Monday, March 31, 2014

The things I learned in Mexico

I seemed to have learned quite a bit to my recent trip to the Riviera Maya. I've compiled some of my lessons for your reading pleasure. :)

You don't need a lot of clothes:
    Seriously. I packed A LOT of clothes. I managed to pack them mostly in ziploc airtight bags in a carry-on, but still, I sold it as "I need options." Guess what, you really don't. When you are on a tropical vacation, you need a pair or two of comfy shorts, two T-shirts, a few tank tops, a dress (maybe), 1-2 pairs of flip flops, PJs, a pair of comfy walking shoes/ tennies and your swim suits (and a cover up if you want one). I needed 2 swim suits even though I brought three. I brought SIGNIFICANTLY more clothing than what I mentioned above and wore almost none of it. Once I was there and it was hot and humid, I went for comfort, not style. There were full days I wore ONLY a swimsuit until I was showering and putting on PJs.

Driving is crazy, no one follows many traffic rules and stop signs mean absolutely nothing:
    Need I say more? People are parked all over, they use the shoulders to pass, they use hazards as brake lights, straddle lanes and never ever did I see someone make a full or even a California stop at a stop sign. DO NOT drink and drive... you need to be alert to drive in the Riviera Maya (and I suspect all over Mexico). But once you're driving and you understand that the only rules are that there are no rules... it wasn't as bad as I was expecting. Totally doable.Which leads me to...

Be sure of what kind of insurance you need regarding your rental car:
    I had collision and theft coverage through the credit card I was using to pay for the rental car. I had all my documentation. I was pretty sure I needed nothing else. I DID NOT double check that I had liability insurance. I am sure I would have been covered, but because I didn't double check this with my Visa, I ended up paying $467 for a mid sized rental car for 8 days ($315 of which was liability insurance). Call your credit companies and BE SURE you know what coverage you have, what coverage you need, and what it will cost you. Bring proper documentation with you if you are fully covered so you can decline anything you don't need at the rental counter.

Warm water isn't needed for showering after a day in the sun:
    I didn't experience any warm water during showering in our rental home. And you think "aw shucks, that sucks." but you know what? It doesn't. It feels great. It's not COLD cold, just mildly cold (more cold than warm, though). Washing hair in the cold water is the worst part, but you just do it fast. After a day in the sun, the water feels colder than it probably really is and, honestly, is SO refreshing!!

Try to avoid paying for groceries and gas with cash/pesos:
    I didn't even consider using anything other than my visa for grocery shopping but when I bought gas and the attendant told me that they didn't accept Visa, I didn't think anything of it. I wish I'd asked more (B/c they TOTALLY did accept visa, of this I am sure). When I handed over my 690 pesos for my 682 bill, the attendant flipped my 500 bill into a 50 and tried to tell him that I gave him the wrong amount. I argued with him about this and upon my third reiteration that I did, indeed, give him a 500 bill, he gave me my change. But I was furious (and still am) and am disappointed that the culture promotes this kind of blatant fraud. Which leads me to....

Being heckled is exhausting:
   Everyone said "just don't let it bother you" but it did bother me. I was able to ignore most of it, but when I was told I was not nice because I didn't make a purchase or didn't offer enough money for a purchase at a certain vendor's shop, I thought that was a little far. Also, I want to take time to look at things without someone standing at my shoulder pretty much yelling at me the whole time. My best shopping experiences in Mexico were when the shop keepers kept an eye on me but didn't harass me before, during or after my time there.  which leads me to:

Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate:
    Everything is negotiable. I WAY overpaid for most of my souvenirs but some of them I loved so much I really didn't care at all.  My travel companion and best girlfriend nailed it... if they didn't want to pay the price she was offering, she left. If they changed their minds, they would come after her and give her the item for her asking price. If not, she would look elsewhere or re-assess and go back if she wanted it bad enough. I give her major kudos for her bartering skills.

You won't be hungry enough for all those snacks:
    I packed SO MANY snacks. I DID need some snacks on the plane so for those I was grateful, but I also brought, like, 20 protein bars with me. I didn't eat a single one. Not a single one. Between eggs for breakfast, tuna salad or cheese/crackers for lunch and either home made tacos, leftovers, or a meal out for dinner (oh and the multiple mimosas/ margaritas/ pina coladas/ glasses of wine/ etc/ etc / etc), I didn't have room or hunger for anything else. I barely snacked at all. I had breakfast, lunch, dinner and maybe a few bites of things here and there. Next time, I think I'll bring a few bars, nuts/seeds/crackers and that's it. You can buy almost anything else you need there. Don't waste luggage space on food. And frankly, it's too hot in Mexico to eat much. I drank most of my calories on cold beverages. :)

Time is relative when you're close to the equator:
    It's light at 6am (or maybe earlier) and it's dark by 6pm. I woke up at 6:30-7am most days and was in bed by 9:30pm most nights. I didn't think once that I was going to bed too early or getting up too early. It's wonderful to enjoy the solace of an early morning on the ocean and by the time that 9pm comes around, I was TIRED and grateful to have a place to rest my head for the night. I remember Hawaii being much the same... early to bed, early to rise. I kind of love it. :)

Bug spray, bug spray, bug spray:
    While I didn't notice bug spray was needed too much during the day when you're on the ocean, you most definitely need it if you are elsewhere off the coast and the second that sun starts to set the bugs come out. While my travel friends all wore Deet based spray or insect armor (a more natural bug spray), I used only bug off synergy with witch hazel. I got one bite on the first night and at least 4 others in our party were eaten alive, despite the Deet/insect armor. I barely had enough to last me the week, but it got me through and as someone who mosquitoes LOOOOOVE, I had no better test to how well this product worked. I highly recommend it and am pleasantly surprised that I got off so easy.

I am sure I have many more life lessons for you, but this is where my story ends for today. It was a wonderful trip, overall, with wonderful people and I'm so blessed and grateful to have had the opportunity to have taken it. I very much love my life and the people in it. :) Have a great day everyone!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I have gone through everything in my closet. Everything. I'm keeping everything that fits now and everything that is currently too small. I was all excited about giving things away and then all of a sudden, I choked.

Because I've been here before. I lost a bunch of weight and put it all back on. I am repeatedly reminded by a coworker to "be careful" of gaining all the weight back. Not that I don't think about that enough on my own without the reminder, but that, coupled with the few pound gain this week, has me very emotionally stressed out.

So I made two bags of clothes. One that I will give away when I am ready, and one that I will keep until I've been at goal for at least one year. So I'm not in the same situation I was 3 years ago when I gained the weight back and literally had no clothes. Now... I don't anticipate I will gain the weight back, but.... I'm just too scared.

And that is okay. I can be scared. I SHOULD be scared. Just scared enough to keep me from drinking wine too often, or getting frozen yogurt every night or having buttered popcorn for dinner. Accepting my fear will help me not take myself out to dinner tonight. Accepting that it's okay not to be ready... to face each hurdle as they come and to take my time working through them... will keep me from making poor food choices. Eating to numb my emotions cannot help me. So I am going to let myself be scared. Even if it means holding on to clothes two sizes too big until I feel confident enough that I will never need them again.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wistful snow days

A couple of weekends ago, I spent some time in the cafe that was my home away from home when I lived in the Clinton neighborhood and I was reminiscing on the six years I spent in that part of town. How much I loved it, how I loved being so close to downtown, how I loved being so close to everything! And I could walk to my favorite restaurant, bar and cafe. I ended up going home and looking at real estate in the area (yeah right, SO over my ever possible price range) and also apartments, just to see. Seeing that apartments were the same price as my mortgage stopped that search short and I decided to just embrace how much I loved being there then and try to embrace the comfort of my beautiful home now (despite my cruel neighbors and not-so-nice neighborhood).

But yesterday, when it started to snow, I got wistful again. I never spent much time inside when it snowed in my neighborhood off Clinton Street. I lived in a lovely residential neighborhood in a tri-plex so I never felt like I was in an apartment. When it snowed, I'd bundle up in my finest hiking shoes, cutest cold weather hat and get out in the snow! I had a friend who lived down the street so I'd gather her up and we'd walk the neighborhood. We'd go to the cafe for coffee, we'd go to NoHos for lunch, we'd go to New Season's for supplies. It would take us an HOUR to get to New Seasons and back in the kind of snow we had the few times we had snow, but it was a BLAST! We were warm enough and so happy to be in a quiet neighborhood winter wonderland. It felt like magic.

And frankly, I miss that. I don't have that here, living around watchful and spiteful neighbors, off two busy streets, behind a vacant high school, the rush of the freeway behind me. There is just so little magic to be had for me here on days like this. I try to revel in the comfort in my warm space (both literally and figuratively), and focus my energy on making a great meal, on reading a great book, on watching a great movie ... really taking advantage of the downtime.

But I think, even after 4.5 years, my heart still belongs to Clinton. There are some days that I feel there is a lot I would give to be back there. But then I remember where I am. And how I got here. And I try to remember that I AM grateful and I AM happy. That sometimes it's just hard to let go of certain aspects of the past simply because they were so beautiful. And that's okay.

I can love it here and love it there at the same time. I guess the challenge now is finding the magic here somehow. And if not, then I find it within and not without and hold tight to that instead.

Happy snowmen making out there, friends!