Santa Marta, here we come!

It’s been awhile since I have been able to write. Unfortunately, my life doesn’t slow down despite my desire to spend more of my time daydreaming about where we might land in a few years.

It’s been a hectic few weeks; I am training a new class of CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocates for children removed by the state) and that will roughly take up the month of April in conjunction with everyday work and life. We spent last weekend in Vancouver BC where we experienced the most amazing P!NK show and we are trying to unpack our things since we decided to pull our home off the market and pursue early retirement abroad instead.

With all of this going on, I managed to map out our upcoming trip and purchase our airline tickets and it goes a little something like this… SEA to JFK to enjoy New York City and have some really good food and unparalleled entertainment for our anniversary, JFK to CTG where we will spend 1 night in Cartagena, rent a car the next morning and make the drive to Santa Marta where we will spend 5 nights, SMR to BOG where we will spend 2 nights in Bogotoa, just checking things out, BOG to CUN to spend 7 more nights in Rivera Maya and finally CUN to SEA to be back in time for Thanksgiving. Fun side note, you can fly intercountry in Colombia for about $25 USD so while it is a 4-5 hour drive from Cartagena to Santa Marta, we are choosing to do that to see the the coast. Who knows, there may be some amazing beach town we drive past that we would never have known about otherwise! We are then flying from Santa Marta to Bogota for $25 where we will spend a few nights and then take a direct flight from Bogotoa to Cancun. We are not checking any bags so we can travel pretty freely and not have to worry about delays through customs, lost luggage, etc. I picked up a pretty awesome Travelpro carry on size suitcase on clearance at Macy’s that will easily hold everything I need to bring with me as well as my own snorkel gear. I was able to book the above itinerary for less than $1,500 per person using mileage points, perks, hotel reward points, etc.

I have never planned out a trip this extensive and I am sure some thing will not go as planned but that is all part of the experience. You may wonder why we are spending more time in Mexico since we just returned but if you’ve read my previous blog posts, we have decided to keep the Riviera Maya area open as a possible retirement location. Akumal, Tulum, Playa del Carmen-they all give off a mystical feeling. The Mayan culture, the beach, the people, the food, the cenotes… they call my name. The downsides to Mexico vs. Colombia on paper is rather extensive though. The medical care is not as good as the States and Colombia is significantly better than both. Cost of living is on par with Santa Marta though that is only if you are willing to swap an ocean front condo in Santa Marta for one that isn’t in Mexico. Residency is easily established in both. Mexico has really developed a reputation for being quite unsafe these days and that’s true even in Rivera Maya but of course, Colombia has its own sordid history but history is the key word. There are still plenty of travel advisories for both countries, check before you book! Common sense is your friend. There are plenty of places in the states, especially Seattle that I would not walk around at night and alone. Upsides for Mexico, English is much more widely spoken than in Colombia and its a 6 hour flight home instead of a 12 from Colombia. With that said, I have always felt like a flight is a flight so whether you are a 2, 6, 12 or 18 hour flight away, it is still just a flight. 🙂 Since we aren’t exactly looking for another America just in a cheaper location, I am not sure that part of Mexico would even give me the foreign experience that I want.

We are very excited for our trip to Colombia and the reason we aren’t staying longer is the fear that the humidity will be so oppressive that we will want to take Santa Marta off our list. If we do, that doesn’t mean Colombia is out. We want to spend two nights in Bogota on this trip just to see and feel the capital, we would not consider residency there but we want to return for at least a week long trip to Medellin and it’s surrounding areas for that purpose. Our stays in both countries will be research so that means that while we will likely dive and enjoy the beach, the whole idea is to rent a car, drive around, look at properties and neighborhoods at night as well as during the day. This isn’t a, sit on my rear and have a server bring me food and drinks all day while enjoying the Caribbean sun poolside, trip. The idea of being in Colombia thrills me. The people have a reputation for being extremely kind and open to foreigners and there is something uniquely empowering about forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone and submerging yourself in another culture especially when you don’t share a common language.

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Ahhh the Riviera Maya..

This vacation went down as the first one where I actually did not want to come home. If you are anything like me, you may have kids, a pet, a house, or even just a bed calling your name back home. Forget the job calling- that’s why we need a vacation to start with! And get this, Lisa (for those who don’t know, Lisa is my wife) had never been to Mexico! She was the inspiration behind this trip.

So, our last minute vacation plan started just a few weeks ago with the mention from Lisa that she wanted to take a couple of days off for her birthday. She works hard and long hours and has for close to 30 years. When I met Lisa, she was working about 12-14 hours a day and hadn’t taken any vacation to speak of in decades. She works so much that she can no longer accrue paid time off from work because she never uses it! This madness had to stop! Since we became a couple, Lisa has traveled more in the last few years than she has in her whole life. I am fortunate enough that I have a great group of colleagues who can hold down things at work for me if I don’t have anything big scheduled, which I did not. I also have a good relationship with my ex-husband who willingly keeps the dog and kids in check while I’m gone. I digress, I am the queen of digression so if that sort of thing bothers you, you might want to stop reading now 🙂 Back to birthday plans… She suggested a day or two to the hot springs or maybe a trip to the spa. At the sheer notion that she was willing to take ANY time off, I seized the opportunity. Hey babe, what about Mexico? You’ve never been, I have a ton of miles to use, it’s your birthday, we didn’t really have a honeymoon…. I would bet money that her bosses don’t think I am that positive influence on her.

Traveling as a lesbian couple can be tricky. One of the first things I do when looking to travel is research LGBTQ friendliness in the country we are going to and then identify resorts, excursions,etc. You wouldn’t think in this day and age but those issues are still very prevalent. And I want to be clear, this blog/post isn’t about being a same sex couple. We are just humans like the rest of you but it is something that needs to be considered when travelling abroad. You can probably imagine that there isn’t much need for research when it comes to Mexico aka MexiPlay. The customer service and general attitudes of locals are beyond welcoming no matter who you are. And for those of you who are interested, same sex activity has been legal in Mexico since 1871. Most of the states within Mexico recognize same sex marriages.

Moving along… Lisa’s few days off turned into an 8 night all inclusive adults only stay at the Royal Hideaway Playacar and IT WAS FABULOUS. Customer service was top notch, the room was wonderful, the flight was great, (we love Alaska! Never fly Allegiant btw, especially if you are a same sex couple. )
the food was out of this world. We had an excursion to Tulum and Jungle Maya where we experienced a Mayan blessing ceremony, rappelled into a Cenote, zip lined through the jungle and overall just had the best day of our lives. I underwent ankle fusion surgery 3.5 months ago so my I wasn’t sure of my abilities but was pleasantly surprised. The only black mark on our trip was Pro Dive International- you can read more about that terrible experience here if you’d like. Nonetheless, the dive that we did do at Planacar Reef was spectacular. I have been a certified diver for several years but Lisa just got her OWD certification in November in Maui. She is sold on Mexico and swears we will never go back to Hawaii again. Gosh, twist my arm.

I am so grateful I got to share all of this with her. The woman who has dedicated her life to her work is finally putting her own regulator on and diving into life. BBYODO