“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ooohhh... Mexico...

I'll be honest, I've been to Mexico twice, but I'm not sure how much it really counts.  That's about to change.

1) Nogales, 1993.  18 years ago I walked through a turnstile across the border and went shopping in little markets without a care in the world.  I had rudimentary Spanish skills, and got my first taste of haggling.  I still cuddle up with my "Mexico blanket" that I bought, and just last year the bag I purchased there and brought along on so many subsequent trips went belly-up in Bangkok.  RIP Mexico bag (although I could fix it by sewing on new straps).  These days I wouldn't be caught dead in Nogales.  Correction: I would be caught dead in Nogales.  The US-Mexico border isn't a place you can leisurely peruse for a day trip.  The narco wars have killed about 34,000 people (!) in the past 5 years, notably along the border.  US State Department travel warnings are in effect for nearly the entire border, including Nogales.  At the time it was a lovely day trip from Tucson with a little detour past San Xavier del Bac mission.  How times have changed, but I do hope times will change again for the better along our border.  Fortunately, Puerto Vallarta and most other resort towns are not included in this warning (but still exercise caution).

2) Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Tulum 2005. This was also a one-day pit stop on a cruise.  Honestly, I only picked this particular cruise itinerary so I could visit the Mayan ruins at Tulum - which would be the very first ancient ruins I would visit until I went to Egypt.  Archaeology, pyramids... hey, Mexico was good enough.  From Cozumel we took a ferry to Playa, then another hour-long bus ride to Tulum (with a touristy pit-stop halfway in).  If you know me well, you know I love the heat and next to never complain about it, but wow, this is the hottest place I've ever been to.  Ever.  I was pouring bottles of water over me, and after a few minutes I wasn't sure if I was still wet from the water, or sweat.  I was pooling sweat in places I didn't know I had pores.  And where I learned that even eyeballs and forearms could sweat.  But Tulum was beautiful, picturesquely perched on a cliff over the Caribbean Sea.

3) Puerto Vallarta 2011.  Nette and I just booked it!  I can consider this the first official Mexican vacation.  Granted, we set out to take a beach vacation anywhere, really.  Our only requirements were peace, quiet, sand, water, all-inclusive, and CHEAP (aka, inexpensive, not backpacker).  At first we ruled out Mexico because it seemed too easy, too close to the US, and heck, I'd already been there.  But a friend pointed out that if all we wanted was sun, sand, and water, then it's really all the same, it didn't matter where we went if we weren't out for a sightseeing vacation.  Point made.  As much as I have been bitten by the travel bug, Cancun was ruled out.  Zero desire.  Nada.  Okay, so maybe I've never been but I have illusions about it and none of them appeal to me.  As we were researching inexpensive all-inclusive hotel/air packages, Puerto Vallarta kept popping up in the search results.  We happened upon a steal at a 5-star resort, and since we're vacationing in early November, it's the end of hurricane season (does that affect the Pacific coast?) and certainly an off-season for tourism.  I'm all about traveling during shoulder times, it saves money and we tourists aren't tripping over each other.  Plus we hit the jackpot with an upgraded ocean view suite.  Just a couple of gals making like beached whales for 4 days.  I'm all over it.

Nette and I have been discussing taking a vacation together ever since we returned from Thailand.  And honestly, Puerto Vallarta turned out to be far cheaper for hotel, air, and an all-inclusive package than the cost of just the airfare for a Florida vacation destination that was a possibility, but had to be ruled out for budget reasons (who knew parts of Florida could be so expensive??).

Now I'm not sure what our plans will be once we get there besides just laying on the beach, but what I did notice is that we'll be in PV during one of Mexico's largest festivals, Dia de los Muertos.  Ever since I started taking Spanish classes in high school - where I first learned about the holiday and we'd "celebrate" in class - I've wanted to visit a Latin country during this festival.  Coinciding with All Soul's and All Saint's Day, don't be put off by the images of skeletons, skulls, and celebrations in cemeteries.  This isn't about Halloween, but a celebration of a family's ancestors and keeping their memories alive.  I love this idea.  How many times do Americans spend time picnicking by a relative's grave?  Many people want to keep the legacies alive and this is a wonderful way to do it.  Cultures around the world have similar traditions.  I'm not sure if we'll venture off the resort or not, or if the hotel will have it's own little party, or really what we'll encounter, but I wouldn't mind one evening venturing into town and picking up a skull sugar cookie and exploring.  Just for a couple hours.  Then it's back to the beach.  I know, Mexico has so much to offer, but this trip is really about some R&R.  It's just the little adventurer in me that keeps the curiosity alive.

For now, I leave you with James Taylor...