Many of my neighbors live in wooden pole and thatched roofed structures called chozas; the remainder live in meager, cinder block circumstances that aren't too far removed from their counterparts. There are even combinations of both structures on the same property: I imagine this occurs when the residents manage to scrape together enough money to buy a pallet or two of cinder blocks and progress in their circumstances is made. Other than the surprising frequency and presence of flat screen tv's and the stray smart phone that these households seem to share, most people on the streets with no names have nothing more than the humble lives they live and the rudimentary existence one can infer from such a description. These lives, however simple, seem to have a history and permanence to them that I don't always sense in the dreamy transience that floats through the streets of Tulum, or any resort town for that matter.
At any given moment - day or night - I can sit in my plastic chair and chat with a neighbor and listen to a chorus of dogs, cats, birds, geckos, roosters, geese, turkeys, goats and the infrequent, small band of monkeys that stealth their way through the trees in the middle of the night. Sometimes, all of these voices sing at once and it's a regular hootenanny.
Of course there are many well-established streets with names, strangely enough of a Celestial reference. But then you make a turn here, another there and you are simply face to face with a small heard of pigs, the jungle; a taco cart in the middle of nowhere, a small mansion or fine restaurant for that matter.
I've spent many hours day and night on my bike wandering around and looking at things, and at how people live here - that's what I like to do when I'm not at the beach seemingly staring at my navel and the universe. The well-dressed, Nordic looking guy rolling around on a red bike is met like most things by the locals: with curiosity, grace and tolerance.
There are a LOT of kids here, I believe on account of there being no notions of Planned Parenthood and the pernicious presence of the Catholic church in Mexico. There are many teenage mothers out and about with kids. I understand this is simply the way it is in many Latin American countries. Sadly, there are also innumerable murals deploring both the violence in Mexico as well as voicing concerns about domestic violence in the community. I have also come upon a surprising number of AA meetings all over town. One can easily conclude there is a connection between alcohol problems and domestic violence, just like anywhere else in the world.
I have a lot of respect for those who can carry on with the hand they've been dealt. I'm sure I would strain against the repetitive fate of circumstances that were too simple, too humble...too futile.
"Trying Another Life"
There are people from all over the world who live in town, in the jungle, and in various real estate developments scattered about the periphery of Tulum proper. Some have been here many years and have started businesses both small and large while others seem to have the resources to come in for a few months at a time to stay in their vacation homes. The type of travelers who find their way here are those with a taste for the off-beat, the funky and a free-spirited vibe. Innumerable groups of wandering hippies find their way here and stay for as long as their resources last - many find small ways to earn enough to keep their dream alive until it's time to move on. Occasionally, couples come down from the resorts up the highway, perhaps also looking for something quirky and unique- something that would draw them out of their expensive space bubbles for a taste of something different.
The Italians have the most obvious and influential presence all along this Peninsula, including Tulum. The most successful businesses and nicest properties invariably are owned and run by Italians. They are as infectiously warm, gregarious and inclusive as anywhere else you find them; they chase and create that dream of La Dolce Vita wherever they go and the Mayan Riviera seems to be a place where they find, or at least try to create that sweet dream.
What's been really great is meeting all of these different kinds of people at local hotspots, at beach parties and randomly hither and yon where you'd least expect an encounter. But as Tulum attracts a certain type of sensibility, a certain kind of person seeking something, these encounters offer a reflection of yourself that can be valuable and insightful, however fleeting, however transient the connection is.
This is also a party town and there are many who come...to party, either for a couple of weeks; a couple of months, or a couple of years. As I quite drinking 10 years ago and don't consistently hang out in bars or the party crowd, it's been rather interesting staying up very late with these folks. They don't seem to remember what they say and do (which begs two questions: shouldn't we be paying attention to what we say and do and, is the conversation not remembered worth having?)
Kind and beautiful spirits are as numerous as energy vampires and lost souls clutching broken dreams. It takes all kinds to make a village...including those who work six days a week for very little.
(It's also easy to become a bit of a space cadet here as well.)
Other reflections have come from a noticeable contingent of people like me from all over: educated and middle-class with both the resources and the inclination to "try something different," however hesitantly or boldly, for a while. It's been interesting talking with these people and looking at myself in the process. I'm wondering when the shift from "trying a different life" to "having a different life" occurs.
It begins with having some faith and taking action.
Tulum is on the cusp of change and growth - it's almost palpable. There are a literal bounty of opportunities here waiting to be born. On the outskirts of town some huge streets have been made - they are literally as wide as any Manhattan street.
These beautiful roads lead to nowhere; they are waiting for dreams to be born.
I am on the cusp of the change and growth I've been seeking.
Perhaps I've been figuring out how to go down that Road.
A friend and I have come upon an idea that seems particularly suited to our sensibilities, what we know how to do what we are capable of doing. I have a very strong sense that it would succeed and ultimately be very successful in its own right. I also see a related but different opportunity waiting for me and my particularities to explore.
It all comes down to having faith in yourself and an idea then making a plan and taking action.
And I've been here seeing if I have what it takes to make a dream come true.
It looks like my next writing assignment is drafting a business plan.
This is a New Frontier.