Get Off the Resort

Drug lords, bacteria-filled water, pick-pocketers. Mexico sounds like a scary place.

All-inclusive, sandy beaches, endless buffets. Mexico sounds dreamy.

But how much do you actually know about Mexico?

I knew that when a group of friends booked an all-inclusive resort in Rivera Maya, I wanted to get off of that resort. I wanted to see the real Mexico. Were my friends up for it? I didn’t know, but that wasn’t going to stop me.

The next thing I knew, I was booking an ecoarchaelogical excursion with AllTourNative.

Flash forward to the Wednesday morning mid-relaxing vacation. The three of us, dressed and ready to go:

  1. Chacos
  2. Fanny pack
  3. Shorts and Tank
  4. Bathing Suit
  5. Sunscreen (minimal, by request of AllTourNative)
  6. Cash
  7. Camera
  8. Spirit!

Carlos picked us up as the sun was coming up, along with a family of four, the twins and one of their boyfriends and the Canadian couple. And we were off for our Coba Maya Encouter!

Remember when everyone said the Mayans were gone and their calendar predicted the world ending and stuff like that? So so wrong.

An hour or so later, we parked in Coba. We began our adventure by heading straight to the Mayan ruins. Our first task was to learn how to communicate with the Mayans – they were opening up the doors to their very private communities after all. We learned the most important basics, most importantly “Thank You” pronounced “Joomba-tik.”

Carlos explained that Mexico doesn’t spend a lot of money on archaeological preservation, but that the temples that are uncovered took years to do so and the large mounds of overgrown greenery were covering other ruins. Mexico is actually flat around these parts.

M showing off her jungle bike riding skills!
M showing off her jungle bike riding skills!

After visiting the initial temple and sporting arena, we hopped on bikes and rode through the jungle. It was a HOT day, and we weren’t privy to the ocean breeze like at the resort. The bike ride through the jungle was one of our favorite parts of this expedition (and was definitely M’s fav!).

We actually had the option of taking a “limo” or walking as well, but the bike seemed like a good compromise between super lazy and actually getting to see the rest of the temples. (M and J might be super slow walkers…)

There were several temples on the way to see the big man on campus
and we stopped at each one, examining their unique shapes and pondering their purpose.

When we arrived at our final destination (for the morning), it was incredible. The Nohoch Muul is the biggest temple in the Yucatan peninsula. Bigger than I imagined and ever-intimidating, the plan was to climb it.SDC17339

And so we did. As someone who is VERY afraid of heights (and public speaking), I started getting that nauseous feeling in my stomach. The more stairs I climbed the worse it got.

When we got to the top, all the people bumping around and taking pictures nearly drove my anxiety through the roof, but the view made up for the climb. (Sort of a paradox for life I think. The harder the climb, the better the view.)

SDC17348We managed to get close enough to the edge for some good pics! 🙂

The down part was supposed to be easier, but I think it took me twice as long scooting down on my butt for fear of toppling head first down the hundreds of stone steps.

After our excursion through the Mayan ruins we headed out to the community where J sampled some of the local beveragesSDC17352 and we headed off to the next part of the adventure.

Immediately suiting up and hopping aboard a canoe to make our way to the zip lines! We canoed, hiked and zip-lined through the jungle before taking a break to meet with a Mayan shaman. Hot and sticky, we were grateful to take a seat and soak in our surroundings. The shaman spoke with us and then began a chant to bless us “Estades Unites, Carlos and Canada!” You can check out the video on my Facebook.

After, we were instructed to shower any dirt, oils or sunscreens off of our bodies to preserve the purity of the cenote that we were about to rappel down into. (More heights, I know.)

My first question before plummeting down into the underground was “How do we get out?”

Don’t worry, there were options.

  1. Climb a massive rope ladder swinging through the air OR
  2. Be hoisted up in a Mayan elevator

As much as I thought the rope ladder sounded like a brilliant idea, and I’m sure I’d feel like a badass after, I decided to goDSC_8287 with the Mayan elevator. The cenote’s water was black, cool, crisp and clean. We floated around for while on tubes and watched the bats flit around in the corners of the cave before one-by-one were lifted back up to ground level.

After we dried off, we hit the trail back down to the Mayan feast that awaited us on a porch overlooking the lagoon we had earlier canoed across. Teas made from flowers, homemade tortillas, chicken (Carlos nearly had me convinced it was iguana) and soup and spicy salsa filled our hungry stomachs. If you’re not into trying new food, don’t worry, you couldn’t go wrong with anything served.

Finally, we had free range of the local artisan’s shops, and Carlos had promised tequila if we’d made it through our adventure. So tequila we had! 

SDC17355After everyone had taken their tequila shots and shopped the goods, we packed up, exhausted and feeling pretty accomplished with ourselves, and headed back to the resort. Today we had discovered the Mayans. The Mayans opened their world to us, let us in, and treated us like family. Joomba tik, Coba and AllTourNative!

4 Qualities to Look for in a Travel Buddy

I just wrote my first feature for Pink Pangea and here it is! 


Who you travel with can make or break a trip. Whether it’s a work trip, or a vacation, or even just a trip with a set purpose, like a bachelorette party or a bar mitzvah, consider certain things in your travel buddy.

Traveling for work used to bring the added stress of, “Who am I traveling with this week?” For a past position, this essentially decided whom I was going to spend the next 3-5 days in the hot sun in the middle of Illinois for 12 hours at a time with. It’s easy to get on one another’s nerves in those situations. One spring break I took a trip to the Bahamas with close friends, but there was a mutual respect issue about halfway through the trip that made the last few days stressful, tense and lonely. There have been opposite situations as well. I’ve gone on work trips with a near stranger and come back with a loyal friend.

Thankfully, I’ve learned from my experiences, and can be more prepared when choosing a partner for future trips. Here are some qualities to consider when choosing your next travel buddy: Continue Reading

nassau, bahamas

Alone in Nassau

Otherwise known as “that one time I tried to buy drugs in a foreign country.”

NassauA group of five girls and myself took a Bahamian cruise for spring break. After we spent the morning soaking up alcohol, sunshine and saltwater jet-skiing above the clear blue water in an inlet just outside of Nassau, we decided to head over to Senor Frogs for some food and beverages.

Unfortunately, when you get a group of girls with strong personalities together, which my friends will not deny that they have, people can get annoyed and hurtful things can be said.

One thing led to another and I ended up drunkenly shopping down the main strip of Nassau alone. I don’t consider myself to be particularly brave, but with as much liquor as I had had, I was feeling pretty comfortable with myself and needed to gather some souvenirs for my sister anyway. Although I tend to be a postcard collector, if I can get a product that is native or genuine to the area, I will!

nassau, bahamas

I entered the first shop I came too. The shops were touristy, with shirts with frogs and sharks and beaches on them. Sayings like “Someone who loves me went to Nassau and got me this shirt.” While those can be adorably corny sometimes, I wanted something better for my sister.

I checked out the overpriced swimsuits and cover-ups – designed for people who forgot their swimsuit (or lost theirs?) on their trip or something like that. What’s that? In the back of the shop was a bar, with a lone bartender in front of 3 empty barstools. I can buy a drink while I shop!? What a concept! Brilliant!

Nassau, Bahamas

I got a hurricane and checked with my bartender that it was, indeed, ok for me to walk from shop to shop with this beverage. He assured me.

I sauntered into the next shop, similar items: hats, t-shirts, sunglasses, magnets, etc. I finished my drink and purchased another at the back of this store. My pattern continued as I wandered further and further away from the “tourist-zone.” Eventually, I found a few local shops; an estate sale store and a couple local-looking boutiques. I stumbled into one of the boutiques. The dresses, hats and shoes in this store were not meant to be discovered by tourists like myself.

Digging through the racks with my hurricane in hand, I found the perfect beaded sandals for my little sister. They were gorgeous in my mind, and I knew she would love them!

I paid for my purchase and moved along through the streets, navigating my way back toward the boat when a man stopped me in the street. “Hey, you wanna buy some weed?”

nassau, bahamas

Nassau, Bahamas
“Wait on this corner, I’ll be right back.”

My good mood was persistent, and I thought, “heck, when in Nassau!” I told him yes, and he asked how much. (At this point I was lost. I was not familiar with the terminology.) I ended up asking him how much I could get with $20. He said he’d be right back, I handed him my money and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.nassau, bahamas, cruise


I’m an idiot. He wasn’t coming back. So much for serendipitous me! I knew I’d been had. I gathered what dignity I had left and headed back toward the boat. The girls would love this story.

Hey, could’ve been worse. At least I succeeded in soaking in as many hurricanes as I possibly could and had found the perfect gift.

Nassau, Bahamas, girl friends, beach

Nassau, Bahamas, sunset

Thanks for reading! Until next time, adios, ciao, sayonara, good-bye!

Published March 2015.