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  • Writer's picturetoats99377


I am not a beach person (too many people). I am not a water person (can’t swim). I am, however, a person who loves sunshine and warm weather (and a good book). 

That being said, Cancun, a haven for energetic spring breakers, wasn’t on my radar. I like a nice, all-inclusive resort as much as the next person, but there was a recent report about an uptick in cartel activity and some beheadings. Not great.

At the same time, we all know American media is good for blowing things out of proportion or painting with a broad brush (probably why people think Africa is a country, not a continent), so that was in the back of my mind as I researched places to visit in Mexico. I bought into what I saw in films and television, and believed the whole of Mexico was a dusty little country with shabby bars that sold warm beer (broad brush, remember?). I was all kinds of ignorant.  

Me and my ignorant self, fired up the old Google machine and searched for travel deals to Mexico. I had specific dates in mind and I wanted to fly nonstop, so I kept coming back to Cancun. I mean, cartels wouldn’t come in a tourist area just to behead folks, would they?

My friend, Google, and I, spent a lot of time in the research stage. I wanted to stay in the Hotel Zone, which was touristy and considered safe-er. I read about crime in the region and I came to the conclusion that I would be as safe there as I am in any major city in the US. So, I booked my first international solo trip. 

And before I go any further, this exploratory trip wasn’t a trial run for moving to Cancun, it was more of a temperature check. How would I feel being alone in a country where I didn’t speak the language? How would I be treated? Would I feel comfortable? Questions like that had to be answered before I really started to zero in on a location in Mexico.

As part of my preparation, I practiced Spanish at least 20 minutes every night before bed. I guess I thought Duolingo could work miracles. It could not–talk about the struggle bus. In school, last century, I took French and I did quite well, but I wouldn’t say I could have gone to France and held a full conversation with a native speaker. Yet, as I tried to learn Spanish, all of these French phrases and words came into my mind, and suddenly I knew how to conjugate verbs. I mixed up the languages and basically, as usual, I was a mess.

I kept at it though. By the time my travel date arrived, I progressed just a bit, but I wasn’t confident in my language skills. I just prayed that most people spoke English.

I was nervous during the flight. I didn’t think we were going to go down or doors would fly off, but I worried about what would happen when we landed? Would I know how to navigate the airport and immigration? Would I be able to find my driver?

Was I making a mistake?

After we landed and deplaned, I followed two women who looked like they knew what they were doing and where they were going. When they veered off to the bathroom, I followed a man who knew the ropes. I don’t know where my confidence went, but I managed to easily navigate the immigration process.

I didn’t check luggage so I bypassed the travelers who were forced to watch a conveyor belt go around and around, searching for their beat up possessions. Side note: use packing cubes and/or watch Youtube videos to learn how to become an efficient packer. Now, back to me. I stepped out of the airport and into the scorching sun, where countless drivers were waiting, holding signs with their passenger’s name. I’ll admit to feeling myself a little bit as I found my name and driver, and hopped in the air-conditioned car.

It was a beautiful drive from the airport to the resort–not a detached head in sight. Billboards touted “all you can eat” this or advertised some sort of special show. As the Hotel Zone came closer into view, it was easy to see how it got its name. Hotels and resorts all around, each with their own version of a grand entrance. Restaurants. My type of town.

There’s almost always that moment, right after my credit card is swiped, when I worry it will be rejected for some reason. I know I’m not the only person who has that second of doubt. Well, when we arrived at my hotel in Cancun, there was a security checkpoint where we had to stop and give my name. The guard checked a sheet as I prayed, “Please be there. Please be there.” After what seemed like minutes, he found my name and let us through. Whew.

The hotel was at the top of a hill, so I didn’t get a good view from the street level. When we arrived at the top, it was breathtaking! There were no windows or doors leading to the lobby, so it had great ventilation. While I checked in, a worker approached with a tray of ice cold beer and water–I chose the beer.

The room was nice, but not in an ideal location. It was on the ground level and the paranoid person who hides inside of me, worried about someone breaking in. But it was clean. The bathroom was a little weird with a toilet stall and a clear door, offering no privacy at all. 

During my entire stay, with the exception of the day I arrived and the day before I left, it rained. It was chilly. It was windy. I didn’t get to see much of anything outside of the hotel. The day before I was scheduled to leave, there was a brief reprieve and I managed to take a short walk between storms, which was nice, but I didn’t know much more about Mexico than I did before I arrived.  

Ultimately, I suppose my mission was accomplished. I wanted to see whether I could spend a few days alone, in a country where I didn’t speak the language, and survive. It was enough for me because I flew home with a renewed determination to do more research and figure out where exactly in Mexico I could not only survive, but thrive.

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