Wanderlust-ing: My 2015-16 Travel Wish List

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So I have finally put the finishing touches on my travel wish list! Because my job’s fiscal year is September through August, I have to plan my trips around our year beginning and end. This also aids in knowing which locations I can visit during what times of year for the best price, based on busy/slow months at the office. The list stretches into 2016 (I’m pretty handy with budgets and spreadsheets). I also incorporated a “wild card”, just in case I find some extra money floating around. What places does your travel wish list consist of?

1. Tulum

2. New Orleans

3. Oregon

4. Niagara Falls

5. Breckenridge, CO

6. Big Bend National Park, TX

7. Belize

8. Great River Road Drive (Louisiana road trip)

9. Ireland

10. Charleston, SC (wildcard)

Backyard Musings: Elements of Serenity

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You ever drive through your hometown and set out to discover the yet to be discovered? Or maybe set out to capture the beauty of the unappreciated? That’s always been a goal of mine, even from a little girl. I was always determined to find my town’s best kept secret or at least pretend that it was.

Beaumont,TX (my hometown) is full of treasures. Although buried deep or often gone unnoticed, there are many points of interest I’ve always been drawn to. I’ve been going to Collier’s Ferry Park (or as the locals call it “The River”) since I was a little girl. My uncle would pull out the boat and we would go tubing during the summer. Every trip I would feel a rush of excitement, as if I didn’t only live ten minutes away. Even as an adult, I still sort of get a little excited. Often times as I got older, I would go just to be able to think. The silence is so calming. You could literally hear a pin drop. Its been said that pure silence is the best time to hear God speak. Either way, my little moments at the River have helped me think through many life decisions.

In recent years, my hometown has been the center of much controversy and scandal. It has seen many changes, some for the good but a lot of bad. Crime rates have rapidly increased alongside a failing school district. But somehow, I can’t seem to find it in my heart to completely forget where I’ve come from. I visit often, mainly because of family. But also because there is no place else like it. And because of places like the River, in all of its simplicity, still manages to exude a whimsical blanket of serenity whenever I’m near. To me, it feels like the calmest, quietest place in the entire town. Many of my friends who left vowing never to return may think I’m stuck in a fairyland for writing this. But I understand that no place is perfect, and there will always be trouble anywhere you go. I just choose not to let the bad completely overshadow all of the good that I’ve grown to appreciate. We all have our own things we find beautiful; our own aesthetic truths. Doesn’t always require a trip to a completely foreign place to realize either.

Head on Collision with My Biggest Fear

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Fear is paralyzing. It has the power to keep you from living, if you let it. But there are times when you succumb to fear out of pure stress and anxiety. In a previous post I briefly explained my mother’s battle with breast cancer. She was a fighter. Some days I wish I had half the fight she had. Seriously, some days I feel like the biggest chicken shit, even amidst the kudos I get for traveling alone. Nah, she was a REAL fearless, fighter. In a battle I was so sure she would win. But when you’re seven or eight years old, everyone is a superhero. And of course, her bill came due.

I’ve always worried about cancer, if it was genetic and if I was destined to get it. Obviously that’s not a given that I will, but the thought is scary as shit. I’m adamant about my check ups (I’m 28 and get mammograms). I mean, that’s only natural right? And then, there’s that feeling that I can’t let fear win because my mom didn’t.

At my last checkup, I discussed my family history and my concerns with my doctor. She stressed getting tested for the BRCA genes as a risk assessment measure and to better tailor my screenings. I had done some light research on testing and I had also read about women having their breasts removed who tested positive for the gene. The fear of finding out I had the gene and the millions of thoughts of death and worry that came with it overwhelmed me. I kind of felt that maybe it was best if I never found out, for my own peace of mind. But on the day I was visiting my doctor, I decided to go through with it. Strangely enough, my test is scheduled on what would have been my mother’s 60th birthday. I didn’t realize this until a few days ago.

I’m a little nervous, but this is what she would’ve wanted. And now, it is truly what I want. I feel like I’m facing one of my biggest fears, beating it to the punch. Not so much a post about travel or art, but maybe it’ll inspire someone:)

Onward and upward, positive vibes and good wine….

Random Ramblings: Finding My Way Back

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In case you didn’t know already, I initially went to undergrad for Fashion Design. How I ended up in Accounting, I’m still trying to figure out, but I like it. I eventually changed over to Merchandising after the last straw with the teaching assistant in my drawing class. Art is such a subjective area, there really is no right or wrong. Either you hate it or you love it. And the type of person I am, I worked my ass off to get the best grades possible, only to be met repeatedly with mediocre grades. Mind you, I had been drawing my entire life just about. It got to a point where something I loved so much instantly became a pain in the ass. So I switched majors. Some may say I was a quitter. I’d like to think I was more of a misguided freshman that didn’t really know exactly what was worth fighting for at the time. But I think I left my creativity at the switch.

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Random drawing from my first drawing class 10 years ago

I love art museums, shows, exhibits. I could spend all day roaming through them. That Iove I never lost. But I’ve found that over the years, its become increasingly harder for me to visualize things, as I have always been a visual learner. Picking out clothes, coordinating decorations, etc requires much more effort than it used to. And all the while I’ve been thinking “I miss my creativity, how do I get it back?”.  It’s true what they say. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

Still life sketch from undergrad

Still life sketch from undergrad

Welp, after sitting on the thought long enough, I went out and bought a sketch book and some pencils. I haven’t sketched in about 6 years. So you can imagine that the first sketch was rusty. But with the help of YouTube for some refreshers, I’m slowly easing my way back in. I try to carry my sketch book with me everywhere. Eventually, I want to get into figure drawing. I have always sucked at it and I switched majors before we really got to studying it. I miss my artsy, fartsy self. Late nights in the art lab, analyzing works for hours at a time, scaling still lifes with my pencil, re-upping on acrylic paint… all of it. I’m slowly getting back to it. The beauty in this life is the fact that you don’t have to be confined to just one thing and versatility goes a long way. Artsy Analyst has a nice ring to it.

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A Day in Isla Mujeres

Such a world apart from Cancun, and a 30 minute ferry ride. Isla Mujeres or Woman Island, is a teeny, tiny stretch of land in the state of Quintana Roo. It boasts gorgeous sapphire blue seas from the south end of the island, with the calm turquoise waters to the north. Its charm is old-world like, very rustic. The locals are extremely pleasant and you’ll find a handful of ex-pats taking up residence within the neighborhoods. The preferred mode of transportation is by scooter. For exploring, most rent a golf cart. I chose to explore by foot (which I don’t recommend if you are staying at opposite ends of the island. Staying in the middle allowed me to break it up). It was a cloudy day when I arrived, which made it that much more calm and serene.

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I enjoyed my slow walk into town, taking in the sights and the light, misty rain.

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And then the skies cleared up, and I got to take in the spectacular views of Punta Sur.

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20150205_143534You can literally explore the entire island in an hour by golf cart. For that reason, I would definitely recommend a stay here if you intend to do absolutely nothing. Call me crazy, but I kind of liked the fact that it was a dreary day for most of the time I was there. It helped wrap up and wind down a super busy and exhilarating trip. Just the kind of calm I needed to prepare myself for the reality that awaited me at home.

 

 

 

Tulum: Day 3

My final day in Tulum. It was bittersweet. Such a chill place. So I made the most of it and did some more exploring. I caught a taxi to the Mayan ruins. The level of creativity and intelligence to build something so intricate before its time definitely demonstrates the ability of the human mind.

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I even made a new friend.

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After a walk through the entire site, it was beach time. The day was perfect. Just enough breeze to keep you comfortable.

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I decided to walk the beach side a little more for lunch. I found this really cool spot, El Prez. I had the best beer battered fish tacos ever. Like, EVER. And they take credit cards, one of the few places that did without charging an outrageous fee.

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And the drinks… A Hint and a Whisper… Gin and real lavender.

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I am definitely coming back to Tulum, especially now that I know what to expect. Its charm has truly captivated me. And there were so many more places I wanted to go, and in due time, I shall. Tulum was very international. I met French, Canadian, Argentinian and Australian travelers. Lots of back packers. If you are truly looking for a unique beach experience with a little bit of jungle thrown in the mix, I highly recommend Tulum. Keep in mind that its off the grid, with no connection to power lines ( hence the wind turbines you see along the beaches). It is definitely eco- chic.

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Farewell, Tulum! We shall meet again.

Tulum: Day 2

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Slowly I’m falling in love with this place. Everything is so relaxed. The people are so friendly. The food is GOOD.  I’m so glad I decided to change my trip up last minute. It’s so quiet here, which is great for meditation. I slept like a baby last night. I’d like to thank the ocean and it’s crashing waves for that.

Today, I ventured off into town and to a cenote for some snorkeling. What a cool experience. The cenote was perfect for swimming. I found the ocean a little bit choppy.

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There weren’t many fish to see. But I did catch a glimpse of a few turtles. I then ventured off into town or Tulum Pueblo. I walked around, taking in the sights and people watching. Families walking together, friends chatting over cold ones. Something about Tulum gives me a huge sense of community. Like everyone looks out for each other. I will say this. The locals are way more friendlier than some of the out of towners. Locals didn’t hesitate to say hello. Everyone else took a bit more work. But whatevs, I didn’t come here solely to make friends.

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I decided to stop at El Tobano for lunch, where I had the best ceviche ever! Again, the waiters were super friendly and helpful. And the ginger margaritas were amazing!

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After I walked lunch off, it was beach time. I sat bathing in the sun, with a book I decided to re-visit (Hill Harper’s “The Conversation”). I seriously think I was a beach baby in another life. This is totally my happy place.

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Then came Gitano. I was a little skeptical about this place because of the mixed reviews. But the bartenders were pretty cool. They weren’t the chattiest, but if you spoke they weren’t hesitant to respond. I’ve never had a Mezcal before, so I gave Jungle Fever a try. Pretty good. Super strong! Or maybe I’m just a light weight.

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All in all, today was great. The day was gorgeous with its vast hues of blue and turquoise. Hopefully tomorrow will be just as great.

Tulum: Day 1

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I finally made it! Today has been super long. From plane changes and bus transfers, to going hours without access to cash (I’ll elaborate more on that later).  But I’m here. In the midst of all the confusion, a moonlit ocean view dinner was totally worth it all.

You know that little voice in your head that tells you to do things just in case? Well this is the one time I’m glad I listened. A little voice told me to pull out a small sum of cash while state side, just in case. I didn’t want to pull all my cash out stateside out of fear that I wouldn’t get the better rate. But there’s a first time for everything and life is full of lessons to be learned! Had I not gotten that $60 out before hand, I would have been up Shit Creek.

So I make it passed customs and notice the nearest ATM. I figure I’ll just pull pesos out there (A word of caution, there are 2 types of ATMS. One that dispenses US dollars and one that dispenses Mexican pesos). I went for the Mexican pesos, and what do you know? Declined. I tried about 2 more times, same outcome. So I gave the US dollar ATM a swing. You guessed it! Declined. By now I’m in a stage 3 panic. Keep cool. A passer by tells me that the ADO bus line will take US dollars for bus fare. Wrong. So I had to reason with a taxi driver to exchange $20 for 200 pesos ( My bus ticket was 156 pesos, one way to Playa Del Carmen). Since I had already walked out of the airport, I couldn’t re-enter. Nice, Latricia.

I manage to pay for the bus with the 200 pesos, then head to catch my connection in Playa. I figure I’ll try this whole ATM thing again when I get there. Two more tries yielded yet another declined card. Pretty much at a stage 5 panic. Luckily I was able to find a currency exchange station to exchange the $40 I had gotten state side, which bought my bus transfer to Tulum. At this point I’m exhausted, irritable, frustrated and hungry. I’m thinking, “what if I can’t get any cash out? I’m totally screwed!”.

We finally pull into the bus terminal in Tulum. At this point I figure I’ll just wing it. Then I glanced at yet another ATM. And that little voice said “try again”. So I did. THANK GOD I did! I was finally able to pull out cash. The crazy thing is, this ATM displayed the same affiliate logos as all the others that declined me. Honestly, I didn’t even care what fees they charged as long as I could get my money.  Lesson learned: always pull out small sums of money before leaving stateside to cover transportation costs. Or pull out the full amount you want, exchange what you think you’ll need for transport at the airport, then shop around for a better rate for the remainder. The airport’s rate was 12 whereas PDC was around 14.

As I sit and type, full from dinner and exhausted, I can’t help but think how I may have needed to be shaken up a bit, kept on my toes. Somewhere in the universe I swear I could hear God giggling to himself.