Monday, October 31, 2011

Vacationer or Traveler? Which one are you?

After a few conversations with some well seasoned travelers, I have accepted the fact that I am not a traveler; I am in fact, a Vacationer but hoping to make the transition to Traveler.    Up until recently, I didn't realize that there is a distinct difference between the two.  Just in case there are others out there in the same state of confusion, let me tell you what I've been told. 

Vacationer - someone who visits a particular location and is interested in tours, things to see and do. Has no interest in the people, culture or history of a country.  Will spend most of his/her time "vegging" out and relaxing for a few days in a beautiful location while staying in plush accommodations. Vacationers don't like being uncomfortable and will complain about things such as being too hot and will certainly not drink tap water. 

Traveler - someone who immerses him/herself in a country. Usually in this place for an extended amount of time, blending in and getting to know the people and the culture.  Not interested in tours or group activities and not usually concerned with the small details, but will take each day as it comes, sometimes working odd jobs to finance their continued travels. Travelers are often uncomfortable and will backpack, sleep in tents and/or with a group of other travelers they just met on the train - but almost never in a lush hotel. 

Now, while I have some Traveler traits, I do have more Vacationer traits than I'd like to admit. For instance, some of my friends call me a "hotel snob" because my first question when approached about a travel opportunity is "Where are we staying?". Now I know most of you are in the thought camp of "I'll only be sleeping in the room", but ONLY is a strange word when it comes to sleeping and after a day of activity - I would really like to get a good nights rest.  Being comfortable is a big part of that!

The biggest struggle I will have in my transition from Vacationer to Traveler is the immersion in the culture, more specifically, the food.  Let me first say that my diet at home consists mostly of burgers, pizza, and anything pasta (horrible, I know). So, when I travel, I usually stick to the same routine, but will add some fresh seafood and fruit.  However in some countries they leave the head (and eyes) on the fish!  Eeewww - creepy. And I am very sensitive to smells. Anything that had a strong smell, or even too spicy, forget about it.

As I mentioned, I do have some Traveler traits. For instance, I'm very interested in the people and history of a destination. I will take some time to read about my destination prior to arrival. I try and get to know their customs and a little about their history. In between my beach time, I will visit any any historical or architectural sites in the area. I will take public transportation, walk the streets of the city, and go to local hot spots; usually alone and not on a tour since I don't like to be on someone else's schedule (which is why I don't cruise, but that's another post).

I know my journey from Vacationer to Traveler is going to take some time and adjusted thinking. Being aware of the differences and allowing myself to be open to the experience is a good start. Besides, I will drink tap water - that has to count for something, right?!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I'm a Cancun addict

My name is Angela and I am a Cancun addict.

They say admitting is the first stepping to recovery, however if there's a cure for this...y'll know the rest. I can't say when my addiction to the clear blue water of the area began, but I started visiting this Spring Break hot spot early in my traveling career. As I have grown and matured, so has my obsession with everything Cancun.

Now some of you may say "Angela, there are better beaches in the Caribbean" and that may be true, but my heart always leads me back to Cancun. Let me give you a few reasons why you can never go wrong with Cancun:

Accessibility - you can get direct flights to Cancun from most major US cities. From Chicago, I can leave home in the morning and have my toes buried in the sand just in time for lunch. As a matter of fact, I am writing this post from a flight to Miami where I will party the night away, hop on a 8:30am flight and be in Cancun (for the third time this year) before I'm even completely awake!  And if you catch a good sale, airfare won't require too much of a sacrifice.

Weather - Between 240 and 253 days of pure sunshine per year, what else is there to say?  I have visited during the winter months and during the summer months. I don't have a preference (hey, I wouldn't be a true addict if I did). Summer is MUCH hotter, so if you don't like extreme heat, this is not the time for you.

Activities - there are activities for every age and skill level.  You can visit an ancient Mayan ruin, see an underwater museum, swim in a Cenote, zipline, visit an ecological park, hike, horseback ride, or my favorite activity - nothing at all. I shared Cancun with a group of friends earlier this year and there was never a lack of activities to keep us occupied. Some of us snorkeled, some did not. Some jet skied, some did not. Some were a little more active, some laid around the pool constantly (no names please).  But all of us had a great time. A few years ago, my children had the pleasure of their first trip to my secret hide out. They boogie boarded and drank virgin strawberry daiquiris from sun up to sun down.  It took at least a week for their tongues to return to it's normal color!

Do it up - or don't, it's totally up to you. From all-inclusive resorts to hotels for budget minded travelers, there are plenty of options to choose from. Where I stay usually depends on the purpose of my trip and the company I'm keeping. My first trip this year was with 2 girlfriends and we lounged around a gourmet all-inclusive resort in Riviera Maya for 48 hours then headed home refreshed and ready to tackle what was left of Chicago winter.

Access to other fabulous locations -  from Cancun you can hop on a ferry and visit Isla Mujeres, an island just 8 miles across the Bay of Women, where you can enjoy more beautiful beaches. Or you can head to Playa del Carmen (a fab location all it's own) and hop on a ferry to Cozumel where you can dive or snorkel  Mesoamerica Reef, the largest reef in the Western hemisphere.

Festivals, parties and beach clubs - be careful, you might find yourself in the middle of a dance floor!  Throughout the year, there are festivals and celebrations taking place in Cancun and surrounding areas. I went to the area a few years ago right after the Thanksgiving holiday and found out that the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival was going on - and guess what, it was completely FREE. Yep, jazz on the beach while sipping a margarita, whoot-whoot.  If clubbing is your thang, you will find a variety of places to hang. From hip-hop to rock to reggae to techno to country, Cancun and Playa Del Carmen has some of the best clubs/lounges around.

My most favorite thing about Cancun is that it's never the same place twice. Each trip is a different experience, filled with new activities, or some old favorites if I choose. I am sitting on the plane next to a couple that is staying in Akumal - hmmmm, I've never been there before (wheels turning, looking for my next opportunity to visit).

This trip I'm flying solo, headed to the Mi Casa Holiday taking place in Playa Del Carmen.  This is the 3rd year this event has taken place, but the first time I've attended. I'm excited about the weekend and what's to come.....I think a new adventure is on the horizon.

Stay tuned....