Saturday, January 4, 2014

Yucatan Flashback and Future Plans

We’ve been doing a lot of thinking about our next adventures; Alaska’s high on the list as are the Canadian Maritimes (head north to Bangor, Maine and take a right – yeah, I didn’t know you could do that either until I looked at a map). We’ve even talked about extended travel in Europe, especially if wanderlust hits some of our traveling friends. And this just as Wynne’s turning two years old and getting her first introduction into a more formalized school environment through a local Montessori Toddler Program. The time is getting nearer for us to consider the value to a child of a well-ordered classroom environment in contrast with the new and different experiences and direct exposure to learning situations available through travel.

In the last weeks of 2013, we signed about a zillion enrollment and release forms, read through pages of rules and regulations (all designed to provide a supportive environment and keep our child safe) and, of course, wrote a big fat check. We also ran up our credit cards with flights, hotels and rental cars to take a trip with some family back to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and places we hadn’t been to since our drive from San Francisco to Panama almost three years ago. All of this has been a great opportunity reflect back on that trip - to the things that were (or weren’t) on our minds, to the limited possessions (and budget) we had and to how valuable it was to immerse ourselves in a new culture - while considering the experiences we might like to have as a family in the coming years. Of course, things were a little different on this last trip to the Yucatan…

Last time, exploring Palenque for hours… IMG_2749

This time, eating ice cream in the shade at Chichen Itza… IMG_9365

Last time, enjoying a relaxed coffee at a sidewalk café in San Cristobal… IMG_2658

This time, craving a nap on a patio in Isla Mujeres…
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And after last time’s experience with a “trained” Spider Monkey that led to a bleeding finger and an afternoon Googling obscure primate-borne jungle diseases, this time Ann was a little leery of letting one get too close to her daughter.

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But there were definitely some similarities, like sunset photos with perfect white sands and incredible blue water in Tulum.

Last time, without a care in the world. Tulum

And this time, confident that our daughter was in good hands with her cousins. IMG_9322

And beautiful views (despite cloudy skies) at the Tulum ruins.

Ruins at Tulum

And swimming in cenotes fed by an immense underground river system.

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Check this one at the Tulum Monkey Sanctuary. Take a step off the edge, do your best Jesus-on-the-cross impression and fall 10 feet or so into a cave.

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And strolling around the markets in the central squares in the evenings, although this time we had someone to buy one of the inflatable animals for.

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Oh sure, judge us if you must, but *you* trying saying no to this face…

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Traveling with my brother’s family, all of whom were more than happy to grab the hand of our littlest traveler and disappear for an hour while Ann and I had some rare solo time, was a great way for us to return to this part of Mexico.

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And even the teenagers eventually came to appreciate how much more time they had to enjoy their vacation with a toddler reminding them to wake up early and seize the day.

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By now, Wynne’s a pretty good traveler; She’ll sleep in the car or any crib we roll into a room, although she did point out a few ways that some of the Mexican hotel cribs might not quite be up to US safety standards.


Of course, sometimes she’s an…
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And sometimes she’s a…
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… but that’s gonna be the case whether we’re at home in a big house or anywhere in the world.

While all of our arrangements went smoothly and the group traveled well together, by the end of the trip, we found ourselves reminded of some of the things we like most about traveling “overland,” whether in the Xterra with a roof top tent or the Airstream. First, there’s the flexibility; If you like where you’re staying, you can typically stay there without worrying about reservations or significant additional cost. By the same token, if you hear about something interesting, you can usually change your route to include it, a move that’s not always possible when you have a rented car or are subject to pre-made transportation reservations. Second, the food; Without a way to cook for yourself, whether out of a camping kitchen on the tailgate or the cozy-but-full-featured trailer galley, you’re eating out at restaurants as many as three times a day. While that can be indulgent and delicious (see our recent stay with the trailer in Portland), we pretty quickly get sick of eating too much, waiting too long for another beer or the check, paying too much and entertaining a toddler at the table.

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Finally, it’s just personal, familiar space where you can decompress after a day of travel. Even crawling up the ladder into the rooftop tent, zipping ourselves in and starting an episode of “True Blood” on the laptop had been enough to make us feel at home while driving to Panama. In the trailer, we have just about all the comforts of home including our own bathroom, shower, fridge full of either familiar or new-found-favorite regional food and creative outlets like musical instruments and toys for Wynne. I’ve said a few times before that when moving from hotel room to hotel room, I start to feel like there’s an “expiration date,” a limited time until I’ll want to go home and recharge. I think one of the most interesting parts of our last few trips in the Airstream has been the feeling that we could just keep going.


So after a great trip, spending time with family, revisiting some old sights and seeing some new ones, we’re returning home to consider what we might like the next few years to look like. Wynne will start a semester of “school” next week which we think she’ll really enjoy. We’ll also get to meet a bunch of new parents with similar age kids which will be good for us. And maybe we’ll end up with a little better perspective on the value of a classroom environment vs…

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In the meantime, we plan to dig into some modifications we have in mind for our new 25’ Airstream CCD, to take some last weekends at local state parks in the 19’ Flying Cloud before listing it for sale, and to remember the look on the waiter in Valladolid’s face the first time Wynne looked at him and asked for “Agua.”

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