Good Lord … there are not just a few, but a ton of amazing adventures to explore in Mexico vacation destinations!
I'll share just a few from my tickle-trunk that have positively affected my view of life in Mexico, still today, in limitless ways.
• Before the internet, there was People Magazine!
Many of you are reading this right now are thinking, "Before the internet"? That's right. Even though the passion of what I do remains very alive today, still feels like I just started a few months ago, even though my beginning was 20+ years ago.
So while in my favorite Mexico vacation destinations (rarely Puerto Vallarta), on my days off, the biggest thing for me was finding the most recent edition of People Magazine (and my life line to the world!) And a heavenly, world famous, signature brownie called a Beso from an American-owned bakery called Pie-in-the-Sky … YUM! No seriously … Mmmmmm! When next in Vallarta, get one!
I'd pack my day-off bag with Beso & People in hand and spend the day on the Vallarta Adventure, on the water!
• SCUBA Diving
Without a doubt, the most terrifying, invigorating, jaw-dropping, striking, incredibly beautiful, and inspiring activity I've had the pleasure of experiencing! Any Mexico vacation destination will do to jump into this activity.
I did not know a thing about SCUBA when I moved to Vallarta. And as much as I adored no other place than being on the ocean … being IN it terrified the crap out of me! There was "no way I'm going in there"!
Thankfully, I had Ramon as the best most patient instructor in the world. Ramon always had to go in first … I mean come on, I'm no fool … if Jaws is lurking nearby, Ramon should satisfy his appetite and forget about me, right?
I've kissed sea lions & dolphins, been face to face with whale sharks, giant mantas, barracudas, bull & nurse sharks, fed stingrays, and myriad of underwater creatures large and small all over Mexico and the Caribbean. Spectacular! Put it on your Bucket List!
• On the Sea
Being on the sea in any of Mexico's vacation destinations will do. But when I first moved to Vallarta there were no commercial charters going to the islands off the north tip of Banderas Bay, Islas Marietas. So any chance I got to hop on a private sailboat or catamaran going out to the islands, I was all in. It was a long day – 2 to 3 hours one way, plus island exploration or beach time, snorkeling and / or scuba, lunch, then back again.
That's why I was thrilled when a new company called Vallarta Adventures started up. I would do the occasional boat trip to the south end, Yelapa or Quimixto, but the islands take my breath away! Explored by the great Jaques Cousteau, the Marietas are protected and home to blue & yellow footed boobies (it's a bird!)
Capy (our nickname for the Captain) alwaysave me the best seat in the house for the ride over to the islands. An adventure in itself to see breaching orcas & humpbacks, giant mantas doing back flips, dolphins racing with the catamaran … awesome! So because I already new the islands, it became an easy sell as a Destination Rep. I was Vallarta Adventures TOP salesperson for the first couple of seasons.
• ATV Tour
What a blast! I've done ATV tours in just about every Mexico destination / island I've been. If I'm not SCUBA diving, I'm ATVing and vice versa.
By far, my favorite destination for this is Huatulco, Mexico! Starting off in a remote area, you're ATVing through the thick jungle dodging branches, sharp corners, up and down hills, using the vehicle what it was designed for … all terrain! On the other side of the jungle, we end up on a gorgeous pristine secluded beach where we can open it up. There's only one restaurant here and the catch-of-the-day lovingly prepared by the locals, served with the coldest Coronas, of course! We have time to enjoy the beach, some swimming, tanning or just chillin 'out … then back again through the jungle to where we started. Unrecognizable from the thick layer of dust & dirt, guests totally get their moneyes worth and Destination Reps get to unwind and break from regular duties. Exhilarating!
• Hanging with the locals
I've given Welcome Briefings to thousands of people and one thing I've encouraged was to not buy 'stuff' from kids selling on the street '. Here's why. With almost 15yrs in destination, I learned a thing or two about what goes on behind-the-scenes. The kids are wonderful! I love 'em! Most of them are sponges for learning, speak better English than your hotel operator, and love tourists.
Here's the truth … these beautiful kids are on the street because they can not afford to be in school. They're poor, yes. They're put on the street by a parent or so-called guardian to sell for them. The monies go into the guardians' pocket. The kids still may or may not eat that day or have someplace to sleep that night. They may be the victims of countless acts of violence & neglect. But because they're kids, they come out shining every day to start again. We do them a huge disservice when we enable this life for them by buying their flowers, bracelets or whatever the sell-of-the-day is.
Instead, I volunteer – at local orphanages, or took kids into my home to eat, play, do arts & crafts, color & draw or paint … provided a place and activities for them to be kids!
My passengers helped by donating clothes, shampoos, leftover pesos.
The hotels I served donated old blankets / towels / sheets, unclaimed lost & found items.
Today, foreigners like myself who've made Vallarta home, have positively affected the lives of countless children and street animals, given them a whole new lease on life, transformed living conditions, and made adoption possible for so many. Amazing !!
Is not this why we travel in the first place ?!
Personally, I LOVE to just rent a jeep, grab a map, and head for the hills! This becomes a real bonus when working in destination. You can certainly do this while working on ship, when time off allows, but scheduling can be tricky depending on the position you're in. Nonetheless, get out when you can.
Working in a Mexico vacation destination allows you to take a whole day off, get an early start, map out a target, and get back with plenty of time for your next shift.
From Vallarta, I've ventured up the north coast to Guayabitos or Aticama, inland to Guadalajara, or down the south coast to Manzanillo.
From Cancun, you can jeep over to the ruins of Chichen Itza, or to the Mayan Riviera to spend the day in Playa Del Carmen or take the 45min ferry over to the island of Cozumel.
If you're on ship, you can get around most of the islands in a day as well.
From St. Maarten, you're a hop-skip-jump to a day in Anguilla, St. Louis. Barths, Saba, Egypt St. Eustatius. From St. Thomas, you're a Tarzan call away from St. Louis. Croix.
While most will stay within the safe harbor of a guided tour or close to the port, few will definitely pick up the dirt and seek new adventures … even if just for a day!
Final thoughts for this chapter …
Between contracts and off season, there's a world out there waiting for you to explore! It beckons you to above and below the sea. Places like Machu Picchu, the Great Wall, Ireland's castles & Blarney Stone, Egypt's pyramids, or Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
There's no shortage of things to do. With some imagination and creativity, you can make anything possible. As you can see, there's a lot more than meets the eye. I know tons of people who have been traveling worldwide and supporting their world travels with their seasonal work on ship or in destination.
If that's not your ballgame, if you do not know what you're ready for … at least get the game started and see where the ball lands.