I am writing this whilst sitting at the side of a beautiful Cenote just outside of Tulum. I’m on a little day trip with my hostel where we all hired bikes and cycled a few miles down the road from the main town towards two Cenote’s, Cristal and Escondido. The Yucatan peninsular has over 30,000 of these clear water underground reservoirs, many of which are still unexplored. They are great for swimming in on warm muggy days, which you definitely get a lot of here.
So being surrounded by such a beautiful natural environment has prompted me to become some what self-reflective about my little spontaneous backpacking trip so far. The original plan was to bumble my way around America, but somewhere in the booking phase, my plans went a little south. So here I am, with a backpack full of camp clothes and jumpers (completely the wrong attire) exploring what I can of Mexico with 3 weeks and a almost non existent budget.
The Yucatan peninsular is a world away from Mexico City and the towns in that area of the country. Arriving in Cancun felt like I found myself in an extension of America. Advertisements for giant nightclubs and fast food chains aliened the walls as I made my way through the airport. Compare this to my time in Puebla and Cholula, where I was the only tourist anywhere. I explored empty ruins peacefully and saw a pretty authentic side to Mexico. The contrast is quite an apparent one but I guess that’s what you get when an area gets built up as a prime tourist destination.
So what have I learnt so far at the halfway mark of my spontaneous solo getaway? Well for starters, do you know what seems like a very good idea at the time? 10 peso tacos. Well a bottle full of Pepto-Bismol later and my stomach begs to differ. I have also learnt that no matter where you find yourself on your lone backpacking trip, you don’t really end up alone for too long. I’ve met some great people who I’ve explored these fantastic places with. Some have taken me under their wing when I have had down days and some have been happy to share in any adventure I’d planned for the day ahead. Some I’ve found myself in hilarious moments of chaos with and others have taught me about far off cultures and traditions. For each one of these fantastic people, I am thankful. These moments are defined by you.
I have also learnt what it’s like to travel on a mega budget. It can be super fun wandering around hunting for bargains, whether that be food, souvenirs or even day trips, but it can also be massively frustrating. Frustrating when the awesome bunch of people you met at your hostel are going on a super cool activity you just can’t stretch to. Frustrating when people go out drinking but you sensibly decide to stay in because you’ve already overspent that day. Frustrating when the biggest sights in the area are far too expensive to justify going to. But hey, it’s ok to feel this way and saying no to these things doesn’t make you a bad traveller. It actually leaves room to discover even more.
The stuff that may not be as obvious, that goes under the radar. A tiny little restaurant only the locals go to, but serves the best food you have ever eaten. A part of the beach you discover on a walk that is so perfect and quiet you wonder if anyone has actually been there before. You have time to chat to the locals and hear what the area you’re staying in is really like. For me these small moments are what build up to make your trip special and unique. It makes your trip more than following a Lonely Planet guide word for word. It makes this adventure yours. Own the imperfections, the tough moments and the times things go wrong. I missed entry to the Tulum ruins by 5 minutes because I got caught out cycling through a torrential rainstorm. Instead of beating myself up about not getting to see this wonderful sight, I laughed. It was actually pretty funny standing outside the closed ruins sopping wet and will be a great story to tell later on. Everything I own is now slightly damp, smells awful and I seem to be carrying half the beach around in my backpack. That’s ok too, this is what travelling is really like.
It’s not perfectly crafted Instagram posts and outfits that are so well put together you could see it in a magazine. It’s not having an hour by hour itinerary or eating at the top restaurants and staying in the prefect minimalist hotels. It’s being brave enough to go out there to discover what you can and take in every single moment because this is YOUR adventure.
With another week an a half left to go, I can’t wait to discover what other truly unique moments lay ahead.