From the mountains to the beach, surprising features of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico
I didn’t know what to expect when I first landed in Cancun for an escape from the snowy New England winter. I’d spent some time in Puerto Vallerta and other Pacific towns, but had never ventured to the storied epicenter of Spring Break – the “Riviera Maya.” The area was hacked from the dense Yucatan jungle beginning only about 40 years ago; prior to that it was the serene, humid home of the Maya people, most of whom are now managers, housekeepers and groundskeepers at the innumerable resort hotels along the coast. The manicured all-inclusive vibe was not what I was looking for, preferring to be immersed in the gritty reality of downtown.
Lots of stuff about Mexico was new and exciting; some of it oppressive (the heat), and some annoying (barking dogs, crowing roosters). but overall, the Yucatan was a great, affordable place for a 2 month sojourn away from the frost and slush. Here are 3 brief impressions:
♦ Digital Nomads are a Thing. As a ‘senior traveler’ who is a self-employed tech worker, I quickly realized I was one of many ‘Digital Nomad’ expats when I checked into the Art Deco Suites in downtown Cancun. I had booked a studio in this funky building because A. Rent was cheap and B. It purported to have good WIFI, which turned out to be mostly true, thankfully.
♦ The food is not dangerous. Luckily,my first experience of the local food and drink was guided by other digital nomads residing in my apartment building. They instructed me on the merits of both the many tourist restaurants and bars (avoid, mostly), and local gems that, in truth, I would have walked past without dreaming of going in.
♦ As with any location, things can change. In the few years since I started wintering in downtown Cancun, the climate has changed considerably. Not the weather, but the assurance of safety and wellbeing. The scourge of cartel violence that had plagued several Mexican cities has finally reached Cancun, and, to a lesser extent, Playa del Carmen. This year my choice of winter venue was the beautiful city of Merida, a 3.5 hour bus ride from Cancun Airport. Much calmer, better food, less touristy, what can I say about Merida?