Back in 2006, as our time in Ireland ☘️ was coming to an end, we had a unique opportunity. We opened a large map 🗺️ of the U.S. & asked ourselves, “if we could live anywhere, where would we want that to be?” we had a short list of criteria…
Four seasons 🍁❄️🌸🌳
Outdoor recreation 🎿🏔️
Good for ballooning 👍
Smaller town/city (than Austin, ABQ or Dallas) 🌃
A place we could raise our kids thru HS 🎵⚛️
Decent airport to support Dave’s work travel ✈️
Close to family in DFW/ABQ but not too close 😉 🛻
We had friends in Denver, but Denver was too big.🌆 We didn’t want to move back to Texas because it was too hot.🥵 Dave’s company, at the time, was in Minneapolis but that was too cold.🥶 So we began to focus on Colorado Springs.
At the time Colorado Springs was less than 400,000 people. It sat in the shadow of Pike’s Peak at the southern end of the Front Range mountain ⛰️ It had four seasons & tons of outdoor adventures, including ballooning, with it’s own local balloon club! There was a decent airport.🛫 It was only half a day’s drive to Albuquerque & a long day to Dallas.
Dave & I made one quick trip there on a stateside visit while we still lived in Ireland.☘️ The decision was made. Colorado Springs would be our next home. When we returned that summer, we bought a house, at what would then be the most expensive market at the most expensive rate.🏠📈
Our house was better than a fixer-upper, although we would remodel most of it over the next 16 years. It was at the top of a cul-de-sac, on a hill, looking northwest towards the mountains & the Air Force Academy off the back deck. The neighborhood was very close-knit & they took us in immediately. We were welcomed with groceries & homemade cookies & a neighborhood barbecue. Over the next 16 years, there would be dozens of barbecues. Neighbor teens would babysit our kids & later Erin would babysit other neighbor kids. We would walk together through births, graduations, marriages, health scares, job losses & death.
We lived on Lange, longer than we lived anywhere & longer than all the other places combined. Andrew really grew up there, from 5yrs old to 22. He is nearly a Colorado native. He became best friends with the boy next door, they are roommates now, still living in Colorado Springs, not far from his boyhood home.
I guess you might ask, “if it was so great, why did you leave?” Well, if you’ve been following along, you may have noticed, I don’t sit still very well. By the time we had settled on Lange, we had lived in seven other cities, in three different states & two different countries, in ten years time.
Leaving was bittersweet. People ask what I miss most about being on the road? My answer, hanging out with friends. Although, many friends have visited us along the way & traveling has allowed us to see other friends & make new friends.
Colorado Springs feels the closest to a hometown as l ever had. Sure, I grew up in Dallas & lived there for 19 years. Dallas was my childhood home. Colorado Springs was & will always be, our family’s hometown. It just took us a while to get there. Then just like that, it was time to go.
I remember this Texas girl panicking at the first 6 foot snowstorm. I remember spinning out on the icy roads & running into a brick mailbox nearly totaling our Pathfinder. It would be a couple of years before I got back to snow skiing. Then it became what we did over the winters. Summers we spent hot air ballooning around the state. Pueblo, Frederick, Westminster, Craig, Steamboat, Grand Junction, Castle Rock & of course, Colorado Springs. We covered most of the state many times over, yet never made it down to the southwest corner.
It would be 2020,🦠 the year that time forgot or made us forget time, when we finally “discovered” another Springs, Pagosa Springs. For us & a group of rag tag ballooning friends, 2020 would be deemed the year of the Bummer Summer tour. Any other year, balloon rallies would have gotten under way sometime in May & lasted well into December, but not 2020. CANCELED or POSTPONED would keep us grounded, or would it? We would choose a handful of beautiful places, reach out to local pilots, pick a date & pay our own way. (Rallies usually provide pilots with accommodations & propane.) Pagosa was first on the list. (followed by South Dakota, Utah & Pike’s Peak!)
We partnered with the local ride company, Rocky Mountain Balloon Adventures. The owner/operator Austin gave us the lay of the land. We may have gone rogue but we had every intention of respecting the flying area. We had a dozen balloons, celebrated 3 birthdays 🎂 including Andrew’s & Austin’s. We just about took over the local hotel. We tubed down the San Juan river & Mama Linda made friends with the local swan 🦢. The flights were spectacular. The views from above even more so.
It wouldn’t be until the next year, when we came down to fly again, that Pagosa really captured us. Nestled down the road from Wolf Creek Pass & the Continental Divide, this time in the shadow of Pagosa Peak & the San Juan Mountains 🏔️ a (sometimes) raging river runs through a county of less than 14K residents (twice that during tourist season, May-Oct) Visit Pagosa!
Pagosa is also surrounded by the San Juan & Rio Grande National Forests. Hiking is literally out the back door. Box canyons, waterfalls & panoramic views delight in every direction.
Downtown Pagosa itself is built along the San Juan River. Less than 2500 residents live within the town boundaries. Many more live up Putt Hill in the area of Uptown. Uptown boasts the one Walmart & a City Market. Uptown grew up around vacation time shares built decades ago around Piñon Lake Reservoir & are now run by Wyndham. Uptown Pagosa also boasts one of the largest HOAs in the country.🇺🇸 We still have yet to decide if that is a good or bad thing.😬
Our first AirBnB host, a Colorado native from Denver who had lived most of his adult life in Pagosa told us a great story about the growth of the town & surrounding area…
Who remembers Officer Poncherello?
Apparently, some years or decades ago, actor, Erik Estrada worked with a real estate company, making infomercials to sell land in then obscure & unknown areas of California, Arkansas, Washington & Colorado. The tourist board or time share company advertised in Arkansas, Oklahoma & Texas. If a person called the 1-800 number, they could avail of the deal, free or super cheap. They would be flown into Durango, shuttled to Pagosa & then shown property to purchase. At this point, Pagosa was a sleepy little farming/ranching community, 45 minutes down the road from the, then & still, private/family owned Wolf Creek ski area. Acres were sold for less than $1000 a piece!
The actual population of the town & area have not grown much but Pagosa is now a tourist destination. With many second homes & over 500+ short term rentals, Pagosa Springs is anything but obscure.
We found it late, but found it we did 😉 We have since spent more & more of our time in Pagosa. We have made amazing new friends & get a bit better lay of the land every time we are there. We have hiked, tubed, rafted, sat on the patio of many a local eatery & skied.⛷️ With every visit, we get a little closer to calling it home.🏡
Our near six months in Mexico 🇲🇽 was everything we had hoped for & if you have been following along, so much more! Would we do it again? Absolutely!
We traded the slow pace of Mexico for the the hustle & bustle of big box stores & doctors appointments. There is a whole subject for another time, “healthcare & life on the road!”
Ole Black Betty was a sight for sore eyes after squatty little overpriced hatchbacks in Mexico 🚘
These are the times we call, rejig! They are not particularly exciting times, just a part of this travel process that has to get done. Thankfully, that meant a quick trip to Colorado Springs. We visited our stuff in storage & unpacked & repacked a few things. I squeezed in a game of ⛳️ with my gal pal & we did our first official stateside, Trusted Housesitter sit for a hilariously mismatched set of pups 🐶
Prints & Peanut. Can you guess which one was the alpha? Nearly every morning of our 10 day stay, I woke to Prints hovering over me, standing with his paws on the bedside. It could have seemed a bit daunting but he was in fact just a big lovable baby. Prints & Peanut were inseparable & sometimes bickered like teenage siblings 🤣 It took them about a day to warm up to us being their temporary humans & stop searching the house for their mom.
They were patient, allowing me my morning coffee before heading out on a walk. This was my first encounter with a double lead, which was far better than the two singles even when Dave & I walked them together. Did I mention they are inseparable? 😉 Peanut kept up well with Prints & Prints seemed to hold back a bit as not to just drag Peanut along. The double lead included a waist belt which meant no tug-of-war on my arms & shoulders. They were sweet cuddle bugs who just wanted all our attention.
The opportunity was good confirmation that pet/house sitting was something worth pursuing. By the end of the summer we would have half a dozen sits on our resume & banked $10K in savings, not paying for accommodations across the PNW.
We settled back into life & headed to Pagosa Springs. Pagosa Springs is a little mountain town in the south west corner of Colorado. I’m not sure why it took us over a decade to discover this little piece of paradise, but it wasn’t until 2020 in the midst of Covid that we found ourselves there. Pagosa ticked all the boxes of what we wanted next, small town, mountains 🏔️ rivers, a few established friends, still close to family & great hot air ballooning. It is currently the closest thing we call to Home 🏡 We spent six weeks there at the beginning of our adventures in 2022 & have since gone back & forth trying to find our place.
We thought for sure we had discovered it when, last July, we purchased nearly 7 acres south of town with a meadow, seasonal stream & great view of the mountains. We spent much of our time in Mexico dreaming about building, talking to builders & scribbling out our dream home. We either jumped the gun or missed the boat! Needless to say, we are likely back to square one as the dream house that was well within our budget in 2021 is now almost twice the price. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware it’s a first world problem.
Although the shine has faded from building, Pagosa Springs continues to be where we want to re-settle when resettling is our thing again 😆
During some of our initial visits, we were incredibly blessed to make new friends in Pagosa. The discovery of mid-life friendships has given even more meaning to this time in our lives. Conversations, that 20 years ago would likely have centered around children & careers, now lean more towards adventures & relationships with each other & ourselves. We are different. We are the same. Some are young, others young at heart ❤️😉 We love to hike & golf & take in the beauty from both where we are headed & whence we came. Wine 🍷 of course is an added bonus!
So per usual, I am behind the curve on the state of our adventures but moving forward. If you have hung around this long, thanks ☺️ If you are just joining us, welcome! &if you are giving up due to my blathering, lack of punctuation, affinity for run-on sentences & emojis, well I don’t blame you 😜
We saved the best for last! Our last few weekends in Mexico turned out to be a highlight of the whole six month adventure. It didn’t hurt that my birthday was also in the mix 🎂
I think I can easily say, Cozumel is worth a return trip. Not only is it home to some of the best scuba diving 🤿 in the world, it remains a slightly sleeping island off the coast of the party town Place del Carmen 🏖️
Upon returning to Akumal, I found the most wonderful little in-home restaurant. Probadita’s serves two meals a day, brunch & dinner. By reservation only.
How do I find these places you might be asking… I open Google maps 🗺️ & search RESTAURANTS. Rarely does anything under a 4.5 get a look 👀 I read the newest reviews, a couple of 5s, a couple of 1s & a few in the middle. I disregard the irrelevant, like “they wouldn’t give me the seat I wanted” or “there was a large group that was really loud.” I want to know how was the food & service 🍽️ I can also put up with subpar service for great food 🙄 For Probadita’s 110 5🌟 reviews was an easy choice! I messaged her through WhatsApp (our go to international texting platform) We made a reservation for my birthday 🎂
It was an absolute delight! Chef Adel, the owner of Probadita, Spanish for Taste, has been an executive chef at multiple high end resorts & restaurants throughout Mexico & Miami. Chef Adel went above & beyond, even decorating with balloons 🎈 & making an amazing cheesecake 🎂 She showed me how to make tortillas 🌽 We had lovely conversations in English & Spanish about our families & travels 🌎 She made a five course meal with fresh & local ingredients as we laughed & chatted & enjoyed 😊
If you are ever in the area of Akumal or Tulum, you must give this place a try. You will not be disappointed! You can easily find Adel & Probadita’s on Facebook to make your own reservations. My only regret is that we didn’t have time to make a brunch plans at this wonderful hidden gem 💎
But truly the most spectacularly unexpected spot was Bacalar. Bacalar is a rare undiscovered treasure . This will likely change in the very near future with the opening of the Tulum airport making it much more accessible as it cuts the travel in half, from 4hrs from the Cancun Airport to only 2 😬
The quiet little town is known for its lake of seven colors. The fresh water lake boasts sandy floors & two cenotes, near the inland coast side. We hired a sailboat ⛵️ for the morning & sailed around to the highlights, one of which is a protected bird sanctuary, the Isla de Pájaros. Spoonbills, Ibisis & Spatulas make this island their home. The Ibisis’ were very common, but you had to watch patiently to catch a glimpse of the more shy Roseate Spoonbill, which similar to the Flamingo eats krill & is therefore pink 😊 If we had been staying longer or when we go back in the future, I would rent a kayak or paddle board instead. The lake is large but very navigable & deserves a much slower pace.
Bacalar is also the only near coastal town to have a fort, Fuertede San Felipe de Bacalar. Long ago, pirates dropped anchor in the Bay of Chetumal & made their way through a myriad of lakes & marshes to Bacalar Lagoon to pillage & plunder as they were wont to do. 🏴☠️
We took in the scenery & culture at every turn. Dave discovered a sweet treat & may be considering opening a side biz back in the States. The Marquesita is a freshly made crepe/waffle cone taste sensation, filled with your choices of cheese, chocolates & fresh fruit. Marquesitas were a messy & delicious find 😋
It was suggested we check out a local venue for an evening of live music. We had every intention of an early night in & then we made friends. We headed out to La Catrina to enjoy a few cocktails & salsa music. The place was near empty when we arrived early but quickly filled to keep the bar tenders busy. At first we were alone at our tall bar table, but as the place began to fill we made room for others, as again it was our intention to leave soon. I came back to our table from the loo to find Dave chatting with a young fellow. Apparently, he too had gone to NMSU at some point & lived in NM & CO in his youth. We chatted a minute & then offered them our table as we paid our bill. But a connection was made & there were still drinks to be had & as we would come to find out the dance floor awaited 💃
Sadly, I do not remember his name, only that he now lives in Santiago, MX. We drank & danced into the wee hours of the night, closing down the place. Once again, we tried to call it a night, but alas we walked through the quiet, sleepy streets in search of the next gathering & ice cream 🍨 It was nearing 3am, our friend had disappeared into the crowd & we decided it was indeed time for the Irish goodbye.
We walked back to our hotel, recounted the night, our entire time in Mexico, the amazing people we had met & all the places that deserved a return. Mexico is a part of our hearts ❤️ now more than ever. Bacalar, Cozumel, Progreso, Merida, Leon, San Miguel de Allende all have so much more to explore!
This was a most wonderful experience & I truly long for another extended time in this beautiful country, with is beautiful food & even more beautiful people 🇲🇽
It was scuba diving that drew us to the Mexican coast as we revisited PDC. Per the suggestion of friends, we tried out the Reef Marina Dive Shop on the beach just in front of the resort, Reef Playacar where our friends also generously afforded us for our 25th anniversary in the midst of Covid. It was also then that Dave received his Padi open water certification 🤿
Sidebar: I had one major goal diving this time around…. Back in 2021, I really struggled to manage all my own gear. Worse, I could not make the step up onto the bench, by myself to sit & fall back into the water. Not one but two boat hands had to hoist me up ⬆️ I made the promise to myself that that would not be the case this time around. Thankfully I made good on that promise 😊 I still needed a hand, just one & no hoisting 😂
So it was to Playa del Carmen & Reef Marina, we returned in early January to do a dive I had long anticipated & one I would come to realize truly terrified me!
We did two morning drift dives to reboot our skills & get reacquainted with all our gear, before sitting down for the most thorough dive briefing to date… In his French accent, our dive master wanted to get a head start, there would be no time on the boat for briefing, time was of the essence. We had a scheduled slot to be in the water & under the water descending into the mama shark rodeo. If we dilly dallied, a Mexican Coast Guard would veto our dive. So the short of it, get on the boat, gear up, get in the water, grab the rope (DON’T let go of the rope!) & get under. We had a thirty minute window to get to the bottom, be terrified, I mean amazed – actual I wonder if there is really a difference 😉 Let go of the rope & ascend to the surface. WAIT, let go of the rope! We weren’t even on the boat yet & I was beginning to panic. I interrupted, “you said DON’T let go of the rope?!” Well apparently, you have to let go of the rope… At which point we would ascend to the surface where our boat would be waiting. Stay together while ascending, because one lone human looks like a snack, several humans together looks like too big a meal to be interested in 😬 Whose idea was this?! 🤦♀️
Having been briefed, we were off to the boat. Mid way into the water I realized I had left my backpack on the deck of the shop, my phone, wallet, life, there on a chair. I must have had something else on my mind… Quite possibly it was the comments of another dive master from Australia who expressed her lack of interest in shark dives due to her experience with too many she had seen gone wrong. REALLY! I asked her if maybe she could save her thrilling stories until after our safe return! 🦈
Too late for the bag. If I went back for it, I was out. The boat captain called back to the shop. I watched intently as I thought I saw someone come out & retrieve my bag to put inside. On we went, onto the boat. Off the boat & into the Bull shark nursery. Doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo 😂 So here is the deal. Bull sharks are some of the most, if not the most aggressive sharks in the wild except when they are pregnant. The warm winter waters of the Caribbean have long been where these fierce giants come to give birth.
On the floor of the ocean, anchors & ropes have been installed to give divers a hold against the current. We followed the rope down & took up position amongst other dive groups. There were four of us, our dive master, another guy, Dave & me. As I felt the most snack size of the group, I nestled myself in between the three guys. We were down at 27m or about 80ft for just under 30 minutes.
I am not sure if there were three sharks or thirteen, but they seemed to be everywhere – in front, behind, overhead. Our dive master said if one got too close to exhale hard to make forceful bubbles. Well, that’s all I did! Underwater everything appears closer & bigger 🦈 So at 9 feet long & 500lbs, I wasn’t taking any chances 😉
My whole life, I have wanted to swim with sharks. I got my open water 🤿 when I was sixteen & wanted to be a marine biologist when I grew up. Well, that didn’t happen but this did. I hope the next sharks we see will truly be in the wild (at a distance) 🦈 Dave was over the moon! If you know him, he isn’t overly excitable but he could not stop talking about this adventure! Thankfully this was the first of several more dives we would do, only one other coming close to the exhilaration…
Our adventure would not end when we returned to shore. Thankfully my bag was accounted for & we headed for “home” exhausted from the excitement. This would turn out to be the evening we got unceremoniously evicted from of AirBnB by the British douchbag, a different kind of shark 🦈
We came back to the coast after a few weeks, having escaped to a housesit to regroup & collect ourselves. We wasted no time jumping back in 🤿 We spent our last month in Akumal 🐢
Akumal is known for the turtles that come to nest & feed there. You won’t be surprised to know that I got in trouble for trying to swim over to the “paid” turtle watching area without paying 😬 So I made my way back under the ropes only to be greeted with my own personal turtle friend 😊 I followed it around for a while as it chomped on the seagrass that is native to the beaches there.
We also did a dive in Akumal. It was nothing to write home about (no pun intended) but it did teach us a new skill, ascending on our own without our dive master. He was signaling us from below. We had not been very deep, so our safety stop was pretty simple. It did however solidify our need for a dive watch/computer.
From Akumal we would head over to Cozumel, where we met our incredible dive master/instructor, Luis who runs Cozumel Divers. It had the potential to be another exhausting day but we signed up for four dives anyway. The first two were more like lessons in maintaining buoyancy as we glided along the cliff walls of coral This was also the dive that confirmed I needed to buy my own scuba mask 🤿 I spent the first dive clearing the fog from the inside of my mask by flushing it with ocean water, trying to remember to keep my eyes closed so I didn’t lose my contact 👁️ Thankfully, Luis was to my rescue again. Back on the boat, he offered some mask alternatives. I chose the Cressi Calibro with the duel frame. What a huge difference!!! I wasn’t constantly fogging the glass & having to flush. The second dive went so much more smoothly, giving me more confidence & time to enjoy the scenery.
After lunch we geared up again. I told Luis I was a bit nervous about what was next. I didn’t love the idea of being in an enclosed space underwater. Luis was so calm & encouraging. He told us exactly how we would approach the shipwreck. How we would swim around it & then through it. Thankfully it was just us, so I didn’t have to worry about other divers, either holding them up or them being in my way.
Was it terrifying, no. Did it give me anxiety, yes! But just as he said he would, Luis guided us around the ship, checking in on me at every turn. We swam through the short length of the ship. Then with a thumbs up 👍 we swam down into a port hole & through rusted hallways & rooms.
It was a look back at history. This ship did not sink here but rather was placed here in 2000 after a long career on the water for both the US & Mexican Navies. You can read more about the C-53 shipwreck.
I wasn’t breathing as hard as I did with the mama sharks 🦈 but I definitely wasn’t breathing efficiently. I struggled with invasive thoughts of death & some giant under water creature leaping from the shadows 😬 All I could say to myself was, “You did some crazy ass shit as a young women, you are stronger & fiercer now. Be brave!” So I was…
Back on the boat, we received excellent concierge service as the first mate changed our tanks & served us a light snack as we did our surface interval & waited for the sun to go down 🌅
I think I would have been more apprehensive on our last dive had we entered the water after dark. Instead, a sliver of sun was all that was left & we followed it down to the ocean floor. The reefs come alive at night! Far less terrifying, much more amazing… I kept Luis in view. As the darkness enveloped us, we turned on our lights. It was more magical than I can even describe. Huge lobsters 🦞 Turtles, from above & below. Sharks in caves 🦈 And the octopus 🐙 We saw one that turned from blue, to orange to translucent, beyond incredible! The time passed so quickly I failed to notice the black abyss that surrounded us. Until, of course, until we began to ascend. In that moment, as if knowing I needed a distraction, Luis pointed out the tiniest jellyfish swimming in front of my mask. Bravery restored, we broke the surface of the water & there was the boat 🛥️ I cannot rave about the captain & first mate enough! They were so friendly & helpful & most importantly, there when we needed to be picked up 🌊
Over all we did nine dives during our time on the coast 🤿 Solidifying that yes, we do now officially have another expensive hobby 💵 I will gladly take any advice on where to dive next or gear we need to acquire. We will definitely get our own masks, possibly fins & at least one dive watch to start. I am also considering my own wetsuit or thin rash guard. I think we still fall far too much into the novice category to think we need (to travel) with BCDs & regulators. Oh, & a GoPro, gonna “need” that!!! 📸
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Somewhere along the way, we seemed to regain our composure. Perhaps it was being back on schedule, returning to our original plan & heading back to the coast, or just knowing our time in MX was coming to an end. The British douchebag nightmare was behind us, our rental car agreement was renegotiated for no extra cost, we had taken a break from each other to spend time with friends coming to MX, and we had a real feeling of resolution to let the past be the past; funny stories to tell but not on which to dwell.
Whatever the reasoning, we doubled down on the next six weeks to rediscover why we love Mexico 🇲🇽 so much, even being surprised by a couple of places to which we will have to return.
Here are a few things we learned along the way about packing, travel planning & how long one can leave a towel on a longe chair in reserve before others get annoyed 😉
Resort life etiquette learning: It is common practice to get up early & head out to the pool or beach & save your seat. A saved seat with a mere pile of pool towels appears to be a sacred totem of temporary ownership. It is easy to hem & haw when you decide to push the snooze button, after all, you are likely there on vacation why do you have an alarm set anyway, oh right to save a chair! Sadly if you do not hop to, you may have missed the ultimate four-post cushioned bed lounger or, depending on occupancy, the simplest of reclining chairs.
It was one such day at our place in Akumal that I began to wonder, “How long is too long?” The pool was empty of people & almost every chair was unclaimed, except for 2… Yes, I had come out early & “reserved” my seat before heading out for a walk.
I returned to the pool an hour or so later, within what seemed to be okay time limits of my towel placement 🤔 The once empty chairs now filling with residents. As you may notice in the picture, some chairs have cushions, others do not. I settled in to my “reserved” chair with a cushion. The other two “reserved” chairs remained empty for some time, enough time that there began to be chatter among the more long-term residents. Another hour passed & someone in an un-cushioned chair said, “Long enough!” He went over to the “reserved” seat & took the cushion, not in complete defiance of the towel, but it was becoming clear that there was in fact a “too long.” Another hour passed & another. The pool was now fully abustle in the afternoon hours. A couple arrived to find all the seats occupied, well all but two, the two with the towels. It did not take much prompting from the peanut gallery of residents to also declare, “Long enough!” The towels were moved, the newcomers sat & order was renewed. Another hour later, 2 ladies arrived at the pool, looking somewhat bewildered & confused 😕 Neither made a scene or even a comment, which let’s not lie, was a bit of a bummer 😂 but rather they found their towels & laid them out in the grass & the day continued as if nothing had happened.
Learning has been our baseline. We are never quite sure what we are doing or how it is going to turn out. I usually learn best in hindsight 🤦♀️ But as I have mentioned before, we just can’t do everything. Turns out I also can not pack everything I “think” I “might” need, but here is a list of a few things I have decided I will not go without…
My no-flow-restrictor shower head 🚿 YEP! In an earlier post, I regaled you with the frustrations of lost luggage & Mexican TSA, thankfully my shower head was safely packed in our check bags. As of this posting, it looks like they finally have their supply chain issues resolved & all models are available, not on backorder 👍
Pink death back scrubber – I love this thing! It is super effective for the whole body, easy to use, takes to bar or liquid soap equally well, rinses thoroughly, dries fast, is laundry safe & compact for packing. Best uses: a good back scrub after a hot humid day, slathered with sunscreen by the pool or on the beach 🏖️ do not use if you forgot the sunscreen 😬🥵 Great for a thorough leg exfoliation prior to shaving your legs 🦵🪒
Ella pee – For the ladies, gents you may want to skip this one because I will not be holding back on this darling’s functionality 😉 After trying several others at the toilet & in the wild, this was hands down the easiest to use. The rigid cup fits snuggly around the pubic bone giving confidence against overflow. The tube is long enough & slightly slanted to direct the flow out & away from your shoes 😊 The Ella pee comes in a plastic-coated zipper bag. (I also carry a small spray bottle of alcohol to disinfect the Ella before storing while in the wild – then wash it & the bag once “home”) The Ella pee has been a game changer on hikes, at the beach, waiting in line for my immigration card at 6am, when nothing is open (hypothetically 🤷🏼♀️) I no longer have to pull my pants all the way down & squat to get the job done ✅
Noise machine – I have 2 of these & can’t decide which one I like better. One has a light feature which is nice & I have used but not often. The other is much more basic but totally does the job, that is the one I have chosen to travel with because it is smaller. Many places we have stayed have had complaints in the reviews about nighttime noises. Using a noise machine has completely eliminated this issue for us, unfortunately, now I can not sleep without it 🤦♀️
Hair towel – I honestly can not remember which of these specifically because I have been using one for a very long time. Doesn’t everyone with somewhat long hair use one of these by now?! Mine helps reduce a bit of frizz and keeps my hair up & out of the way for skin care. It dries my hair better than a regular bath towel, and is smaller & less cumbersome, so traveling with it is not a problem. It is laundry safe, dries quickly & is easy to pack.
Knife sharpener – This is really a Dave thing as he does most of the cooking 🍲 There are few things in the world that annoy him more than dull knives 🔪 Nothing special, this one was pretty inexpensive & has done the job for our life on the road 😊
Columbia water backpack – I have several other water packs but I specifically bought this one at the Columbia Outlet on our Portland leg because the water pack was only part of the overall backpack. The water bag goes in its own zippered area & then it has an additional zipper compartment for other stuff, like a snack, extra battery, hat, or whatever. Plus that section has a small mesh bag for keys or cash 💵 I have also found I can freeze water in the bladder, which is a bonus!
Cooler backpack – This was a Christmas gift from my mom 🎁 I needed this to be my carry-on personal item, holding my Mac, iPad, headphones, passport wallet et al & have a place for pens & gum & snacks. It also had to be our on-the-go cooler for balloon rallies or beach jaunts & finally make it to the grocery store with all our other grocery totes. I recently returned to using a “regular” backpack for my digital crap & am missing the ease of this one.
Merrell Women’s HYDROTREKKER – I may finally be a convert. Knowing these travels would include many different terrains, city, mountains, beach… I wanted to make sure my shoe choices were well thought through & didn’t take up too much space. I brought 5 pairs of shoes on this adventure (these Merrells, Keen low-profile hiking boots, Merrell strappy sandals, Chaco slides & some basic flip flops for the pool) These versatile Merrells have been the clear front runner. They are super comfortable with & without a little stocking sock (depending if we are going for a city stroll or sweaty hike.) The inserts come out easily to rinse them of silt & sand. They dry quickly & are pretty lightweight for packing.
No doubt this is not an exhaustive list. When we are traveling in the truck, the stuff expands to fill the space 😬 much to Dave’s chagrin. I have been able to work it down to 2 checked bags, 2 under seat carry-ons & 2 overhead carry-on bags (that sometimes get checked but I don’t pay for) when we fly ✈️ We will be headed back to Mexico 🇲🇽 in the fall, I wonder if I could manage with less 🤔 Probably, but why chance it 😉
For more Amazon yeahs & nays, you can check out my profile there for good & not so good (bad) reviews 😊
There are no above ground rivers in Yucatán, MX but there are over 6000 fresh water sinkholes or cenotes 😉 It is believed that the dinosaur killing astroid that impacted the earth bazillions of years ago, happened here & created the Chicxulub Crater. As the Earth rose up from the crater impact, the surface waters were sent underground into a labyrinth of limestone caves creating the Ring of Cenotes. We didn’t visit many in the end, mainly because the first one was so amazing & we had it all to ourselves. I just wasn’t sure any other could compare.
Some cenotes are on private land, where local residents charge a small price, $20pesos to get in & maybe also offer a snack stand & bathroom.
Some cenotes have been built up into much larger parks containing multiple other cultural experiences like a chocolate ceremony, being blessed by a Mayan priest or a swing up bar 😂
Still others have yet to be discovered which is a real concern as progress makes its way through this precious landscape via the Maya train. Mexican geologists are racing against time & track laying to discover & map as many cenotes as possible, for both their cultural & environmental significance.
Culturally, a cenote would have been the main water source for a Maya community. The Mayan knew to look for a specific kind of tree which meant an underground water source was nearby, making the land in this area more fertile & sustainable for a village.
Environmentally, cenotes are still a vital water source for the Yucatán peninsula. There is great concern that as progress rolls through, these underground rivers will be contaminated or worse, the delicate terrain above them will simply collapse.
Cenotes are exclusively found in the Yucatan Peninsula (in Mexico), Belize & Guatemala, where the soil is porous & soft limestone, which allowed rainwater to seep in & create an underground system of rivers called the Sac Actun System. The largest underground river system in the world, located along the Mexican Caribbean, connects all the cenotes.
The life cycle of a cenote is unpredictable. There are open cenotes, partial cenotes & completely underground cenotes. Some were once moist caves growing stalagmites & stalactites that one day or over a thousand years flooded with water. Others, once flowing, dried up.
Visit one, visit them all (well good luck with that) you could certainly spend a day cenote hopping in one general area. Bring a mask & snorkel 🤿 but keep your eyes peeled for Tsukán, the guardian & protector of the sacred waters 🌊
The Mexican police have been a far larger presence in our adventures than I would have liked. When we initially saw so many in SMA we felt safe, when we encountered them at the Merida airport ✈️ we felt annoyed but this time we just felt stupid & have absolutely no one to blame but ourselves.
We spent our last rainy Saturday in Chuburná packing & prepping for our return to Playa Del Carmen. One thing we have gotten pretty good at is meal scheduling & not over buying food 🥗 We don’t have to throw things out or leave them behind or figure out how to keep things cold in transport. All that to say, we had no food in the house for dinner, so we decided to head into Progreso as we finally had a chance to try Humo Bistro’s clam chowder 🥣 which is only available on weekends.
We arrived for a late lunch/early dinner, about 3:30 in the afternoon. We figured cocktails, a big meal & a last walk on the malecon 🏖️ would be a fitting ending to our recovery time here on the north shore of Yucatán & it would have been, if we had taken that walk along the beachfront.
We sat for a couple hours, enjoying the cooler Mexican winter day & talking about next adventures, both in MX & back in Colorado this summer. I had three glasses of wine 🍷 & Dave, two old fashions 🥃 over the course of two hours 🕔 This is when we should have taken that walk along the beachfront but alas we headed back “home” to finish laundry 🧺 So responsible in what would turn out to be our irresponsibility 🤦🏼♀️
We had been in this general area for about two months over the course of our Mexican travels. We had gotten to know our way around, main roads & back roads. This evening would have been a good time to take the slightly longer route through town & around the marina, but instead we opted for the quicker known route to the highway & the police check point.
We had been told several times that Mexico has a ZERO tolerance for driving after drinking, because to be super clear, neither of us was drunk. So as usual, long story longer… when we saw the flashing lights, we should have pulled over or turn down the next street but we did not & on we went to the checkpoint.
Dave blew into the officer’s breathalyzer & whatever it was, was enough for the officer to ask us to pull to the side of the road. As some may know, the legal blood alcohol level in the United States to be considered impaired to drive is anything over .08. In Mexico 🇲🇽 it is half that in a majority of the states, & although I couldn’t find anything online, I think it is even less than that in the state of Yucatán, like .02 (which is the equivalent of 1 beverage 🍸 ) Believe me, we are not proud of this situation, it does turn out to be a funny antidote (in hindsight) & for those of you who have had negative experiences in life regarding DUIs, I apologize in advance if you find this offensive. (maybe skip the rest of this post.)
The officers were very nice as they asked for our documents & keys & led Dave down the sidewalk for a second breathalyzer test. I sat in the car wondering if I should text our local friend for advice, help, bail money… when Dave & another officer returned to the car. Here were our choices, a hefty fine or 36 hours in jail 😬 Have we mentioned how much fun we had down in Mexico!
Not surprisingly, we opted for the fine. Remember how we had no debit card? Well thankfully, we got that sorted but unfortunately, I left my purse at the house two pueblos away. The police had kept the keys, docs & Dave’s driver’s license, that meant we had to get a taxi to the house, grab my card, feed the pets we were sitting, go to the bank, pay the fine at a specific police station & then return to the scene of the crime. The cars were stacked nearly a dozen deep as we got into our cab & negotiated a $700peso ride to &from & back. A brilliantly profitable operation they have going, I suspect in one evening they make over $10,000! (Dollars not Pesos) I don’t begrudge them, the law is the law & we were ignorant, now we are not, at least about this. So on we went.
These are the moments where the rubber meets the road, both in our marriage & on this adventure. It would be really easy for me to be mad at Dave, to overthink, woulda, coulda, shoulda. Take a walk on the malecon, make a different turn, any number of things that might have produced another more positive outcome. But what possibly is the good of all that?!
We sat in silence most of the taxi drive to the house, Dave beating himself up, me wondering when was the right time to make a joke 😉 “Muy divertido,” I said to our driver, “very fun.”
At the bank we got $11000 pesos, just enough to cover our taxi & fine. Roughly 19 to 1 on the exchange rate, plus the bank fees, that delicious clam chowder cost (including our cocktails 🥃) just over $600usd. An expensive meal & valuable lesson 🤷🏼♀️ After paying the fine, I decided the time for joking had indeed come & remarked, “🍻mas cervesas, ahora…” quickly followed by, “En la casa! 🏠” so the taxi driver didn’t think I was a total ass! We all laughed 😂
It was only upon our return to the car, retrieval our keys & docs that Dave informed me of his relief to see the car where we left it & his hopes that he had indeed made a convincing plea earlier for them not to impound it. Later research via the all powerful Google would reveal our $500usd fine could have been as much as $2500 and something about a mandatory car impounding & 24hours in the clink. Lucky again, dumb luck 😣🍀
Another exhilarating experience in this crazy life we have chosen. I think I can say with some confidence that, although the Mexican police seem to be doing a great job, I do not need to have any more interaction with them in the future.
So here is the thing about me… I want to do so many things. I love writing this blog & hearing from those who are reading it. I am also, highly distract-able 😬 Since my last post nearly two months ago, we have made seven transitions (2 international). As you might imagine finding a quiet place to collect my thoughts to look back & reminisce has been fleeting. So as I frequently do, I will begin again… Forewarning, this post is a bit random (hence Random Musings) & out of order. It feels disjointed & not quite finished, but like I said, to get back on the horse, I had to start somewhere… sorry if it sucks 😉
Even before our plans went south with our PDC Airbnb, we were finally beginning to gain traction on a new budget friendly accommodation strategy: house & petsitting 🏠🐶
House/pet sitting has been a way of life for many people for a long time. You might consider it to be high end couch surfing. I was in middle school, spending the weekend with a friend & her aunt, who I learned was a professional house-sitter. At 12 my interest was piqued. A person could have a job where they got paid to stay at someone’s house? That sounded like a pretty good gig.
Fast forward 30+ years, we have discovered how to incorporate house/pet sitting into our digital nomad/vagabond life. I had read plenty of articles & blogs about house & pet sitting. Before we sold our house, one of those blogs lead me to a website called trustedhousesitters.com
In hindsight, I wish we had done a little more research & preparation to build up our profile so we could have had access to more & longer sits in the early days of being a member. There are three tiers of membership, basic, standard & premium. All of those come with a background check & unlimited housesits. We originally signed up as basic sitters, but found we got much more traction when we upgraded to Premium.
I would certainly suggest if this is something you might be interested in or would like to explore, start with the basic membership & pick up a few short local sits to get a feel for it first. This is also a great way to garner reviews for future sits.
Whether as a homeowner or pet-sitter, if you use the link above, you get a discount & I get the benefit of added time on my membership 😉
The TrustedHouseSitters platform gives both the homeowner & petsitter ample space to describe themselves, their homes & their experiences. Pet-sitters can easily apply for listed sits & communicate in the TH messenger. As well, homeowners can scroll through all the sitters by location &/or availability. Homeowners can reach out to invite a sitter over posting for applicants. TH also offers a newsletter to help sitters write the best profile & homeowners establish a welcome packet of information.
Our experiences have been pretty good so far & worth the cost of the platform in exchange for free accommodations on the road. We have figured out how to work the system. Initially, I would apply for only one sit & then hope & pray. Now, I apply for multiple sits in a general area, in a general time span & see what hits. We have yet to do multiple interviews for an area over taking whatever comes first.
We have also discovered what we can do & what we’re not willing to do. Two dogs & two cats or any combo of that is our max threshold. I can’t imagine trying to wrangle 3, 4 & 5 dogs. It seems like then it becomes more of a full-time job & less of a trade-off to see a new area & live free. We haven’t had the chance, but we would gladly add in fish, reptiles, chicken & farm animals as those need to be tended to but are generally corralled, not underfoot & high energy like most dogs we have encountered.
Much like our Airbnb experiences, this retired professional organizer can’t help but see better design & organizing opportunities everywhere I go. However, unlike our Airbnb opportunities, where I always jump at the chance to ply my trade in exchange for free/refunded nights, I am certainly not going to dig into these strangers’ cabinets & closets without their permission. My profile does include info on my passion for organizing & an invitation to avail of it, as well as the guarantee that I won’t go snooping around to appease my own OCD.
Our very first house sit was back in Churburná, Yucatán. It was a nice respite after our travails in PDC. An American lawyer, who had lived in Mexico for about five years, had an incredible house right on the beach, with two cats & a little dog. This sit was actually through a different platform called HousesitMexico, same premise but only focused on Mexico 🇲🇽
Our next sit was in Colorado Springs when we were back in the US a minute. This time it was two dogs, one big, one little. The little was clearly the alpha.
As we enter into our second year of life on the road, we have five sits booked over the next four months & have applied to a few more in the new year in the direction we hope to go. As always, there is a learning curve & as always we are leaning in!
If you made it to the end of this one, thanks ☺️ In theory, this has primed the pump to get back to it ✍️ Thanks for coming along for the journey 💜 Until next time….
Well here we are, the post you have been waiting for, the reason we went social media dark & are over 2 months behind on writing about our adventures… grab a snack, this is a long one 😉 really long 📝
At the end of 2022, we left Yucatán & headed east to the coast, Quintana Roo & the city of Playa del Carmen, PDC. We visited PDC for the first time back in May of 2021. We fell in love with it. Sadly what we fell in love with was not what we found upon our return. Turns out visiting after high season, amidst a global pandemic is quite different from experiencing it with the masses.
We arrived just before Christmas with plans to stay in the area until our March departure back to the US. We had three Airbnbs booked to split our time along the coast. The first was a relatively new two-bedroom apartment near a grocery store & about a 2km walk from the beach. The bed was cozy, the water pressure descent & the internet, fast enough for both of us. It wasn’t as clean as I would have liked, especially the kitchen. So I did what I do, I contacted the host, who had been quite communicative upon our arrival. He offered his apologies, saying the unit had been vacant for a month or so. I, of course, suggested a refund on nights or an extended stay to give us a packing/moving buffer. He agreed to the extra night & offered to have the housekeeper come during our time. I was happy with that, I cleaned the kitchen & didn’t give it another thought. A week went by with no issues. We walked into town, along 5th Street, went to the beach & out to dinner, all was well. We even enjoyed over-imbibing as we celebrated New Year’s Eve at Señor Frog’s on the beach, where I can neither confirm nor deny that we possibly forgot to pay the bill. All was right in Adventureland!
Thankfully, it was after my hangover subsided that I got the first bizarre email from Airbnb on Monday, January 2nd. Our host sent a request through Airbnb to cancel our reservation. We had only been in the apartment for a week and had just over two weeks to go before moving along. I messaged our host via Airbnb & I got a single message, saying he wasn’t getting the correct funds from Airbnb & therefore needed to cancel our reservation. Then radio silence for five days. In the next five days, the real story would unfold. When I didn’t hear back from our host, I contacted Airbnb. The customer service representative was very nice & probably gave me information she shouldn’t have. She told me the host had failed to include some relevant tax information on his account & therefore they were not releasing the funds to him. She also said it was perfectly within my rights to decline the request as he could not cancel our reservation under these circumstances. So I declined. Once again, I didn’t give it much more thought.
In the midst of this special kind of crazy, we were in the beginning stages of getting our first pet/housesit back in Yucatán. As with many of these stories, there are many other stories. As such our adventures into housesitting is one we will have to circle back to. I will say, that story was beginning to grow legs on Wednesday evening, January 4th. We were in the middle of a zoom interview with the pet sit homeowner when there was a knock at the door. Dave & I both discounted it because we didn’t know anyone here, who could be knocking at the door? A few minutes passed, there was another knock at the door. I left Dave to continue the interview & answered the door.
It was our neighbor from across the courtyard whom we had never met, but I recognized. She introduced herself & said the owner of the apartment wanted to talk to me. To which I replied, “absolutely I have been trying to reach him, both in the Airbnb app & on WhatsApp.” What would be discussed & revealed over the next 10-minute conversation was a bit surreal. You hear stories, you empathize with people & you hope it never happens to you. But here we were.
“The owner of this apartment is a woman,” she said. 😳 The man you are renting it from is their renter!!!
All I could do was laugh. What little I knew was beginning to make sense. The neighbor showed me a picture of the owner & asked for my number so she could pass it on. Could they call us that evening? Most definitely!
I rejoined are pet/housesit interview, which we finish successfully & waited for the phone to ring. The owners were a lovely couple from Monterey, who were currently in Puerto Vallarta celebrating a family birthday. Turns out, our Airbnb host had rented the apartment from the owners some time ago. Somewhere along the way, our host decided to sublease their apartment on Airbnb, but told the owners, he just had some friends coming to stay 🤨
🏠 Note to landlords: Airbnb does not consider what our host did to be subletting. Airbnb does not call its customers renters, it calls them guests. Somehow, that is some sort of semantical BS. So if you are a landlord & you do not want your tenant subleasing or renting it as an Airbnb/short term vaca you should probably also put that in the contract.
We spent the next hour & some discussing the situation, comparing our host’s Airbnb listing to the actual owner’s AirbnbMX listing, all the while the owner‘s husband was on the phone with Airbnb & I had opened a support ticket.
By the end of our phone call, Airbnb had suspended our host’s listing & the actual owners had generously said we could stay through the end of our reservation. We also agreed to let the actual owners continue to try to reach out our host, who btw had failed to pay his current rent. This would be the first of several phone calls, all pleasant, some panicked. Once we were off the phone, I continued to log info into my Airbnb support ticket.
Note to people who use Airbnb: take screenshots of all platform threads. I am certain there was pertinent information missing when I revisited the tickets later. Also, take screenshots of threads between yourself & hosts if things become problematic because once you block them, you no longer have access to the threads. An additional piece of advice here is to stay in the Airbnb platform messenger & do your best not to communicate using an outside third-party app or texting. We were also messaging via WhatsApp, which I would later decide was a mistake.
We considered our options. l had already begun looking for other accommodations after receiving the first request to cancel from our host. As part of those efforts, l made a post in a PDC Facebook group seeking support, info & alternatives. I mentioned our general location, but not the name of the complex or the name of our host.
Thursday passed with no new insights. Friday, January 6th, I woke to a message from Airbnb. Our reservation had been canceled & our entire payment was refunded. WTactualF!!! I contacted Airbnb for information. I still had heard nothing from our fraudulent host. All we could do was rest in the confidence that the actual owners of the apartment had said we could stay. The only response we got from Airbnb was “thank you for confirming everything is sorted now.”We didn’t receive any kind of notice from Airbnb to leave or find other accommodations.
Saturday, January 7 we returned to the apartment at about 3 PM after a big day of reef drift diving & hanging out with some bull sharks. (Another story) Dave was cooking dinner before we both passed out from exhaustion when my phone blew up. Apparently, our fraudulent host’s Airbnb account had been restored, & I assume he could see that our money had been refunded. He had seen my PDC Facebook post & was pretty pissed.
This was when he began posturing & making minor, empty (we would later learn) threats. I immediately contacted Airbnb through the “I don’t feel safe” button & the actual owner of the apartment. I made two calls to Airbnb in a two-hour timeframe under the guise of an emergency & got no help. Again, Airbnb was useless. I had two options, call the local authorities or wait for a phone call back from the customer service rep handling my case, who I would later find out was somewhere in the Middle East. A seven-hour time difference, not so great for an emergency.
My phone call to the actual owner was more conclusive unfortunately not in our favor. This was when I learned the semantics of Airbnb. Airbnb told the actual owner that they don’t consider what was happening to be subleasing. The owner had also finally heard from our fraudulent host. Our fraudulent host said he had gotten a lawyer & knew his rights & blah blah blah, again, probably complete posturing & total nonsense. I was beside myself, I told the owner about the text the host had sent. I also informed the owners that Airbnb had reinstated the fraudulent hosts listing which was now once again showing the apartment available to rent. I asked the owner if they thought we should leave. They said yes if nothing else for your safety.
All the while I had been on the phone I was also packing, just in case someone showed up at the door as the text threats suggested. Interesting sidebar: that chair 🪑 under the doorknob 🚪 thing really does work. We sat down to eat our dinner & figure out what we were going to do next. Dave asked me if I thought someone was coming to “remove us from the apartment.“ Dave didn’t think so. I wasn’t sure but I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to sleep a wink in that place. We finished dinner. We finished packing. We booked a hotel. Thankfully, we had rented a car the day before. We loaded up the car & took another round of photos of the apartment as proof we left it as we found it. I called the owner again to let him know we were leaving & told him we had left the keys on the dining table.
Luxury Apartment 😆
What happened next was a Mexican miracle. We checked into the hotel with perfectly wonderful staff who must have sensed we had had a really hard day. We had a comfy bed & a decent shower & we slept, hard! The next morning we had a delightful breakfast, delicious coffee & finally a message from Airbnb. Two days after Airbnb (not the host, not the owner) canceled our reservation, 66 hours later & another 7 messages asking for follow-up, Airbnb sent me a list of potential places to stay but no mention of the safety situation. We declined their recommendations & booked a return to Playa Chaca back in Progreso. We were headed to that area for the pet sit & it just made sense to get the hell out of PDC.
Sunday, January 8, we made our way back to what we would call our safe place in Progreso, Yucatán. The actual owner called to check on us. They also confirm with agreement from Airbnb that in fact, neither the fraudulent host nor the actual owners nor we requested the reservation be canceled on Friday, January 6. That was completely a decision made by Airbnb. The actual owners had really gotten a lawyer & were in the process of terminating the lease with the fraudulent host. They had also already changed the locks 🔐
Monday, January 9th I received a payment request from our host for $1021.84 🤔 After declining the request is when I may have poked the bear 🐻 Let’s get real, once the dust settled & I had regathered my resources, I unleashed only a tiny bit of my passive aggressive super bitch. I messaged the fraudulent host… ➡️➡️➡️➡️➡️
He messaged back & just began to dig himself deeper into a hole, showing his true ignorance. He started by saying he knew we were still in the apartment (which we were not) & that we would be liable for any days we stayed after the cancellation & made more empty threats about charging us with theft because we didn’t leave the keys in the lockbox. Having talked to the owners & knowing that the locks have been changed, I knew the kid was just blowing smoke.
This was also the morning, I finally received a phone call from the Airbnb safety team. Two days after leaving the apartment under threats of physical removal. I regaled her with this same story. Roxanne, the Airbnb customer service rep was appropriately mortified & apologetic about the situation.
Along with the story, I expressed my complete & utter disappointment in Airbnb’s mishandling of the whole thing. I think it is safe to say that the actual owners, the fraudulent host & ourselves all had completely different customer service reps “handling our situation” & never once spoke to each other about WTF was going on.
I spent the rest of the day & the next writing the longest email ever to send to Airbnb recounting moment by moment, even more in-depth than this, the ridiculous situation as it unfolded & Airbnb’s complete lack of its management. I also continued to check on the fraudulent host’s rebooted listing & received the opportunity to leave a review.
Soon after that, the listing was still live, but could no longer be booked. I had not yet blocked the fraudulent host on Airbnb or social media but when I looked at the Airbnb message thread all of the fraudulent host’s messages have been replaced with a block statement that said “this message has been hidden because the person no longer has access to Airbnb.“
I finished my email, collected all of the screenshots & downloaded the WhatsApp threads into a dropbox link, ready to send it off to Airbnb. Our fraudulent host must have caught wind that Airbnb was no longer on his side because, at roughly 4 o’clock on Tuesday, January 10, I received this lovely WhatsApp message…
But wait, there’s more… on Tuesday, January 10, I received our fraudulent host’s message implying he had taken a hit out on our lives. Thursday, January 12, I received a second request for funds in the amount of $1023.29. I laughed out loud & wondered, were we paying for our own hit? What benefits did that offer? Did that mean that he would honor our wishes to be cremated? Would he return our remains to the United States? Did I need to give a specific address for that? I wasn’t sure what that payment would include. Gosh, could I up the ante & just pay the hitman directly when he arrived to not kill us?
Not surprisingly I declined, sending a response saying, I felt the death threats voided any obligation for payment. I took more screenshots & sent them on to Airbnb. With surprisingly still, zero response.
Saturday, January 14, one week after the original threats to physically remove us from the apartment, I finally got a call from the Airbnb safety department. I told my story again, this time to Abel. I resent the email. Crickets… 🦗
Monday, January 16, I received yet another request for money from the fraudulent host this time for $6112.13. Where were these numbers coming from & what exchange rate was he using? I immediately declined, took screenshots & sent a message to Airbnb support. I would follow up three days later in that same thread, saying I had heard nothing from Airbnb. I would get one last support message from Airbnb before I finally resigned myself to letting the whole thing go. I made sure to block our fraudulent host on all social media platforms, while still finding a way to keep tabs on him.
You probably won’t find it hard to believe that this was our least favorite part of the adventure. We would return to Playa del Carmen, continuing to keep everything on the down low. We would move along, finishing our adventures strong, occasionally laughing at this poor kid’s expense. The stress of the entire situation would eventually subside but I won’t lie, especially in today’s world with the illusion of privacy, I wonder if we should be looking over our shoulder. Will we try to be more cautious in the future, hopefully? Will crazy shit like this continue to happen to us, probably?!
The caliber & breadth of the Mayan culture is quite indescribable. We had several opportunities over our time in Yucatán to visit a few of the many known ruins that dot this amazing landscape & give a peak into the past. 1500BC to 1500AD spans the significant rise & fall of the Maya.
Then like many a story of discovery & exploration, an entire civilization is dispersed or wiped out under the guise of conquest 😡 It seems not much has changed in a thousand years in the name of “progress” 😔 This vast, looming, once thriving civilization is now eerily empty. Looking deeper into the jungle, the Maya are still clearly present, continuing to fight for their land & way of life as the “progress” of the Mayan Train pushes through. I am not even going to pretend to give a history lesson here. The truth is there are no words only feelings of excitement, awe & wonder as you step into these ancient cities.
Uxmal is one of the largest cities of ruins, just south of Mérida. As we walked up the path & beyond the trees, the Pirámide del Adivino (Pyramid of the Magician) appears in all its grandeur. With every turn, around every stone wall corner is another breathe taking collection of pillars & petroglyphs covering over 160 acres.
You might think it would be easy to say, once you have seen one ancient city in ruins, you have seen them all… According to the map, there are nearly three dozen options (of the ones excavated & open to the public) just in Yucatán.
The larger more visited are a bit more regulated & you can no longer climb to the top or venture in very far. Whereas other smaller sites still allow you a bird’s eye view. Like Xcambo, NE of Merida & near the northern coast of Yucatán. Xcambo also offers an interesting juxtaposition, that commingles the Mayan culture & the later introduction of Catholicism, introduced by their Spanish conquerors in its Temple of the Virgin de Xcambo.
Mayapan, considered the last great capital, was another less visited, often overlooked site to the southeast of Mérida. Scaling this one was not for the timid 😬
Each city had its place & purpose within the Mayan culture, each slightly different. They were hard to compare. We could have spent our entire time in Mexico seeking out the next one.
In the near center of Yucatán, rises the most popular & most visited, that of Chichén-Itzá. The Temple of Kukulkán rises 100ft in the center of the grounds. If you stand in just the right place, when you clap, the temple echos out what sounds like the chirping of birds. Depending on the day & angle of the sun, you just might see the great Kukulkán slither its way down the side of the temple pyramid.
A 1935 Dibujos (drawings) on papel entintado y pintado (inked & painted paper) from Teodoro Zapata Mexico depicts the Great Ball Court of Chichén Itzá & displays two rival teams in a repeated scene: seven ballgame players on each side parade toward the center, where the fatal end of the defeated captain is recreated. He is shown kneeling before & decapitated by the victorious captain, who holds a knife & severed head of the loser. Interpretations blend history, myth & astronomy to exalt feats in war or to suggest battles between forces of darkness & light or between political groups linked to the Sun & Venus. (info panel & art from the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida)
If visiting the sites, touring the expansive grounds & being in the middle of history is not enough, Mérida also boasts an amazing Mayan Museum, the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida. The museum takes a deeper dive into the language & culture of these nearly forgotten people. Inaugurated in 2012, the contemporary building was designed in the form of a ceiba, a sacred tree believed by the Maya to connect the living with the underworld & the heavens above. (LonelyPlanet.com)
Perhaps it was Hunab Ku who watched over us through all our adventures because what came next certainly took some divine intervention & measures of faith 😬😉