Over the holiday I traveled to Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. After navigating past the throng of people at the Cancun airport hawking tourist attractions, the final leg of the journey was a 1.5 hour drive south to Tulum.
Jade-green waters and white sandy beaches created a tranquil backdrop. Mangroves and other tropical flora attracted birds whose exotic birdcalls grew urgent before sunrise and quiet by noon.
The highlight of this trip was being with my family as we unplugged from computers, phones, televisions, and world news. We turned instead to low-tech forms of relaxation: reading books, playing cards, snorkeling, and swaying in hammocks while pelicans glided overhead. The rejuvenating effects penetrated deep. We feasted on mango smoothies, fajitas sizzling with shrimp, line-caught fish grilled and drizzled with roasted garlic sauce, guacamole, freshly diced pico de gallo, and heaps of tortilla chips, rice, and black beans. Tequila sunrises and margaritas went down smoothly and washed away any lingering stress.
Tulum was an important trading port. The Mayan ruins bear testament to the extensive commercial and ceremonial activities that took place here in ancient times.
One cultural tradition that can still be witnessed is pole dancing. It involves elaborately costumed men who tumble from a rope attached to a high pole and swing in a wide circle while upside down. Mayan pole dancers perform the “Danza de los Voladores” (Dance of the Flyers) roughly hourly near the entrance to the Tulum ruins. I was told that the ceremonial meaning of this ritual is to stop the drought.
Even without hanging upside down and blood rushing to my head, I feel reinvigorated and ready to embrace 2017. I’ll be heading to New York City for the NYT Travel Show in a couple weeks. Other trips are lined up for later in the year. Wherever I go, I experience anew the tremendous benefits of travel. These include the chance to explore other cultures and to gain insights from shifting out of my normal routines and comfort zone. I realize that not everyone is able to travel or even wants to venture far, but I hope that wherever the road takes you this year that the experiences are richly rewarding and that your dreams come true. Happy new year!