December 30, 2020
As a seasoned travel advisor, it is extremely depleting when you can no longer consult with confidence. Add in the murmurs that your profession hardly counts, as it is an extracurricular, a luxury option for the select few.
This creates the perfect cocktail for emotional spiraling and questioning your lifelong efforts to further your career. Travel is so much more than arriving or departing. For some it is healing. The comfort of getting out of your comfort zone. For others it is exciting! Forcing you to try new things.
When I experience disappointment, frustration, or loss, travel brings me balance. For others it may be meditation, massage or hosting social gatherings. As you know, during this pandemic those methods of coping have been removed or restricted. The absence of people is the biggest miss for me. Talking about travel, especially in person. The excitement of planning, preparing, and anticipating that milestone anniversary, family reunion or checking destinations off a bucket list is what keeps me doing this year after year.
I decided the best way for me to embrace all these changes, is to travel. I needed to stop reading the plethora of articles about the new protocols and measures. I needed to personally experience leisure travel firsthand. Initially the idea of traveling during this time was like a toddler refusing nap time. I was mentally kicking, screaming, and dragging my feet to the new safety measure that would limit my being able to socialize, smile and embrace the familiar cultures. I was also struggling with the reaction of others. The ridicule that I was being selfish and irresponsible. Much like the unsuccessful tantrum of the napping child, I begin to recognize its need and incredible benefit for not only myself, but those around me. I am a more pleasant person when I am feeling centered. Personally, and professionally, I will do everything it takes to find my balance so I may consult with confidence.
With the ease of travel and safety restrictions getting to and from Mexico, I chose this to be my maiden voyage of 2020. I decided that this journey would be different in so many ways, I did not want to keep with the traditional perspective that because I am traveling, I am working. Instead of filling my days meeting with other hoteliers or educating myself on all the features that I usually pocket and bring home to the sales team, I vowed to immerse myself
in the experience. I even invited my husband along, to keep me on track. As California escalated the travel advisories during the Thanksgiving holiday, I vacillated on keeping our reservation or postponing for another date. The uncertainty can overwhelm you if you let it. We can let other people’s views or opinions ruin us. In the end, we are responsible for ourselves and its important to act in a way that is right for you.
We opted to fly first class. I do not know of any study that supports this being more effective than economy, however this seemed to be one more way to eliminate further exposure. We took all the necessary precautions in the airport. TSA security check was a breeze as there was certainly no rush collecting all your belongings. They asked you to bring your mask down just a moment to identify yourself. The airport was very quiet. Not sure if it was due to Covid or Thanksgiving, but everything was closed at 8pm. It was a bit eerie walking the terminals as we awaited our departure. Having premium seats, we were able to go to the lounge. They have modified their service and we all wore masks unless we were eating or drinking. Our flight was full, adults and children alike. The service onboard felt different, yet the same. The flight crew greeted us with masked smiles and handed us anti-bacterial wipes. The responsibility of the flight attendants seemed to change from hostess to teacher. Often coming around reminding the lazy students to put their mask back on or pull it up to cover their nose and mouth. They were extremely patient and gracious as we all cautiously heeded to the new environment.
The resort was beautiful. The weather was warm, and we were immediately transformed. There is signage all over the hotel to remind us that the pandemic exists, and yet it was very relaxed and any doubt we had about making this trip dissipated.
We transported ourselves into this piece of paradise and even though we continued to remain diligent about general hygiene we felt completely at ease leaving our masks in our rooms. Most days it was just the two of us. We had an incredible room, 2 story rooftop Terrace. Initially I was thinking we would need a place to relax or exist in a way that would keep us isolated, however this was not the case at all. The resort was only at 50% capacity. There were so many hideaways or lounge chairs that were tucked into their own personal paradise.
As we walked about the resort it seemed as though everyone could not contain their excitement to see another smile walking their way. This level of mutual respect we felt both from the staff and other guests made you want to immediately hug any passerby. As if we all knew we each took a risk to be there. It was important to us. To feel relaxed and be able to experience normal for a bit. To know the hotel staff had been home for so many months unable to work. It felt good to let them know they are important to us and we are all in this together.
As promised, I did not work at all while I was there. In fact, we took very few photos, because we wanted to be present as much as possible. This means we would need to request physical menus, because we did not bring our phones to view them digitally.
A couple evenings this really worked to our favor as we asked our waiter to select for us. Basmati-(Authentic Indian Cuisine) and Spice-(Asian flavors) were our most favorite restaurants for dinner.
There were plenty of things I observed that were modified for the health and safety of both staff and guests. However, my personality has a difficult time with change and I never felt frustrated or annoyed.
The hydrotherapy circuit before the treatment was beneficial both for our wellbeing, and yet it was very intimate. We laughed as we experienced the hot and cold therapy and fell in comfortable silence as we immersed ourselves clearing our minds to enjoy the moment. The spa personnel were friendly and professional. Even though there were a few other people receiving treatments, it was timed out perfectly, so we felt like we had the entire facility to ourselves. My husband can pretend it was all my idea, but he loved it.
He chose a snorkel excursion that took us to a couple of reefs near Isla Mujeres and then we enjoyed a beer with the other couples and walked around the sandbar that seemed to go out for miles. The snorkeling was fun. If you are an avid snorkel or scuba diver it may be mediocre, but my husband and I just enjoy being in the water and seeing all the colorful fish while trying not to drown.
We also chose a glider excursion which is much like parasailing, except you’re relaxed, not hanging on or feet dangling. Picture a love seat that suspends you 30 feet up in the air. It was relaxing, quiet, a spectacular vantage point of our resort and surrounding area.
The nightly entertainment was held in their beautiful open-air theater and they had modified their seating in a way that there was plenty of room to enjoy the shows. The choreography, talented dancers and engaging entertainment staff made you transport to another time when life seemed a little less heavy.
I cannot decide if it was because we were so excited to be traveling that brought us to do things we would not normally do, or the idea that we may not have this opportunity again anytime soon? Either way, it set the tone for a beautiful experience and led us to enjoy things like a couple’s massage, the silent disco and gelato at least twice a day. We did leave the resort one day; this was probably a fine line to my decision to not work while I was there. However, I was glad to experience it. We put on our masks as we left in the taxi to head to a nearby local market. The locals wore masks and there were a few sections that would check our temperature before we entered. It was amazing to see how eager everyone is to make sure everyone feels safe.
As we drove to the airport to head home, the rain started to make an appearance. This gave us a beautiful lightening show for our flight back home. There were only 27 passengers aboard. Arriving in San Francisco seemed normal to other international journeys I have had in the past, but this entire experience was much fuller than I could have anticipated; our perspective has changed. I reflected on the time I traveled to Hawaii days after 9/11. It had some of the same feels. Tentative.
Traveling during this time felt unique. We recognized what a gift it is. It feels personal. It is a time for self-reflection. It is a time to come together, as you see others cope differently than you. With all this uncertainty in the world, I encourage all of you to make the adjustment, whatever it may be, find your balance.