Well, this month didn’t go the way I anticipated. On the travel and life side, it was fantastic — I spent the whole month based in Mérida and did trips all over the Yucatán Peninsula.
At the beginning of the month, Coronavirus was in the news and my traffic took a slight hit. By the end of the month, I had lost one third of my traffic and a ton of my income as people stopped researching and booking travel.
It’s a tough hit to suddenly lose a huge chunk of your income for something you can’t control. I am trying not to worry and instead focus on what I can do to generate additional income at this point in time. I’m expecting a lull of a few months before things pick back up again.
That said, I’m in a good position. I’ve paid ahead for many of the next two months’ expenses and I’ll be based in low-cost countries. As a current nomad with a digital business, I can lower my overheard when I need to; brick-and-mortar businesses don’t have that option.
Finally, I am SO grateful that I no longer have to pay rent in New York. One reason why I left was because I anticipated a recession hitting soon, and this is pretty much the equivalent of a recession for people who work in the travel industry, though hopefully it will be more short-lived.
If you’re continuing to travel, no matter where you go, I recommend you peruse small businesses whenever you can. Guesthouses, restaurants, tour companies. They are going to be hurting a lot this year.
Mérida, Chichén Itza, Valladolíd, Izamal, Hecelchakán, Campeche, Uxmal, Chocholá, Homún, José María Morelos, Bacalar, Mayapán ruins, Pichyá, Acanceh, Chiquilá, and Holbox, Mexico
Living in Mérida. If the first month in Mérida was about getting our bearings, the second month was about enjoying our routines. Mérida is such a fabulous city and I couldn’t have asked for a better base after leaving New York. It has so many things I loved about New York (friendships, great restaurants, walkability) and some wonderful things that New York doesn’t have (heat and affordability).
My sister’s visit. My sister came to visit Mérida for a few days — her first visit ever to Mexico! We visited some of the coolest cenotes I’ve ever seen, we climbed the pyramids at Mayapán, we did a Mayan healing ceremony, we drank mezcal margaritas at cantinas with live salsa and dancing, and of course, we ate a ton of great food.
An insanely fun weekend in Bacalar. Ten of my friends and I took off to Bacalar for the weekend and it was not only one of the most fun places I’ve been in Mexico, it was also the absolute most beautiful place in Mexico I’ve ever visited. I already wrote about it here.
A sweet little weekend in Campeche. Campeche is a bite-sized city that doesn’t get a ton of visitors, but I found it to be a lovely place to overnight. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town is much prettier, neatly, and more stately than central Mérida, and the malecon on the edge of the sea is a great place to take a walk at sunset.
Cenote-hopping. The best part of traveling in the Yucatán is getting to visit lots of cenotes, and I visited a ton.
My favorite hacienda cenote — kind of like a resort, where you can come for the day or stay overnight, and enjoy a pool as well as the cenote — was San Lorenzo Oxman, just outside Valladolíd. The cenote is deep, jungle-y, and not too crowded, despite being close to Chichén Itza. I’d love to go back for a full day.
My favorite wild cenote — essentially just a cenote, a bathroom, and little else — was Cenote Nah Mozon, a wild 30-minute journey on an insanely bumpy road outside the town of Pixyá. It was huge, deep, incredibly blue, and like something out of the ancient world. Extremely hard to get to — we did an Airbnb Experience tour with a local who drove — and so worth it.
Another notable cenote was San Ignacio in the town of Chocholá. The underground cenote was small and low-key, making it a bit underwhelming, but the restaurant on-site served the absolute BEST sopa de lima — a Yucatecan soup with chicken or turkey, tortillas, and lots of lime — I’ve ever had. The chicken was rubbed with lots of achiote. I would go back just for that soup.
I also did a cenote tour of three wild cenotes outside Homún, a big cenote-strewen town near Mérida, with Urban Adventures, who comped me and gave Charlie a discount. These were definitely off the beaten path cenotes, they were great to photograph, and it was a fun day out.
Lots of cool stops along the way. I think the Chichén Itza ruins are a bit overrated, especially with the hawkers everywhere making jaguar noises to scare people, but both Mayapán and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Uxmal were wonderful sets of ruins that weren’t nearly as crowded. And Izamal was a lovely little city, all painted bright yellow.
Strep throat. Awful timing, too. I ended up missing a party my friends threw — a fancy all-day party with catering and bartenders. UGH! I had been so excited to go.
Strep is incredibly painful and sucks so much that I remember every time I’ve had it as an adult — 2005, the day before classes started my senior year of college (I had to email each professor and apologize for missing the first class); 2011, when I was in Hanoi and shivering uncontrollably in my hostel bed; 2018, when I got the antibiotic-resistant Type A version for the first time and was in pain for a week.
Luckily it’s very easy to get a strep test in Mexico — there are several pharmacy chains that have a doctor on-site (!!). I went to Farmacia Ahorro. You get a ticket from the pharmacy, see the doctor, he or she examines you and writes a prescription, and you get it at the pharmacy. You tip the doctor (most locals tip 50 pesos or $2.50, but you can tip more if you want).
I hurt my foot, which hurt my leg, hurt my hip, and upward…When I was in my early twenties, I developed tendinitis in my right ankle. I was in a boot for a month or so (taking public transportation in Boston in a giant boot was a hell of a learning experience) and after I took it off, my arch had issues, I could no longer wear most heels, and I had to start wearing insoles in everything I wore.
This is why I’m always recommending shoes by The Walking Company in my posts, especially their Abeo line — they are among the few shoes I can wear comfortably without insoles.
Anyway — since getting to Mérida we’ve been working out first thing in the morning, by the pool, barefoot. I should NEVER have been doing this without shoes, given my history, and after a few weeks some lunges sent shooting pain down my foot. My foot hurt for weeks, the pain traveled up to my leg, hip, and back, and I was terrified that I had ruined my foot long-term like I did in my early twenties.
After a few weeks of taking it easy, though, the pain disappeared. A miracle. I’m going to be a lot more careful going forward, as this is the second injury in a few months that has taken a few weeks to heal. Welcome to your mid-thirties, kids.
My trip to Las Coloradas got cancelled. I got to see a ton of the Yucatán over the last few months, but one attraction high on my list was the bright pink lakes of Las Coloradas. There was no time to give it the few days it deserved, so I opted for a very long day trip from Mérida.
And I got a text the night before saying it was cancelled because it hadn’t reached the minimum of six people. SIX! Had I known that, I never would have put all my eggs in this basket…
One big sandwich mistake. When my boyfriend Charlie and I went to Campeche for the weekend, we stopped in Hecelchakán, a small town famous for making the best cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork) in the region. We raced down to get there before they ran out for the day and we ordered some cochinita tacos and tortas (sandwiches).
“Surtido o solo carne?” the man asked as he made the tortas.
“Surtido,” Charlie replied.
We grabbed our sandwiches and started to eat them while fending off the local stray dogs.
“Weird — this tastes kind of like liver,” I said to him. “It’s dark like that.”
Then we figured out what surtido, or assorted, really means: “throw all the random pig organs on top of the meat.” YIKES. That’s a mistake we won’t make twice! The cochinita was fabulous, though.
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The Solo Woman’s Guide to House Sitting While Traveling — Ever considered watching homes and pets in exchange for free accommodation around the world? My guest writer April shares her experiences and shows you how to do the same thing.
Other Blog Posts
Solo Female Travel in Belize — Is Belize Safe? — A comprehensive guide to just exactly what it’s like for a woman to travel alone in Belize.
Solo Female Travel in Turkey — Is Turkey Safe? — For this guide, I hired the ultimate Turkey travel expert, my friend Katie, who has been living in Istanbul and traveling around Turkey solo for several years.
A Guide to Bacalar, Mexico’s Lake of Seven Colors — I already finished my guide to Bacalar! This has all the information you’ll need to plan a great trip to this fabulous corner of Mexico.
Majorly Reworked Posts
The Joys and Challenges of Traveling in Sicily — I loved my time in Sicily, but I was surprised by how hard it was, especially considering how often I travel to Italy.
Why Travel to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua? — A big guide to the Central American beach town I love so much.
The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Petra, Jordan — I loved my time in Jordan but my information was old, dating back to 2011. The posts have been consolidated and brought into the present day.
Floating in the Dead Sea in Jordan — Curious about heading to the Dead Sea? Here’s how to do it on the Jordan side.
News and Updates
One big update — I’m heading to the Galápagos in April! I’m traveling with G Adventures, going on this 10-day trip through the Central and Eastern islands. G and I are partnering on this trip — after working together in 2012, we’ve wanted to do another trip together, and it took this long to make it finally happen!
What I love about this Galápagos trip is that it’s on a small ship — just 16 passengers — an enormous difference from the previous “small ship” expeditions I’ve taken in Canada and Antarctica with 150-200 passengers. Small ships like this one make a minimal impact in this protected region.
I’ll be adding on a week in mainland Ecuador on my own. Still working out exactly where I’ll be going, but chances are it could include Mindo, Cotopaxi National Park, and Baños, in addition to Quito, from where my tour departs.
I can also confirm that after last year’s Very Canadian Summer, I am heading back to Canada this summer as well, and hopefully multiple times. I’m thrilled — I really fell in love with Canada last year, and I love that so many of you have already planned trips to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland after reading my posts! More details soon.
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Without a doubt, Los Rapidos in Bacalar was made for Instagram! I love this photo. For more live updates from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.
What I Watched This Month
The Taco Chronicles. This documentary series on Netflix has standalone episodes about different kinds of tacos — al pastor, carne asada, carnitas, etc. It might be a little on-the-nose for my month in Mexico but this is a delightfully charming series!
Unfortunately, though, it’s reduced my desire to ever eat carnitas again. Once you see how it’s made, you can’t ever unsee it…
Oh, and I also watched Love is Blind — started the marathon when I had strep and I couldn’t stop watching. Yep, it’s trashy and fascinating as several strangers date someone through a wall and decide to get married within days.
Some couples are awful, some are SO lovely, and perhaps because it’s on Netflix and not a network, it shows just how much people drink on reality shows. YIKES.
What I Read This Month
Open Book by Jessica Simpson (2020) — Jessica Simpson was one of the top subjects of gossip magazines in the early 2000s. This memoir talks about her rise to fame as a Christian singer and virgin to marriage; her relationship and marriage to Nick Lachey and the show Newlyweds; their divorce and her wild relationships; and how she realized she was struggling with alcoholism.
I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK. I’m part of the TRL generation, watching MTV daily after school when Jessica Simpson broke out, and I’ve followed her for years. What a crazy story. She tells the truth about a lot of rumors (like what REALLY happened with Johnny Knoxville — my heart was pounding the whole time). John Mayer does NOT come off well here. Neither does Nick. And while I was initially skeptical of Eric, who became her husband a few years ago, he sounds like a really interesting guy.
But more than anything, this book underscored how the media enjoyed tearing her down and ripping her apart. They showed no mercy. Jessica is an incredibly nice and generous person — that comes through so clear in the book. And I feel awful, because I was complicit in making fun of her as the media dictated. She didn’t deserve any of that.
Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro (2019) — When author Dani Shapiro did a DNA test on a whim, it set in motion a series of life-altering events. Soon it became clear that her beloved father was not her biological father. This memoir talks about the detective work that led her to her biological father, a medical student who donated sperm at a fertility clinic, and how she wrestled with her identity as a Jewish woman who was raised Orthodox and the implications of her family keeping so many secrets.
I devoured this book. I think the most fascinating part was learning about fertility treatments in the 1960s — medical students were expected to donate sperm because they were considered top tier humans, and no accommodations were made for physical characteristics (her father was dark; her sperm donor was blonde and blue-eyed, which led to people accusing Shapiro of not really being Jewish her entire life). This book raises a lot of questions and I found it to be ultimately satisfying.
Coming Up in March 2020
It’s going to be a BIG month! Charlie and I started March on Isla Holbox. From Holbox we are heading to San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas for a few days, then spending a week based in Oaxaca. We conclude our three months in Mexico with 10 days in Mexico City.
I’m really excited to discover more of inland Mexico — these three cities are new to me. We’ve already booked a lot of activities: in Oaxaca, a mole and mezcal tasting event and a day trip around the surrounding countryside; in Mexico City, a party boat day on Xochimilco, a night of pro wrestling at Lucha Libre, and reservations at Pujol and Quintonil, two of the best restaurants in the world.
On March 25 I fly to Peru solo — country #84! I’ll be starting the month in Lima (and eating at Central and Maido, two more of the best restaurants in the world!). After a few days I’ll head southward to Paracas, Huacachina, and Arequipa. From there? We shall see!
What are you excited about this month? Share away!