5 Days in Tulum
The Blue Sky Hotel is located towards the end of a long dirt road, about 20 minutes away from Tulum’s main strip, Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila. Small, hand-painted, wooden signs sit grounded in the moist soil across the street, to point guests to the reserved parking. Small- to medium-sized dogs run through the property. They belong to someone, as indicated by their collars, but street dogs are also common here. Almost every part of the hotel is outdoors, aside from our room. We eat breakfast in a dining room that functions more as an oversized cabana. Ceiling fans keep us cool while we eat lime soup and drink margaritas. There are multiple pools; chairs and tables line the tiny strip of shore behind the property. There’s a long deck that stretches into the ocean, with steps leading down to the water, which runs about waist deep. During our first two days, it rains almost every hour, a soft mist that only erupts into a downpour once or twice. The wind blows all day, most fiercely at night. The temperature peaks around 80 degrees most afternoons but dips into the 60s after sundown.
Our room is marvelous, khaki-colored marble flooring and countertops, a double shower with square, steel showerheads, a wardrobe big enough for us both to store our belongings. We have an ocean view from the main part of the room, a sight to behold when we wake in the morning. We are literally in paradise.
Even after just 20 minutes of being in Tulum, I feel relaxed, open, peaceful. There’s a spider in the top left corner of our room. The kind I called a daddy long legs when I was in elementary school. He’s spun a web in this corner, trapping all the mosquitoes. If I was at my home, I’d reach for the nearest shoe or can of Raid. But here, I see that this spider has a function. The more mosquitoes he traps, the less we get bitten. This is essential, not just for his lunch, but also for our health. We’re in the middle of the jungle, and mosquitoes are rampant. I appreciate having a natural protector and not having to layer on OFF! at all hours of the day.
When we have breakfast, things are always relatively calm until the food arrives. Then, the flies come out in droves, daring to fight us, with our human size and metal utensils, to steal a bite of Mexican-style eggs or bacon. The first day, we swat at them, as we’ve been trained to do. We can’t help but be annoyed. But by our second breakfast, we recognize that it’s just part of the experience. We’re coexisting with them, and there’s no way to avoid this portion of the morning.
One morning, while my husband drives downtown to a local currency exchange branch, I stay behind and work out on the balcony. The breeze is strong and enjoyable this day, the sun beams down. I cycle through burpees, skater’s lunges, diver’s pushups, and squats, dripping with sweat. The workout is hard but the kiss of the breeze and warmth of the sun have a more powerful effect on me. I’m equally exhausted and free. I realize how disconnected I am from nature. How I work out five days a week in an underground gym with fluorescent lighting and no windows. How I spend my work days inside my apartment, only getting fresh air when I open a window or head to a meeting. How I have to ride a train a least an hour away from Manhattan to find trees and green grass and wide open space.
During this trip, we eat every single meal outdoors, at our hotel, at restaurants, on the beach. We spend nearly 9 hours at the wedding of two dear friends, watching their traditional Mayan ceremony, dining, dancing, drinking, stumbling to our cab. We get a massage on the oceanfront, soundtracked, not by a CD of white noise, but by the actual ocean, waves crashing against the shore, the wind blowing so hard the masseuse has to tuck the sheet under my shoulders and thighs.
We sweat and swat and walk and rest. It becomes apparent to me why people long for tropical vacations, why they abandon city life for the beach. I can see how life makes sense in a place like Tulum. Everything seems so far away. The emails, the articles, the bills, the Nor’easters.
When we land back in Manhattan, like always, I’m filled with the frenetic energy that’s unavoidable. I rush to get through immigration and then to baggage claim. A gypsy cab driver offers us a ride and I say no in an annoyed voice, as though it’s the twentieth time he’s asked me. I look at my watch repeatedly to see how long the cab ride is taking us. I throw in a load of laundry, I make a grocery list, I click through emails, I catch up on the latest headlines. It would appear that though I enjoyed Tulum, it has left no lasting effect on me.
But the way I behave, the way we all behave in New York doesn’t negate the experiences we have beyond the city. The pace and temperature and grit of the city can’t take away the feeling I had on the balcony or at the wedding or on the beach.
On our last day, as we packed our clothes and checked the room one last time for stray items, I looked up to that same corner, and the daddy long legs was still there. A few additional mosquitoes were trapped in his web. He’d kept us safe and bite-free for 5 days, and strangely, I found myself appreciative. Even now, as I write this from my desk on the 18th floor of my building, I still feel that connection, that thankfulness, that peacefulness. I remember what it felt like to worry about nothing, and I hope that somehow, someway, I find a way to feel that again.