled a term of bronchitis, before Christmas, which resulted in a broken rib and also more recently dealt with being whacked by a car as I was out walking. Through all of this I only missed 3 days of work. And truthfully I wouldn’t have missed them unless I was under doctors orders not to move from the sofa. One of the bosses at work described me as a ‘warrior’ when it came to fighting illness, so I guess I can admit that I am kinda tough. ‘Life is tough but I am tougher’ has become my motto over the last few months. But on the other hand it isn’t really being tough though because if I fall apart at something so minor as being hit by a car then how am I going to cope when the real big stuff comes along? This is all training! People are suffering through much bigger dramas than me right now. There are families battling serious illness, depression, and unemployment, there are so many racist and sexist attacks, the news is filled with drams every day. I’m just doing what needs to be done. Besides I’ve got classes to teach and books to mark and a job to do. It will be done. I can’t fall apart because there’s no one here to catch me. I have to rely on myself and it’s easier for me to keep going rather than to pick myself up after a fall. Everybody is different and I am trying to listen to my body and do what needs to be done to get through this situation. I’m trying to eat well and rest. I’m also trying to honour the body’s need for junk food. If I want ice-cream I’ll eat it. I’ve spent too long in my life worrying about weight and diets and the ridiculous standards that we press upon ourselves. It doesn’t change what’s on the inside. The inside is what matters. It doesn’t matter if the body is beautiful but the mind and spirit are weak and ugly.

On that note I’ve been trying to meditate, it’s something I’ve never done before and to be truthful it’s something I’m finding very hard to do. It’s difficult to switch the brain off and I’ve been slowly trying to ease mine into submission. I’ve been doing some guided meditation in the hope that I can chill out and also to help me sleep. Since being hit by the car, I’ve been more than a little jittery. I find it hard to control my mind. It’s always dashing off and thinking about the 101 things I’ve got to do, and the other 101 things I was meant to do yesterday and just didn’t get around to it. People assure me that it takes time and that it’s a slow process but it’s totally worth it in the end. I hope so.

And so now we’re down to the business of packing and sorting out my life. I haven’t gathered many possessions while I’ve been here and those I have I’m giving away. I don’t need all the stuff I’ve got. I’ll leave with the same number of suitcases that I had when I arrived. I’m taking a small number of handcrafted Mexican trinkets home and the rest will be in memories. This time here has given me a glance into a life that I never really thought was possible before. It’s let me see into a culture of another country but also into the type of lives people build for themselves when they are far away from their hometown. It’s given me ideas for what kind of life I want to have for myself, it’s sharpened up the definition of ‘A Perfect Life’. All I gotta do now is figure out how to get it