While roaming around Los Angeles in crunch mode and sleep deprived on a layover I requested a Cancun work trip upon my return. Assuming there’d be no way in hell I’d get it, I didn’t check my schedule until about 14hrs before my initial departure. Have I mentioned how I plan nearly everything last minute these days? Spontaneity at its most vulnerable. Not only was I going to Mexico for the first time but I was going to continuously escape my Chicago paradise of the lovely December weather. Ecstatic was a bit of an understatement.
The flight was surprisingly short and the drive to the hotel was nearly as long as the flight but I couldn’t get over how much I loved the architecture. Cancun is one of the most touristy cities in Mexico, so I’m sure venturing out into the more authentic parts of the country you’d see things quite differently. This, however, didn’t change the fact that the country’s make up and build was visually intoxicating. The city itself was full not only of energy but of people. The hotels all had grand entrances to appeal to the foreign eye while nearly all of them bordered the coast. During the drive we passed several flea markets that had I not seen the sign I would’ve thought were abandoned buildings.
Once we got to the hotel, despite only having a short layover I couldn’t help but walk around. Regardless of it being December it felt as though everyone were living like it was spring break. I went to the corner store next door to the hotel and immediately noticed how little regard they had toward age, well-being, or nearly anyone that walked in. Drugs that you’d normally need a prescription for sat on the counter with a knock off name for a third of the price. It was so bizarre how culturally different a place could be whilst only being a few hour plane ride from one of the most northern cities in the Midwest. The streets were littered with a mixture of locals, teenagers, and traveling 20 somethings looking for a brief (or extended) escape from their typical holiday seasons.
As much as I wanted to stay out for the remainder of the night, traveling alone in a foreign country with a native language I was not familiar with at one in the morning didn’t seem like the best idea. Actually now that I think of it, leaving the hotel in general probably wasn’t the best idea considering no one knew where I was going or had my phone number to check on me. Anything for the sake of the story, so long as I live to tell it. Not sure that’s my motto but let’s run with it, shall we? Either way, the next morning seemed like a much more promising time to tour the area.
I woke up on little sleep to the sound of cat calling and jack hammers only to learn that once I left the hotel, the cat calling came with the territory. I really wish it wasn’t so stereotypical that once I began walking to the beach the five to nine construction workers on site began hooting and whistling, but it happened. Considering I heard the same thing over and over as I got ready in my hotel room I knew it wasn’t me, it was the men. The streets looked much like those of The French Quarters in Nola with buckets of water washing away the evening filth for yet another day/night of partying, but that wasn’t what interested me. First time in Mexico with 85 degree weather the first week of winter and the only thing I cared for at that moment was a beach, and trust me it didn’t disappoint. The beach was empty considering it was 7:00am on a Saturday but I didn’t care. The water was absolutely clear, the sand was warm, and the waves were low. It was gorgeous. Most beaches tend to look the same and I’m sure this isn’t the only clear water beach that’ll come to pass this year but just because there are similarly beautiful things in this world doesn’t make the next any less stunning. I set up shop about 20 feet away from a drunkenly passed out local, in hopes he’d wake up and do something noteworthy, and read my book for as many hours as the day allowed.
(For the record, he never woke up, he could have been dead; I really hope he wasn’t dead. Moving on.)
Toward the end of my “free time” I heard techno music begin to play and the people started funneling onto the sand almost as if they were in a trance from the music. Some with coolers, others with beach balls but none with children and I couldn’t help but be jealous of what the rest of their day would include. I left with little time to spare and walked round to see the seemingly abandon buildings from the night before become crowded and colorfully, vibrant flea market shops lining the street. Most people were bargaining and believe it or not I saw someone being chased by authorities as if they stole something. It was at that moment I learned one of my most valuable traveling lessons. Well two:
Lesson 12: No matter how short of notice, always exchange cash for the local currency of where you’re going. Even if you don’t intend on spending it, chances are you’ll regret not bringing it if you don’t; you can always exchange back later.
Lesson 13: Don’t steal anything in Mexico (or anywhere), they will run faster than you. You will get caught. You’ll go to jail.
By the time I got back to the hotel I had enough time to take a two and a half minute shower and brush my teeth in the first class lavatory on my way to Dallas, but it was well worth it. Learning from the other flight attendants, while on the drive back to the airport, who were more senior was also extremely helpful, which brings me to another lesson:
Lesson 14: Put down your phone, keep your headphones off and talk to people. No matter how annoying or tedious the conversation may be, chances are you’ll learn something you didn’t know yesterday.
I’m blessed to have had the experience to venture to Mexico and like many of my adventures, it definitely won’t be the only time I go. However until next time, Happy Friday.