Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. ~Helen Keller
When I tell you these past couple years have been full of adventures, both the traveling, exploring, and living on the edge kind. From my long awaited trip to Bali for my birthday last year which included me partaking in Fly Fish (The ultimate in speed and exhilaration the Flying Fish is the newest water sports toy on the market! Fly Fish is a great adventure where you fly like fish jumping on the seawater with high speed boat); to parasailing in Mexico last October; followed by Ziplining in Barbados this past March.
Even after all that I just needed to quench my thrill seeking thirst by adding to the list – SKYDIVING!!!
It is NO secret that I enjoy a journey, exploring new lands, experiencing new things. So it should come as no surprise that every now and again I try to drag bring others along with me. Rewind to October 2014. Well actually it was some time prior to that but October is when the actual journey began.
Picture this: my good girlfriend and sister share the same birthday and neither had been out of the country since returning from Germany where our parents were both stationed (military brats we all are). I told them I wanted to do something special for their birthdays – just because – and all they needed to do was renew their long-expired passports and secure their flights as accommodations and such would be on me.
So began my planning. Now sometimes I will travel on the fly and on the offchance I actually do pre-planning it’s never much farther than a month or so in advance (with the exception of my birthday celebration to Bali but again that involved other people accompanying me so I try to be more mindful of schedules, pockets, etc). In this case, I gave the gals a good 6 months or so to ensure everyone had plenty time to get themselves together for this birthday celebration (to include the 2 birthday girls securing their passport renewals). A small part of me wasn’t sure they would meet my our deadline but lo and behold they came through. Now of course I made it no secret that I was going with or without them lol but I played cheerleader every step of their passport renewal process because I really wanted them to experience this adventure.
So check: Passports completed; check: flights secured; check: accommodations booked and paid for; check: meet up and transportation details finalized. Off we were for Playa del Carmen. Why here? Well I didn’t wanna totally take them out of their comfort zones by going somewhere exotic or say with a much longer flight. I knew that we wanted beach time, a little partying, an easy breezy and free kinda place that wasn’t gonna break the bank. Mexico is always a good place for easy breezy or atleast has been to me on my various voyages there so I figured what better place than here!
My goal was to find accommodations more along the lines of a condo, house, or villa of sorts so we could all be under one roof and to enable less of a vacation feel and more of a “I live here part time” feel lol! Looking around on one of my favorite sites – Booking.com – I came across a few digs I thought would be sufficient but still weren’t sure they fit the bill. I also did a few random “Villa” searches on Google to see what I could come up with as well. Sidebar: People are often shocked that I don’t use a travel agent until I tell them how easy and much more flexible I find it to do my research, booking, etc. myself. I realize there are “levels” to this travel thing and those who explore seem to be more free than those who just ‘vacation’ if you will.
Anyhoo, I settled on a property that had 2 sister sites and on sight (virtually that is) appeared to be THE perfect digs for us and so I booked it. – Maya Villa & Condos right there in Playa del Carmen, near 5th Avenue, the beaches, restaurants, clubs, etc.
So our adventure began. Three of us were on the same flight coming from Atlanta while my sister was flying in from Orlando. Once we landed we just posted up at the airport sipping cocktails waiting for my sister to arrive so that we could make the most of the same transportation.
It drizzled a little bit enroute which almost put a damper on my spirits but as is customary, it didn’t last too long. By the time we reached Maya Villas any concerns of rain I had quickly dissipated. I recall pulling up to what looked like a random building with these steep steps only to find out that the check-in office was just up the street in a totally different building. Being the responsible party I made my way over to complete the check-in and obtain any information necessary to aid in making this trip that much more special for my birthday girls.
Once I finished the check-in process I returned to where I left the girls who had already been let into our “temporary home” only to be met with approvals on the digs. Upon entry I, too, was pleasantly pleased with my selection. For more on the Maya Villa & Condos check out my Where I’ve Stayed, Played, and Layed! We were all pretty stoked about the digs considering I once again made a reservation based solely on my personal research and not an actual referral.
For the 3.5 days of our stay I left the schedule pretty open as to not overwhelm anyone and really because I prefer to not be held down to a schedule so I can explore and wander. The only thing I planned in advance was the birthday dinner which happen to be the very night we arrived.
Arrival and Birthday Dinner
After arriving and getting settled into our digs it wasn’t long before we began to get ourselves together for our dinner reservations. I chose a lovely spot solely based on its menu and it did NOT disappoint – Plank – which was right down the block from our digs. We hit the cobblestone walkway and made our way to Plank.
There was lobster and prawns and sole (fish) and mac n cheese (with more lobster) and cocktails and pure gluttony. Need more proof? Check out “Plank not Planking in Playa del Carmen” and bring a napkin to help catch the drool lol! Not only was this a great meal it was a wonderful way to kick-start our trip while celebrating the 2 birthdays! Afterwards we headed out for a little club hopping.
By leaving our time pretty free, it enabled us to just stumble upon things which we largely did especially once our 5th guest arrived. By then I’d made my rounds to the supermercado and fell upon a cigar shop where I copped a few to include some Cohibas. The rest of the day we basically wandered around which was an adventure in itself.
Social media has made sharing so easy that oftentimes we I forget that people are watching and actually paying attention (to me and my lil ol life). As if it isn’t enough to hear about my past, present, or future adventures but seeing them live and in living color, often while I am embarking on a journey/adventure, has piqued the curiosity of many.
This is my attempt to answer the Who, What’s, How’s and “Myths” that have landed in my lap over time.
Do you use a travel agent?
No, I don’t use travel agents of any kind as I prefer to do my own planning, scheduling and executing. I find that there are plenty resources available that allow me to structure my travel according to my purpose or desired outcome. Besides I prefer the flexibility and control (don’t judge). The best thing is I can map out a journey, approx. price tag, flights, accommodations, etc all from the comforts of anywhere without making a commitment.
How do you choose your journeys?
I’m always dreaming / daydreaming and thinking of new adventures so my destinations/journeys come from either my personal wishlist of must-see/must-visit places collected over time; a really good deal caught my eye that is just too good to resist; a friend decides to celebrate abroad (will travel and revisit places for a special event or occasion); and/or something piqued my curiosity the stars aligned. I have a mental list of places I want to see before I die (if you will) and I just make travel so much of a priority that it is important to me to check things off my personal travel list (see My Wanderlust). I think it’s great to dream but even better to live out those dreams. here’s no rhyme or reason to my destination choices, they kinda just happen. Some have truly been right place – right time (a friend of a friend going away for a birthday, a destination wedding, etc.). Other times I’ve had visions of some random destination (see my Magic Monday) that starts from a dream and manifests itself into reality. For me I guess you can say it’s less a matter of how and more about “where will I go now” that drives my selection process.
How do you know what accommodations to pick?
This is like anything these days – Craig’s List, Ebay, etc. in that you’re often taking a chance but for me it’s a chance or risk I’m more than happy to make. Often times, as I’ve used Booking.com or TripAdvisor to research ideas on destinations and accommodations, I will peruse reviews to get a feel for what others are saying. Typically though I just check for things such as proximity to certain things, availability of public transportation, costs of transportation as necessary, and the one or 2 key things I want to accomplish at the end of my adventure.
Aren’t you scared flying / traveling / walking around by yourself?
No more frightened than when I’m walking/driving around Atlanta. You have to be aware and alert most anywhere you are these days and the same holds true for traveling abroad. Listen to your intuition, trust your gut, and use common sense. Walking around at night, alone, is probably less than smart anywhere. Honestly, being sort of a momma-bear/caretaker type traveling solo enables me to opportunity to create my own experience because I’m only focused on what I wanna do, where I wanna go, etc.
Packing – I am often asked far in advance of an upcoming trip if I’ve already packed or will be packing (weeks in advance).
I prefer to pack the night before if it’s an early flight and often the day of if my departure time is later in the day. I’m a warm weather gal so for me I typically know the types of clothing I will be taking along with me which makes it quite easy to pack. I understand my creature comforts as well (i.e. I often take my satin pillow case so I already know where it is which makes for an easy grab and go). Much like anything, the more you travel the more you understand the MUST-HAVES to take with you and/or are comfortable enough to know that whatever you happen to forget you can often find wherever you’re going.
Why would you go to/what made you wanna visit ___________________(fill in the blank)?
Why not? Well that’s usually what I’m thinking while trying to come up with a more friendly response. There aren’t too many places I’m not interested in exploring (with the exception of Antarctica which is NOT on my immediate list, however for a special event, challenge or sponsored trip, guess I’ll be getting a parka lol). Often though I’m simply inspired by the journeys of another traveler, or an event in a ‘strange’ land, or a myriad of other things that lead me to certain destinations. My philosophy is truly that “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list” so I will just continue to plot and plan until I have come close enough to checking “everything” off my list.
The city that never sleeps but when I tell you I was trying to outdo the city on the sleep-o-meter or the lack thereof….smh! This was yet again another birthday celebration orchestrated by me for my dear friend back in 2010. Might I add, it was also the year of Kim Kardashian as she was EVERYWHERE including hosting a party at TAO for her birthday the same time we were there.
Now I have been to Vegas a handful of times beginning in my youth during a cross country drive my family did (cross country as in from Florida to California where we dropped off our car to be shipped to Hawaii, our home for 3.5 years). As the story goes, or atleast how my dad tells the story, we went into a convenience store and with a nickel I either found or took from the car, I put it in the machine and coins came out. Yeah my dad loves telling that story even after ALLLLLL these years.
Back to the story.
Although I’ve been to Vegas a ton of times, I know that it is just one of those cities that is never quite the same from one day to the next in that there is debauchery and shenanigans to be had every single time. Sign me up!
So it was a girlfriend’s birthday and given she’s not quite the avid traveler I am, I wanted her to do something special for her special day. It was a small group, 3 to be exact, and really just the right amount of gals to have a good time yet not be overwhelmed by the estrogen in a small space lol!
I chose the Venetian Hotel for no particular reason however Vegas is the hotel capital of the world so there are plenty hotels to choose from in case you were wondering. On second thought, the all-suite design played a big part in my decision when I think back (that estrogen overload minimizing thing I mentioned before).
Let me say, we were pleasantly pleased as it offered just the right amount of space for 3 gals to not trip over and bump all over each other….not to mention the bathroom could not have been better again for that same reason.
To that I say, “WELCOME TO LAVENDAR HILL” (a line from one of my favorite movies – Boomerang – don’t judge) as the late great Eartha Kitt uttered when she welcomed Eddie’s character Marcus to her home for a night of debauchery lol!
The birthday girl in black and our mutual friend in crime.
Not wanting to over-plan, so that we could enjoy the trip, we only planned a birthday dinner while leaving the rest of our time to just wander…..and wander we did.
The 2 chicas on the Strip
Somewhere in Caesars Palace
Dancing water fountain at Bellagios
The Blueman Group
The Blueman Group + 1
We somehow thought we were going to be able to get into TAO for Kim Kardashian’s birthday bash (not that we’re fans but we figured heyyy there will most likely be lots of eye candy present) strictly for entertainment purposes. That was a fail but we managed to find another equally as stimulating venue for which to dance the night away. And we did!
Tao, Las Vegas
To say we didn’t have a good time would be an understatement. The girls respected my need to roam and be free and indulge as I sometimes do. The birthday girl was even able to see one of her high school friends who was living in Vegas at the time which made this trip even that much more special for her (I think)!
Vegas is known as a party city (Sin City by most) and definitely one that never sleeps but I gotta admit I like Vegas for the magic you feel while there, marveling at the massive hotels in all their grandeur, lady luck and just all the sights and delights! So if you’ve NOT been to Vegas or just haven’t been in awhile I would definitely recommend it as it’s NOT the Vegas of days past (although make no mistake there’s plenty debauchery to be had after all it’s not called Sin City for nothing). It is truly a place to feel like a kid again.