Current drink count:

Margaritas: 3
Dos Equis: 5
Miami Vice: 3
Some weird fruit cocktail thing with a mega hit of alcohol: 1

Right now I’m lounging on a beautiful white sand beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The waiter gets an extra $1 every time he takes my order before my drink runs out. He’s doing a fantastic job! It’s my first full day in Playa and I’ve named today as “Beach Day”.  My only goal is to sit on the beach, drink, read, and do absolutely nothing. It’s going very well!

Enjoying the beach in Playa
Enjoying the beach in Playa

How in the world did I end up here?  Well, I have to admit rather embarassingly, that it’s all because of a quasi-breakdown. I’ve always dreamed of traveling but have never made it happen. I just ended a fairly challenging relationship and then jumped into a fairly challenging job. Not such a great combination. In an attack of impulsiveness unlike any I’ve ever had (and believe me, I’ve had a lot!) I called my boss and quit my new job. Just like that. And it felt awesome!

The thought of traveling solo on my first big trip sadly intimidated me, so I thought of places somewhat easy and nearby. Chichen Itza is on my must-see list so Mexico popped into my head. A friend told me “Hey, you’re middle name is Carmen, right? Go to Playa del Carmen. It’s a sign!” So while I explained the situation to my boss over the phone, I booked a 4-day trip to Playa del Carmen.  I’m not much of a resort-type person, but I found a fantastic all-inclusive special at the Gran Porto Real with all the food, booze, and activities I could think of included.  How do you argue with that?

Strolling Playa del Carmen
Strolling Playa del Carmen

Yesterday I left Seattle and for once I had pretty smooth flights, though landing in Cancun was a bit of an adventure.  I assumed the plane would fly over the resort area and land somewhere near it. Instead, I watched nervously as we descended into jungle. Very thick jungle. The kind you crash in and don’t come out alive. The guy next to me even expressed some concern about the existence of an airport. Right as we’re skimming the tree tops and I’m convinced we’re jungle bait, boom!  There’s the landing strip. Disaster averted.

After an hour in customs and another hour taking ground transport to Playa, I arrived at the Gran Porto and almost fainted when I saw my partial ocean-view room.  It’s crazy huge!  I swear it might be bigger than my condo. I’m not really a luxurious traveler, so it’s quite the surprise. Trust me, I could like this!

My room at the Grand Porto, are you kidding me!? This place is bigger than my condo!
My room at the Grand Porto, are you kidding me!? This place is bigger than my condo!

Playa del Carmen lies about an hour south of Cancun in the Riviera Maya. It started as a small fishing village but then people in transit to Cozumel found its beautiful white sand beaches much more relaxing than Cancun and it’s since turned into quite a desirable destination. I can certainly see why. Sure, resorts are popping up all over and I hear it’s grown a lot, but it’s still a very laid back town, especially if you walk a few blocks off the resort strip.

Fishing boats on the beach
Fishing boats on the beach

I spend my first evening strolling Quinta Avenida, a pedestrian promenade with scores of great shops and restaurants. I try to use my slim Spanish vocabulary but wish I knew more. Everywhere there is music, dancing, and energy.  I love the bustle of it all. The enchiladas I have for dinner at a tiny cafe are the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s incredibly relaxing to be somewhere new and interesting and beautiful. The rest of my evening I lounge on my porch with a steady supply of Dos Equis, listening to a mariachi band on the corner play into the wee hours of the morning. I’m already thinking of extending my trip.

Love the atmosphere and music here
Love the atmosphere and music here
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