Right before my flight to Mexico, I played beach volleyball because I couldn’t resist: Vancouver’s first non-rainy day in ages.
I come home unable to bend my foot, like it’s a giant lego foot. I am becoming sort of an eccentric travel figure suffocating under the weight of everyone’s opinion. Everyone thinks I should’ve gone to a resort in Cancun.
But there is something magical about experiencing a way of life that is so different from mine. If I incorporate some good into my life from each of my travels, then I’d get a bit wiser by the end of it all.
That’s how I found myself at my first dinner in Tulum, sitting on a stump of wood, eating the best veggie burger I’ve had in my life while barefoot reggae musicians in hip-length dreads set up their drums and guitar and mic and start singing lilting Spanish tunes.
I flag down different waitresses to try to order food, but they smile and walk past me.
“I think that’s how it works here,” Megz says.
“Okay,” I say. “But I’m hungry.” How do you shout I’m starving in Spanish?
Every food place we go is slow slow slow, except for food stalls where we watch them make our food and they’re still waltzing to internal reggae or something.
Musicians walk into restaurants and start strumming their guitars anytime. I love the idea of playing all the music you like, to your heart’s content, anywhere you want. There is something so whimsical about the travelling musician.
I close my eyes in the back of the Mexican taxi. Megz and I start a transportation pool of money so we can stop splitting the taxi.
“What the heck?” I say. “That’s not how much money the driver asked for.”
“We have to tip,” Megz says. “They’re so poor. I read it on Trip Advisor.”
Each taxi driver is startled when we hand back extra bills and I might as well be giving them a phone number for pizza delivery.
“People on the internet forums always tip,” she insists.
I can’t help but feel dirty, like a tourist flaunting my non-existent wealth. I ask the hotel receptionist about tipping etiquette.
“Don’t tip taxi drivers,” he shakes his head and smiles. “You only tip for service, like at restaurants.”
I feel clever about asking locals for insider tips, but maybe that’s naive: you learn the most by watching and doing, not asking. What makes these people so carefree, and how can I learn this?
The silver lining to being open when you travel is that you’re less worried. Anything can happen and it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary because everything is new. It’s like listening to postmodern classical music — at a certain point, you don’t even find dissonant music weird anymore, because everything is weird.
When musicians are so absorbed in their playing that they forget you’re there, is when they make the best music. They are not caring for rejection nor fear, and that’s what I keep seeing in Tulum: musicians carrying their guitars or drums and setting up their studios on the beach.
In the end, even though there is no surfing in Tulum, I still get excited about the city. I want to know what makes their culture magical. What makes them happy. I want to be happy. None of my worries are here.