Travel photographer - exploring Tulum, Mexico

March 16, 2015

I have had a serious case of wanderlust for most of my life. When I was six-years-old, my family packed me in the car in the middle of the night. I was sleepy and unsure of what was going on, but fell back to sleep. The next morning, I woke up somewhere new. It continued like this for six-weeks as we traveled across country from New York to California and back, just seeing the sights. Having been so young, I can’t tell you the first place we stopped. I can tell you what it was like to wake-up and take a brief walk through the woods to the edge of the Grand Canyon or to wake-up in the back of a car in the middle of the night to see a wild horse peering in at me through the car window. I was the zoo, while he roamed free. These experiences were magical and shaped my imagination for years to come. There are many other little moments stuck in my head like photographs in a scrapbook, but I have no physical photos of that trip. Nor do I have photos of the month I spent in Ireland when I was ten. There are plenty stored in my brain that I may ask someone to draw for me someday, because part of me feels that I may lose them, the mind being so fragile.

 

 

Those early experiences created a travel obsession and I did quite a bit through 2008, before I ran into health issues with my neck and back. Last year, my husband and I took a trip to Costa Rica. It was the first time I had been out of the country in six-years. I was starving for it at that point. My mind craves to be some place where I don’t speak the language. I love to fully immerse myself in the daily life of wherever I happen to be in that moment. It washes away any stress I might have had in the comfort of my home environment. There is no room for it, when you are trying to make your way through a foreign land. Of course, after struggling with my health, I wasn’t sure I had the energy for all that, so we booked a resort. I had stayed at resorts twice before in Mexico and Morocco and didn’t really like them. The food is not local and everyone speaks English. Costa Rica, was perfect for us at the time though, and the resort we stayed in was gorgeous.

 

This year, I needed to get back to a more adventurous travel plan, so we went to Tulum, Mexico and rented a room downtown at The Palms Luxury Hotel, which was more like an apartment than a hotel. The hotel staff spoke fluent English, but it was common to find someone in town that spoke as much English as I spoke Spanish. We made it work, even when asking for directions. We went to a grocery store and bought food and supplies for our room. We wandered the town on bikes, we explored, we soaked in all that Tulum had to offer and still wanted more.

 

Tulum is a mix of Mexicans, Europeans, Canadians, and a few Americans. Many of the foreigners live there through the colder months of the year up north. A string of beaches and resorts lie just a fifteen minute bike ride away from downtown. The sand is white, the water is warm and clear. The first day we rode our bikes along the coast and jumped in the water to cool off. When the sun got to be too much there were caves filled with water from an underground river to swim in, they call them cenotes. There are six cenotes around Tulum, we visited only one, Gran Cenote.

 

Each cenote can be found in what appears to be someone’s yard as you drive down the road. You pay to get in and can rent snorkel equipment should you need to. You can also scuba dive, if you are so inclined. Busy though they may be, they are still tranquil. The water is crystal clear with a blue tint. You can see every rock and every little fish swim by. Once inside the cave it becomes very dark, but the light from the opening illuminates the water beneath you, creating an otherworldly experience like no other. The best view is from the very back of the cave, underwater looking back at the opening. Look up into the rock and you will find little bats trying to sleep. Some are rocking as they switch out their little feet. I learned that it is impossible to take a photograph of these sweet little guys while treading water with an underwater camera. I did try repeatedly, all the while knowing it was a useless effort. Below me, I could see the flashlights from the scuba divers exploring the floor of the cave. We ran our hands along the cave walls and looked closely, parts of the walls looked like an animal jaw, or a head. This might sound terrifying, and well, I was scared and made my husband hold my hand, but it was also mesmerizing.

 

Many of my vacation destinations are picked based on archaeological sites, Tulum was no different. Less than a ten minute bike ride from our hotel was Ruinas Arqueologicas de Tulum, a Mayan archaeological site. This site served as a Mayan port during the 13th and 14th centuries. Now it is home to gorgeous architecture and spectacular views from the cliff. The ruins themselves are inhabited by Iguanas that sun themselves like majestic statues throughout the landmark. It is clear they now own the place. A modern wooden staircase takes you down the cliff face to the ocean. Depending on the tide, you may have enough beach to rest your belongings so you can swim in the waves and take in the ruins from a different vantage point.

 

When we weren’t swimming or exploring ancient ruins, we were walking through town to find food. Our favorite place ended up being Los Aquaschiles, located just on the far edge of town. This place had the best tacos and hot sauce selection. Every order came with four different hot sauces to try and I tried them all. During our walks through town we noticed that there was an abundance of dogs that hung around and didn’t really seem to bother anyone. Each dog had their own station. One slept seemingly all day at the bank. Others visited shops and restaurants looking for handouts in the most adorable of ways. As dog parents, it was nice to see human and animal co-existing so peacefully. One evening, I brought my camera along to capture the dogs (and cat) of Tulum.

 

Unlike the trips of my youth, this trip was well documented. I will have these memories for the rest of my life. I share them with you now, as I daydream about our next adventure. If you would like to order prints, calendars, cards, or gallery wraps, visit the gallery here and select an item from the menu on the right side.

 

 

 

 

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