This trip was everything I could have hoped for, and put an exclamation point on the end of the undergrad chapter of my life as I moved into the next one. Riviera Maya taught me four big things: how important it is to continue on the quest of learning other languages, how to truly gain a heart for people you don’t know, how to stand in awe of God’s creation, and how travel can grow me as a person.
Day 1: Arrival
After many hours of travel, we finally made it to Dreams Puerto Adventuras Resort:
Day 2: Marina
On this day, we planned the excursions we were going to take throughout the week. We selected Coba, Tulum, ATV Adventure, and swimming with dolphins right at our resort. It was sure to be a jam-packed week right from the get-go!
Our resort was in a safe gated community, so we traveled down to the marina to check it out.
Plenty of stunning flowers everywhere. I’m a floral geek so I found this quite exciting and pleasing to the eye.
If I recall correctly, this was the day I resettled into using Spanish again. I took four years of Spanish in high school, and I was pretty good at it. I acquired it quickly and it clicked from the start. Since then, I have practiced here and there, but not enough to be comfortable using it in everyday conversation.
But at the marina, one of the shop owners didn’t speak much English so I had to attempt to translate my mom’s question for her. From that point, I decided even if my Spanish wasn’t perfect (not even close), it was better to try and practice than to pretend I didn’t know anything. The locals were very supportive of me trying and helped me out when I couldn’t remember.
This tripped has completely inspired me to pick Spanish up again and embark on learning as many languages as I can in my lifetime. I have an inclination for learning languages, and I want to make the most of that. Being able to communicate with as many people as possible is really special, and I don’t want to limit myself to just one language my whole life. Words are too beautiful for that!
Day 3: Coba
We traveled to our Coba excursion to see some of the Mayan ruins and to get to climb one of them. One of the coolest experiences of the trip for sure! Our tour guide, Javo, was so knowledgeable, and I walked away from this experience not only having seen something cool but learned so much, too.
Views from the top of the watchtower structure. The view was amazing, and the history was incredible. Here was where I first stood in awe of creation. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that not only did God create the entire universe, everything I could see and beyond, but He created us people to build incredible things such as this.
In getting to connect with Javo in the commute to and from our destination, we learned a lot about what life is like for residents in the area. For most, their lives are marked by struggle; the minimum wage is only $4.50 American per day. And a gallon of gas is $4.00. There is so much need in the area, and yet I’ve never met kinder people in my life. Everyone we met was very nice and worked so hard.
After hearing about their completely unacceptable wages, it’s needless to say that we tipped everyone we met who helped us, even though gratuity was technically included at our resort. They do a phenomenal job, and don’t get compensated fairly. My heart went out to them, even though I only met a few people. I would love to get to the point in life where I earn enough money to make a difference in others’ lives, so that struggle doesn’t have to weigh so heavily on them each day.
Day 4: Tulum
Tulum is the Mayan port, so it leads right to the beach. Our tour guide this day, Uri, filled us in on the history and purposes for all of the buildings.
We got to see some local shops and stunning décor all around, many featuring skeletons and skulls, which I adore.
Following this, we got to go snorkeling in a lagoon (we saw a Rainbow Parrotfish which is just the most incredible thing). There were so many tropical varieties of fish, and the rock structures themselves were even gorgeous. It’s so cool to get to experience places with features that you’re just not used to. Our world is full of beautiful variety in every way.
After that, we got to go snorkeling in an underground cenote. My goodness, the beautiful makeup of limestone throughout made it feel like a mystery novel, so right up my alley. A cool fact is in these cenotes, the water is almost 100% purified; it’s safe to drink! Another once-in-a-lifetime experience packed into one day.
We ended the day at a buffet on the beach. So beautiful:
Day 5: (Almost) ATV Adventure
I’d gone to bed the night before early due to not feeling great. I wasn’t feeling much better the next morning, so my mom and I decided to stay behind at the resort while my dad and sister went on the ATV Adventure excursion (they loved it!).
In any case, Mom and I decided to head back down to the Marina in the afternoon, sandwiched in the middle of plenty of relaxing back in our rooms. I was a little disappointed not being able to go on the adventure, but it was the rest I needed. I reminded myself that vacation should be a balance of rest and exploration!
Day 6: Dolphin Day
Today we got to swim with the dolphins, who were right there at our resort (one of the main reasons we picked the one that we did)! Although this trip was complete with unique and incredible experiences, this has to be my favorite.
We got to spend time with the manatees in the pool next door, too! I’ve been obsessed with these creatures since about the fourth grade, so to be this close was so cool!
My sister, Hannah, and I took that afternoon as the opportunity for a photo shoot with her professional-caliber camera.
Day 7: Winding Down
Our last day was spent participating in the zipline over the bay at the resort, taking our last visits to the restaurants onsite, and packing up to get ready for home. It was a fairly relaxing day, highlighting was I was saying before. We got the most amazing sunset this night, too:
Day 8: Homeward Bound
We travelled all day and had a layover in Dallas. By the time we left for Hartford, it was sunset again and I got to capture this photo from the plane:
Here I got to reflect on the trip as a whole and understand how I’d grown. Taking in a brand new place, meeting new people, and engaging in new experiences is great, but if you take nothing away from it, you’ve missed the point. I am one person in this world, and there’s so much more of it to discover. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who you are, what your job is, who your friends are, or where you come from. Kindness is a universal language, and there is always so much more to learn out there. That was reinforced big time to me in Riviera Maya. This is only the start.
The best finale to the best trip was walking back up to my room at home and my precious kitty, Misty, greeting me. Needless to say, she was happy to have me home and her very vocal meow echoed through the whole house (that’s my girl). And as an amazing of an experience as it was in Riviera Maya, I was glad to be home, too.