Understanding The Pyramid of Positive Thinking

How I Completely Missed The Purpose Of This Art Piece

Along our trek back from Aldea Zama, I wanted to stop by an art installation that I had read about, the Pyramid of Positive thinking. It was right along our path back to the resort.

The start of the path.

The structure starts with a path that winds through the trees, ducking beneath red arches that represent a snake that leads to a small opening and a large pyramid. 12 meters wide and 12 meters tall, the Pyramid of Positive thinking was constructed by Xavier de Maria y Campos to commemorate the year 2012, which coincided with the end of the Mayan calendar cycle – an event that signals the transition into a new Baktun.

The Pyramid of Positive Thoughts

Upon approaching the installation, I ignored the detailed signage that was posted to instruct visitors about the purpose of the art piece and how they can contribute to it. Instead, I walked straight for a set of very steep stairs on the side of the pyramid and climbed to the top. I peered inside of the pyramid and was immediately disgusted; it was full of plastic bottles. I had thought people turned what could have been a really nice work of art in the middle of a nice neighborhood into an oversized trash bin.

I was wrong.

Inside the pyramid.

When I got home, I did some more research on the pyramid and found that the bottles were fully intentional. Xavier had encouraged visitors to write down one positive thought on a piece of paper, insert it into a PET bottle (Polyethylene terephthalate – a 100% recyclable plastic material), and layered within soil containing regional plant seeds. Over time, the structure will decompose and leave a pyramid of green that has been imbued with the positive energy of the visitor’s thoughts.

Reflecting back, I wish I had taken the time to read the signage and learn about the art piece before passing swift judgement and leaving the area with a poor taste that it didn’t deserve. Nearly a decade later, I do think the artist may have leaned towards a more environmentally-safe method of building the structure (a biodegradable substance rather than plastic) if he had created it today, but I am encouraged by the mission behind the art piece and look forward to slowing down the next time I see a piece of art that has been designed to spread positivity.

Finding Aldea Zama

In previous posts, I mentioned how our resort was on a never-ending, dusty road and we were forced to walk for what seemed like an eternity to get anywhere. That’s what we thought until one day we noticed a few cars were turning right off of the road onto a bumpy, sandy side street. A quick GPS search back at the resort and we found out there are a few shops down that road so we set off one morning to do some exploring and eating.

The neighborhood we ended up finding down this side street was called Aldea Zama and it was dramatically closer to our resort than either of the other destinations we had been going to – the Tulum beachfront and La Veleta.

The first thing we noticed was how quiet it was. The neighborhood had a very posh look to it and it seemed to be recovering from the pandemic, as every other window had a promotional sign trying to get you to buy an available condo and there was plenty of construction projects going on.

A nice, chill atmosphere.

We reached our first stop, Matcha Mama, a cute little smoothie cafe that made incredible use of the tiniest space. Seriously, they crammed an entire shop into a booth the size of a standard closet. We had a broad choice of seating options to enjoy our Mango Tango smoothie bowl, but we hunkered under the balcony for a little shade. This thing was delicious and one bowl easily satiated both of our bellies.

Mango Tango.

Our next stop was the number one reason I wanted to stop by this neighborhood; we were headed for Mamazul, a 4-star hotel with an incredible mezcaleria on the ground floor. I checked the screenshot I had of Google Maps and we set off down one street, made a turn here, walked down another until I said “hmm…”

Now I am one of those people that will walk forever around a place, half-getting to our destination, half-just checking out the new environment. Rachel, whom I was with, is not like that. She took my brief pause of uncertainty to mean that we were lost in the jungle with no way out, a feeling only further exacerbated by the burning heat of the mid-day sun.

The place was just one block over…

The first thing you notice is the huge, open-concept layout of the bar with a super high ceiling, a front entrance that was open-air, and a stretching shelf of mezcals behind the bar that needed a rolling ladder (like what you associate with libraries) to reach the top shelves.

Isn’t it lovely?

We downed some fresh juices that sounded better than they ended up being, but where they disappointed, the mezcal tastings did not.

We sipped down the smoky, smooth elixir, letting the feeling linger at the back of our throats and debated over which of the endless bottles had the coolest label design. Between the drinks, the decor, and the overall atmosphere, I will 100% be returning to Mamazul when I get back to Tulum. I really wanted to purchase a bottle of mezcal right after to bring home, but I never check a bag on my flights so I had to wait for the duty-free shop which had a much larger selection that I remembered. Luckily, I had started packing “empty space” before trips to allow myself to grab a bottle of alcohol souvenir before heading home.

As we headed back, I wanted to stop by an art installation that I had read about, The Pyramid of Positive Thinking. First and foremost, I need to voice out an apology for this piece, because I did not understand the project at all when I had viewed it in person. My thoughts have since changed.

We made our trek back, still shocked by how close this cool, little neighborhood was to us this whole time.

Relaxing At An Oasis In Tulum

The sun was hot, beating straight down on us. The trees that flanked the dusty road did nothing to shade us from the heat. We were walking from our AirBnb from the previous night to our resort that we would stay at for the remainder of the trip. As we passed a semi-busy looking resort called Mystiq, we paused for a second to make sure we were heading the correct direction. Yep – shouldn’t be much farther. Our resort had only opened earlier this year so a lot of online maps weren’t quite updated enough to show an exact location.

Finally, after what seemed like a while, we came upon a very large, wooden sign that read KAN Tulum. Beyond the sign, a dirt path stretched into the jungle. I didn’t even mind the extra walk, because at least it was in the shade. We passed some signs on the trees that definitely fed to the younger-generation lifestyle. “#GreenVibesOnly.”

Once we approached the security gate, we were let in and WOW! I couldn’t believe this lush, green oasis was just a stone’s throw away from the hot, dusty road on which we were just walking. We were guided to the reception desk where Edith welcomed us and gave us a tour of the property. It was absolutely beautiful. The paths intertwine through large, vibrant plant life, passing a hanging tear drop chair, a hammock, then to the pool which was fairly well centered and gave us a good visual of the property. A large building on the far side of the pool was where they offered massages and a really neat, bamboo-covered bridge led you to their breakfast/drink bar and the resort eventually plans on opening a vegetarian restaurant once they’ve expanded.

We were allowed to roam the property until our room was ready (check-out from our AirBNB was 4 hours prior to our check-in at KAN Tulum) but right when we went to get our swimsuits from our bags, they told us it was ready. Sweet!

We were shown to our room, which I guarantee had the best view on the property (seriously, we could see everything while still maintaining a little privacy on our terrace.)

According to their website, there are five room floorplans (which I think only two currently exist, the rest are part of the expansion. I could be wrong.) and it was very well thought out. The room we stayed in wraps around from the bedroom/kitchenette to the bathroom with a large, beautiful, two-sided mirror acting as the barrier between the king-size bed and a big, Instagram-worthy tub.

They used a breathable concrete made from a local root

I’d like to take the next couple sections to talk about 3 amazing highlights from our stay:

The Bar

Now this isn’t at all for the obvious reason. We did get one drink from the bar here – a really tasty passionfruit, mezcal cocktail – but it was $15 and we had other options. Mystiq, from up the road, had a mini-mart on its property where you can find bottles of wine for reasonable prices.

What the bar offered that really made our trip fantastic was its breakfast and coffee. Every morning, Saoul and his team presented a buffet style breakfast of vegetarian options from oats to fruit to beans to eggs and the styles varied each day. There were pitchers of fruit-infused water that I’ve been super exited to replicate at home in the new goblets I got in Charlotte. The meal was so good and we felt very healthy enjoying it.

Breakast views.

The staff was also always available to present us with coffee all the time. There was always someone around to brew together an Americano or Almond Latte. We really appreciated sitting at the pool and being handed a “cold coffee” which was really set off by coconut flakes.

The Pool

Despite seeing other people staying at the resort, we essentially had the pool to ourselves whenever we wanted. The water was comfortably warm like a bath and the sun fluttered in and out from behind the shade of the trees giving you an alternating warm shine and a cool escape from the heat. It was the perfect recipe for a nice tan.

The Cenote
View from the walkway.

One of the absolute best things to do on the Yucatán peninsula is to visit and swim in cenotes, underground water wells that are created by the collapse of limestone caves. KAN Tulum just happens to have one on the property, a few strides from the pool and overlooked by the bar.

A pump-fed waterfall creates a really nice look to the cenote, but once it turns off, you can see all the way through the calm, cool water to the bottom. We jumped in, splashed around, and floated above the water surrounded by cavern walls.

I cannot wait to come back to Tulum and explore the ruins and area around here and I will undoubtably stay at KAN Tulum again.

There are a couple nests above the rooms with great views; we just couldn’t think of a pose.

We Rode Bikes To The Tulum Ruins… And They Were Closed!

Our recent trip to Tulum was largely for rest and relaxation purposes, especially after the obstacles that jumped in our way. Still, there were a few occasions where we wanted to leave the sanctity of our little jungle oasis to go exploring. One day, we rented a pair of bicycles from our resort – these turned out to be more in line with mountain bikes than the typical beach cruiser we saw everyone else riding around.

It was a scorcher this day, settling around 90° F (32° C) by 11am, and we set off right when the sun was peaking just past noon. The road outside of our resort was an endless line of dust and sand-colored pavement that seemed to extend towards the horizon. No worries, though, according to Google Maps and the front receptionist, this should be a quick 13 minute ride to the beach and another 15 minutes to the ruins with a nice sea breeze for the second half.

The bike/walking path provided a nice buffer from traffic.

The stretch of road down to the beach had trees on either side, but since the sun was directly above, they didn’t provide any shade to utilize. We made sure to sunscreen up and brought a bottle along with us to reapply when needed. This stretch ended up taking twice as long as anticipated. It drug on and on and on with cars passing by, some giving us plenty of space, others narrowly avoiding us like we just weren’t there.

We finally arrived at the beachfront road (with limited visual access to the beach beyond an extended wall of hotels, restaurants, and clubs) and took a water break before continuing along. We did pass a stretch of beach where we noticed that the sargassum infestation that plagued our Cancun trip two years prior was still abundant. There were piles and piles of the smelly seaweed sitting on the beach and brown pelicans were using it as a resting nest. I didn’t think to take any photo or video of them, but we got to catch a few of these birds diving into the water in search of lunch.

What kind of Olympic athlete did they time to create this time expectation?

The stretch along the beach was full of trendy looking shops and restaurants, but we were on a mission. A side path for walkers and bikes began after the shops that gave us a little breathing room from the constant traffic as well as a little shade. The rest of the ride was racking up the minutes, though just a brief bit after we were supposed to arrive, we passed by what looked like a gate to the ruins. That turned out to not be the case. That was just the halfway point. We continued past beach club after beach club for a while until we finally approached the gate to the ruins.

Keeping a smile despite the circumstances.

A trio of blue-collared shirt clad individuals stopped us to tell us the ruins were closed. At this point, we had been riding for about an hour in the hot sun and just wanted to pause on the side of the road to finish our water, reapply sunscreen, and comprehend the news we were just given. The officials started to offer us alternative excursions that we could purchase at their stand which we declined. I became skeptical that this was just a sales tactic to catch unknowing foreigners before they could get to the ruins.

I saw an American couple come from the other side of the gate who were stopped by the same trio for the sales pitch (there was another entrance on the other side that led to downtown Tulum) so I decided to wait and talk to them when they passed by.

I asked them what was on the other side and they said they thought the ‘closed ruin’ news was a scam too so they continued all the way to the actual entrance to the ruins where they were turned away, confirming the closure. We later were told by a different employee at our resort that there was a confirmed COVID case at the ruins and they were closed for sanitation.

A break and refreshment.

After a brief sigh, our ride back was slow but steady. We passed some big iguanas and a coati that seemed to be overly comfortable with two local guys, acting like their pet. We stopped at a pharmacy on the way back to pick up some water and a little rest. I like to think I’m in good shape and I usually have no issue with endurance, but this ride kicked my butt.

Upon arriving back at our resort, lounging by the pool was the only to-do for the rest of the day.

The pool was much needed after today.

How To Get To Tulum From The Cancun Airport

So you’ve just arrived in beautiful, hot Mexico. You’ve ditched the sweatshirt you were wearing on the cool flight down and your sunglasses are on. Your next step is getting to your hotel, hostel, AirBnb, or wherever you’re staying in Tulum. Here are four options to fit your travel style and budget:

1. Taxi

The quickest way to go is via a taxi. Don’t worry about availability here; you will be met by no fewer than two hundred drivers that will continuously ask you where you’re going and if you already have a ride to your destination.

Be warned, these aren’t your typical yellow taxi. These are essentially private drivers that charge an astronomical fee (sometimes over 3000 pesos (~$175USD) to get you to where you’re going.

2. Shuttle

This is probably my recommendation if you’re not traveling on a shoestring budget. We used a shared shuttle service to transfer from our hotel (included pickup) to the airport. The journey took about 1 hour, 45 minutes and cost $83USD + tip. We only picked up one other pair of guys on our trip. The downside is the A/C was broken and the windows couldn’t open, so our drive in the 90 F degree (32 C) heat wasn’t the most pleasant. You can book either directly through the Cancun Airport website or a private company with a quick Google search.

The ADO bus stop is to the right once you exit the terminal. You can purchase tickets here.
3. ADO Bus

The budget option. We took the bus upon arrival down to Tulum due to our flight arriving about an hour before the next bus left. It was $18/person, but what we didn’t realize was that it made a stop in Playa del Carmen on the way down. This turned into a 3.5 hour drive that got us to Tulum pretty late. The ride itself wasn’t bad, with toilets on the bus, A/C, and comfortable seating. It drops you off in the middle of Tulum Centro and La Veleta. Our AirBnb for the first night was a nearly 2km walk over bumpy roads on a dimly lit street. We underestimated the bus drive time and the fact that it got dark so early in Mexico.

4. Rental Car

If you can, check out renting a car. This provides the maximum freedom that you may want to explore the Yucatán peninsula. Prices can start as low as $10/day, but do acknowledge that there is some form of mandatory coverage that will most likely be added to the bill. I’ve read dozens and dozens of reviews and forums and I still can’t find a consensus of if using a credit card with travel perks can cover at least part of the mandatory coverage. If you’ve had experience renting a car in Mexico, please leave a comment below.

The roads around the airport and major cities aren’t bad at all and very drivable. Having a rental car will let you explore ruins and cenotes at your own leisure without having to rack up expensive tours or transportations.

The downside to the bus is that it drops you off in city center, so you’re on your own to get to your sleeping arrangements from there.

Why Would I Go To Tulum?

Cancun is the top destination when flying into the nearby airport, attracting over 6 million foreign visitors in 2019 alone. It has a very chain-restaurant, chain-resort feel to it. If you’re looking to stay at an all-inclusive resort, by all means, enjoy your trip. However, Tulum has become a millennial-friendly spot, seeing an influx in digital nomads in recent years.

I was a big fan of its commitment to eco-tourism and health (seriously, you’ll find a raw food or açaí bowl every fourteenth step) that the city provides. You feel a nice connection between supporting locals and learning their culture while still having access to the conveniences that make travel easier. I will definitely stay in Tulum on my next visit to the region and make sure to share more stories with you.

We’re Cancelling Our Costa Rica Trip – How To Call An Audible On Your Trip In 2021

COVID-19 is frustrating. We just had to cancel our trip to Costa Rica that was supposed to happen in less than 48 hours. The country was one of the only places in the world that was allowing U.S. citizens in without the need for vaccination, negative testing, or quarantine periods (the latter-most being the biggest selling point.)

Additionally, our plans were based around excursions that enabled us to maintain social-distance and were all outside. Unfortunately, news from the end of April highlighted a huge spike in positive COVID tests, leading to a shutdown in the capital region that started this past Monday. While we were not going to be within 3 hours of the capital (our flight landed in the smaller, northern airport of Liberia) we inevitably decided to cancel our trip.

There are currently 403 ICU cases in the country, which takes up all available beds. Locals are restricted from driving after certain curfew times. There are a shortage of tests being done. Due to all of this, we did not wish to put any unnecessary strain on the medical system here. We feel awful about cancelling our reservations at some absolutely beautiful homes during a time when the country’s economy can really use the help, but we look forward to staying at them once the situation is a bit safer.

The Airbnb reservations were simple enough to cancel, with the one downside is we missed a cancellation policy by a few hours which meant we had to pay for the first night and a service fee (~$140). Our travel insurance and car rentals cancelled easily with a couple emails. Now here is where this story changes…

Since we purchased our American Airlines flights before April 1, we had no change fees and we could change them to another flight or receive flight credit to be used within a year.

After some intense searching, price-checking, communicating back and forth, breaking for a delicious barramundi lunch, and asking each other “are we sure?” a million times, we successfully switched our trip to Tulum, Mexico!

I feel really weird putting that into a small paragraph that is only one sentence long because of how intense this was due to the time constraint we were facing.

Mexico doesn’t require a negative test or quarantine period and the positive test statistics are on par with Maryland, where we live.

Due to the change in flights, we bumped our arrival time to the mid-afternoon and actually received a $200+ flight credit that we’ll use later this year. That’s essentially a pre-paid trip somewhere!

In an effort to maintain distance from the more crowded hotel zone and to splurge on ourselves a little bit to get out of the funk of losing our initial trip, we booked a stay with what looks like an incredible eco-resort. I’m excited now and I hope we made the right choice.

A Weekend In Charlotte – Pt. 2

Continued from Part 1

The plan was to sleep in and recharge after a long week of early mornings, but our body’s alarm clock woke us up with the sun. Luckily, we took a nice, long time to wake up and get ready.

A short trip to a nearby Goodwill (Rachel runs a brilliant, thrift-based online clothes shop and wanted to add to her inventory) and Starbucks got us started off right.

More alert and ready for the day, we met up with our friends at Sunflour Bakery for some breakfast. The food looked delicious and comes with rave reviews. The service was meh, but it was some decent food and the coconut macaroons were soooo good.

Tom and I explored around Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find, a comic shop across the street, for a few minutes. I was in search of the second part to Anthony Bourdain’s graphic novel, Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi – a story about a badass sushi chef set in a dystopian future where the city is run by rival restaurants. Technically, it’s a prequel, but I couldn’t find it nonetheless.

We met up with Rachel and Courtney around the corner in a really cool thrift store, East 8th Thrift. They were happily at home here, rummaging through some sweet, vintage finds. I dawdled my time by petting the shop dog and looking through some neat cocktail glasses. We came across a cool set of ceramic goblets and a pitcher that we ended up coming back for later. I got real sipping-wine-from-on-top-of-the-Parthenon vibes from the set.

After spending some time back at their place, we set out to explore the Mint Museum. There are two locations which have different collections. The one in Uptown is modern and focuses on contemporary and American art as well as collections from North Carolina’s craft & design past. While tickets get you into both locations on the same day, we opted for the Randolph location. Walking through here is like walking through an old manor as you explore the history of North Carolina’s first coin mint, costumes from African heritage, and a lot of pottery.

In the spirit of continuity for this trip, we made sure to reward ourselves with more drink and feast. Legion Brewing provided the first libations of the day along with a pretzel much bigger than my head. Over the past year, I had moved away from beer and towards spirits and wine more, so I chose a pilsner for my first drink. It was also called Penguin Pils, which is definitely in my top 3 favorite animals. If you know what my #1 favorite animal is or want to guess, leave a comment below!

For my second drink, I went with their mystery Adventure Tap. You don’t get to choose the beer, but $1 of every drink sold goes toward a rotating, monthly charity. April saw donations go towards Autism Charlotte. The mystery brew ended up being the pilsner again. So much for the adventure, but it was a good drink.

My newly chopped off hair.

Next stop was The Bohemian wine bar. We sat at the front window that overlooked the empty parking lot and street. It was a nice setting to enjoy a glass of vinho verde. This style of wine comes from the hilly, northern region of Portugal, where you can find many households still practicing the old-style of growing grapes and wine-making. I cannot wait to explore this region in the near future. (Sidenote: The European Union is in talks to open up to vaccinated U.S. travelers this Summer.)

Wine and sunlight.

After my palate enjoyed a taste of Iberian Peninsula, our taste buds decided to trek back over the pond to a more American-Mexican food at Three Amigos. Courtney and I got enjoyed some fishbowl sized margaritas with some delicious, greasy food. I go through phases in my Mexican food journey, where I will order the same thing over and over without change, then I’ll cycle on to the next menu item. I love it all, but for some reason, I’ll get on these kicks where I want just one thing. Right now is fajita season.

Charlotte is a cool city with a nice pace to it. There’s plenty to do, but it retains charm, nature, and walkability. I would love to explore more of the city in future trips, like Uptown or the U.S. National Whitewater Center.

Would you make a trip to Charlotte? Have you been and have suggestions? Leave a comment below with any tips you might have.

QUICK READ: Driving from Maryland to Charlotte, NC.

For a quick weekend trip, we went down to visit some friends in Charlotte – it’s about a 6.5 hour drive from west-central Maryland where we live. The drive is mostly along one of my least favorite highways, I-81, but it wasn’t too bad for the way down.

Starting from Frederick, MD, I can either drive all the way back up towards the MD/PA border to get onto 81 or I can take some backroads through the boonies to merge onto it in West Virginia. I chose the latter.

Slight majority of the drive is open like this.

The first half of the trip offers plenty of stops and sights. Some of my favorite being:

  1. Harper’s Ferry – a historical beauty of a town where Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia meet at the crossroads of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. I really enjoy stopping here for the Maryland Heights hiking trail then grabbing some well-deserved ice cream or a beer on the way out.
  2. Hollywood Casino at Charles Town – I went a few times over the stretch of two years in my younger 20’s. I made the mistake of winning a little bit on my first couple trips which boosted my confidence enough to lose all of those winnings in subsequent trips. Nevertheless, it’s a fun place to give away your money until 3am.
  3. The next couple hours are home to some pretty vies of farms and tons of farm animals. Seriously, I have never seen that many cows in one span of time.
  4. Natural Bridge and Virginia Safari Park – I have been to the second one and it’s a great time that I highly recommend. I’ll write about it here in the near future. The first stop, however, I have not been to, but would love to see the 215-ft tall limestone gorge.
  5. Luray and the surrounding caverns – I can’t say I have a big interest in cave systems or the underground (read my post about the Parisian Catacombs for my thoughts on naked mole rats), but it would be neat to see the largest and most popular cave systems on the U.S. east coast.
  6. Asheville, NC. – Okay, so this isn’t exactly on the way. It’s at least 1.5 to 2 hours out of the way, but it’s a badass town that I only got to explore once and have plenty more to see.

There’s a beautiful vista along the highway just before you get to the VA/NC border that makes you say “wow” when you pass, and if you’re lucky enough to get on the road without a bunch of tractor trailers, the drive isn’t too bad.

Pop on a playlist or podcast of your choosing and enjoy the drive.

Have you been down 81 in Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, or North Carolina? What stops do you like to make or do you just drive straight through/

Finding A Good Time In Cancún For Cinco De Mayo

In 2019, I hit 5 years at my current job, which unlocked an extra week vacation I could use each year. With this new time and the wanderlust from having just returned from Iceland, I implored Rachel to book another flight with me.

I told her that we could do somewhere inexpensive and easy, like Cancún . It would be for a little R&R.

We booked our stay for the weekend of Cinco De Mayo (which, I have come to learn, is not widely celebrated outside of the Puebla region of Mexico) and started preparing.

Tacos made us happy.

Through poor financial decisions (taking a trip less than two months after another trip, finishing some tattoos, eating out a lot, etc.) I was basically out of money by the time we flew into Cancún International Airport.

When you enter into the country, you’ll be given a tourist card. Hang onto this, as you’ll need it to exit. Rachel didn’t keep hers, which led to standing in line to get a new one, discovering there was a hefty fee to get it, realizing they only took cash, then finding out the ATMs right beside it had astronomical fees. In short, it’s expensive and timely to replace.

We took a shuttle to our AirBNB which was in the Hotel Zone of the city. The place was okay; it had a nice view from the balcony that overlooked the beach. We found the pool was only a 2’ deep wading pool and there was a wall that blocked our view.

Thankfully, our friends Courtney and Tom came down as well. We were texting to meet up and realized they booked a room in the building right beside ours. They had a much nicer pool setup and we were able to get guest wristbands into their area (albeit with some hassle.)

The first stop was food. We strolled down the street in search of a place to eat and found Cerveceria Chapultepec, where everything on the menu was 21 pesos (~$1.) We each ordered a variety of empanadas, cervezas, and we had our first round of mezcal. I immediately became enamored with the spirit and have since put visiting an agave farm towards the top of my future travels.

Cancún sits on beautiful, blue water that you’d love to swim in. However, there was an invasion of sargassum, a brown, stinky seaweed that had ventured up from South America. Today, officials in the Riviera Maya region declare the sargassum season over. The local governments were better equipped with collection vessels and the amount of seaweed that arrived was much lower than expected.

Sargassum on the beach and in the water.

Since we were unable to swim in the gulf (this stuff was everywhere), we explored some other options of entertainment. I pitched Chichen Itza as an option; I had visited the UNESCO World Heritage site a few years prior, but the consensus was to stay a little closer to maximize time. To segue, I also want to dive the Musa dive site when I go back.

We found a local couple that did kayak tours and we signed up. They took us through the Nichupté Lagoon and we traversed our way through a mangrove forest. The guides were experts at pointing out all kinds of animal life, like crabs, starfish, birds, and fish. I highly recommend this if you get the chance.

The food on this trip was great. The Surfin Burrito, targeted towards Americans, was excellent for breakfast. The rest of the trip was comprised of trying various Mexican dishes that were all delicious. Side note: this is a good destination for vegetarian travelers.

I would eat this for every breakfast forever, if I could.

I look forward to going back to Mexico in the near future. If I do venture to the Riviera Maya region again, it may likely be a different town like Tulum, but I will do so with the intentions of having the best time.

7 Ways To Have A GREAT Weekend In Philadelphia

Philadelphia is a fantastic place to enjoy an extended weekend. Known for its raving sports fans and its historical significance to the founding of the United States, Philly can provide so much more and these experiences aren’t hard to find. Here are seven ways I recommend enjoying a short trip to the city of brotherly love:

*Disclaimer: These are all assuming COVID-related restrictions are no longer needed*

1. Chow Down On A Cheesesteak

Let’s get this one out of the way. Whether you order yours “whiz with” or just steak and provolone, be prepared for a salivatingly (this is the word I want to use) delicious mouthful. Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks are famous, can’t miss spots to grab a bite, but I recommend Jim’s South St for the perfect lunch. It’s cash only, so know that before holding up the line.

2. Run Up The Steps At The Philadelphia Museum Of Art

Sometimes you just have to do the touristy things. Put the highlight on your own underdog montage as you climb the 72 steps, turn around, and lift your arms triumphantly overlooking the Benjamin Franklin Parkway a la Rocky Balboa. Stop in the museum while you’re here. Tickets are $25 for adults, but have pay-what-you-want specials on the first Sunday of the month and every Friday night. Make sure to grab a pic with the Rocky statue at the bottom of the steps on your way out.

“Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.”
3. Fascinate Yourself With Medical Anomolies

Originally created as a collection for research, the Mutter Museum houses displays of medical tools and instruments, specimens, wax figures, and over 100 skulls, allowing you to learn the advancements of our medical technologies and how we differ anthropologically. I really liked the preservation of tattooed skin display. No pictures are allowed, but tickets are only $20 and well worth it.

4. Learn American History

Philadelphia was the largest city in colonial America (which boggles my mind, because my small hometown of 40,000 dwarfs pre-Revolution Philly) and thus one of the most vital locations during the American Revolution. The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are both free admission (with limited access during COVID) and offer plenty of information surrounding the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the United States.

5. Take a Picture With The Love Statue

Normally, I’d say skipping a cliché moment like this was the right thing to do, but this shot has become synonymous with the city of Philadelphia. Recently the park has been revamped and reconstructed to allow more green space, leaving it as a fantastic place to grab a selfie or picture with your loved ones.

*Top tip: Check out the “Amor” statue just a short walk away.*

6. Catch A Game

Philly sports fans can get rowdy. Really rowdy. I come from the Baltimore/DC area, so I’ve seen more than my fair share of Philadelphia-involved sports fights, but for the sake of this blog post, we’ll use the word “passionate.” From the Flyers to the Eagles to the 76ers, at least one of the teams are doing well any given season, but don’t miss out on the excitement of college basketball. This city is one of the meccas of collegiate hoops – UPenn, La Salle, Saint Joseph’s, Temple, and Villanova all competing for bragging rights as top dog of the city.

I was able to see the US Men’s World Cup send-off game against Turkey back in 2010 and that was a really fun atmosphere.

So many goodies, so little time.
7. Eat more Food at Reading Terminal Market

So you’re having a cheesesteak for either lunch or dinner. What are you doing for your other meal? You’re stopping at Reading Terminal Market, that’s what you’re doing. Walk in and immediately lose yourself in the winding alleys of baked goods, vendors, and bar-service restaurants. The smells are intense and you start to feel guilty about which food you won’t enjoy that day. I highly recommend grabbing some souvlaki and baklava from Olympia Gyro and some bon-bons and macaroons from the Pennsylvania General Store.

Philadelphia is a great city and a wonderful weekend trip for anyone living in the mid-Atlantic.

Have you been to Philly? What are your favorite things to do or places to go?