I have been making a blanket statement a lot lately that I would like to recant. I've been proclaiming from the rooftops that everyone should take a solo trip, but I think maybe I was just trying to lessen the guilt that I felt for leaving my family and "real life" for completely selfish reasons.
While I do thoroughly believe that traveling solo is amazing for the soul and that everyone could benefit from it....if you know yourself and your personality and know that you would be uncomfortable, lonely, and downright scared the whole time...then maybe it's not for you. Or maybe you should baby step it and try a night alone in a hotel.
But I have decided that solo travel IS for me.
Not ALL the time, obviously. But a weekend getaway every now and then? Yep.
My life is pretty great. I absolutely adore my little family, love my "job", love the life that I've built for myself. I didn't feel the need for an "ESCAPE", necessarily. Just a "REFRESH and EXPLORE". And maybe a chance to pee alone.
I'm not much of a New Year's Resolution-maker. Resolutions, in my mind, are empty promises. I think it's just the word "resolution" that carries the negative connotation of failure. So while I don't call them "resolutions", every year I make a bucket list. A list of things that, if THIS were my last year on earth, I would want to accomplish them. Sounds half morbid and half hipster douchebag, I suppose.
Nonetheless, one of the items on 2015's list was a solo trip. Sure, I take lots of little trips for business by myself. But those trips aren't about me. I wanted a block of time to do whatever the hell I wanted in a place that was unfamiliar to me. I wanted to explore. I wanted to sleep in if I wanted (or wake up before sunrise every day in my case). I wanted to eat breakfast for dinner and desert for breakfast. I didn't want to have any agenda. I wanted to try something new. I wanted to rely only on myself. AND...as the mother of 2 children....I wanted to go to the bathroom and take a shower without interruption. If you're a mom...you DEFINITELY get it.
In January of 2015, I blocked out a weekend in February to take this solo trip. Then I pushed it back to March. Then June. Then August. Then November. It got bumped so many times it almost got bumped to 2016. I didn't want to let that happen.
So December 11th it was. I scoured vacation deal sites for a last minute deal....REALLY open to new places that the interwebs might point me to. But, of course, I only had one weekend because I didn't want it to mess up my husband's or kids' schedules. (Still the mom/wife guilt!).
Alas I scored an insane deal in what was considered the "off-season" for Tulum, Mexico.
I'd never been to Tulum before, just Cancun. So I did some research and saw that it was much further from being touristy, that it was safe, it was a quick direct flight from Austin, it was super cheap, that it was FREAKING GORGEOUS, and that it was full of culture. Winner.
On the plane, I read a book. It was not a business book or a self-improvement book. It was a "just for the read-of-it book.". Already I was digging being selfish. When the flight attendant came by to offer me a beverage, I got a charcuterie plate and a glass of white wine. I lounged back in the row I had to myself in my business class seat, and I wasn't doing ANY business.
I was sure to set up a shared shuttle to my resort, because, as a woman traveling alone in Mexico....safety is key.
I actually really enjoyed the shared shuttle ride. I talked to several other people (all from Dallas, coincidentally) en route, got a lot of great recommendations, and since Tulum was the very last stop on the route...I got to see all kinds of boutique hotels and resorts along the way to get a good idea for next time.
It was just about dark when I arrived at my hotel. I got checked in, and did exactly what I'd been dying to do all day: Had a solo candlelight dinner overlooking the pool and ocean. I don't just mean "without a date"...I literally was the only one in the restaurant.
Being that I took this trip during mega off-season, apparently, I got SO much special attention from the staff. It was an all-inclusive resort, and, if you've ever been to one of those, you know that the service is not always stellar given that tips aren't a thing. That couldn't have been further from the truth! I'm not sure if it's because they didn't have anyone else to serve, or because they took pity that I was alone. But there was absolutely zero self-pity the entire trip.
Saturday was an amazing day. I woke up super early, walked the grounds, watched the sunrise, went to breakfast, and then took a snorkeling tour with "EDVENTURE TOURS". If you are anywhere on the Yucatan Peninsula, you absolutely MUST look into this family owned company.
Again, I got a ton of personal attention because I was the ONLY ONE with a tour booked that day, so to keep me from feeling uncomfortable (without me asking), they made it a private "training" tour. They brought out several other new guides to train them on the snorkeling locations that we were going to, and to show them how to treat their customers. So I had 6 wonderful ladies and gentlemen giving me the ultimate in customer service.
First stop was the Mayan Ruins, which was really cool to see. My favorite part, though, was the little beach at the bottom. I made my way through the ruins pretty quickly and used the rest of my allotted "exploration" time to sit on the beach, watch the waves, take photos, and trying to coax a giant iguana to pose for a picture. (I swear he growled at me.)
Then it was time to snorkel. The only other time I've been snorkeling was in the deep end McDowell High School pool as part of swim class. And I failed HARD at it. I've had anxiety about snorkeling ever since, yet it's something I've wanted to conquer so badly. So I freaking did it.
When the guides told me that we were going to snorkel in the Dos Ojos Cenote, I was flipping terrified. Being a slightly claustrophobic girl as it was, and a brand new snorkeler...the thought of jumping into a dark well in a cave with a flashlight pretty much made me want to catch the next donkey out of there. But with nobody else there to talk me down, I told myself to give it a chance. I had an internal freak out for about 2 minutes, and after that I was ready to explore.
Then I was challenged a bit further when the guides asked me if I wanted to see the bat cave. I immediately said "YEAH! Let's DO it!" when they looked at each other like "silly little girl..."....and then explained to me that I would have to doggie paddle, head out of the water, with only about 6 inches between the top of the water and the ceiling of the cave in order to get there. UHMMMMM. REALLY!? Holy shit. Ok.
So I did that and made it into the bat cave. To be honest, I was grossed out thinking about how much bat shit I was floating around in. But the small dark cave anxiety was non-existent, so that's good ;)
Then we went to Akumal for lunch and lagoon snorkeling. The tour set up a private lunch table for me at an authentic Mexican restaurant (because all I'd eaten prior to this was the resort's idea of what tourists wanted to eat while in Mexico: Italian and Japanese food.) and I devoured chicken fajitas, chips and salsa, and a Dos Equis before jumping into the lagoon for another snorkel.
Between the snorkeling tour, the lying by the pool, the toes in the sand, the strange Italian meals at the Mexican restaurant, and brushing up on my Spanish that hasn't really been used in years....it was an incredible trip.
Would it have been incredible with my husband? Hell yes. And I would love to go back with him. But it would have been different. Would it have been amazing with my girlfriends? Yep. And try as they might, I insisted that I do this one alone. And I am so, so glad that I did.
I recharged my batteries, learned a little about myself, indulged when I saw fit, was gone just long enough to feel replenished, but not so long that I was sulking about missing my family.
For those with children and busy lives, traveling alone may just be the best way to go! My husband and I have crazy schedules, two kids, and no family in our city to watch them at the drop of a hat. For us to take a trip together requires planning 6 months+ ahead, flying one of our family members into Austin for the duration, therefore triple the expense, not to mention the guilt of asking our family to use their days off/vacation time to babysit.
I'm not sure I would do a BIG international trip by myself at this point. Maybe once the kids are grown and I've done a huge share of exploring WITH my husband. There are so many places that I want to see and experience with him/them. But for now, little weekend getaways are definitely in the cards for me to help keep me mentally stable and enhancing my already pretty-damn-cool life ;)
If anyone has any specific questions for me about my solo travel experience, don't hesitate to reach out!
In the meantime, I encourage you to plan a weekend getaway for yourself. Don't let anyone else sway your thoughts on what a good time is (as long as you're being safe. And legal. And not doing anything behind your spouse's back. And all that.). If that means total seclusion and silence, so be it. If that means a cheese tour in Wisconsin: do it (ooooh that's a good one. Mental note.). If that means a spa day and overnight hotel stay in your own city: DO.IT.
OVERALL SOLO TRAVEL TO TULUM, MEXICO RATING: 10/10.