Month 30: Travel Summary and Statistics


Ruins on the beach in Tulum

Month 30 marks exactly two and a half years since I first left to travel! In this month’s summary, I have multiple plan changes and share a couple of big announcements.

I started the month in chilly Guanajuato, a gorgeous city in the mountains that was so cold that I could barely function. It was during the past month that I realised how much travel, and following summer around the world, has changed me. Back in London, I wouldn’t have even commented on a temperature of 10 degrees Celsius but in Guanajuato I could barely leave the house!

Of course, the fact that I no longer own any winter clothes didn’t help the issue. 

So, it was 10 degrees and I was freezing and wearing every item of clothing I own. I was spending all day in bed, under five layers of blankets, shivering and feeling sorry for myself.

I decided I wanted to be warm again. 

My plans for eating everything in sight in Puebla and Oaxaca were quickly shelved when Dave and I found flights to Cancun for $150. We planned to head to Playa Del Carmen, a popular spot on the Caribbean coast and base ourselves there for a month.

We’d heard that Playa Del Carmen would be very touristy but figured we’d be okay. Most of the time I like touristy places, anyway.

How bad could it be?

Playa del carmen t shirts

We stepped off the airport bus in Playa Del Carmen in a daze. Obnoxious, fluorescent-coloured t-shirts screamed out “I’m in Playa Del Carmen, bitch!” “Fuck you!” “I think he’s gay!” as touts crowded around to try and convince us to eat in their restaurant. Bass loudly pumped out from every bar in sight and drunk teenagers screeched at each other across the road.

So this is culture shock.

Soon after arriving, we decided to visit a nearby restaurant for a meal, immediately shocked at how expensive the prices were — and then even more shocked by the fact that the waiter greeted us in English. After a month in Guanajuato, where we didn’t hear a single local speak a word of English, we were dazed and confused by this change.

For $10 I had a plate of mediocre, bland nachos (the cheapest dish on the menu) and spent the entire meal longing for my $1 tacos and quesadilla street food in Guanajuato.

We visited the beach the following day, which was lined with resorts and sun loungers and had bars blasting out music all day long. There was a seriously overwhelming smell of sewage, even two kilometres away from the main part of town.

Playa del Carmen beach

Playa Del Carmen was not at all what we had expected. 

Had we made a huge mistake in coming here?

Or have all of the amazing beaches we’ve visited in the past ruined us? Are we now spoilt and overly-judgmental? Are we terrible people for complaining about being somewhere that others would label as a paradise?

Fortunately, our feelings towards Playa Del Carmen grew the moment we left the chaos of 5th avenue and ventured inland. We managed to find a lovely apartment for far more than we’re used to paying in Mexico but the 19MB/s Internet speeds make up for that. We have a much more local way of life here.

Working in Playa del Carmen

We have a quesadilla place downstairs that does amazing quesadillas for a dollar a piece, as well as a whole host of street food vendors a block away that we visit every evening for cheap street eats. We’re a couple of blocks away from an enormous Walmart, a grocery store, a park, a yoga studio and a launderette. We’re a four block walk to the beach.

We have everything we could possibly need within a five minute walk and that feels great. 

So, Playa Del Carmen isn’t so bad after all. The noisy parts of town are mostly isolated to one street and easily avoidable. The beach and the ocean still smell strongly like sewage (a quick look online brings recent reports of sewage overflowing into the streets and on the beach, and people spotting actual lumps of poo floating in the water!) so we definitely don’t go swimming. However, it is possible to find a few quiet places to relax on the beach without touts and music.

The highlight of this month would have to be the day that I spent in Tulum — somewhere I’ve been keen to visit ever since I read about it, several years ago. It didn’t disappoint, with the ancient Mayan city located on a stunning cliffside location. The beach was the most beautiful I’ve ever stepped foot on, with warm, transparent ocean, powder-soft white sand and ruins towering above. There were even iguanas cliff-climbing while we were sunbathing!

Lauren at Tulum

Onto the statistics for the month!

Countries Visited: 1

Mexico

Cities Visited: 3

Guanajuato, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum

Distance Travelled: 2,109 kilometres

Number of Flights: 1

Number of Buses: 1

Number of Photos Taken: 219

Favourite Photo Taken:

The shot I’ve been wanting to take for several years — ruins, beaches and turquoise ocean in Tulum!

Ruins on the beach in Tulum

Money Spent:

Accommodation: $1058.50

Food: $825.90

Transport: $962

Activities: $6.40

Travel Insurance: $215.10

Total Amount Spent: $3067.90

A Few Announcements

This month, I had a huge change of plans.

If you remember, my original plan for 2014 was to finish up in Mexico, head south through Central and South America and end up in Antarctica by the end of the year.

I’m still doing that, but…

I’m going to be travelling from Belize to Guatemala via Portland, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, Iceland and London.

What?!

I know.

All it took was Dave casually mentioning how much he missed the food in Portland, which led to me researching the price of flights, which then led to us then booking them because they were surprisingly cheap.

After we finish up our month in Portland, we’ll be heading to our respective “homes” for a further month. Both Dave and I miss our families so much while travelling so we’ve decided to pay them a visit. I’ll be spending a quick two weeks hopping across the US and having a long layover in Iceland, followed by three glorious weeks at home with my family. Dave will spend that time in Melbourne and then we’ll reconvene in Guatemala.

Yes, it’s ridiculous, we know.

In site-related news, something I’ve wanted to implement for quite a while is a monthly newsletter. The only problem I’ve had is that I’ve never been sure what to include — I share what I’ve been doing and where I’ve been in my monthly summaries already — so I’ve decided to do something a little different.

At the end of each month, I’ll be sending out a newsletter to give you a behind-the-scenes look into life as a digital nomad. I want to show you the reality of living a life like this. I’ll be sharing the highs and lows of the freelance lifestyle — offering advice on what’s worked for me and what’s been a huge failure. You’ll receive income reports so you can see how much I make and where that money comes from, as well as my favourite office view of the month. I’d love for you to sign up — you can do so using the form in the sidebar or by clicking here.

The Next Month:

The next month is going to spent exploring more of the Yucatan, using Playa Del Carmen as a base. On my list for this region are the ruins of Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Coba and I might even finally have a go at SCUBA diving (probably not).

 

Looking to follow along with my travels through my monthly summaries? You can read the previous month’s summary here, the next month’s summary here, or head on over to the monthly summary page to read from the very beginning!

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41 Comments

  1. Lindsey
    January 20, 2014
    Reply

    Haha random plan changes are the best. I LOVE your newsletter idea. It’s something that I think a lot of people will be interested in – even those who are already doing similar things as I am. In an industry that tends to be quite insular, it’s nice to get a look and sense of camaraderie – not to mention inspiration for those starting out.

    You should DEFINITELY psyche yourself up to go scuba diving. Even if it’s just one of those half day tasters. I’d wanted to learn to dive for so long, but always ended up putting it off because I was scared – eventually learning was the best thing I did last year. It’s worth it, I promise.

    • Lauren
      January 21, 2014
      Reply

      Yeah, I wanted to do something that nobody else is really doing in this space — hopefully people will find it helpful! :-)

      I know I’ll eventually try scuba diving but every time I psych myself up to do it I freak out at the last minute and cancel it. One day… :-)

  2. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas
    January 20, 2014
    Reply

    I’ve felt the same way about pretty much everywhere I’ve been in Mexico, particularly the spring break resorts. As for Chicago – I’m from there, so let me know if you’re looking for ideas!

    • Lauren
      January 21, 2014
      Reply

      Yeah, I’ve found that the further away from a beach you are the less crazier it is. It’s a shame it was just so cold in the mountains at this time of year!

      Would love to hear any Chicago tips you have — I’ll be visiting for the first time and have done no research :-)

  3. Renuka
    January 20, 2014
    Reply

    I can relate to the fact that there are times when you don’t like a place, but then when you walk a bit you find something of your taste. I’d love to read the behind-the-scene thing that you plan to write about in your newsletters. All the best!

    • Lauren
      January 21, 2014
      Reply

      I was starting to get seriously worried that we’d made a huge mistake when we first arrived in Playa! It’s grown on us, though, especially now we’ve found a much quieter and cheaper part of town :-)

      Glad to hear you like the newsletter idea! :-)

  4. Jason
    January 20, 2014
    Reply

    I would say that the photo of Tulum was well worth the wait. Could you get any closer to the ruins?

    • Lauren
      January 21, 2014
      Reply

      It definitely was! You could get closer to the ruins, but not close enough to climb on them or anything. Quite a few of them had a rope around them but you could get within a metre or so :-)

  5. Nico
    January 20, 2014
    Reply

    Playa del Carmen can be a great place if you know where to stay and go. Avoid the 5ta avenida for eating or buying anything…

    Go to Akumal (before arriving Tulum) and swim with the turtles with no tours
    Go to any of the cenotes
    Go to Isla Mujeres (first to Cancun then take a ferry)

    Enjoy the area, it’s great!

    • Lauren
      January 20, 2014
      Reply

      Yep, we learnt very quickly to avoid 5th Avenue :-). Thanks for the tips!

  6. Carmen
    January 20, 2014
    Reply

    We are going to Mexico later this year so thanks for the great trips on where to go (and not to go!). Your plans sound exciting. I also miss Portland food after our road trip through the states last year…

    • Lauren
      January 21, 2014
      Reply

      No problem! We love Mexico and I have a feeling we’ll be returning at least once a year from now on :-)

  7. Mirje @Anywhereism
    January 20, 2014
    Reply

    I started reading this and went uh-oh, because we are going to spend a month in Playa starting in few weeks. But it seems it’s mainly the 5th avenue that’s the problem, so just need to to steer clear :) Btw, reading the description of your flat, I think it’s the one we were thinking about, but then someone (you?) was faster than us. So we decided to spend some weeks in Merida (loving it!) and head to Playa on the Feb 11th. How long are you staying there? Maybe we can meet up, always nice to get together with fellow digital nomads.

    • Lauren
      January 21, 2014
      Reply

      That’s funny — Merida was our back-up plan if we couldn’t find anything here! Glad to hear you’re loving it :-). 5th Avenue is definitely the problem — you can walk literally two blocks away from it and the price of a meal drops from 150-200 pesos to 20! It’s crazy.

      We’ll be here until the 14th — would be great to meet up! :-)

  8. Lina @ Divergent Travelers
    January 20, 2014
    Reply

    I’m so glad you were able to find a decent place in Playa del Carmen! We love that area, but agree that 5th street has gotten a little crazy. We could revisit Tulum a million times over. Enjoy your time in the Yucatan. :)

    • Lauren
      January 21, 2014
      Reply

      It sounds like it’s got a lot worse recently, or at least the sewage has! Hopefully it’ll all get sorted soon. I’m planning on revisiting Tulum before we leave — it was such good value for money and worth paying the entrance fee just to sunbathe on that beach :-)

  9. Andrea
    January 20, 2014
    Reply

    It’s nice to know that you can head to relative peace a few block from the main strip. I’ve wanted to go to Mexico for a while but have been weary about staying somewhere too touristy. I want $1 quesadillas! Can’t wait to visit later this year.

    • Lauren
      January 21, 2014
      Reply

      There are definitely non-touristy places in Mexico. As I mentioned in my post, Guanajuato had essentially no English spoken by anyone but expats, and wasn’t catered to tourists at all. But yep, Playa Del Carmen is much more manageable and enjoyable and cheaper the further inland from 5th Avenue you are :-)

  10. Michelle | Lights Camera Travel
    January 20, 2014
    Reply

    Wow sounds like a great month! I love the newsletter idea :)

    • Lauren
      January 21, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks Michelle! :-)

  11. Kristin
    January 20, 2014
    Reply

    Ha! I love that you two love Portland (or at least our food scene)!

    • Lauren
      January 21, 2014
      Reply

      Obsessed with Portland. I love it so hard! :-)

  12. TammyOnTheMove
    January 21, 2014
    Reply

    Ha ha, that’s quite the detour! I can understand your feeling about the cold weather by the way. I just moved away from Cambodia, where I lived for two years, then spend Christmas in freezing England and Germany, and I am now still shivering in the South American Andes. My body is still in quite a shock I think. When you head down to South America you definitely need to invest in some very warm clothes. :-)

    • Lauren
      January 21, 2014
      Reply

      Isn’t it?! I feel pretty pathetic about my lack of tolerance for cold weather — I think it might be time to finally invest in some winter clothes!

  13. Caro
    January 21, 2014
    Reply

    Could it be? We’ll be in Iceland in mid-February and possibly Guatemala in July! Will our paths cross? And I hear ya on the cold. I had no tolerance while away and now, I’m waiting for the bus in -36C weather. ARGH!

    • Lauren
      January 23, 2014
      Reply

      Oh, awesome! I’ll miss you in Iceland (heading there in April) but could possibly be in Guatemala at the same time. I’ll keep you posted :-)

      Um, -36C weather is terrifying. I swear I’ve never experienced temperatures below freezing!

  14. Andrew Darwitan
    January 22, 2014
    Reply

    Nope, it’s not ridiculous. It’s definitely good to spend time with families…. AND ICELAND!! Any travel plan with Iceland in it couldn’t be ridiculous! Maybe you can consider Greenland and Faroe Islands too, if the itinerary somehow fits. I’m on to the newsletter, ’cause I just know it’s going to be good. =)

  15. Georgia
    January 22, 2014
    Reply

    Hi Lauren

    I’m flying into the Yucatan next week for a couple of weeks exploring Merida, Vallalidoid, Izamal, Isle Mujeres and PDC – along with a good handful of ruins.

    It’d be lovely if we were in the same place to say hi – I’m a long term reader of your blog so it’d be great to meet you.

    Georgia x

    • Lauren
      January 23, 2014
      Reply

      Hey Georgia,

      Absolutely. I’ll be in Playa until mid-February so drop me a message when you get here and we’ll sort something out :-)

  16. Christine
    January 24, 2014
    Reply

    That photo of the t-shirts is hilarious! Imagine wearing some of them! I’m glad you got to find a nice area to stay, and that you got to take that great shot of Tulum.
    Really great idea for a newsletter too, I will definitely be subscribing! :)

    • Lauren
      February 3, 2014
      Reply

      I just can’t comprehend why anyone would buy one of those t-shirts and actually wear them! So horrible :-)

  17. Adri
    January 24, 2014
    Reply

    Love your trips!! Why are you skipping NYC when you come to the US?

    • Lauren
      January 24, 2014
      Reply

      Because I’m short on time and I was there a few months ago :-)

  18. Owen
    January 24, 2014
    Reply

    Tulum looks incredible ! I’m hoping to go to Thailand next year and am trying to find an island as remote and idyllic as that. I read your post on Koh Yao Noi but I’ll be in Koh Samui which is on the opposite side of the country ! Do you have any ideas?

    • Lauren
      February 3, 2014
      Reply

      I haven’t been to Koh Samui so I can’t offer any specific tips for there. Take a look on Travelfish, though — they cover lots of remote islands all over Southeast Asia :-)

  19. Maria Alexandra @LatinAbroad
    January 24, 2014
    Reply

    YOU FORGOT TO MENTION PUERTO RICO.

    :)

    • Lauren
      November 14, 2015
      Reply

      One day! :-)

  20. Adam @ SitDownDisco
    January 27, 2014
    Reply

    I think it’s fair to say that I will never visit Playa del Carmen despite a few blocks from the main area there is some serenity. Just not into it.

    Do you track every cent you spend every day? What if you buy a piece of corn from a guy on the beach?

    • Lauren
      January 28, 2014
      Reply

      Yeah, despite finding some cheap food and an area with less douchebags, I’m really not warming to it at all. I don’t get what all the fuss is about! The main strip reminds me of Kuta.

      I don’t track every single cent, no. I make a note of how much cash I have at the start of the month, how much I withdraw from ATMs, how much I spent online and then how much cash I have at the end of the month and calculate the total from that. I make a note of accommodation, transport and activity costs and then assume the leftover is what I spent on food. I tried tracking every single penny I spent and it was boring and I was lazy, so now I estimate in a way I think is reasonably accurate… :-)

  21. Jimmy Dau
    January 28, 2014
    Reply

    Great idea for the newsletter. Will defo signup and thanks for the insight. I’ve been ravelling for 10months now and wondering how do I now start making money rather than spending the savings seeing the honeymoon is over.

    I did the trip from Mexico to Chile from April-December last year. It looks like you have a similar route to what I did. It will be a very tight schedule as I had too much of a good time in Central America and stayed for four months meaning I only had four months to get from Colombia to Patagonia which was a killer distance!

    • Lauren
      January 29, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks, Jimmy! My most recent post is actually about how exactly I make money — hopefully you’ll find my newsletter helpful! :-)

      Yep, I’m expecting lots of fast-paced travel and I’m planning for South America to be a *highlights trip* to see all the main sights I want to see, and then I’ll return at a later date to explore in more depth :-)

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