I believe in omens.
Upon landing in Mexico, I was met with a cascade of meteors dancing through the night sky outside my airplane window. My entire life I've been drawn towards astronomy, the idea of being a part of something much larger than me. Strangely, I've never been able to witness a meteor shower. Maybe bad timing or my 'early-bird' tendencies or perhaps I was waiting for this moment. I became emotional, each teardrop falling in sync with the next meteor. I should have known at that moment that my experience in Tulum would be significant and that it, too, would signify that I am part of a plan much larger than I can conceive in this moment.
After several changes by the airline, my arrival time at Cancún International Airport was close to midnight, which worked in my favor. Growing up around cheesy tourist attractions has deadened my taste for them and Cancún reminded me of why. My best friend had already checked-in to our hotel and although we were floating on the energy of being in a new place, we were both looking forward to our 2-hour bus ride down to Tulum in a few hours.
If I could capture the energy in Tulum with a word, it'd be ease. Small town, ridiculously nice people, great food, and a slow pace that felt intentional and sacred. With the beautiful selva (jungle) and playa (beach) both nearby, there is a palpable feel of connectedness to and respect for the land. Several Mayan families still live in Tulum which added to my understanding of how this community has continued to prioritized harmonious living among the land and beings here.
It seems everyone else has felt the magic of this place too and so Tulum has been steadily growing, increasingly attracting more tourists and expats here each year. The frightening paradox is that as more people discover this town, the less recognizable it will become. Even while enjoying my recent visit, there was an undeniable bustle as new villas and vacation homes were popping up around each corner. I suppose that is how capitalism (and gentrification) works and I'd by lying if I said I hadn't had a daydream or 5 of relocating here.
Last Friday, a week ago today (le sigh), we decided to take a tour of the Tulum jungle. A community of 40+ Mayan families have opened up their land for tourism and most of them work the "attractions". Contrary to my experience with other attractions there were no souvenirs or t-shirts, no gimmicks to get you to purchase add-ons, just people excited to show you around their land while bringing revenue into their community.
We started off with a 10-minute walk with our tour-guide to get to the the water. Most of our experience was centered around cenotes- sacred wells of natural water that have been integral to the communities around here for millenia. After 5 ziplines across the beautiful waters, we landed by canoes and took a short trip through the twists and turns of the jungle.
I appreciated our tour guide, Carlos, for everything he brought to our experience. We had a great conversation about land and gentrification as well as taking time to slow down in life. While canoeing, we took several moments of silence to experience the surrounding serenity (and inner peace as well).
Next, we swam and snorkeled in three beautiful cenotes. One of which had those pescaditos that eat dead skin, my least favorite stop on our trip, though people usually pay good money for that experience!
Lastly, the Mayans prepare a huge traditional meal (complete with handmade tortillas) for the guests on their land and so we ate our fill before laying out on the hammocks for a quick rest. Bliss.
Tulum wasn't all peace and calm. The mojito bar, Batey's, and some other local bars were loads of fun and had great music and dancing! We stayed out most nights and laughed and smiled until our mouths hurt. My biggest realization came our last day in Tulum when we were talking to some tourists from Philadelphia. I hadn't noticed that no one was on their phone while in Tulum. The times I did take out my phone for a quick pic left me feeling like an outsider so those photo ops were few and far in between. People were present- with one another, the music, the land, the experience. A rare occurrence but very welcome as someone often frustrated by our digital dependence as a generation.
Perhaps my biggest takeaway as I prepare for several life transitions in 2018 is the validation of the type of life I can manifest. I am not sure if I will end up living in Tulum, but the fact that communities like this exist tell me that as I strive to find my space in the world, there is opportunity to fully live life by the standards I set. It is OK if I don't aspire to have a status quo life. Tulum taught me so much in my short time there, I am still coming to understand her lessons. Stay tuned for more- I am!