Recommended Travel Writer; Storyteller

No. 7

“Meredith?” A friendly face calls to me as I cross the street towards the restaurant listed as “meeting point” on my day tour confirmation email. “Yea, that’s me!” “It’s great to have you with us today, Meredith!” I adore great customer service, “we understand it’s a big day for you!” My chest swells with pride at the third-party reminder of what will be today’s accomplishment; 7 World Wonder number seven of seven in one year. I ignore the familiar internal dialogue that follows the tour guides next comment about mine being the only solo traveler on today’s tour. I opt instead to be proud of the fact.On the bus ride towards our destination, I meditate on the emotions wrapped around the moment. The challenges, triumphs, humility, and perseverance the last year has provided me casts a rainbow of color over my tired spirit. I breathe deeply, inhaling gratitude, exhaling openness. Excited for what the day brings and exhausted from my journey to the Yucatán from the Cyclades I drift into sleep with ease.

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This trip will be a quick trip. Having been to Mexico countless times-San Diego native-my time in the Yucatán although technically a first, was purposefully saved for last. The closest to “home”, my visit to the region will complete the lofty travel goal that has served me well as a humbling maiden voyage and catalyst for consistent creative expression. That, in turn, has helped me continually process my emotions, which acts as a domino effect in my personal healing process. Acceptance is the slipperiest of all the slimy steps of grievance I trudge through on this side of five years of compounded losses. Back and forth, push and pull, failure and success, acceptance is at the forefront of them all; taunting me. In cahoots with loneliness, no doubt, the two emotions tag-teaming against reason and hope, wrestling for the championship title of my heart.

I adore people watching as a hobby, but when traveling it’s almost always an elevated experience. An elderly couple gripe over everything, a man convinces his wife that Parmesan on top of pears is a legit salad, then I overhear a father telling his son that today he will witness his second world wonder-my heart warms at that one. Graciousness runs through my body like a drug. I take the front seat, stand in the front row and try to stay near the front of the pack as we visit the ancient Mayan ruins and engage with this all but forgotten culture.

Hollywood would have us believe the ancient civilization evaporated, disappeared, abducted by/or were themselves, aliens. However, there are over 750,000 registered Mayan descendants in this region of the Yucatán carrying on the language and culture for generations to come. At one time there where 25+ dialects of Mayan and the language was spoken throughout the surrounding countries such as Honduras, Guatemala, and even Belize.

Mayans believed the Gods shaped man from corn-the staple food of the region. The lands are rich in limestone and were once densely populated by the jungle. In a small village just before the site of Chichén Itza, we are greeted by locals wearing handmade sandals and hats. They welcome us to their country and to their town and talk to us about Mayan hieroglyphics; the means of communication through writing in ancient days. So much of the culture is still being discovered, the language still being deciphered.

Snakes were etched on several pieces of limestone among the ruins on the grounds and were worshiped because they shed their skin for new life
Chaak; God of rainwater
91 steps on each side to equal 365 to celebrate the days of the year

Chichén Itza is an ancient Mayan city built on fifty-five square miles of land. There are ruins of temples, tombs, and monuments. Chi, meaning mouth, chén, meaning well (water well to be precise), and Itza meaning witches water, the tomb itself sits above the largest cenotes on the grounds. Not accessible from the sealed tomb the ancient waterway was discovered using modern technology to scan below the surface of the ground. Cenotes are as a result of flooding. The water burns holes in the beds of limestone creating underground freshwater rivers beautified by open-air caves. This region is littered with them.

History tells us these geographical wonders were used for sacrifices in ancient Mayan times. It gives a whole new vibe to being in one, but what an amazing thing to witness as your last visual of this gift of life. Gorgeous vines draping themselves over each other, reaching, desperately to see who will win the race to touch the fresh surface first. The water is the turquoise of your dreams and is ice cold; a welcomed temperature change on the surface of my skin in this humidity.

Ik Il cenote, Yucatán
The sacred cenote in Chichén Itza

I float there, staring at the sky. Praying for the day that I can think of her embrace without crumbling; when the memories comfort vs wound. I would love to hold her here, even if it’s just in memory. Instead, my mind jumps to what’s next for me. I’m anxious about returning home. Constantly ambivalent about my arrival; back and forth on how long I should stay, with whom, and how much it’s all going to cost me. My city is gorgeous, but it’s expensive in comparison to what I’ve gotten accustomed to. The cost of accommodation and transportation for one week in San Diego is more than I would make in one month in Macedonia. I pull myself to the present and swivel in the water. The turquoise blue… I close my eyes and meditate on patience and readjustment.

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Meredith San Diego; Yucatán

Bag Lady (besides being the title of a great song by one of my favorite female artists) has always been a term of endearment for my style of travel-always carrying too much. Over packing synonymous with my first name. One friend would joke, "if I could hear you coming down the hallway, bag lady!" Another replies with disbelief and hysterical laughter when I proudly proclaim that I successfully packed one 'carry on' sized bag for a two week adventure. Obviously organized, structured and planner are frequent adjectives to describe me. And I genuinely agree unapologetically that these three elements help keep me balanced in life. That is until well...life, or the opposite actually. Consider what it might be like to have the earth shatter from under your feet like a dropped egg plummeting to the ground helpless to its demise, bringing you to an abrupt halt and leaving you in a million pieces from the fall. Yea... that's what it felt like when my Mother, life coach, and best friend in life and all things international travel, took suddenly ill and passed away while I was serving my country overseas in the U.S. Peace Corps. Both my Grandmother and my Mother, the two rocks in my unruly stream of life, taught me that positivity and laughter go a long way. The harsh reality that nothing really goes "according to plan", however, left me ambivalent about what I'm called to be and who I was shaped to be and ultimately pitted my mind against my heart. After I lost her none of the "plans" we'd made were to come to fruition. In the months after her passing I would ask myself some tough questions-as I do- and encounter a profound silence in response. Over time one solitary word would come to me from the saddest place in my heart, GO! So I will.. Now I travel to feel her. To find her in the smiling face of humanity. To keep moving forward with my journey of being a positive change in peoples lives through cross cultural experiences and adventure in places I never thought I'd be inclined to go! Meeting my own travel goals while meeting the truth that time and letting go of all the bags I carry will heal my shattered heart while helping me plant my two feet back on solid ground.

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