A Photo: December 2013
I met up with a couple in a Cancun hostel to head down to Tulum and find a free beach to camp on for a week or two. They were a huge asset: They knew a good amount of Spanish after bumming around South America for a few months. This was the last few weeks of their travels before going back to New Jersey.
We got into Tulum after dark and called up a taxi cab. The cab driver recommended we go to a local beach north of Tulum by a few miles. There are a lot of beaches taken up by resorts and private residences, but this was one of a few that was open to all. We arrived and it was a little windy, but the weather was still in the 70s, so even though we struggled to set up our tents, we were comfortable in our efforts (maybe I only think of this as I write during the winter, during which the Mojave Desert is cold and windy).
We stayed on the public beach for about 10 days. Every few days we would walk to a nearby grocery store a few miles down the street for food and wine. During these walks were when I am reminded that people like this couple are not just conduits for adventure, but their own people struggling with their own personal issues. After 6 months of traveling, they are wary to see it go; the stresses of coming back to “real life” were compounded by their tendency to take out their stresses on the other. The fights were not loud or extended, but quiet and short. I appreciated being an afterthought to their entire experience; they led me here on convenience coincidence, and I enjoy living life in serendipity rather than full intention.
On the 10th day, the local police guided us out of the public beach (kicked us out, but they were nice about it) to a paid tent camping spot not far at all. It was only 5 dollars a night, and had some fire-making amenities. So for a couple more days, we celebrated the new location and spoke with the owner, who had owned the land for decades and was finally getting some use out of it by charging tent campers.
The couple left, but I stayed. I moved on to a hostel in Tulum after a few days of aloneness on the beach. I don’t know how to make friends on a beach in a foreign country, especially one that is only populated by locals.
Overall, my trip to Cancun and Tulum was instigated by sadness but floated on the quiet beauties of nature and good-natured people. It was a pleasant experience to meet up with these New Jersey-ans and see a part of Tulum that I wouldn’t have if I stuck to my English-rooted rails of tourism. I wish I remembered your names!