Losing Myself in Cancún

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It was only a few weeks after I had made the decision to travel once per month this year that I began getting restless. I already had a flight scheduled to Chicago for the last week in January, and a few more trips scheduled in the coming months, but January was really freaking long and it started to seem that the day would never come. Without any real intentions I hopped on google to entertain my imagination, praying to the airplane gods that some cheap travel opportunity would plaster itself across my email and demand that I make a purchase. Thus, my first spontaneous solo trip to LA was booked.

I suppose it was a blessing and a curse that I managed to take not one, but TWO trips in January, setting the bar for the rest of the year. As December came to a close and the year of monthly travels was thrust upon me, I had begun to question whether or not I could actually make it happen. I wondered if taking time off of work and spending money on a trip every four weeks or so was too ambitious and unrealistic, but soon lost these fears in a gust of the cold Chicago wind, returning from my second January trip with a distinct hunger for more (not to mention a vegan food baby and broken heart after leaving the cutest little pup behind). Screw this whole “one trip per month” thing, I could easily sneak in a few more here and there.

Two things about me: I don’t give up and I don’t like to settle. Realizing that it might actually be possible to take more than one trip every month was an idea that glued itself to my frontal lobe and practically forced me to take time off of work and schedule cheap flights against my will. I guess this is how I ended up in Mexico… against my will, I tell my boss and parents and anyone else who questions me… I was totally forced to do this against my will… Like I practically had to be dragged out of the Denver cold, doused in sunscreen and thrown into the gorgeous crystal waters of Cancún beneath a sweltering sun, surrounded by dope people from all over the world. It’s a hard life I lead.

Nonetheless, this trip did not come without some fears and minor incidents. When I called my mom and told her I’d be going to Mexico by myself for a few days she nearly had a heart attack before congratulating me on my upcoming adventure. I, myself grew uncertain as I started looking into hostels and trying to figure out transportation from the airport, currency exchange, all that jazz. I’ve never considered myself very independent in this regard, always relying instead on those around me to make the decisions and ensure that I get to where I am going without losing my phone, keys, wallet, mind, etc. Shout out to my roommate, Frankie. I’d be broke, homeless and possibly dead without you. 

Even as my plane landed in tropical paradise, I felt uneasy. My Spanish was a bit rusty at first and I was hesitant to use it (A formal apology goes out to Mirelli Murch- if you are reading this, know that I have paid the price for frequently skipping your class senior year). My phone was about to die and I did not have written directions to the hostel. I impulsively gave in to a pushy taxi driver and paid an absurd amount of money to get to where I was going instead of taking the bus. As the trip went on, I had a few more uncomfortable interactions due to language barriers. I got a little sunburned. I may or may not have been scolded by security for running down an up escalator. These things happen, you know?

Another very minor incident: I accidentally lost my passport. You can all stop holding your breath because I assure you I returned safely back to Colorado on time and without much difficulty. That said, there was certainly a moment of terror when I had emptied out my purse and backpack, digging through the few things I had brought with me to discover that my passport was nowhere in sight. You would think, at the very least, I could manage to hold onto my passport: The single most important item I brought with me. But alas, you would be wrong.

I sent a few frantic messages to my roommate back in Denver who offered to get the ball rolling by contacting my mother, searching for some photocopies of my information and googling directions to the nearest U.S. embassy. God love her, but I could already see my family and friends shaking their heads, a chorus of voices neither impressed nor surprised by my actions. Typical Callie. Desperate to surpass this reputation, I started asking other guests if they had seen it, trying so hard to hold back the tears as my mind began wandering to the absolute worst case scenario. What if I dropped it at the market? What if I left it in the taxi? What if somebody stole it? I had a flashback to my eighth grade trip to Canada when I was the one student who had misplaced her personal documents upon our return to the Canada/U.S border and had to be questioned by Canadian law enforcement while my entire grade waited in the bus, gossiping about the possibility of us all being held hostage in another country. True story.

The situation wasn’t looking good. After frantically establishing a search team of other dedicated guests (to no avail), I asked the lady at the front desk if anyone had turned it in. She immediately said that nobody had, but offered, with a half smile and false hope, to look again. As it turned out, they did have my passport, stashed away in a drawer of other forgotten items by an employee who hadn’t given it back to me when I checked in the day prior. You can imagine my hysterical reaction when this information graced my eardrums, causing me to both cry and laugh with a sick sense of exhilaration. Easily the best thrill I’d had in months.

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Since my return, I have managed to leave out this part of the story and instead highlight the moments I am more proud of. I immediately called my parents, girlfriend, and best friend/future travel partner as I waited for a ride in the airport Subway, scarfing down a veggie sandwich between sentences (apologies go out to the subway employees who have heard this story told over and over in circles with the same passion and volume each time). I struggled to find all of the words I needed to paint the perfect picture of the bluest ocean I’d ever seen, the kindest people I’d ever met and the most delicious vegan tacos I’d ever tasted. I rambled for hours about the stories I had heard and all of the knowledge I had gained from my fellow travelers, many of whom had spent months in Mexico and Central America (A trip I am planning to do this fall). Above all else, I learned that traveling with little money and absolutely no plan is entirely possible and for me, entirely necessary. Many of those passing through the hostel had dedicated their life to experiencing new places and cultures, spending months at a time traveling and yet, their footsteps hadn’t seen more than a small percentage of the earth. This thought is both terrifying and inspiring.

The truth is, even the littlest hiccups in the trip lent themselves to enormous amounts of adventure, growth and new friends from all over the world. I know that I have some work to do in the organization department, but I also know that this part of me that loses track of everything (time, money, any fear of being outside my comfort zone, and yes, my passport) is the same part of me that longs for spontaneity and new, exciting experiences. I have been told all my life that I need to be more organized and focused, better at planning, a little more “straight-edge”, if you will. But I have come to realize that although certain losses are not so easily forgiven (i.e my passport), at the end of the day, I am who I am. Sure, some days I think I’d lose my head if it weren’t attached to my body, but then again, I wouldn’t mind spending my life traveling the world in search of it.

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