Monday, February 17, 2014

Solo Travel in Mexico (from the perspective of an introvert)

There are many sites and blogs these days that talk about being a solo traveler, but one thing I haven't found are ones that come from the perspective of the introvert solo traveler. Articles talk about how to meet people, not feel lonely, and connect with other solo travelers. But to the introvert, this point of view misses the point of choosing to travel alone.
Approaching Cancun from the air. I traveled on American Airlines and was very excited to find no one sitting next to me on either side in the plane!
I love to travel by myself. In fact, it's my favorite way to travel. When I've gone on trips with other people, I usually am thinking, "I have to come back here, but next time, by myself." I feel the need to experience places on my own schedule and in a quiet, meditative way. It feels like my travel companions get in the way of really enjoying the destination. 
On the beach in Playa del Carmen. The word "gorgeous" can't begin to describe it!

Anyway, I suffer from S.A.D - Seasonal Affective Disorder - and this winter has been particularly bad in the Chicago area, so I decided to actually do something nice for myself and take a trip to Mexico. This was a very scary thought for me. I worried about the safety of traveling alone in a country that sees almost-daily headlines for kidnappings and other drug-related crimes. I worried that I would get lost or ripped off because I didn't know the language. I worried that I would have stomach problems from the water, and it would ruin my trip. I also worried that it would be cloudy and rainy, thus defeating the whole purpose of the trip. I worried constantly and gave myself panic attacks. Luckily, none of these bad things actually happened (though I did see partly cloudy skies on my last day there).
Relaxing and soaking up some Vitamin D on my private roof-top patio at La Tortuga Inn and Spa in Playa del Carmen.

I was able to use credit card mileage points and get a fairly cheap flight to Cancun for the last week in January. Then I did a bunch of research using a Fodor's travel guide (which was pretty lame because it only had a tiny number of hotel reviews), and mostly pouring over  TripAdvisor.I selected three hotels, one each in Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Akumal. I chose three different types of hotels because I couldn't decide which one would be best for me. First I stayed at La Tortuga Inn and Spa in Playa del Carmen. La Tortuga is a small boutique style hotel on a busy street just blocks from the beach. In Tulum, where I went next, I stayed at a bohemian style eco-hotel right on the beach. And then in Akumal, I stayed at a huge, all-inclusive resort right on the beach. In my next post, I will post pictures and reviews on all three ways to stay in the Riviera Maya, along with some reflections on traveling to this part of the world as a single woman in her 40s.