I ride leisurely on my bicycle on the designated path, dodging palm leaves, the sun warm on my exposed skin and the wind pushing my hair gently back. My legs pump up and down and I feel my thighs get stronger with each push of the pedals. This is what I need. This is what brings me back to center, to strength, to the joy of life. I need warm sunshine and constant movement. Sitting still for too long can easily become a channel for the gloominess to seep in. I need to feel the blood flowing through me, my lungs doing their job, and my mind focused and alert.
I turn right on the busy highway of Tulum, thankful for the clearly separated bike path. Cars whiz by and the ground is flat. It’s clear I’m in another place from the palms and street signs and roadside businesses. I veer off into a smaller road that leads to the Mayan ruins. Pedaling past the cluster of stores selling loads of “Mexican” trinkets to tourists – blankets and sombreros and painted skulls – I pull into the road to the ruins where only pedestrians and bikers are permitted. Tourists stream by me, mostly tall and white and middle aged. There is a variety of young people too – backpackers and girls in bikinis with tribal tattoos.
A large iguana strolls out into the road in front of me, and I hop off my bike to take a picture. I’m apparently the only one excited by it. When I reach the access path to Santa Fe Beach (I’m saving the ruins for another day; right now the beach is calling forcefully), I tie my bike to a tree and scramble up the sandy path. The ocean that greets me is striking. Turquoise blue, clear, and calm, dotted with small boats and swimmers. Many people are on the beach but the expansive white sand makes it appear uncrowded. I stick my backpack somewhere where I can keep an eye on it, stripped down to my bikini, and then run into the sea. The warm water embraces me. I dive in and out of the tiny waves and float on my back for a bit.
I think about my mom. I push away the intrusive memory that pops up, her voice on the phone when she called me after she’d found out. “Mary?” I’ve never heard anything so raw and pain-filled and lost. The memory always cuts into my core. Instead I think about her over the last few days, how excited she was when I gave her a beach cover-up that matched mine. “This is beautiful! It’s for me? Oh Mary!” I think of doing yoga side by side and her impressive physic. I think of how lucky I am that she’s open and adventurous. I let the sea carry me for a while.
When you’ve identified something that brings you happiness and deepens your connection to yourself and the world around you, you need to pursue that thing to the best of your abilities. Travel is that thing for me. Life can be short and uncertain, sad and overwhelming, and if you don’t manifest joy or seek connections, you’re at risk for drowning.
But right now, the salty sea is holding me up.