The black snake and blue crab froze on the path in front of me. All three of us were briefly paralyzed with indecision on which way to go so we could get ourselves out of this awkward situation. Luckily, we all picked a separate path to escape to safety, and it was then that I finally surrendered to the magic of Tulum.
Scientists think the giant asteroid that hit Earth and took out the dinosaurs landed near present day Tulum, which is a possible reason for it being deemed an “energy vortex.” Places around the world like Sedona, Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Egypt, to name a few, are known to have a special healing energy to them thanks to an intersection of ley lines (random lines of natural energy that help make up the earth’s electromagnetic field). I wasn’t aware of any of this before booking the trip, but a lot like Joshua Tree, California which is also known as an energy vortex, there is an undeniable vibe as soon as you arrive.
I give the Mayans most of the credit for making Tulum such a special place. The Tulum Ruins that sit along the cliffside of the ocean are jaw dropping. Sian Ka’an is a protected coastal jungle park that makes you feel like you’ve been dropped off at the gates of Jurassic Park. If adventures are your thing, there are over 6,000 stunning underground rivers and sinkholes called cenotes (where Mayans reportedly held sacred rituals) in the area to explore.
Thanks to the historic and healing energy of Tulum it’s created quite a scene: trendsetters in the worlds of art, food, wellness and design have traveled and relocated here to leave their mark on this special place. Tulum has become a mini eco-conscious epicenter in Mexico for wellness retreats, foodie adventures, intimate music events and more. While normally food, yoga, music and art scenes are what I revel in most, I knew that it wasn’t really what my journey to Tulum was about.
I had arrived in Tulum four days earlier on what I called my “eat/pray/love/work trip.” I was fresh off the heels of my divorce and had just relocated to the city after living in the mountains for the better part of a decade. COVID-19 provided an unexpected pause in work; I wasn’t ready to commit to a housing situation yet, and I knew I was in dire need of a mental health break. I needed some time and space to myself so that I could realign, refocus and dig deep to uproot some patterns I was tired of repeating.
Driving from the airport in Cancún along the highway we passed a sign that read, “You Can’t Take It With You” in English, and I swiveled around to make sure I had seen it correctly. After an hour or so we rounded the corner and the Caribbean Sea came into view next to a yellow road sign reminding travelers to “Embrace the Mystery.” As we pulled up to my hotel a few more miles down the road, a green street sign said “Follow Your Dream,” and I officially decided that I had made the right choice for my eat/pray/love/work getaway, and I would have to snag a few polaroid’s of these signs as mementos.
Full disclosure: the first four days were awful. July is a tough time to visit Mexico, unless mosquitos, extreme heat and humidity are your thing. And, those mental patterns I mentioned earlier came screaming to the surface as soon as I put my suitcase down next to the gecko in my room, who I later named Gary.
Pair extremely uncomfortable physical conditions with extremely uncomfortable mental conditions and you get a world-class lesson in getting comfortable being uncomfortable.
Back to the snake and crab: I encountered my new friends on the grounds of the Mayan Clay Spa, which had just provided a life changing massage experience. Seriously, it’s a must do; the sea salt rosemary scrub is the best antidote to mosquito bites, the golden detoxifying Mayan clay used from tip to toe during the massage is other worldly, and Santos’ painfully pleasant pressure techniques create a mind melting euphoria when all blended together.
I returned to my room after the massage, my body buzzing with a prana I’ve never felt; my mind confidently shifted from the experience and with a burning curiosity to know what the animal symbolism for snakes and crabs might be.
Me: “snake animal spirit totem”
Google: “The snake as a spirit animal can be to provide guidance about life changes and transitions, whether they are happening at the physical, emotional or spiritual level.”
Me: “Creepy and accurate, ok Google.”
Me: “crab animal spirit totem”
Google: “Crab teaches how to hold on tight when you’re feeling insecure and to sidestep obstacles with grace.”
Me: “Hmm. Well Google, now this just feels personal.”
I spent the rest of the trip humbled, in awe of the string of seemingly coincidental signs and events that had led me to this paradise in the middle of a pandemic to unpack my patterns.
I made the choice to let go of the resistance and lean in. I leaned into the discomfort of the heat, bugs and morning runs in 100 percent humidity. I leaned into the uncomfortable process of dismantling my codependent thought patterns, anxious attachment tendencies and white supremist programming. I leaned into loving my inner child and shadow. I also leaned into tacos to keep me sane.
And the signs showing me I was on the right path kept coming, in the form of scorpions, dragonflies and sunsets, people I was destined to meet and of course, more clever road signs.
It wasn’t until two months after I returned home and hung my polaroid of Tulum street signs up that I realized I had been chasing down the work of one of my favorite artists Olivia Steele, who traditionally works with neon. I learned that a few years back she brought her Burning Man PDA: Public Display of Awareness installation to Tulum to give it a permanent home. Well played universe, still dropping signs from Tulum that I’m on the right path two months later.
The world needs us now more than ever to find our centers, to show up as best as we can for each other and to work to make this a better place for everyone. The universe is always providing signs about the path we are on — the question is, what kind of signs are you looking for? Are you looking for signs that support what’s not really working for you? Or are you willing to lean into the discomfort of looking for new signs down an unknown path?
TIPS TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TRIP:
- Please be respectful of any local community that you travel to (always) and especially in the times of COVID-19. Bring your mask and wear it to show respect and gratitude to any country and its people that are willing to take Americans.
- Book your trip anywhere from October to April (high season) for the best weather and highest chance of everything being open.
- Bring bug spray, or more importantly a Lost Range Lavender CBD roller which quite literally saved me from scratching myself to death.
- If you’re thinking about an extended digital nomad style trip where you’ll be working and playing, check out Outsite (outsite.co) for a co-working/co-living experience that gives you strong & steady Wifi + a community to plug into when you arrive.
- If you’re looking for more of a resort stay, check out Delek or Nomade. If authentic Mexico is what you’re after, there are some great options on Airbnb in the pueblo of Tulum.
- Leave your hair tools at home; Tulum is run on solar power generators and you’ll shut down the town if you try to plug in your hair dryer.
- Do more research than I did! Between the overwhelming number of cenotes and incredible food scene, I barely scratched the surface during my extended stay. There is a LOT to do here and having a game plan will help you make the most of it.
- TACOS: My favorites were dining with rock stars at La Eufemia on the beach and in town hit up Taqueria Honorio.
Remember to always follow COVID-19 travel restrictions and guidelines.
Photos by Gina Spinelli Photography.
Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2020-21 issue of CO YOGA + Life® Magazine.