Most of my decisions are made from my gut, based on what feels right — on a whim of what isn’t much more than a rationalized emotion. Living life guided by gut feelings much of the time leads to overanalyzing the choices I do make when I can’t quite explain why from a logical standpoint. Combine chronic indecision with the uncertainty of a pandemic, and you get a girl unexpectedly living in Tulum, Mexico.
I arrived here on July 13th, 2020, three days after my 27th birthday and an unpredictable summer in Newport, Rhode Island. After 9 summers away from home, it felt nice to be living back in a small seaside town close to where I grew up. My plan had been to move to Montreal, Canada where I had a job waiting for me in May, however of course the universe didn’t allow my plans to come to fruition in the way I had imagined.
With a closed border and repeated monthly extensions, my plans slowly disintegrated before my eyes. One week left in my apartment in Newport and nothing tying me down, I was back to square one. No plan, no obligations. I had been so excited about Montreal because the city inspired me creatively in ways I hadn’t felt before. You can live life as an abundant artist with ease, and heck, even join the circus if you want while you’re at it. Nothing is off the table, and everyone’s the coolest kind of weird.
The border wasn’t budging, and Canada was no longer an option in the forseeable future. So I had to let go of that dream — at least for now, and see what else was in store for me.
After 5 months in quarantine, I felt creatively stifled and in search of community. Ideally a community as eccentric as me, and in a place where I could easily bring my creations to reality. Was this even possible during the current state of the world? With the divide, the fear, and the distance?
The Call To Tulum
When a friend I had met in February in Playa Del Carmen told me she was headed back this way with a spare room and an invitation to Tulum, I thought, why not? When I heard a few other friends were down that way as well, I took it as a sign that I should probably be in Mexico. I should also mention I had been taking spanish lessons all year and wanted to practice IRL.
No one was traveling at this point, but it felt natural for me to buy a flight in the face of uncertainty. I figured I’d rather be in quarantine with a taco in one hand than waiting out the future in my childhood bedroom. I landed in Tulum on July 13th to a near-empty town and hopeful anticipation of what was to come.
I booked my flight with a weeks notice and put the gears in motion. Aka ordering bulk quantities of supplements with 2-day shipping..
COVID-19 in Mexico
I was pleasantly surprised at the precautions in place here at the airport and throughout the entire journey. Masks, temperature taking, sanitizing, and distancing were in place on transportation and all-around Tulum. I actually felt safer here than in the states where masses of unmasked tourists plagued the streets to celebrate summer.
However, Tulum had been pretty much on lockdown for the previous months and was just starting to open up. The locals were facing extreme hardship, and I felt more guilty privilege than ever being able to “escape” my home country to enjoy the benefits of being in Mexico.
That feeling was magnified. After a week of living comfortably with my friend, our house got broken into. We made it a point to chat with the neighbors thinking that was a good idea — to make friends just in case some crazy sh*t hit the fan. But it backfired, as we were targeted when leaving one day for an all-day photoshoot. Big time.
And I mean, they must of really thought we were rich Americans with money coming out of our ears and stashes of cash under our mattress (they were overturned as if that’s where our fortunes lay) — because they went through quite the trouble to break in. They cut a steel lock with who knows what equipment and broke a glass door to get in the house.
Luckily, they left everything except the pesos which equated to about $50. My laptop was sitting there on the bed in plain view, alongside my passport and piles of clothes that had been thrown on the floor. It was a blessing and a reminder to be vigilant, yet compassionate.
The hardship, loneliness, and doubt
Things got weird right about then, and I began to doubt my decision to be in Tulum. I had moved into a new apartment with 2 hours notice (we weren’t staying put after that — nooo thank you) and had parted ways with my friend. I was back doing things solo.
I planted the intention to find community and like minded women, because I knew that the key to integration abroad by now was connection and familiarity. I started to browse the “Expats & Locals In Tulum” Facebook group and engage with other expats. It wasn’t long before I was chatting with a yoga-teacher travel-blogger named Ali about her blog post around buying a scooter as a foreigner here in Mexico. We made plans to meet up on Wednesday.
What we didn’t realize is that we both shared the same intention to cultivate community and connection in Tulum, and that this was the start to something much bigger than just girls meeting for coffee. Ali (@insideout.traveler) invited a few new girlfriends, and posted a link in the Expats of Tulum facebook group extending the invite to other ladies to join if wanted.
And so it began.
The birth of Girl Gang Tulum
The first meetup was about 10 of us sitting alongside the Caribbean sea chatting about our experiences here during the pandemic and life in general. What I didn’t know or expect was that those 10 girls would become some of my best friends here in Tulum, and that the group would continue to at least double in size every week.
What had started as a shared desire to connect in isolating times, turned into a dynamic weekly meetup of badass women from all over the world. Ali was a natural-born leader, sweet and driven and exactly the person for the job that she just so fell into by accident.
Something special had been created, and out of it people had a platform to network and bring their ideas to life. It was almost instant manifestation, from the seeds of an idea to bringing it to life. Suddenly there were weekly rooftop yoga events, kundalini mediations, business collaborations, and more.
And suddenly, I couldn’t walk around town without running into another familiar soul. And just like that, a large like-minded community of radiant woman had fallen into my lap. They say Tulum either sucks you in or spits you out. For me, it sucked me in and I realized I was exactly in the place I needed to be to expand into the highest aligned version of myself.
The decision to move to Tulum
My highest values are community, flexibility, personal growth, and creativity, and it is important for me to live in alignment with them.
I have a platform for my creative ideas here to blossom, and natural collaborators all around me. I have easily accessible yoga and meditation classes, the jungle and sea, a vibrant culture and delicious nourishing food. I have the means to become more fluent in Spanish, and beautiful souls to practice with.
So with that, I decided to move here for the foreseeable future. I signed a 6 month lease this week and that was that. For a locationally commitment-phobe, it was a big exciting necessary next step, and I am excited to grow and expand into the best version of myself here on the Yucatan peninsula.
I feel relaxed, aligned, and distanced from the idiots running the USA. I will return to vote, connect with loved ones, and then gracefully exit back here for the colder months in the nest that I created in Tulum.
Coming to Tulum? Check out my e-book The Mindful Nomad’s Curated Guide To Tulum