Current Date: February 23, 2008 2:00 p.m. (Isla Holbox, Mexico)
Current Itinerary: Leaving here tomorrow, headed on to Isla Mujeres. All this time on islands...pretty tough! We'll probably stop one day in playa del carmen again this week so we can see my friend Karl/New Zeland who will be in Cozumel. We'll probably be in Belize in the next week to 10 days.
Note: Sorry to be off to a slow start with journals. We had a few days there with no or very slow internet. Everything is going GREAT though and it's hard to believe that we only left 10 days ago.
Note #2: This was going to be one massive journal but I decided to break it half to make it easier to read. The next journal is coming right behind this one...sorry for sending out 2 at once, but I gotta get caught up. Enjoy!!
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Alright, alright...I'm sitting at the Houston airport at my gate, ready to begin another great adventure. It's been a little different this time. Of course every trip is different, but it seems like I prepared a lot more this time. That is weird because the whole point of this trip is that there is no plan, so it makes me wonder what the hell I've been preparing. Maybe it solidifies the old addage...ignorance is bliss. Last time I didn't sweat a lot of different things and worry about any little details because I had no idea what I would need or what I was doing. I ended up fine though, so what's the difference. Last week I went to brunch with Paula and her boyfriend Takis (I'll be seeing them in Mexico this weekend!) and he asked me an interesting question; What item did I bring this time that I wished I would have had last time? It took me awhile to come up with anything...but then I remembered my head lamp...I wished I'd had one a thousand times on my last trip. But it made me think, I've been having all this stress about preparing to leave and the only difference has been a freaking head lamp? It makes no sense...and it just lets you know that I was feeling a bunch of anxiety over nothing, and that's something that all of us do WAY too often. Part of what this journey is about is slamming things into perspective and to take things in stride. I feel like the grind of living on the east coast caused me to lose that a little...I often found myself gettting upset about things that I wouldn't have thought about twice a few years ago. It will take some time to relax about things but I know I'll get there.
Anyway, the quick story I really wanted to tell was about something very subtle that just happened when I got to the airport just now. After checking my bag, I went to security...ready to go through the normal 75 step process of taking everything off. When I reached into my pocket for my keys and cell phone I realized they weren't there. I had to pause and smile to myself...these simple, everyday items were never more than 10 ft. from me for the last 3.5 years. Reaching in my pocket instinctively and grabbing nothing but air, it hit me...no more keys, no more cell phones. Though these items are small, they are part of what binds us to our everyday lives. If we leave our houses without one of them we feel lost and anxious. If I added up all the time I spent searching for those very items over the past few years, it probably amounts to several hours. Well, there's no more searching my friends...I'm officially free and it feels great.
Well, in the immortal words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast!" Shortly after writing the above there was a little twist in my "escape". Turns out, my flight out of Houston was cancelled. When they finally announced it about 30 min. after the flight was supposed to take off, they told us to go back out to the ticket counter to rebook. I knew right then and there I was in trouble...anytime you have to go back out through security, it's a bad sign. I actually ran b/c I wanted to be one of the first people in line...I knew that rebooking all 100 people that were supposed to be on that plane would take time. I was able to be the third person in line, but it would still be 2 hours of waiting in lines and trudging back in forth between terminals before I was rebooked. It was not a pleasant process. Aeromexico definitely is not one of the most efficient airlines...there was maybe one competent employee in the entire Houston airport.
The problem was that I was originally supposed to arrive in Cancun at 8:00 that night, which was the same time Jodi's flight was landing...she was connecting via Miami from Boston. I was now scheduled to land in Cancun at 11:30. We had made a backup plan to wait until 10 just in case there were some delays, but now I was not going to land until way later than that. We had not booked a hostel or anything or decided where we'd go, so it was gonna be very up in the air how we'd meet up. I guess I had upset the cell phone Gods with my thoughts from earlier that morning because just a couple hours later, I was in dire need for one...or so I thought anyway.
I was able to go to the American Airlines counter and have them leave a message for Jodi when she connected in Miami, but there was no garauntee that she would see it. I looked around for awhile for an internet place so I could e-mail her and atleast she would know what happened...I did finally find one but they would not accept credit cards and being the smart guy I thought I was, I had already changed all my cash I had on me to pesos. So I had to find a currency exchange to get $5 to get 10 minutes to spend on the internet. I fired off a message to Jodi and another to her brother to have him try and page her in the airport in Miami. It was all I could do.
I boarded my Mexico city bound, 5:45 flight out of IAH at about 6:00...and then we proceeded to sit on the runway for another hour. My Cancun flight was set to leave Mexico City at 9:30...I didn't know how far away we were but I was sure it was atleast 2 hours. I was getting worried...I had no clue if Jodi would get either of my messages and I figured missing that connecting flight would put me in the Mexico city airport overnight...not exactly what I was hoping for.
We landed in Mexico at about 8:55...with me sitting in the rear of the plane and needing to clear customs and get to my flight that was supposed to leave at 9:30. Needless to say, it was time to go OJ Simpson in the Mexico City airport (hmmmm maybe that reference is too old for most of you reading this...but atleast my parents are laughing). Sadly, I had no clue what was in store for me. It was almost a full mile of running just to get to customs from where our gate was...it seemed like everytime I turned a corner there was another super long hallway. It was like a horrible movie. It's funny because besides thinking of making my flight, I was chastizing myself the whole time for being so out of shape. Thinking:
"Man, I gotta start hitting the gym...wait a second, that makes no sense, I'm about to start traveling...maybe there are YMCA's in Mexico...I shouldn't have cancelled my membership. Hey, I wonder if anybody around me is thinking of that old OJ commercial seeing a black guy running through the airport. Hey, maybe I can make that joke in the journal I write about this! Dang it, where in the hell is the customs line??"
Anyway, after I finally made it to through customs, there was another half mile waiting for me on the otherside. I was sweaty tired mess and thought it was all for nothing when I found out I had to take a train to get to my terminal. Just to add drama to the situation, the interterminal train had a scrolling sign that read out the time until the next train...it even had seconds on it! I had to sit through 8 full minutes of a countdown, looking at my watch, thinking there was no way I was gonna make it. Atleast it gave me a few minutes to rest though. I finally got to my terminal and caught a lucky break when there was no line at security. I got through fast and then went into a full sprint to my gate that was of course the farthest one from security. I got there just as the last person was boarding, out of breath, clutching my bag and laptop (had to take it out at security) but happy that I barely made it and didn't have to spend the night in the Mexico airport. It was worth it.
I was slightly rewarded when I boarded the plane with a full row of 3 seats to myself. I was exhausted so I needed it...but alas, it was not meant to be...after we took off, some lady moved to the aisle seat of my row from another row. It was very weird for a couple reasons...first of all, I had specifically sat in the middle seat just to deter anyone who was thinking of trying to sit in my row. Secondly, and even more strange was that she moved from a row where the people she was traveling with was sitting. What the hell is that about? What's the psycology behind something like that??? You sit next to a random dude who's sweating and smelling instead of who you're traveling with? I could not have been sending a stronger "don't sit next to me" vibe. If I had the energy, I might have asked her...I guess the travel Gods did not want me to have any comfort that day. My last thought as I drifted off to sleep besides wondering if Jodi got my email was, "hmmm, I barely made it...I wonder if my backpack made it???"
That question was answered around midnight as I stood in the baggage claim at the Cancun airport, watching the conveyor belt come to a stop as I stood there backpackless. Brutal. It had been 14 hours since Tony dropped me off at the airport that morning and so far nothing had gone right. After waiting in line for 40 minutes, I finally was able to talk to the lost luggage people...I would have to call the airport the next day. Fine I thought, tomorrow is a new day and I'm sure things will go smoother.
As you might imagine, when I finally exited the baggage claim at almost 1:00a.m., Jodi was not waiting for me. I couldn't check e-mail in the airport so I just decided to head for a hostel. I finally got there at 1:30 and was atleast happy to find there was a bar attached to it that was still open. I was able to check e-mail and found out that Jodi was in another hostel and had arrived safely. That was a relief...with that worry out of the way, I sat down and had a beer and tried to chill out. I asked the waiter where Jodi's hostel was and it turned out it was only a few blocks away. I went to find her but the hostel was dark and she was already sleeping...I couldn't get past night attendant. Oh well, off to bed...
I had slept about 3 hours the night before starting on this hellish day of traveling, thinking to myself that I'd be able to sleep on both flights and then get to Cancun with plenty of time to chill out. I guess I was wrong. The "adventure" had begun alright...not like I imagined, that's for sure, but nevertheless I was happy to have made it to Cancun and it was a good reminder that you never know what's gonna happen when you wake up in the traveling world. I knew everything would be fine so I wasn't too upset...now all I needed was my backpack that had every single thing I own in it.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I got up at 8:30 and went over the the Soberanis hostel to find Jodi. If you're wondering, it was easy to decide what to wear because all I had was the clothes I was wearing. She came down from her room and it was great to see her! The last time I had seen her was almost 2 weeks earlier in the tissue culture room at work. Quite a bit had happened since then, but here we were together in Cancun, FINALLY!
She checked out and we headed over to my hostel because it was alot cheaper...it was also located on a nice little plaza and had that great little bar attached to it. Anyone coming to Cancun (and not doing the resort thing) should go to the Chac Mool Hostel. It's just a few blocks from the bus station downtown.
We had to wait about an hour for a double to be free so we just hung out in my room. We met a pretty cool guy named Raymond from NYC. He was in the process of building a house in Cuba and was using Cancun as his entry/exit point. Most Americans out there might not know it...but you can actually go to Cuba. It is not allowed directly from the USA but you can go through the Carribean or Mexico. It's illegal for us to be in Cuba, but they just don't stamp your passport when you get there and are quite open to letting us in. They don't like us over there, but they like our dollars (I guess that's true for many places). Anyway, I've always wanted to go...many travelers have told me wonderful things about it...plus my old roomate Mark/Australia always told this great story about how his life was saved by his brother's soul over there:)
After we were able drop Jodi's stuff in the room, we went downstairs to try and call the airport to see about my backpack. I was lucky...they had it...and even more lucky, they agreed to bring it to me at the hostel. See, things were already going much better. We had some lunch at a little taco stand and it was not lost upon us that these would be our first tacos of MANY for the next few weeks. I was so tired after that so we headed back to the hostel. Jodi ended up going out to the mall awhile later but I had to hang out at the hostel to wait for my bag. It finally showed up around 3:00 or so and I was one happy camper. I jammed out to my ipod for awhile while I worked on the website...there was a ton of stuff I wanted to get done before putting it back up, plus I still had not sent out my "hey everybody, I'm leaving e-mail" and it was driving me crazy.
Jodi came back around 5:00 or so...we heard all this crazy music coming from outside in the plaza. It turns out there was this huge concert/rally out in the plaza to celebrate some dude named Greg Sanchez that had just been elected president. I'm not sure what he was elected president of, but it was a heck of a show. Sitting there in our room, it dawned on me that I had been in Cancun for almost 18 hours and I had only had one beer...and the two of us had not even had one together. Jodi ran out to the store and got us a couple bottles and we officially toasted the start of our trip together. We drank for awhile while I continued to work on the website and then decided to go get some food. There were a ton of people outside b/c of the Greg Sanchez thing. We went to the area with all these little taco stands and of all things I ended up eating chinese food. I didn't expect that, but it was pretty good...Jodi ended up with some meat and potatoes that were WAY too salty.
After we ate, we went back to the hostel bar and just sat out on a couch on the sidewalk and had a few beers. There were a bunch of people from the hostel sitting at a table near by us, but I was feeling very tired and not too social. I just didn't have much fire in me. We were going to work on the internet for awhile just to let folks know we arrived okay and I found out that the hostel had free wireless internet! That was huge b/c I had a ton of stuff I wanted to do online. We had actually planned to leave the next morning for Playa del Carmen, but in the end we both knew we needed another day to chill, and I really wanted to take advantage of having a day of free wireless. We took a couple beers to our room...Jodi fell asleep shortly after and I worked on journals until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Very little happened on this day...I pretty much spent the entire day either napping, or getting the website back up and sending/answering e-mails. It's funny because both of us were so out of it, it was probably after noon before either of us even realized it was Valentine's Day. We went for a little run that afternoon (my second run of the trip if you count the Mexico City airport) and that night we had a nice dinner at a Tapas restaurant near the hostel. Those were the only 2 times we even went outside.
We had spent 2 full days in Cancun and had not seen one single grain of sand or a drop of the ocean. I was not that interested in Cancun anyway and we said from the start that this was just an entry point for us. We barely even went out or anything and we probably were sleeping about 40% of the time and that's no exaggeration. The last couple months, and particularly the past 2 weeks have left me drained...both physically and emotionally. It was tough going through all the goodbyes and all partying with friends and late nights have taken their toll. Also there was leaving work and logistical crap like changing all addresses, and buying all those last minute items (hey, atleast I have my trusty head lamp). The last couple days have been like one giant exhale. I knew I would need these days to decompress but I didn't realize how tired I was...it was sort of like when I first got to Argentina from Brazil...I slept for like 3 weeks.
Anyway, the best part is knowing that we have plenty of time to have days like this...there is zero hurry or pressure to be out going and going every second. We've eased into this trip like an old man into a hot bath...and that's just perfect if you ask me. Tomorrow the pace will quicken for sure as we're headed off to Playa del Carmen to meet up with Paula and Takis. Now that we've decompressed, it's time to put some miles on the odometer. Let's do it...