Mexico is not in Europe

“Cancun?”

“Yeah.”

“As in Cancun, Mexico?”

“Yeah, but hear me out…”

Our latest ludicrous plot-twist was – as always – sponsored by Francis. Having returned home to the UK for Christmas with my family, we were beginning to worry that our trip might be over after only 3 months. People were already saying things like ‘you could just call it a day here – you’ve had a few months’ or ‘probably wise to just wait until all this covid stuff is out of the way before you set off again’; which are really easy things to say, but more difficult and impractical even, to do. 

Before we set off, we gave up our house, sold all of our furniture and nearly everything we had accumulated during our 10 years of cohabitation. All that is left of the life we lived before this trip is a pile of clip-lock boxes full of memories, one white dresser and the kitchen equipment I couldn’t bear to part with. These are all currently taking up one half of my sister’s garage. Pausing our trip, stopping after our locked down month in Germany, would essentially mean that we shouldn’t have gone in the first place (not an uncommon view, granted). I suspected that dismantling our home had been much quicker and easier than rebuilding it would be. 

We were holed up in my parent’s very cosy house at the seaside, the reliable British weather making it impossible to be outside, and everytime we turned on the TV or looked at our phones, there was yet more bad news. Covid was spreading, a new variant had been found, Boris’s ‘oven-ready deal’ seemed to have vanished and sombre European leaders were lining up to talk about how difficult it would be for Britons to move around the continent once we were out. 

On the day that Mexico was floated as a possibility, I had actually spent the day on Rightmove. Teasing out the pros and cons in my head of attempting to find somewhere new to settle or giving our current tenants their three months notice. Francis had been very quiet all day. The notion that our trip was over before it had really begun was getting him down more than any of us – it had been his dream, after all. So when he passed me his phone, I assumed he too had been house hunting and had one to show me. 

Mexico is not in Europe

He did at least agree with me on that. I thought this was among his more ridiculous ideas and I told him so; listing myriad reasons emphatically. 

“We could go and hide in the sun though,” he said. 

“We could do that in Cyprus without having to travel to central America,” I countered. 

“But they have ziggurats and snorkeling in Mexico!”

“They have snorkelling in Cyprus.”

“Yes, but you won’t find turtles and stingrays and whale sharks.”

It turns out, as I’d assumed he was quiet because of his resignation to the reality of our situation, he had in fact just been researching Mexico – in particular, the Yucatan peninsula which is where most of the worry-free travel and tourism happens. 

“Everything’s still open in Yucatan – they’re welcoming travellers. All of the covid precautions are in place – it’ll be just like staying here… except it’ll be hot and sunny and there’s loads to see!”

He was already sold – he now just needed to convince me. 

As we’re currently in Mexico, I won’t bother asking you who you think won that argument. In very early January, we gathered only our essentials (we wouldn’t have the car for storage this time) and headed to the airport. For this leg of the trip the plan had always been for Hannah -Francis’s little sister – to join us. Being a lot like her brother, she barely batted an eyelid at the change in destination, showing up with passport in hand ready to go. 

I Bloody Hate Flying

Somewhere over Bermuda, whilst simultaneously wondering if the Bermuda Triangle was still a thing and listening to Barack Obama read me his autobiography through my headphones (FYI – always listen to Obama’s lovely voice if you’re a nervous flyer), it struck me that we had actually done it. We had been convinced, right up until the wheels lifted from the tarmac, that someone – even Boris himself – might intervene at Gatwick and tell us we couldn’t go. It’s a strange position to be in; hilariously, athough we are British, we have no permanent UK residence anymore. Having booked accommodation in Mexico, we were – technically – on our way home. 

Ten hours later, we landed in Cancun. After a long wait for our one suitcase and a shorter one for our transfer, we were finally within striking distance of rest. 

Playa del Carmen

The first couple of days here were spent in a very basic hotel in the centre of Playa del Carmen; a region popular with tourists and for good reason. It’s fairly quiet during the day, with local shop owners lazily coming out to say hello to try and entice you into buying something (we ALWAYS want to buy something – everything is amazing here). However, at night the streets of Playa del Carmen become insanely busy. Loud music, fairy lights, break-dancing kids, street-food and more cocktails than you can shake a stick at. Restaurants take your temperature at the door, you wear a mask and you sanitise your hands at every place you stop. They are definitely taking the pandemic seriously – but it’s still so strange after this year to see so many people in one place. 

After a couple of nights, we were able to move into our new apartment. We have spent the last 48 hours settling in; attempting to cook some of the Mexican dishes we sampled in town and playing in the complex pool across the street. The beautiful weather has – as predicted – lifted everyone. 

So what’s the plan?

Ha. We’re not planning ever again. We were fairly meticulous in our planning for Europe. As I type this, I should be in Rome; tired from a day of exploring the Vatican and eating fresh pasta. In fact, right from the start I had been adamant that Rome was the only month we could not compromise on. Having spent a long weekend there about 10 years ago, we were so keen to go back and get to know the city properly; to go down all the alleyways and investigate all the nooks we hadn’t had time for all those years ago. Sadly, Italy looked headed for another lockdown too; and travelling in Europe – though not impossible – looks hard for the forseeable future. Without good weather to look forward to, we would just have been signing up for another cold lockdown – but we’d also have been adding a language barrier and unfamiliarity to the mix for fun…

No. This year is now about not planning anything. When the time comes to make a decision, we will weigh up our options on the spot and go for whatever makes sense; acknowledging and respecting that the world neither knows nor cares what our plans are and therefore cannot be relied upon to accommodate.