Two weeks ago, I returned from a holiday in the Mayan Riviera – my first independently planned trip abroad. I learnt some important lessons along the way and thought it best to share. Here’s the first thing for you to learn – I like lists. My dad is a financial manager and accountant, so he deals with a lot of the latter, coupled with statistics and graphs. Therefore it’s in my genetics and totally acceptable for me to have a fetish for spreadsheets. Empathetic or not, you’ll be seeing a lot of the like around here, so better get used to it.
I’ll elaborate on my time in Mexico in due course, for now these are the key lessons that experience greatfully taught me and I treat my experiences like I treat my Pokemon – gotta catch ’em all!
1. Always check for time differences
Now I know that sounds redundant and obvious, but it’s a similar blasé attitude that has led myself to highlight the importance. During the long planning process, the thought of a time difference between Ontario and the Mayan Riviera had barely crossed my mind. Coupled with my mother – nervous at the thought of my first trip sans parents – consistently sowing seeds of local information, I felt assured that I was fully prepared. The embarrassing thing is, it took us a whole three days to notice! The grumbling stomachs’ and frustrated pacing whilst waiting for restaurants and tour operators had originally (and regretfully) been blamed on the unjustified, stereotypical Mexican ‘lazy’ way of life. However, we were in fact missing an hour. This awkward scenario could have easily been avoided, as could the now rapid blushing in my heated cheeks.
2. Never boat on a hangover
Again, this may seem like a no-brainer but the truth is, I didn’t even feel hung-over. Staying at a resort, it is almost expected to consume innumerous quantities of alcohol (amiright?) but such overindulgence can ruin plans many hours down the line. I’ve (luckily) never experienced seasickness before, always fancying myself as one with a stomach for adventure, yet the relentlessness of the Caribbean waves rocked me into submission. As a result, my travel companion (we’ll call him M) and I both missed the second, deep water dive into the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Whether the previous nights Coronas were to blame, I am unsure, but I can guarantee that they didn’t help. So take heed, and consider sacrificing the drinks for a night or two – or be prepared to assume the position and feed the fish!
3. Blend in
While packing your suitcase, it is not uncommon to get carried away with wardrobe choices. Take me, for instance. Eagerly anticipating a hot, humid climate and a glowing tan to proudly return home with (although in my case, a shameful lobster red was more likely), I packed my case with many bold, eyecatching dresses. I wanted to feel feminine. I wanted to feel free. I wanted to feel different, and rightly so! – I was in a different part of the world, after all. However, my persona was perceived by locals as screaming one word – tourist. It was hard to enjoy a casual walk around Mexican towns (albeit, those with a large tourist influence), trying to get a flavour of local life whilst being swarmed in all directions with cat calls and sales pitches. The thing is, the pestering did not appear to be skin colour related as one would first expect. Ok, so the oversized straw hat and flowery sundress may have been a little too much. Yet this can also be said for those with goliath backpacks and monster mountain boots. Enjoy the local atmosphere by keeping clothing situational.
4. Do not underestimate cloud coverage
The Weather Network had predicted a week of almost continuous thunderstorms during our greatly anticipated Mexico trip and I was not amused. First came denial, then despair How would we be able to explore Mayan ruins, swim in coral reefs, or bask on the beach with rainclouds looming? However, we insisted that our first few days were to be spent on the beach and luck had it that we were blessed with a patchy sky, a shy sun and a blanket of humidity. It was warm enough to induce the exposure of pasty white skin, but not for thoughts of sunscreen. A few days later, M and I were nursing burnt scalps, lips, arms, legs, breasts, buttocks and pretty much every other possible part of the human anatomy. A word of caution, from my skin to yours – clouds owe us nothing. Ouch!
5. Be wary with small, cheap airline companies
As you’ve probably gathered by now, I’m a student of the world. I study the most inspiring, thought-provoking and downright unbeatable program there is – Geography. Ok, maybe I included a slither of bias there, but I am a student none the less and with the title ‘student’ comes the burden of money juggling and heavy debt. My holiday was therefore on a budget. Wanting to go somewhere new, inexpensive and sun kissed, Mexico seemed like the perfect choice. After months of research, M and I made the mistake of booking a package with blankety blank airlines (name has been altered, if you couldn’t tell). We were both aware that flying with smaller, more affordable companies comes the increased risk of a flight delay (fewer aircraft = fewer parts for repair if necessary). However, what were not expecting was a total of over 15 hours, left in uncontacted, forever-checking-online-for-further-information, limbo. Both depart and return flights were delayed, resulting in wasted money (paying for 7 nights’ accommodation while only receiving 6) and, more importantly, precious, priceless time. The flights themselves were as expected, but was saving a few extra dollars really worth all the hassle that it caused us, our pre-flight transportation (a.k.a the parental taxi), our fellow (and far angrier) flyers and the hotel staff? I’ve sent a letter to blankety blank, asking them this very question. No reply has yet been received. Watch this space.