Cozumel, Mexico


Groundhog Day


“…he lives the same day again and again while retaining the memory of each iteration that he has lived before…”


He feels like every other day is just like the previous one. Life loses its colors. His energy level go low. Nothing to do, nowhere to go. He falls asleep. He forgets what’s important, he gets snappy at the people around. His life gets automatic, just like machine – he responds to the world. He starts moving in the rhythm of the crowd. He gets hypnotized and falls asleep… deeper and deeper.

NO, Stop! Wake up! Shake up!
You need to break free, at any cost. Move. It’s time to change the patterns. Hypnosis holds you so strong that you barely can move or think. You need someone to wake you up, grab you over the shoulders and shake up!
BOY WAKE UP!

Search for the eyes that still have that spark of life. Who’s not asleep here? ANYONE?! Silence… No-one. People around are deep asleep. They fell asleep a long time ago and it’s almost impossible to bring them back. Only a few ever felt what it’s like to be truly awake. You are in a desert.

The tension builds up. You feel uncomfortable. You feel helpless. You need to get out. NOW! There is no one to help you, and you need a plan. You will find a way to escape from this black’n’white dream. You will, you always do.

Toronto -> Cozumel, Mexico. Departure in 36 hours.
Hesitation…
Click -> Booked

Hey, wait. Who pressed the button? What have just happened? Why? To escape? Escape from what? Escape from life? 
Not to escape, rather search. Search for peace, search for growth…
Less speaking, time to pack.


Do you travel solo?


  • “Do you travel alone?” – the Uber driver has asked.
  • “Yes, I always do”
  • “I can’t travel by myself.. I get bored. Do you ever get bored?” – He continued.
  • “No, I truly enjoy traveling solo. Only by being alone, you get the pure experience of travel.

Uber driver got silent for a moment. Then he said:

  • “You are the most interesting customer I’ve ever met during the four years of driving people.”
  • “Why do you think so?” – I was surprised to hear.
  • “I don’t know, I just feel it. I think one of my strengths is to “read” people, to see them for what they are…” – he replied.

Checking my bike in was a breethe. A gentleman at the check in didn’t charge me extra $50 bike fee, so all I had to pay for my bike  was $30 USD. He also even didn’t put the giant bike box on scales. He asked what kind of sport I am into and wished good luck. Gratitude – is a warm feeling inside.


4 Hours into the Summer


Only 4 hours of flight, but the difference in weather is dramatic. Went through the customs with no problems. It was interesting to learn that Mexican immigration officer didn’t even ask for the VISA I filled out online, and took my Canadian documents to let me in. He said that having US or Canadian VISA is enough and you don’t need to do anything else.

Upon exiting the tiny Cozumel International Airport you have two options for transportation.

  1. Rent a car. The rates are ridiculously high – USD $55 per day for economy class vehicle.
  2. Take a shuttle. There are two shuttle companies that offer cab services. COZY shuttle & Flex shuttle. You need to buy a ticket at the stand inside the terminal. No fixed rates and depending on where you go the price will fluctuate. I pointed at the map on my phone – 305 pesos ($21)… That did not sound right, considering that the place I was staying at was within walking distance from the airport. I turned around and went to their competitor – Flex Shuttle. I told them what I’ve been quoted for and asked if they can do better than that? Sure they did – 100 pesos less. It was challenging trying to explain my cab driver where to go. He asked for the host’s phone number, then he called the host to get directions from his cell phone. During our 1 5 minutes drive he mentioned that he works part-time for the scooter rental company and if I want to rent a bike, he will get me a good price – $20 /day… for a scooter… Okay.
    Got to my Airbnb safe and sound.

Initial Impressions


I was staying at Airbnb, hosted by a gentleman named Ellias. He was extremely welcoming and went above and beyond to accommodate me. Also while planning the trip I was looking for pet friendly places. No matter where you go, usually there are not too many pet-friendly places. Even if you find a good one, prepare to pay… I don’t like paying more than I should. Here is a hack: contact the host directly. Don’t worry if description of the place says no pets. Just let the host know you will be traveling with your fluff and you’re wondering if they can make an exception for you. 4/4 places I contacted agreed to take Blake on board with no extra charge

On my first day I went on exploratory bike ride around the coast. East side of the coast has absolutely gorgeous beaches. The biggest hotels and resorts are outside of town about 20 km away. If you don’t like cycling , rental car or scooter are your only opportunities to get to downtown. Along the road I saw a lot of Jeeps and VW Bugs with convertible tops for rent. If you choose to rent a car over the bike, prepare to get lighter for several hundreds of US dollars. It’s cheaper to be fit and healthy. 


First impressions:

  • A lot of scooters. Honda Dio seems to be the most popular make among wide variety of scooters.
  • Poverty. Comparing to the world I came from, Cozumel lives really poor. Poverty is in everything: cars, houses, clothes, grocery stores etc. 
  • Crazy driving. There are no rules – only suggestions. The only rule is no matter what, you should never ride a scooter without a helmet. Some crazy administrative fees are associated with it. 
  • Currency exchange. Upon entering any grocery store you will see the sign that displays current currency exchange rate. Don’t get confused as I did. It doesn’t mean you can exchange your dollars here, but instead you can pay for your groceries with dollars which will be automatically converted to pesos (using the number you saw on the sign). Also, at the checkout you will see two prices on the screen: one in USD $, another in MXN Pesos. This tells me how much Cozumel is dependent on tourism. 
  • Grocery shopping. There are few decent size grocery stores, which are located in downtown and million convenience stores around every corner. I was hoping to see some local “fresh catch” or exotic fruits, however the produce variety is not much better than the one we have in the US or Canada. In fact it’s lesser. Prices are cheaper, but not a lot. In regards to costs of products I can compare shopping in large Mexican grocery store with shopping at economy class markets in Canada. What surprised me was a very poor selection of canned beans and legumes. It confused me as I thought Spanish people are all about beans and rice. Maybe it was only my misconception or it’s just the way it’s here, in Cozumel. 
  • Obesity. A lot of people are overweight. Of course, I understand that the level of life here is way lower than up north, and people simply can’t afford to go the extra mile to pay and cook healthy meals. When you barely make ends meet and you work really hard to put the food on a table, healthy eating is the last thing to worry about. Unfortunately this is a reality that I also see in my home country and the rest of the world. Traditions and cultural preferences also add to the problem. 
  • Stray dogs. A lot of homeless dogs are wandering around. Not aggressive, but who knows…
  • Alcoholism. Grocery stores are filled with tequila and beer. Empty bottles cover the sides of the roads. I see people drink on the streets, at the beaches, at the restaurants… Beer floats like a water. This is especially dangerous when it comes to driving… on a scooters. 
  • No billboard signs. Not a single one. 

Also this time a year seem to be not the busiest time of the year. I don’t see too many tourists in downtown. Rental car companies have their parking lots filled with empty cars. Well… better for me and others who came to visit. 


Sea Walls, Beard & Haircut

Morning swim was challenging. Not sure how many kilometers I swam. felt like 2-3 km along the shore. Water temperature can not get any better and it’s really warm even early in the morning. I spent quite a bit of time working on some things and even got a chance to take a one hour nap by the pool. Later in the evening I took the scooter and headed out to the beach. Right by the Turquoise Beach Bar there is a little wooden pier where people go snorkeling.

That’s where I met a group of people from Ottawa. Three men and Kim. Older folks seemed to be really interested in my persona and I willingly accepted all the attention. One of them works remotely, as a zoo inspector. He’s making sure all the animals are being treated fairly and facilities meet all the criteria. He was pretty happy to be able to work remotely from Mexico. Indeed it’s something to strive for. Kim told me about a great place to scuba dive, called  Scuba Mau Cozumel. $75 an hour, and she reassured me that it’s well worth the money. She also told me about this thing called Cozumel Seal Walls. This is a program that brings the message of ocean conservation into streets around the world. Graffiti on 20 walls around town – is what this is. There is a map, where each of them is located so you can go on a walking tour around town, collecting pictures of them. Link to the Google map. The Cozumel Sea Walls are amazing!

I chatted with these folks for about 40 minutes and they all seemed to be really open and nice people. They said they come to the pier every day at 5:30 pm to see the sunset and I should come too. I might.

Haircut at the local barber shop cost me USD $2. That’s versus $25 + tip in Canada. Three young guys work at the salon. Not older than 20 years old, I would even say 17-18… I used google translator to explain what I needed and landed in a seat. Young gentleman took great care of me and I really liked my new haircut. This was the best $2 haircut I ever gotten. Gracias!

I haven’t met too many locals who speak English. In fact, almost no-one does. Only a few young folks did. Hearing me speak English some younger folks got pretty excited. I guess it’s a good practise for them. 

Overall most of the people I met so far, were nice and friendly. I haven’t felt offended or defencive. I guess, you find what you’re searching for…


Anxiety


The day had started with a bike ride around the island. 60+ km I enjoyed the beautiful morning sunrise. First 20 km I rode with Roberto. He works as a captain on the car ferry which takes cargo to and from the mainland – Cancun. One day he dreams to visit Canada and US, however he needs to save up some money first. He cycles just to stay in shape and thinks that Ironman racing is only for crazy people. He did not consider himself crazy, therefore he was just a spectator on those races.

You know, there is a group riding every Tuesdays and Thursdays.
They gather at the stadium around 6:30 am and ride around the island. Those guys are pretty strong and maintain the speed of ~40 km/h for the entire duration“, he told me.

Came back home and it stoned me. The rest of the day I suffered from pretty bad episodes of anxiety and stress. Every time like a first time. It was also raining pretty bad and I got completely wet that day. At first on the bike riding home, then on the scooter in the evening. Mentally it was a hard, really hard day. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t enjoy my life… In Mexico, under the sun, but still hanging out with my old stupid friends. Glad it’s over…


Walking & Watching 


Ocean swimming. Dark blue skies, really windy – high waves. Should I train at the pool today instead? No, it’s a great chance to practice swimming in less desirable conditions. While changing into my swimwear, a guy came down to the pier and closed the gates. Of course it didn’t stop me, so I went and opened the gate back again. Funny enough, while untying the gate chains, I got stabbed by a bee in my left hand. It hurt like b*tch for a while.

“It must’ve been a sign that I shouldn’t swim in these weather conditions” – I thought to myself.
“Bullshit, get to work” – Ego replied.

Right from the beginning I felt like crap, floating on top of the water. 15 minutes into the swim I got stabbed again, this time right into my face. It hurt pretty bad and I got worried that my face can get swollen. I didn’t see what hit me, however it was not a jellyfish and I did not see any other living organisms around that could get mad at me.

It was another sign! Get out of the water until you get yourself in trouble.” – I did.

Because I wasn’t able to complete the ocean swimming training, I felt that I needed to compensate for that. I went to the local pool, where I put in an extra 1 km. I also me a guy named Jovanni. He was a swimming coach, training a group of young kids. After a brief chat with him we set a meeting for the next day at 2 pm. I said that I would like him to assess my swimming technique and give me some tips to work on. We didn’t discuss the price, but he agreed.

I went for a walk in the evening. Going down the streets I noticed one interesting thing. Just for a brief second I noticed a huge flat screen TV shining through the rusted window grill. As I kept on walking through this post apocalyptic view streets, over and over I continued to discover new shades of poverty.
At one point I realized: the worse living conditions – the bigger TV screens are. The ugliest houses have the most expensive TVs. The more disappointed people with their lives – the louder the music plays in their houses. The less people have within themselves – the more makeup on their faces. The less people have in their heads the shinier their cars or scooters and the brighter color clothes they wear. It sounds like a well known fact, but at that moment I realized it as clear as never before.
What followed is realization that I was just like that, with gadgets, clothes, cars… you name it. In fact, I still am, just choosing different methods. The principle is exactly the same, the mechanics are the same. Ego, I suppose is in control of all this madness. People just try to numb their inner disappointment, mental pain with possessions, alcohol, stimulants, sex. They fool themselves that the things are not as bad as they seem. It could be worse they say. They are so deep asleep. I am asleep too. We all live in our imaginary little worlds that our minds created for ourselves. Those worlds have little to do with the actual reality and it made me sad. Really sad to realize that.

What do you try to compensate for?
What type of anesthesia would you prefer?
How long can you survive without it?
How the world would look like for what it really is?


Don’t Drink Mexican Water.
Hot Tub Geographical Idiot.


For the past few days I’ve been feeling discomfort in my stomach. It was getting worse and worse as the days went by. Not sure if I just ate something my body couldn’t process, climate change or some sort of bacteria. I needed to help my body to cleanse itself. I went from one pharmacy to another, searching for enemas or something like that. Nothing… Not kidding, I went to about 5-6 pharmacies on the island and none of them had anything that could help me. Finally the body said f*ck you Sasha and blew out the plug. The entire night I spent sitting on the white rock. I might’ve lost half of my body’s weight that night.

Despite or I would say thanks to my night’s adventure I woke up feeling light in my stomach. I felt relieved. It was a really windy morning and I had to fight it for about 20 km along the east side of the island. Considering the lack of sleep and gastrointestinal issues, I felt unusually strong on the bike. I think that because of carb rich breakfast (oatmeal, snack bar, pineapple) and coffee. Also I fueled my ride with two protein bars, which also helped. Haven’t met anyone new on the road and almost felt like at home, navigating throughout the island.

After lunch I went to meet with Jovani – a swimming coach I met yesterday. Got to the local pool on time – at 2 pm, however the guy never showed up. No blaming, life happens. I swam for 1 km and went back to my place. The pool is clean and warm. It is also free, however if you ever accidentally swallow a drop of water from that pool, boy you will regret you were born. Not sure what chemicals they use, but it tastes and smells absolutely disgusting. What if this water caused me severe diarrhea last night?

Spent the evening walking and riding along the beach. Chilled for an hour at the hot tub in Cozumel Hotel & Resort. In hot tub I joined a group of American people who came from Chicago. A family of four seemed as a nice people, taking about stupid things, making smart faces and looking cool. 

  • “ Where you’re from?”, they asked
  • “ I’m from Toronto, Canada”, I replied
  • “ Is it in Montreal?”, a young guy about my age, has asked
  • “ No-no, I’m from Toronto”, I repeated
  • “ Yeah, I heard. But is it in Montreal?”, He asked me again and I realized that he was not kidding. His geographical idiotism put me into a mini-shock.
  • “ You seem French, this is why I’m asking if you’re from Montreal?”, he added. I had literally nothing to reply, so I just smiled.
  • Then his mother asked: “Is it a Russian accent?”
  • “ Yes, it is!”, I replied.
  • “ I knew it!”, the guy said and exploded my mind. Wow, I’m sorry, but what an idiot.

Came back “home” and met my host Elliot with his wife doing the laundry. We had a nice 30 minute chat about different things and planned an activity together. I learned that they go to church every Sunday and I asked if I could keep them company. Elliot said they go to Jehovah’s Witness church and took a pause. Great! I said. I have never been to Jehovah’s Witness church and would love to learn more about their religion, meet new people and see the church. 3 pm on Sunday. I also offered to take them both out for a dinner somewhere at the local restaurant. They gladly accepted the offer and Elliot said he knows a good place – their favorite bar by the beach. “From church – to the bar”, I smiled.


Mainland: Playa del Carmen


Barely lifted my head off the pillow and went straight to the local pool. It’s really windy and I don’t feel like fighting the ocean waves for an hour. I was able to cover exactly 3 km during one hour of continuous swimming. It was hard, but as usual – hard effort pays off with a burst of endorphins, when you hit the stop button on your watch. Left the pool satisfied and relieved.

Quick breakfast and headed to Cozumel Ferry Dock. $20 USD costs the ferry to the mainland. The ride takes about 45 minutes on a fancy, air conditioned two story ship. Purchased the tickets online, which saved me time and $2. Felt sick. Keep in mind that if you decide to chill on the back of the ship, you will have to sacrifice a beautiful view for poisoning yourself with exhaust fumes that come from the diesel engine. 

Playa del Carmen is a popular tourist destination with a beautiful sand beaches and countless shops. I really enjoyed those two hours at the beach. I read the book and watched the people. There was an interesting guy who was sitting nearby and caught my attention. He was a really skinny guy, with long hair that was going down all the way to his hips and a long beard. He was meditating. Everyone who passed him looked at him as he was an alien, sarcastically smiled and kept on walking. He was around my age, which made him so interesting to me. I wanted to come up to him and have a chat, however he looked so chill and in piece that I didn’t want to disturb him. He opened his eyes and pulled out a huge papaya from his backpack. With his fingers, he cracked the fruit in half and began eating it with a spoon he also kept in his backpack. Papaya – is what I want!

I left the beach and walked around for a bit. Hundreds, hundreds of cafes, shops and malls stretch out along the beach. A lot of action, a lot of tourists. A really loud place, where from every corner someone yells at you to buy his merchandise. Without any concerns, people drink right on the streets. Surprisingly, despite the crowd and noise I haven’t felt uncomfortable. The rain has started and I went my way back to the pier, to go back on the island. You will need an entire day or two to cover just the beach area, without stopping at the shops or cafes. I will come back. 

While walking through the city it began raining really bad, so I started to look for a place to hide. I jumped into the closest restaurant, it appeared to be the winery. What a great wine tasting experience I’ve had! Lois is the owner of the wine store, told me more about his wines than I ever known up to this point. “Off the Vine” is the name of the place, which is located on the Main Street of the Playa de Carmen. About 90 minutes I’ve been drinking different wines and listening to Louis talk. He had the answer on every single question I’ve asked. I left the place with expensive bottle of Shiraz and a load of knowledge.

There is a local gym called an EGO gym. 5 visits cost 400 pesos (~CAD $30). They’ve got some good equipment there – as good as it can get in Mexico. For some reason I’ve attracted a lot of attention, however not the kind I would like to. I caught a few weird looks on me, coming from the guys. Whatever! I love the weigh training for it’s mind cleansing effect on me. Had a good pump and a great workout. Tired. 

So many police cars around the town this evening. Several marine trucks fully loaded with soldiers on the back. Guns and strobe lights. I guess there are a lot of crime issues, comes the weekend. If they freely drink during daylight hours on weekdays, I can only imagine what’s happening on the weekends. I better be careful on my bike or scooter. Don’t want to be hit by a drunk driver. 

Met a mother and her young daughter at the hot tub this evening. The lady was bitching about the cold ocean and chilly weather. I have no idea what she was speaking about because both the ocean and weather could not get any better for me. They’re from Houston, Texas. Maybe that’s why. 

What a great day…


Catherine from London.
Alternative Lifestyle.


Cathy – an older lady, in her 50s. Damn, is she a fitness model? Nothing sexual, but I have never met anyone so good looking and fit at her age. Right after my morning run along the shore, I stripped down and jumped into the ocean to cool off. This is where I met her. She was swimming there with her mask and (!attention) – headphones. We chatted for a while. 

She is also from Canada. London, Ontario is a city about three hours of driving west from Toronto. She lives what I call the 6/6 life. Six months out of the year in Canada, other six in Mexico. While in MX, she rents out her London house and has the tenants pay the rent. In Cozumel she works at the dive shop called Tres Pelicanos. She cycles, swims, dives and does yoga on a daily basis. No wonder she’s so fit! I learned later that she is not the only foreigner who keeps the 6/6 lifestyle…

In hot tub, two days ago, I witnessed a conversation between two families. They talked about an older couple whom they both met at different times. The mutual friends they met spend the winter on the Mexican island every year. My ears opened up…
Three day earlier, I also met a Canadian guy who was spending the winter under the sun here. He was working full time as a zoo certification officer. I was really interested to learn how those people manage work and life with such an international lifestyle. What sacrifices did they have to make to live such life? Talking to these folks made me think…


How much do you need to be happy? Really, how much money will make you happy? Now imagine you have all this money, then what? Will you buy everything? Ok, you will buy a better car, maybe a jet, a yacht, a mention… whatever. Now what? I know for a fact that material things won’t make me happy. For so long I’ve been made to believe that I NEED that car, I NEED that latest gadget, I NEED to wear specific brand of clothing to be happy, I NEED to be accepted and validated by other people, I NEED to meet their expectations to be loved, I NEED to look this and that…
HAHA! Smile, I smile right now. With a genuine smile on my face I say Fuck it! Fuck it, and fuck anyone who judge people by the car they drive, brand of clothing they wear, pictures on social media they post etc, etc,… I have wasted so much energy and time worrying what others thought of me, how many friends I’ve had or had not, who liked or didn’t like me. Gosh, how stupid I was. How deep asleep I was. Not even funny.

A lot of Mexican people want to live anywhere in the world, besides Mexico. In particular, they dream about moving to USA, Canada or Europe. The zombie-boxes they have wasted their money on, made them believe that there is a better world where everyone is happy, fit and healthy. F*uck that! People! turn off that shit-boxes and wake up! Look around. Why do you think so many Canadians and Americans make Mexico or other “third world” countries their second homes? Would anyone want to leave the paradise and move into the dirt? Of course not, however I hear more and more about people who escape their American lives and move to Cuba, Mexico, Thailand, you name it. In fact, those people are often the ones to be considered “successful” in modern world – in terms of money. They’ve had strong careers, profitable businesses, big comfortable houses and fancy cars. Now they live in Mexico, in a middle of nowhere, in one bedroom apartment homes, ride their bikes or scooters and work at the local shops. They didn’t bring their “success” with them, but left it behind as a heavy luggage to carry. Some spent decades, working their asses off just to become free. Society made their EGOs believe that they NEEDed material attributes of “successful” life to become happy. The EGO then pushed those folks to set goals, and achieve, achieve, achieve, achieve… Like hamsters in a wheel they spin their tiny legs faster and faster. They did not even have the time to slow down for a second, look around and freaking ask themselves where are they running? 90% of the goals you set for yourself at the end of year – are not your goals! How many times have I told to myself:
“I don’t know, I am just tired… I am depressed. Why do I live? Why do I do what I do?”
Don’t worry buddy, we’ve got your back. Want some coffee to energize or maybe another pint of beer? Wait look, a stranger on Instagram just posted a picture of his/hers recent trip to Bahamas. Look, here is another one – bought a car you can never afford. They are better than you, they are smarter, they are fitter. You need to work harder – get up and go back into the wheel! Ego. This is what the Ego is.

What made those people whom I met to wake up? At what point did they realize that it’s all fake? I want to take a pic at the world through their lenses and learn how they broke free from the ugly “successful” world. I want to hear what their favorite part about such lifestyle and will they ever go back to living 5-8 life?


Cycling Buddies: Father & Son.
Cathy from Montreal.
Jehovah’s Witnesses.


As always I began the day with a workout – bike ride around the island. About 10 km into the ride I got passed by a car with a young cyclist drafting on the back of it. I speed up and jumped on the tail of these folks. 10 kilometers further they stopped and I got a chance to introduce myself. Father – the driver was training his son for the triathlon, specifically – cycling. Also on the passenger seat there was a lady an a cute little dog – their mom and wife. We continued riding together and had a loooong conversation with the man. He is in Mexican military, serving off the mainland. He came to the island to enjoy his Christmas vacation and trains his 14 years old son. The son is eager to train and already achieved quite a lot as a swimmer. Where, when, with whom to ride? I got a lot of useful information from this man and enjoyed his company. I also learned about the best places to snorkel and the cheapest diving store to buy the gear. He also introduced me to his cycling buddies that we caught down the road. We exchanged phone numbers and he promised to put me in touch with a local cycling team. Arrivederci amigo! It was nice to meet you.

Later today, at the beach bar I met Catherine. Woman in her 40s, came down all the way from Montreal, Canada. It’s unbelievable how many Canadians I’ve met here so far. She decided to drop her job in Montreal and move to Mexico. In exchange to security and well paid job back at home, she was hunting for a employment here on the island. She’ve had several interviews, however none of them ended up being successful for her. She discovered that despite her education and work experience, her main asset was the fluent French. A lot of people can talk English, even more Spanish, however only so few speak fluent French. This skill is valuable to have, particularly in Mexico. A lot of tourists come from Canada, a lot of them speak French. Anyways, the job hunt was not really successful for her and it made me reevaluate my perspective on availability and demand of jobs on the island. She seemed to be a very opened and talkative person, maybe a bit too hyper for me. She mentioned that she’ve spent about a month on the island and  wants to try scuba diving. Well geat, I want to Scuba too. We went to the nearby diving center and signed up for the scuba diving the next morning. Approximately 40 minutes of scuba diving will cost us $106 USD including the introduction class at the local pool.

As I learned few days ago, my new Mexican friend – Ellias was a member of Jehovah’s Witness church. I’ve never been to one and asked if I could come to the church with him. Ge seemed to be surprised to hear the interest from me. It started raining so bad, right before I had to leave for the church. No car, no umbrella, no nothing. Two choices: stay dry at home or get wet and walk under the rain to the church. If I set my mind to do something, I will surely do it. Took off my sneakers and started walking barefoot under the rain. It was a 30 minutes walk. Several times I got passed by folks on scooters, wearing some type of plastic covers against the rain. I stepped into convenience store no my way and asked if they have an umbrella. “No, Senor”. I pointed outside on a guy wearing that plastic rain cover. A lady behind the counter said no problems – 10 pesos. My money went towards purchasing a black trash bag. She said hold it here and there, pulled out the sizers and cut the holes for hands and head. 

30 minutes later I made it to the church. Church service was in full blast so I tried to sneak into auditorium as quiet as possible. People almost broke their necks when they saw white Gringo, wearing black trash bag opened walked in. I felt my face set on fire and I almost burned down from shame. I set quietly and watched. I had no idea what they were talking about, so I just repeated the movements after them. They clap – I clap. They stand up – I stand up. I felt guilty, so tried to blend in, to get accepted… Old habits.
Unlike me, everyone in the church were really-really nicely dressed. Looked nice, smelled nice. Different than in Orthodox churches – women did not have their heads covered. After the service has ended, I met a lot of new people. There were a lot of hand shaking, touching and smiling. People seem to be genuinely interested in my persona. With all my questions about their religion, they simply forwarded me to Jehovah’s Witnesses website and said I’ll find there all the answers. I have not felt to be pushed on with their religion of beliefs. Shortly, I felt comfortable, but it was time to leave.

Hot tub is my socialization spot. You never know whom you will meet this time. For the past several days I’ve been coming here to meet people, and there always been someone in it. Every time – different people, from different places. Tonight was not an exception and I had a different experience. Very drunk obese people occupied the tub. It was interesting to watch them interact with one another, listen to their talks. Their laughs sounded like a cry. It seemed like they were competing with one another at showing who can seem the “happiest”. Happy people don’t get drunk, happy people don’t need to prove others they are happy – it was ugly to watch. They were not welcomed and pretended I was not there. I felt slightly uncomfortable. Interestingly, I spotted the feeling of guilt arise in me. I was not like them, I was not accepted, there must be something wrong with me – I am guilty. Old demons, old habits. Normally I would initiate the conversation, however I did not feel like doing so this time. We would simply not understand each other. I just sat and watched… We walk on the same planet, however live in totally different worlds. Not good or bad, just different. 


Open Water Swim.
Punta Morena with Cathy.
Double Date.


Clear sky in the morning made me excited. It meant that the go scuba diving today, however it did not happen. I got a text from Cathy saying that despite the clear sky, Scuba diving is canceled. Because of the strong winds coming from North the port got shut down. No Scuba today… Stand by.

My new friend suggested we go on the other side of the island – explore Punta Morena beach. She invited me to her place for a tour. What a beautiful apartment! Top floor, patio, grill, windows all around, a kitchen, a big TV, internet… all you need.

She jumped on the back of my steel goat and I opened up the throttle. It took us about 40 minutes to cover 35 km on a scooter. I got complimented for my driving skills. It was nice to hear that I am a good driver and she felt safe with me.

$25 USD to rent and umbrella and two chairs for a day. I quickly changed into my swimming clothes, or to be exact – the absence of them. Inflated my “toxic orange” swim buoy and headed towards the ocean.

“If I don’t get back, the scooter is yours. Keys are in backpack.” – I told Cathy and dove in.

Despite strong winds, waves were not as high as they were on the south side of the island – where we came from. I was not feeling particularly good, however I remained myself to be grateful for relatively still water. The water was really, really clear and every time I swam in the ocean was as I went to aquarium. Water clarity allows to see 20-30 meters deep. All kinds of fish, corals, white sand and beautiful rocks.
Somewhere in the middle of the swim, 1-2 km away, I saw something unusual on the sandy bottom. A stingray was laying still, covered with sand so you can barely see him. I stopped and continued watching him. With a side view I spotted some movement on the left of the fish. $20 US dollar bill folded in half was floating on the bottom on the ocean, in the middle of nowhere. I wondered if I could get it. I unstrapped myself from the buoy and went head down 4-5 meters. I felt really strong, uncomfortable pressure on my nose and ear drums. The bill was about 6-7 meters down the bottom and I was so close to getting it, but the pressure caused so much pain in the ear drums that I worried I could really hurt myself. I attempted three-four times to dive deeper and deeper. I also tried to dive with my lungs full and empty – same deal, too much pressure. I was so close and was not going to give up so easily. I started thinking and quickly came up with a solution. I dove down with my feet first and grabbed the bill with my toes. Still hurt my ear drums, however I GOT IT! I was so freaking proud of myself that the rest 1000 meters swim was just a breathe. I realize how ridiculous it was to risk my health or even life over a stupid piece of paper, but I promise it wasn’t about the money itself. It was more of can I get it or not? Yes, I can! I always do!

I exited the water and began walking back towards the starting point. The beach I exited at was crowded and Indian lady rapidly approached me. “Are you a lifeguard?” – she asked. I smiled and said I am not, however did not hesitate to ask if she needed help. She said not, however she would appreciate lifeguard assistance at the beach, just in case. Well, I used to work as a lifeguard in my college years. Funny. 

Cathy met met at the beach with a bottle of water, She seemed anxious and stressed. As I swam approximately 1 km away from the shore, she lost me out of sight and couldn’t see me any longer. Of course, she got worried and went for help. Military people were walking along the beach, so she asked for help. They spotted me with their binoculars and reassured he I was still alive. I laughed. Now all the military personnel and the beach restaurant staff knew me. 

Me and Cathy snorkeled together for a bit and went back to the town. On the way back I stopped at Tequila Tour shop. I knew my buddy was working there, so I went to say hi. He was glad to see me and gave us a free tour around tequila plant. This is what he was doing for the living – Tequila Tour Guide. I learned about the history and process of tequila production. At the end of the tour, guests are offered tequila tasting session. I rejected the offer right away, as I don’t drink, however I encouraged Cathy to give it a shot, literally. She said tequila was really good.

Later same evening we went to a dinner with my tequila-buddy and his wife. We called it a “double-date”. I told him I like seafood, so he bought us the place seafood restaurant called El Coctelito. I didn’t like the place, however it didn’t matter as I went there to talk, not to eat. He and his wife are 32 year old, young and pretty.

“So, what’s the plan?” – I asked them.
“The pan?” –
Ellias.
“Yes, the plan. What’s you plan for the life? What do strive for? What do you dream about?” –
I don’t like shallow conversations. I wanted to get to know them better.

They both want to travel abroad. She wants to go to India, he wants to see the Alps. Also, he would like to open several fish pedicure spa locations on the island.

“We want to live a quiet, simple life. We want to serve our church. We want to be good people, nice to others and others be good to us.”

It was beautiful. However it was hard for me to accept such answer… Was it my Ego again?… I almost said something like “Is this all…?” Thank God I didn’t, I killed this impulse and stopped right there. This is their lives, this is what makes them happy and neither me or anyone else has the right to judge their choice. In fact, they seemed to be truly happy together and it was beautiful to watch. 

I finished my cheap red wine and fish with rice. I enjoyed the company and liked the people. I wanted to show my appreciation and offered to cover the dinner. Everything has its price and I payed for the good times spent. I will probably never meet these people again, however I am sure we will keep good memories of one another.


Christmas Eve: Santa is in Town


I woke up this morning feeling absolutely horrible. Fever, ear infection, sore throat and beautiful racoon circles under the eyes. To make me feel better – tree hours bike ride on the schedule for today. I never skip workouts.

Mental masturbation lasted the entire morning. On the bike ride and even after I got back home, I couldn’t decide. Few days ago I found this cool place called Tulum and made a plan to go explore it. The place is located about 75 km from the ferry dock, so you needed some tipe of transportation to get there. I booked a rental car on the mainland and set my plans to get there after my training this morning. I would arrive to the mainland by ferry ($20), pick up the rental ($30 /day) and head towards Tulum. I would spend a day and night there and come back the next day. Drop off the car and return to the island for the Christmas Day/Evening celebration. I was not feeling well, but that wasn’t the problem. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go or not. Why? Where are you running? Why won’t you just slow down and take a breath? You can’t see everything in one day or week. Two different voices talked to me. One said  – go, another said – don’t, you need a rest. It was interesting to observe two completely different perspectives within one mind. “Go explore. See new places. Meet new people. You are here only for so long. Don’t sit on your butt, pick up and go!”. The other side of Sasha said: “You’ve got a fever, sore throat, ear infection. You are weak and exhausted. Even if you go, you will not enjoy the trip. You need to rest. You need to train. Where are you always running? What are you running from? You will just waste the money. You already spent much more on this trip than originally planned”. Each side had legitimate points, which drove me crazy. I realized I was wasting so much of my energy on this mental masturbation, trying to decide. Travel is so selfish. You are hunting for new experiences to feed your forever hungry brain. More pictures! More action! The more places you visit, the more new ones open up. More, more, more… Me, me, me… Something’s not right. You can only take so much, until it stops satisfying you. Maybe instead of getting, you need to start giving…

All of a sudden I got an idea.
More about the crazy idea and execution I wrote here:

Christmas Mission: Cozumel, Mexico

Tulum or not Tulum?  I woke up this morning feeling absolutely horrible. Fewer, ear infection, sore throat and beautiful racoon circles under the eyes. To make me feel better – tree hours bike ride on the schedule for today. I never skip workouts. Mental masturbation lasted the entire morning. On the bike ride and even … Continue reading Christmas Mission: Cozumel, Mexico

The day was FILLED with new experiences. By the end of it I went to bed exhausted, completely drained. What a day!


Christmas Day: Santa at the Beach


Christmas in Mexico is a big deal and people party all night long. They go to church around 8 pm, then come home for a family dinner and go party from midnight till sunrise. Similar to out New Year’s celebrations. All night partying was not in my plans and I went to bed pretty early. Loud music was blasting through the night. It was a bit hard to fall asleep at first, but once I did, you can not wake me up even if you shoot from the gun next to my ear. 

In the morning I went on a 10km easy run with my new Mexican buddy. It was obvious to me that he was a gay, however it did not change anything. I truly enjoyed his company and we decided to spend the day together. 

Today Santa operates at the beach. We went to the beach called Punta Morena. As expected, Santa on the beach attracted a lot of attention, not only from kids, but from adults. Even the owner of the beach club came up to say hi and thank me for engaging the public. She thought it was a great idea and asked to take a photo with her. Not only the business owner, but a lot of other people wanted to take a selfie with Santo Clós. It was a lot of fun, however hot! Santa stripped down into his red speedos and dove into the ocean. Mission complete.

The rest of the day we spent driving around the island, stopping at the beautiful places and having drinks. Bar tenders offered free drinks for Mr. Claus, however too bad that Santa doesn’t drink, otherwise he could’ve gotten pretty fucked up for free. For the first time I’ve tried drinking the coconut water out of the fruit. I took a nap at the beach and soaked in as much sun as I could. It was a great day, in a great company.


Last Day: Scuba Diving


Today was my last long bike ride, before returning back to Canada. 4 hour – 108 kilometers around the island. The weather was perfect, no wind. My buddy Beto desired to join me for the ride and I did not resist. I was in an interesting state of mind that morning. My head was spinning and I felt like “out of body”. Sleep deprivation, too much caffeine and wine play ugly games with my mind. We rode in silence, only having a few brief conversations from time to time. I was not in the mood for chatting and was quite struggling on such an easy-effort ride.

Beto went home after the first 60 km and I continued solo. Completed the ride and headed straight to the SCUBA diving center, where I’ve had made a reservation.

Hungry, tired and “out of my mind” I found myself in a wetsuit and other scuba equipment, floating in the nearby hotel’s pool. Everyone at the diving center are french: instructors, owners, even the customers are all french people. They barely spoke broken english and all the training was in french. Sometimes instructor would turn over to me and attempt to translate the important things in English. 90% of the time I had no idea what they were talking about, however it didn’t really matter to me – I was too tired to get mad. In fact I was still deciding if it’s something I want to do and spend my money on… Several times I almost said f*uck it, I am too tired, but something stopped me. Realization that if I don’t do it now, I won’t have a chance to Scuba Dive for a while.

About 90 minutes training in the pool, one hour break and into the ocean.We loaded onto the boat and headed towards the “spot”. Eight people got divided into three groups, with separate diving instructor for each.
A big step forward and you’re flying. Only from the second attempt I was able to begin the descent and start equalizing as we went deeper and deeper. Holly shit it was cool! I have never seen the water so clear and the fish so close. I am glad I didn’t pull the plug and went scuba diving even when not feeling like it.

Another story of alternative lifestyle in action. On a way back, on a boat I’ve had conversation with my diving instructor. He was a young man, bartender in the past. 32 years old, originally from France. I learned from him that you can travel and work as a scuba instructor. Once you went through the lengthy and expensive certification process you can find a job in some really cool places around the world. The guy truly enjoyed his lifestyle.
“You won’t get rich, working as an instructor” – he said. However, the job brought enough food on his table and allowed him to travel the world. Another story, another traveler…
Would I enjoy doing what he was doing…?
Will such lifestyle suit me and make me happier than I am now?

Later in the evening I invited for a glass of red dry my Airbnb host and now a friend – Ellias. Before I left, I wanted to chat once again and say a proper goodbye. It was really nice of them to get me a present – photo frame “With Love from Cozumel”. We had a nice chat and went to bed. It was a nice ending of the day and I literally crashed in my bed. Exhausted again, I gave today’s day all my energy. It felt like I’ve been driving my body on overdrive for the past several days and soon something will have to give in.


Final Thoughts
The Crash


Three accidents this morning. I’ve witnessed three pretty bad accident on the road at different spots in the town. I realized that despite the crazy local driving I haven’t seen a single crash or even a minor road accident. Today I’ve seen three…

The flight back wasn’t too bad. To get to Cozumel Airport I had to take a cab -> ferry -> bus. I felt exhausted and lethargic.

For the past few days I’ve been in a weir state of mind. “Out of body” – as if I would be looking at the world through the third person eyes. I feel out of reality and it makes me worried. It’s an uncomfortable feeling – the unknown. 

I am exhausted. Every part of my body is tired. The battery is in red zone and I slowly shut down from the outside world. I am tired from extra attention I’ve been getting since I landed in Mexico. People look at me with the interest. An alien landed on their land. I could not escape curious eyes in the neighborhood I stayed at . Something in me attracted people’s attention and they often would just stare at me, looking from the bottom up. It’s neither good or bad, I am just tired from it.

While in Mexico, I let myself loose and broke my usual routine. Instead of usual bed time around 8-9 pm, I would often stay up till midnight or even past that. I could not force myself go to bed and I would always find something to do. Write, research on business, social media, read, plan for tomorrow etc. If I was not doing anything, I would eat. Same mechanism – trying to change my state with external stimuli. I’ve had a lot of wine, I have eaten too much sugar and fruits I would not usually eat, I have had unhealthy high doses of caffeine, I haven’t slept enough, I have eaten too much garbage, I have often overeat right before the bedtime…
Why keep up the usual routine if I could simply continue living like that?
No planning, no diets, no schedules, no training…
Why all this? Why do I do what I do? Again and again, I question myself: Why?

Ferry to the mainland. ADO bust to Cancun airport. I am here, I am present and I am not… What is this “out of body” state of mind is about? Is it how the exhaustion feels like? Is is mental of physical? I remain in this bobble.

Plane to Toronto got broken and flight is delayed. Switch gates and wait… Even after all passengers took their seats, we still remained motionless for an hour. Something’s also wrong with this plane. Captain gave the green light and commanded flight attendants to prepare for departure. Cabin lights got dim and belt signs lighted on. Annoying beeping sound won’t stop and the guy sitting next to me got nervous.
The plane slowly moved along the runway to take off. Something inside of me started to worry.
What if the road accidents I saw earlier today were the sign? What is this weird state of mind I’m in, is the sign? What if the flight was delayed for a reason?… What if my plane will not land?

The plane speed up and everyone got quiet. Several seconds later we lift off and left the ground.
What if today was my last day living? I felt asleep…

All of a sudden I woke up from the people screaming. The horrific scream I never heard before. People were screaming out of animal fear that strike them. The plane was streaming heading towards the ground.
Do I accept my death peacefully or in agony?
Do I regret of anything or being grateful? 

Death would feel like a relief… My mind has finally found a piece. My body completely relaxed and soft. I am completely present and I am smiling. I am not afraid. I am grateful for a beautiful journey that my life been. Grateful for absolutely everything that have happened and did not happen to me. Not to me, but to him – to Sasha. His is the one who is going to die in a few moments. Out of body – I now watch the catastrophe unfold in front of his eyes. His eyes are wide opened, adrenaline rush is pumping in his ears. This is it, the game is over. I always knew that my presence in this world was meant to be short, however I did not know how and where it will end. This is it boy, this is your station. It’s time to make the room for the next passenger. The only thing I wished for is a chance to experience being a father. Enormous amount of love for my kids will not find the use in this world, however it will not be lost. Nothing gets lost and knowing it makes me calm. 

I don’t breathe. I don’t move. I don’t resist. I just watch…


Bed and Blake


I was happy to come back to Canada. While standing in line to immigration checkpoint, one the officers came up to me and opened the gate. He said I can go and pointed towards the exit. I got really confused, however I was too tired to ask questions. I went the way he showed me and ended up at the terminal exit. Wait! Not VISA and Passport check? Why? Why me? I have no idea what happened there, however I was grateful for such a gift. From the plane, through the customs and immigration security check in 10 minutes… This is the record.

Blake was really excited to see me. I was happy to see him too, he is my buddy. People who watched him, while I was gone said few days after I left he’ve been howling at night. I felt guilty for leaving him at home, when I could’ve taken him. I never heard him howl.
That night I slept so deep, as never before. I was happy to be “home”.


Why didn’t I take Blake?


Not to justify my decision, but to give you an idea of what it takes to bring your pet with you to Mexican vacation. To do so you have to jump through several hoops. The good news is that it’s possible and there are options. Some more expensive, some less, some free.


Airline Requirements

WestJet https://www.westjet.com/en-ca/travel-info/special-needs/service-animals
Two options:

  1. Free: Collect Required Emotional support documents and submit to the airline
  2. Paid: Pay $210 fee to Bring Blake on the plane

I hate paying extra. To bring Blake on the plane and because I am so cheap, I had to jump through three hoops:

1.    Confirmation of animal training – to be signed by the owner/trainer of the animal. 

2.    A letter from medical/mental health professional – to include your medical professional’s license number, type of license, jurisdiction in which the license was issued, and jurisdiction of practice (which must be where you reside).  Must be signed by your medical professional (e.g. psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, general practitioner). 

3.    Veterinary health – to be signed by the animal’s veterinarian or, in lieu of this form, a copy of the vaccination records which include vaccination dates and veterinary office information. 


Mexican Requirements

No strict requirements whatsoever. Just make sure the rabies shot is up to date and you’re good to go.
Upon entering Mexico, double check their government website: https://www.gob.mx/senasica/documentos/si-viajas-con-tu-mascota-194177?state=published


Canadian Requirements

Animal Health Offices: https://www.inspection.gc.ca/animals/terrestrial-animals/offices/eng/1300462382369/1300462438912

Called the office and found out that to bring Blake back to Canada I need only the raibie certificate. That’s all! 


I was able to get all the pieces of this puzzle, however Blake stayed at home. As always, I was a tough decision whether take him or not. I’ll be training A LOT. I won’t be able to take him with me so he’ll have to sit at home. While traveling I have to carry my bike, backpack and duffle bag. Having to carry him would add me so much extra stress. However I realize these are only excuses… not sure if I did right that left him at home. He would definitely enjoy the beach.


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