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!!

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