From: Boston, MA
When We Met: Feb. 2014
Where We Met: Playa del Carmen
Because life is short and if you keep saying you are going to do it tomorrow it’s not going to happen.
What was your profession back home?
My work, I work as a waitress but I like to paint, so I guess that would be more what I do, I studied painting and drawing.
What style of painting? I like watercolors a lot for smaller things and for bigger I love to do oils and acrylics. When I was traveling before, I use to bring all my painting stuff. That was insane,
it’s way too heavy to carry but my watercolors, I brought those with me on this trip.
Where are you going on this trip? That’s a good question. So, I guess, where am I going on this trip? This trip is sort of, we’ll see where I go. Starting here, I’ve been in Playa del Carmen
before, I really liked it so I’m going to see what falls into place here. I’m debating to go further south into Belize but I’ve never been there. I want to go all the way Pacific side and maybe to California and maybe think about moving there. That would be awesome.
How long is your trip? This trip has no end date, it just depends on the money situation. I’m more lost on this trip than the previous ones.
What made you want to travel? That’s a good question actually. There’s something about being in one place for a long time. It’s like all of my friends have told me, it’s wanderlust…you’re never content in one place. Granted I’m always sort of jumping back home because that’s where my family is but there is something about whenever I can get time off, or whatever I’m working for is always to go on a trip. I’m not thinking about buying a car, I’m thinking about going on a trip and seeing some place I haven’t seen.
What is your favorite experience here so far? This journey just started last week so it may be a little early to jump into it but I have to say the little BBQ we had here [at the hostel] was fun. Just the people you meet in the hostel, you always get so nervous when you travel because you have to meet new friends, and you’re not around the same people you know and once you start traveling you meet really great people and it’s like “hey watch my stuff while I go upstairs”. I wouldn’t do this back home or something. I guess so far that’s the best. You forget about that when you go back home and all the good people.
What are your impressions of Playa del Carmen, the people, the country? I have a slight problem with Mexico, I keep coming back here. This is probably my third time in Playa because I really like it. Nature is beautiful here but you also have the busy-ness of a small city in a lot of ways but it’s not too crazy. Like, I really haven’t been to Cancun because it seems a little bit too big for me. Where Tulum that was a little too quite. Playa’s nice because you can completely get away from everyone or you can be completely immersed in it. And I like people watching, especially when traveling alone. I never quite feel alone here.
What about Mexico in general, have you been to other places? I’ve probably been in Mexico for about two years. I started about five years ago, went to Costa Rico, which they always call Costa Gringo, because it’s the first jumping off point for a lot of people from The States. So I met some people there, a Mexican guy and we decided to go up into Mexico. I was really nervous to go to Mexico because you hear all these things. I’ve done other journeys where I’ve done backpacking/hitchhiking from Puerto Vallarta to Playa del Carmen. We did it all down the Pacific coast. I’ve never felt nervous, I think the only time was outside of Acapulco. That was the only area where even the locals were like, be careful in the streets.
What made you feel nervous? We got there at night but we weren’t inside the city, we were sort of on the outside parts where the roads were dark. I don’t know if that place still has the feel of like, mountains and divides. There’s resorts and then the people of Acapulco, so if you’re on that side they may still have some resentment towards the people in the resorts. All the tourism is there. Yeah, I think that was the only time. Like police encounters haven’t been anything stressful, they’re just checking to make sure you’re okay.
So you haven’t had any really undesirable things happen to you? No, not at all…besides breaking up with a boyfriend half way through it (laughs). That was the only thing. Cause what happend, I went and stayed in Guanajuato, where he is from. That’s a beautiful city. It’s a colonial city in Mexico and there are a lot of students and I ended up getting a little work there and I stayed about a year there.
How did you stay in Mexico for a whole year, legally? Yeah, okay, so I got in a little trouble because they give you the 180 day pass and I was like “oh, who cares” and I let it slide and then when I was trying to leave they were like, no you can’t leave, you’ve been here too long. I was like, no I’m trying to leave, I’m in the airport! They said I needed to go get a stamp and ended up paying like $30. But they do take note of that.
So it’s a bit of a runaround but in the end it just cost you $30? Yeah, $30 so it wasn’t the end of the world. I was like deport me, that’s what we do and that’s horrible but yeah. So take it seriously and you shouldn’t let it slide.
Do you have any advice for women traveling alone? Yeah, you get asked that a lot here in Mexico and I’ve just started calling out guys in the street. If you just start talking to someone, a guy, some of their first questions will start going towards, “are you married, where are your kids, why are you traveling by yourself” and I finally just told them, I’m trying to make small talk to be nice but that’s too much. That’s too personal. You sort of know, I think if you’re from a city, you sort of stick with that same mentality of like if I’m walking at night I don’t go down streets that are completely deserted. At bars, you try to have your wits about you. Knock on wood but I’ve heard stories, be careful with your drinks. I haven’t had that happen but I had some guy tell me it happened to him. (laughs) So who knows what they’re doing with him.
Do you have a daily budget here? I’ve been trying to figure this out too. So if you start thinking about staying some place for a month you want to start thinking about some things because your budget might inflate right in the beginning because you have to shell out like $200 for an apartment for the month right from the beginning, then it goes down. And you can have a few days where you are way over budget but I think hostels are great and if you’re thinking about staying long term always ask for deals, like if I stay for a few more nights can I get a night free or something so there are little ways to save. Usually that first week is a good time where you start seeing how much you are spending daily and know you can survive with this much and maybe on certain nights I can go out and spend a little more. Always that first day you spend a little too much. You’re like “I’ll buy beers for everyone” then I’m like wait a minute.
Do you have a ballpark figure? So hostel like around 200 pesos ($15), then today I just bought a lunch for about 50 pesos ($4), breakfast I bought yogurt, for dinner maybe I’ll cook in or maybe another 50 pesos ($4) for dinner. I feel like you could do really cheap for $20 or splurge for around $40.
What is your favorite place that you’ve ever visited? I guess right now I’ve got Mexico on the brain since we’re here. The beaches of Tulum are amazing, San Cristobal de la Casas is an awesome little colonial town. South America is what I’m thinking for future travels. But the ruins here, there are a couple here that literally almost took my breath away and I didn’t think I would be that effected by it but it is just something so special.
Which ones? The one in Coba (Mexico), because you could rent some bicycles and you could climb it. It is humongous. And for a really spiritual experience is the one in Ek Balam (Mexico). There was nobody there and this thunderstorm was coming in and it was just incredible.
How do you go about planning your trips, what is your process? I’d say it might start with looking at flights and seeing what is good in my price range and how much time off I have. Weather because I tend to like warmer places, I’ve noticed. Yeah, so start with flights and I’ll be on Kayak and I’ll start seeing flights. Skyscanner, you can put your city and to go anywhere. So I just put it in and all the flight prices will pop up for different places, it was interesting.
How do you decide where you are going to sleep? Do you choose ahead or look at places once you get there? Usually, especially when I travel places I don’t know anything about, I look online and write down probably two or three hostels and look on Google Maps, write down directions and sometimes people recommend places from other hostels you stay in. But if I have no idea, which has happened, I end up asking people if I can’t find it but usually I don’t typically call head. I just have a set of three that are closer to the bus station that I can walk to.
What do you look for when you go look at hostels you’re considering staying at? I like them to have a really nice common area where everyone can chill out. It is nice to have a nice kitchen and internet is always really important. With rooms, you start noticing hostel rooms are almost all the same. I don’t think I’ve ever been blown away by one. I mean, you aren’t going to spend a lot of time in one. Also to have a locker is really good.
How many pairs of underwear do you pack for trips? (laughing) That’s so funny because I was looking at your packing list online and was like, yeah, I always bring make-up and never use it. So it is like, why do I pack three shades of eyeliner cause I’m not going to use it, it is too warm. Yeah, so it is a smaller thing so I usually just grab handfuls, I guess it is at least a week, maybe a couple extras if there is enough space, just because. Might be a little more because I mean you can re-wear clothes but not underwear, so maybe a week and a half worth.
Do you have any advice to people that want to travel backpacking style that just haven’t done it for some reason? You should definitely do it if you are thinking about it. I also think, I just had a birthday and it is all just starting to go by and I’m getting stuck in a routine and even if you can’t go for a long time like a month or longer, just a week and just to feel like you have all of your stuff in a little backpack and you just don’t need anything else. Just start out small I guess and go for a weekend or a week and just bring the bare essentials and see how you feel. Because life is short and if you keep saying you are going to do it tomorrow it’s not going to happen. I know money is an issue but jobs will still be there in the future.