A Travellerspoint blog

No Me Importa... Estoy Feliz

My response to most questions in Cozumel ... Emilie, what kind of beer do you want? Where do you want to go to eat? Do you want to go out? "I don't care, I'm happy any way."

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I cry every time I leave Cozumel. Usually it starts the night before - I literally have a photo album home at my dad’s where I’m crying in every picture throughout my last night there. I’m not sure why we continued taking pictures - it wasn’t pretty. This time was no different - I cried… may have even shed a tear or two while I write this at the foot of beautiful Laguna Bacalar, but the sentiment this time is different. I had such an amazing time this week that the tears are both happy and sad.

There is something about leaving behind a place and people you love - even when you’re returning to something that you also love, or in this case, continuing on to new adventures. I fell into a routine and a rhythm with Mony’s family.

I had my own bedroom, larger than my one at home, my own bathroom, also a luxury and direct access to the backyard, complete with my hammock, under an orange tree which I utilized solely for napping. Each morning, I would wake up to the smell of something delicious cooking and the neighborhood vendors making their way down the calles with tunes, not unlike an ice cream truck. I would ultimately get up, go for a run to my favorite swimming spot, La Culetita, snorkel for a clip and then run back. After day 2, Monica’s mom knew that I was never hungry right when I got up, so she prepared something for me upon my return. Then she would resume her pinata construction which evolved over the course of the week that I was there.


I would then meet her aunt, Tuly to either pick her son, Joshua, an adorable little nugget from school or meet her later at Pistos, Monica's bar. I’d return home for an afternoon snack with her parents and a siesta and usually get up in time to hear her knocking that she was home from work. Meal time was spent chatting about life in NYC, Puerta Vallarta, Cozumel, California and life lessons in between. Life was pretty easy and great. And I love her parents.

My debit card was scheduled to arrive on Monday but I figured I wouldn’t have it in my hands until Tuesday. Tuly casually (read: persuasively) reminded me that Tuesdays are family days for the Palacios. All of their businesses are closed so they usually organize an activity (going to the beach) and that she would come out with Mony and me that night since Pistos was closed. And so, obviously, I agreed to stay until Wednesday.

We woke up on Tuesday, made ceviche de vallarta (lime, carrots, olives, onion, cilantro) with both fish and caracol (conch). We waited until Joshua was done with school, gathered up the kids, opened some Modelos and headed off to beach.


The day was filled with laughs, cerveza, swimming and ceviche. We made fun of Tuly for cowering in the shade; she reminded us that she was constantly fighting with the sun; I jumped off the end of the dock as many times as I could and we watched the sunset as we left the beach.


Later we hit the town and I reminded Tuly and Mony that I planned to leave for Playa del Carmen in the evening on Wednesday to catch an early bus to Bacalar.


I made an executive (drunken) decision that I would leave in the afternoon and told Monica to say goodbye to me in the morning just in case. She woke me up before she left for work and said goodbye. Then, for the first time of many during that day, I changed my mind and decided to stay until she at least got out of work. I got up several hours later and wandered around Cozumel in search of regalitos (gifts) for the ladies and Mony’s dad. I settled on a pair of earrings for her mom, a pearl(ish) bracelet for Tuly, and a braided bracelet for Mony of which I bought myself a duplicate. I never take my two braided bracelets from Nicaragua off - they both signify a time in my life for me and one from Cozumel for the two of us seemed just right. For her dad, he had said he loved Italian bruschetta so I hustled to the grocery for the ingredients and assembled it at home.

All day I struggled with whether I would go to Playa after saying one last goodbye to Mony or staying for the night and catching the morning ferry. I wasn’t sure what the right decision was. I made it to my afternoon stop at Pistos as they cleaned and readied for the night. Tuly admonished me “Emil-LEE no te vayas a Playa en la noche, es peligroso.” I agreed that it was probably not my best use of judgement and told her I would stay for the night and leave in the morning. Just as I confirmed this, Mony’s friend, Pato (see previous post), sent me a WhatsApp that he was heading to Playa in the evening and wanted to see if I wanted to grab something to eat before he left. This was it - finally, my sign - I should leave for Playa that night. Tuly gave me her stamp of approval that since I had an escort, I was free to head out that evening. I rushed home to assemble the bruschetta, the regalos and pack.

Mony’s mom walked into my room, surveyed the situation and asked me what I was doing. I told her that I was planning to leave that evening once Monica got home and go to Playa with Pato. She gave me a severe side eye and said “Ok, buena hija…” letting it trail off as she went into the backyard. It was the equivalent of Travis’ response to me (you stupid bitch… lovingly of course) when I ask him dumb questions - like how does one tease their hair?


This was my sign. I had made the wrong decision. Her side eye is fierce. There was something of a fiesta happening in the living room - Mony’s nephew had come over with tequila. I grabbed my phone without responding to anyone about where I was going and ran off to Pistos (also known as my internet cafe). I manana-ed Pato (see previous post), apologizing and saying that I would be leaving in the morning instead of with him that night. I went back to the house, announced that I was staying and was greeted with tequila shots while we enjoyed the bruschetta that I had made.

Mony and I headed to Pistos for one final night - an early one - we promised ourselves. It was anything but as they were down a server. I donned a Pistos shirt and helped wait tables. It was pay day in Cozumel and people were really going ham on the booze. We made fun of the “sala de dormidos” - the people sleeping in the couches in the corner, hypothesized future boyfriends for all of us - or in my case, a girlfriend as I had a woman get pretty friendly with the new Pistos server - and got everyone out by 4:00. So much for the early night.

I cried myself to sleep, woke up three hours later for the ferry, cried during the whole ferry even while there was a live band which was festive and fun and eventually pulled myself together for the bus ride to Bacalar - which is spectacular by the way. But it’s a quiet, sleepy town as I knew it would be and makes me miss my Cozumel family all the more. Right now as I write this, Mony is hopefully catching up on the sleep she lost during my presence, her mom is sending her dad off to work at his bar and Tuly and co are awaiting the late evening crowd at Pistos.

I know this post is long but the last week I had is so important and valuable to me, I didn’t really want to leave anything out.

I’ve long said that Cozumel has a piece of my heart and this again soldified that notion - but it wouldn’t have such a big piece were it not for Mony and her family. They showed me such hospitality ten years ago and this week was above and beyond. I am wildly appreciative of everything - to be included in the festivities and activites but recognized as more than just a friend of Mony’s. Her mom referred to me as “hija” (daughter) affectionately throughout the week. Tuly made sure my time was occupied and that my hand was never empty - water, beer, food, clothes, you name it. Her dad gave me several recommendations about where to go next and how to go about my travel.

True friends are the ones that you might not always see or talk to but can pick up right where you left off just the same. Both of us have grown up and matured since we saw each other last but the dynamic was exactly the same. I miss all of them dearly and have promised myself that this time, ten years between visits will not lapse. I think even my dad can agree that it is a blessing Monica offered under-age Travis and me shots which we “begrudgingly” agreed to. What a missed opportunity of a beautiful friendship that would’ve been if she hadn’t. :)


Yes, Laura Semon, that is me, wearing a sports bar at a Mexican discoteque. Blame Travis.

Posted by emlehan 09:25 Archived in Mexico Tagged cozumel Comments (1)

Always say yes

Before I left New York, my friend Isaac gave me the top five tips for traveling through Central America the previous year. High on his list was always say yes to whatever someone is offering you or asking you to join them somewhere. I looked at him dubiously as there are a number of things that I know would be a hard no, like you know, heroin for one, but whatever, I understood his point.

As a sidebar, I basically say yes to everything anyway even when I don't want to do it - I'm sure some of you are aware of this ploy. When I inevitably decide I don't want to do something, I change my response to maybe and then basically avoid it. In Mexico, my usual maybe response has turned into mañana (tomorrow). So when Monica's friend, named "El Pato" (the duck) offered to take me to the other side of the island which I remember with a great fondness (it's basically just the ocean and a few restaurants - laid back and chill - Cozumel as a surfer town), I mañana-ed him for several days mostly because his name was Pato and I was anxious about going somewhere remote by myself with a random guy. But Monica promised me he was a good guy and I also checked his character with her mom - I generally check with her mom before doing anything - I'm very well behaved here in Cozumel.

So I finally agreed to 4:30 yesterday. As I finished my 5th taco dorito (tacquitos) and it was past 4:30, I was looking forward to an aggressive siesta in the hammock and thought that Pato had bailed.


But about 30 seconds after that thought, Pato was at the door, helmet in hand and we were off on his moto to the other side of the island. Monica's mom ensured to give him an earful about how I questioned his character and to be nothing short of a gentleman and god forbid something happen to me on his motorcycle, she would find him and make him pay.

We raced off to the other side of the island before the sunset and upon arrival, I was reminded why I like the other side of the island so much. Huge waves, crashing up against the rocks, where you know the riptide is strong enough to take you out but you still want to swim.


We took an elaborate photoshoot - if you've ever hung out with me and Travis, you know we love a good photo shoot. The water was so warm, I ended up swimming even though I wasn't excited about being soaking wet on a fast moto on the way back.


We headed out before there was no light. Pato asked me if I preferred to go through the jungle or the way we came and I of course said the jungle because I had yet to see that. He questioned that decision with an uncertain, "Seguro?" (are you sure?) which I answered with a "yas!"

Approximately, two and a half minutes later, a giant wild pig came charging out of the jungle and headed straight toward the moto. This pig was no joke and she meant business. We skirted out of the way just in time and shared a laugh about how the pig had obviously scared us but had no fear itself.

We stopped at a bar fashioned out of an old VW wagon on the way back, across from the Caribbean side of the beach which had good vibes and good people. It was such a fun - unexpectedly fun - day and I totally understand the importance of always saying yes.


Siestas can wait - this island has so much to offer and I'd rather not sleep through it.

Posted by emlehan 10:45 Archived in Mexico Tagged cozumel Comments (1)

Cozumel, Tulum and a raccoon named Kiki

Bienvenidos a Mexico

What a blast so far. Travis and I met in the Cancun airport last week and by some miraculous grace of a woman named Fatima, we were actually able to find each other.

We spent two lovely days in Cozumel staying with our friend Monica and her family, snorkeling, etc. And of course attempted the usual Cozumel debauchery at Senor Frog's for ladies night, which my friend rightly calls, "standing around for hours waiting for drinks." We asked Mony to go to breakfast with us in the morning before she left for work and to invite her mom, and by the time we got back to her house, we had changed this to have her mom cook us breakfast. Mony woke her mom up at 3:00 am and demanded sopes, different varieties and something for Travis, the particular vegetarian. I never would've tried this with my dad - but it worked and they were delicious.


Next stop was Tulum which has a completely different vibe. Somewhere between LA and NYC conveniences/restaurants and nice things and super hippy with little electricity.


We had a super fun night in town, dancing in the streets and hopping from bar to bar. This night, we hung out with two locals, Javier and Daniel who showed us around. Daniel also told us perhaps the most interesting story after we casually told them about an aggressive raccoon we had encountered earlier. As it turns out, he used to have a pet raccoon named Kiki. He rescued Kiki and let him live in his house.


Kiki fancied cheese and whenever he wanted more, he would rub his hands together and poke Daniel until his beloved fancy snack. Eventually Kiki got big and belligerent and so Daniel set him free in the jungle. That is... he tried... Kiki followed him several times so he finally jumped in a taxi. His last view of Kiki was him trying to catch up the taxi on the highway. So... RIP Kiki...

The rest of our time in Tulum was spent swimming in the ocean and cenotes. Cenotes are great - we saw a crocodile and a puma in the first cenote. In the second one, I climbed up a poorly constructed high jump and immediately regretted it. But going down aside from jumping would've required dismounting via a ladder that wasn't set up properly and that seemed just as undesirable.


Finally, on the last day of Tulum, my bank card stopped functioning due to fraudulent activity and they need to send me a new one. Luckily, Monica had met us in Tulum and suggested I return to her house and stay with her until the card comes. While I was ready to venture out on my own, this was obviously the best decision and life is pretty great in Cozumel. I went swimming in a lagoon yesterday, snorkeling this morning. Her parents are some of the nicest people I have ever encountered in my life. Each day, they go next door, where their neighbors are fisherman, and get fresh fish for ceviche or roasting. It's better than any restaurant food I have had.


In short, all of the people in Cozumel I have encountered are extremely hospitable - it is a reminder that even in the hustle and bustle of NYC, you should slow down and make sure you're treating people just as you would want to be treated. I'm sitting in a friend of Monica's bedroom right now to write this blog post because I mentioned that I was in search of a place for WiFi yesterday. I can't thank Monica and her family and friends enough for making me feel completely comfortable and part of the family. Nor can I thank Travis enough for making the first part of my trip amazing - we shared so many laughs. Cozumel has long been one of my favorites and will certainly continue to be.


Posted by emlehan 15:33 Archived in Mexico Tagged tulum cozumel Comments (0)

From $1250 to $8

When I graduated from college, which took too long, someone bought me the Dr. Seuss book "Oh, The Places You'll Go" - in reference to the job I might be offered or the success I might have. But I always read it literally - all of the cities, countries and places I would see.

Nine months ago, I made the decision to go to Nicaragua by myself. Having traveled and being drawn to the area, I bought the ticket, hopped on the plane and had the time of my life.


I had little backpack experience (okay, I stayed in Ritz Carltons the previous seven years so let's go with the opposite of the backpack experience). To give you an example, I asked my friend, whose backpack I borrowed, if I should pack a hair dryer. She was mortified enough for the both of us.

I met a girl in Nica (hi, Evie!) through a friend (hi, Isaac). And despite being sick (Evie, let's go with that), she stayed with me all night, showing me all the fun places to check out in San Juan Del Sur. We talked about traveling and I mentioned that I thought she was lucky. She told me she wasn't lucky but rather she had a decision to go travel - and I could make that same decision. And so, I did.

Follow me here as my rent goes from $1250 to $8 and as I make my trek south, mastering Spanish and surfing (okay, maybe just one of those), volunteering and meeting fun people.

Posted by emlehan 08:59 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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