cancun: day two

Explorers, cartographers, scholars — close your books and set down your instruments! The search is over: I have found Paradise. It’s in Mexico.

It’s strange how you forget a place after leaving it. No matter how much of an impression it left on you, that impression dims over time. Today, while I was swimming in the Caribbean Ocean, it began to rain. This didn’t seem to faze anyone else in the water, so I stayed in. I suddenly remembered how I had done the same thing over 5 years ago and thought it strange that I hadn’t even thought about it until coming back here again.

Somehow, by snapping incessant photos every five minutes, I hope to be preserving the memory of this trip better than the last time. I even gave into the food porn craze and took photos of my breakfast.

Felipe and I woke up early and caught the bus to Playa del Carmen, about 20 minutes away from our hotel. There, we had breakfast at the buffet. I kept it healthy (oatmeal, grapefruit, and some toast), but i gave into the hot chocolate for “dessert.” This isn’t your U.S. just-add-water hot chocolate. This is actual chocolate , heated and melted in milk — a labor of love for and an ode to all things sweet and delicious in life! After leaving Cancun, I will continue to think about this hot chocolate obsessively until the next time I’m here. Now, cut to a slow-motion montage of me sipping my hot chocolate, underscored by “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan. Oh, yeah.

After breakfast, we headed to 5th Avenue to go shopping. This area consists of 24 full blocks of shops, catered to tourists and travelers. Three t-shirts for $10, shot glasses, figurines, hammocks, hats, sunglasses, tequila…It was all there at 5th Avenue. We ran into a guy who let people take pictures with his pet monkey for a small fee. When someone starts following you and saying, “Come on, touch my monkey!” it’s really easy to interpret that the wrong way and really, really hard to suppress your laughter. Another guy was doing the same thing with another exotic animal. Instead of monkeys, he was offering people photographs with his pet baby tiger named Shakira. It took a lot of my willpower to walk away from that one, that’s for sure.

We were all shopped out by noon, so we headed back to the beach for a swim. Nowhere else in the world does the water look this perfect. Being a natural skeptic when it comes to tourist epicenters, I’m convinced that flawless views such as the one in the photo above have to be fabricated somehow. There must be blue dye in the water, I tell myself. Or the sky is just a painted backdrop like in The Truman Show. If I went out far enough, I’d discover that Paradise was a manmade phenomenon. Despite myself, I have accepted that Cancun really is as beautiful as it looks in its travel brochures.

By the time we got back to our hotel at the end of the day, we were so pooped that we ordered room service instead of walking all of 10 feet from our building to the nearest restaurant.

I do believe that I’ve found Paradise here in Cancun, but I view Paradise as a feeling rather than an actual place. It’s that joie de vivre that comes to you in simple moments. Suddenly, you feel more alive than you have lately, and there’s nothing quite like it. What I love about vacations is this: vacations remind you to be present in the moment. They remind you to be where you are.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to end this post and do just that. I happen to be in bed as I’m typing this, and it sounds like an incredible place to focus on right about now.

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