Dispatch from the Road

Una Mujer on Isla Mujeres

by Brittany Schwartz

Photo: lindyi/Flickr

Your vacation. Exactly as you like it. Just one of the many joys of traveling solo (along with freedom, introspection, and dessert all to yourself). If you haven't considered it before, maybe now's the time to boldly strike out on your own.

ISLA MUJERES, Mexico – I was a simple girl with a simple goal: I wanted to stand in the ocean, look down, and see my toes.

I set off from a dreary, wintry New York City for a quick two-night, three-day stay on Isla Mujeres, just off the coast of Mexico. Yes, I wanted some sunshine, but this trip was also a challenge: Could I handle traveling alone for the first time?

It was a 30-minute cab ride from Cancun International Airport to Embarcadero Playa Linda port for my scheduled boat to Hotel Villa Rolandi. The "boat" turned out to be a private yacht with a welcoming crew. Standing on the dock listening to waves lapping gently was already a dream come true — and I had yet to see a beach.

Forty minutes later on Isla Mujeres, the hotel manager escorted me to the open hotel lobby and a glass of wine. The view from my room was breathtaking, almost a cliché: clear blue and endless beauty, from the hot tub on the deck to the pool below my room to the faint Cancun skyline in the distance across the Caribbean. New York? A few hours after leaving, it was already a fading memory. 

The weather on the first day was cloudy, the perfect forecast for a visit to the hotel's Thalasso therapy spa. The hot stone massage melted away months' worth of stress, and the hydration watercolor facial put a glow back where I want it. (You're never too young to feel younger.) The clouds turned lighter, and I went next door to swim with dolphins at Dolphin Discovery. I felt like a kid again, relaxed and exhilarated, splashing around with these guys. A day in, and I was already in a relationship! Before leaving, I gave the dolphins a big hug goodbye. I like to think they hugged me back.

In the hotel's endless pool I met a really nice couple (just as nice as the dolphins) who invited me to explore the island's downtown area after lunch — and my third spa treatment. We took a golf cart to the main street on the opposite end of the island. We stopped in tiny shops for beautiful, handcrafted jewelry and local handbags, and made it back in time to beat the storm that blew in that night.

Any fears I had had about being alone stayed on the ground at JFK. Every minute by myself gave me a sense of quiet that I hadn't been able to find in the familiar spaces at home. The solitude the island provided, particularly at night, was so inviting. The island's tourists were silent but its natural ambiance was alive; I listened to it while I drifted to sleep. There was no boredom, no restlessness, no more worries about being alone. I loved it, and I can't wait for my next solo trip.

My room was white with natural wood furnishings — very natural for the island. The bathroom was sculpted of granite with a stone and glass shower. The bed, a king-size cloud of down feathers, faced the sliding door opening onto the balcony. I woke up every morning to the view of the sea, slipped on the soft bathrobe and slippers by the bed, and walked out to the balcony for room-service breakfast.

On day three, scheduled to leave around noon, I stared out to sea to fix the image in my mind. I had never seen water so clear and so blue, the gentle waves barely brushing up any sand. That's when it hit me: I was so busy exploring the island and making friends that I had forgotten to go in the sea.

I stood in the Caribbean and looked down. My toes looked amazing.


Hotel Villa Rolandi
Fraccionamiento Laguna Mar Lotes 15 y 16
Sac-Bajo, 77400 Isla Mujeres
Quintana Roo, Mexico

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