“We’re going on vacation!'” My dad wailed from the kitchen. ‘Here we go again,’ was my first reaction for I was sure it would be a trip only he would be excited about. I had numerous, although tentative plans with my friends for Spring break and would have to revise everything, which was not in my best interest! It was time for our family of four, to gather in the living room, for yet another family meeting.
My dad announced the indisputable news that we would be going to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico, for a week. The members of my family were elated and I’d have to admit I did relish the thought of relaxing on a white sandy beach, sipping on a cold beverage as I became a deep golden brown tone for an entire week. The acceptance of sun, fun, and surf won me over.
Once we reached our destination, I was amazed at the deep turquoise, Caribbean water, which met the cloudless, blue skyline. Our resort was surrounded with lush greenery and swaying palm trees. The singing of tropical birds filled the air.
‘Did I morph into the land of paradise?’ I was in my glory, as I immediately pulled out my camera and snapped away. People were laying by the gorgeous pool area, strolling on the beach or enjoying a game of volleyball. I couldn’t wait to see our actual hotel room.
As we climbed up the stairs to the third floor of the pastel, stucco building, I thought this just might be the most beautiful and lavish place I have ever been. Opening the door to room 307 took my breath away! It was my spacious, mango colored tiled home away from home. It had a balcony overlooking the treetops and activity of the resort.
To view the ocean from above, with colorful sailboats and windsurfers was breathtaking! I couldn’t wait to join the beach crowd, delve into my book and soak up the sun for hours. At this resort, there was no lack of food. In fact, there were buffets continuously throughout the day, in the variety of restaurants as well as outside.
Here, people could eat to their hearts content, if they so desired. I never saw so many choices of food in one place! It was a relaxing and enjoyable way of life to be pampered during this week. After the fourth day my dad relayed more news to our family.
He had registered us all for a trip to the rainforest in Coba. I was not very enthusiastic to hike through the insect laden forest on a 98% day, but somehow he thought it would be good for all of us. Early next morning, our group set off on the adventure, covered with suntan lotion and bug spray.
We boarded a bus which drove us three hours over bumpy, old dirt roads. We hiked through the rainforest as our guide pointed out poisonous trees and explained so many fascinating facts. She really held my interest. We observed a family of spider monkeys swinging from tree to tree. Where else would I ever see this? Again we boarded the bus to drive further into this land of natural wonders.
As we approached this next area of Coba, we came upon some tiny old huts painted a deep hue of blue I had never seen before. Mayan families lived in these huts. Young barefoot children ran to meet the bus. I quickly snapped a photo of the excitement on their faces. Our tour guide gave them each an empty, plastic bag as they in return, handed her one filled with garbage. These Mayan children were being taught the concept of, ‘Do Not Litter.’ To educate and take care of their precious land is important, for this will be the future generation. They lined up and each was given a small candy nugget as a reward, and off they happily went to play. I realized the severe poverty in this area. Our guide explained that the Mayan people are proud of their culture but have a great deal of hardships especially without running water, electricity, or schooling. They are indigenous people with a strong spirit. We were allowed to enter a woman’s home as she held her baby. The home had a dirt floor and their beds were hammocks. Through this smoke filled, poverty laden home, I observed a woman cooking tortillas over an open fire. She stacked them carefully for they must last a few days for her family’s meal. Another Mayan woman was outside washing clothes on a scrub board with a bit of soap. The tour bus we were on gives a few basic supplies to the Mayan people once a week, soap being one of them. I waved goodbye with a sinking feeling in my stomach as I finally boarded the bus.
I experienced so much that I had never known. This trip was a true family learning experience. This vacation did more than just create memories. Traveling in a way changed me as a person. I knew deep in my heart, I would like to return and volunteer in some capacity to enable the Mayan people to have more opportunities and skills…to help create change. This is what traveling can allow me and others to do. I thought of my dad, and now realized that he wanted to expose me to Mexico’s warm people and culture. He did that and so much more. This was an excursion that will stay with me for a lifetime.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.