The Best Year of My Life!
Trip Start Oct 01, 2012
42Trip End Sep 15, 2013
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It was always going to be hard to thank everyone individually and personally as I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the most genuine, honest and friendly people and for that I am eternally grateful. There really are no words to express my gratitude, but I feel like the only thing I can do in my last entry is to look back on all the incredible memories and dedicate this blog to those who have made this year the very best of my life.
Firstly, let me just mention that the last 11 days in Cancun were brilliant. I spent 3 nights in the beautiful Isla Holbox, one night in a rustic sand-floored cabin and 2 amazing nights in a bungalow right on the beach with an awesome pool. Isla Holbox lives off the tourism trade thanks to the Whale Sharks which are just leaving. There are no cars, just golf buggys and bikes, which a certain somebody managed to pedal straight first into the clay/mud hahaha. Check out the pictures.
Where to start? Well, if anyone knows how crazy this year has been in Cancun it's Rosie Higgins. We came together from Southampton, having only seen each other in the few Spanish classes that we had both miraculously attended. We were thrown straight into the deep end together, and we survived! From dog poo ridden bathrooms to the Latin American culture of Bahia Azul, we came out fighting and had such an incredible ride. Really. Thanks so much Rosie, I couldn't have asked for a better Cancun buddy, we have been through so much together, some down right mental times, incredible trips and hilarious moments... you are just amazing!
Next, to the two people who, with Rosie, have been there every step of the way, whether it was trips exploring Mexico, the cinema, eating, chilling, drinking, going to the beach or anything else you could imagine... Maryanna, one word sums it up "Oye." This year wouldn't have been the same without you, my best friend. Part 3 coming shortly. And of course one huge thank you to Tote, my first and one of my best friends in Mexico. You are just an absolute legend, thanks for everything. Be back soon, I promise!
My second home quickly became the basketball court whether that be in the University, the Jacinto or Kuxil, and although I almost died during every training session/game in the sun, I loved every minute. I learnt so much from the basketball chavos del Unicaribe and all of their goodbye messages will be treasured forever. Thanks to the whole team for welcoming me with open arms and having the patience with my stumbling Spanish at the start where I would run onto the court and do something completely different to what the coach had said! The spiteful girls from the other teams who had it in for me right from the start, must also be thanked, they mde me the Wuera I am today. It has been a pleasure playing with and meeting Ariday (Turd,) Fariba, Claud, Itzel, Abril, Gaby, Priscilla, Goretti, Majo, Danny, Santi, Aaron, Charlie, Alex, Goofy, Yayo, Hector, Playa and everyone else! Special mention to Edith, Hugo and Tec, thanks for the retas, the laughs, the trips, the many hours spent chilling on the grados every afternoon/evening and of course all of the food you introduced me to... you guys are amazing and taught me not only groserias, but so many new moves and how to play in Mexico. I hope I do you all proud in England.
At the Universidad del Caribe all of the students were so friendly and there really are too many awesome people to list (with 200 of you on facebook!) that I'm scared I'll forget someone, but I've got to mention the three Anas and Ana Rios for being such a laugh all the time, Cristian for all the breakfast escapes and giving me his money whilst playing poker or black widow haha, Debbie, Carlos, Brenda, Quitzi, Ile, Jorge, Chipi and everyone else who came to the SAC and became a friend.
A huge part of my year was made possible thanks to two incredible instructors, Damian and Maira. I can't thank you enough for introducing me to my new favourite hobby, scuba diving. I now have a whole new world to explore thanks to you guys and Rosie for sharing the experience.
Another huge thank you goes to my amazing and beautiful friend, Michelle, for an amazing time travelling through Central America, it wouldn't have been the same without you, and you really are my travel buddy for life! Not forgetting every single person we met on the way, forming even more great friendships from all over the world- the beauty of travel!
And last but not least, the Southampton girls and Josh, who quickly became my family in Mexico. Over the year, 13 people who pretty much started off as strangers, quickly became a little family and we formed such a bond which has provided some incredible memories and stories which will last a lifetime. We have had some amazing times together after various travels over the country to visit each other... a definite highlight has to be the three weeks at Christmas where we had an absolutely amazing time and moments of absolute comic gold.
I am writing this on the plane through eyes as dry as the desert having finally calmed down after an all night/morning crying/wailing session, so I really hope I haven't missed anybody. Also to my friends back home who have put up with me this year and somehow managed to stay interested throughout all of my antics, lots of love!
Now for possibly the biggest thank you of them all has to go to my family in England for everything they have done and for everything that they are... Maybe this will be one of the only chances I'll get to openly and honestly express my appreciation and love for them without being an idiot about it, so excuse me if this isn't what you signed up to read haha. My family are incredible and have fully supported me every step of the way; listening to, enjoying and laughing at all of my stories, even if they sometimes disapproved... The amount of love they show every day is unbelievable and I'm so lucky to have them, they are the best. Really. My twin sister flew all the way over to Costa Rica to meet me there during my travels, and like I said before, she made my dreams come true as I took her on her first backpacking experience through all the amazing places in Costa Rica and finishing in paradise in Panama! Love you twinny!
Now to take a look back on the year and try and remember all of the great moments. I have seen so many beautiful sights, met the most incredible people, learnt so many new things, tried some crazy food, completely immersed myself into a different culture and language, and had a whole lot of fun on the way.
Over the year I have been to 8 incredibly rich and diverse countries! Mexico (Mexico City, Cancun, Tulum, Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, Isla Holbox, Akumal, Playa del Carmen, Merida, Valladolid, Izamal, Guadalajara, Tequila, Guanajuato, Salamanca, San Miguel de Allende, Queretaro, Monterrey, Los Cabos,) Cuba, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, as well as so many islands inbetween. Along the way the views have been simply spectacular and I have been lucky enough to explore colonial cities, beaches, cactus lined deserts, coral reefs, volanoes, Mayan ruins, mountains, rainforests, flying over rainforest canopys, national parks, an underwater museum, shipwrecks, deserted islands, indigenous communities, and much more. Wow, this year has been such a great opportunity and just shows how great studying a language can be!
I learnt some new skills, tried some new activities that I have never heard of as well as some which I have always dreamed of doing! Here goes a very long list: becoming an Advanced Open Water Padi Scuba diver, surfing the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, learning how to adapt to Mexican basketball, rappeling down canyons and waterfalls, hiking through rainforests, ziplining over the rainforest, ziplining the longest zipline in Latin America (1590m long,) white water rafting in Costa Rica, deepboard diving in Panama which you have to youtube, hiking the dangerous Volcan Concepcion, boarding down an active Volcano in Nicaragua, diving the Blue Hole, bathing in natural hot springs in Honduras and Costa Rica, experiencing the sensation of a hot/cold waterfall, smearing mud all over my body, experiencing Habana, driving in the desert, drinking Micheladas, jumping into cenotes off ropes, platforms, cave edges, swinging off ropes and tirolesas into cenotes, swimming with beautiful creatures in the wild, jet skiing in the bluest waters of Cancun, paddle boarding, snorkelling with the world's largest fish, exploring Mayan ruins like Chichen Itza in the Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Guatemala and Honduras, surviving caves and grutas in Yucatan and Belize's Crystal Cave and riding horses at sunset through the Canyon of San Miguel de Allende and then again in Cuba!
The good, the bad and the hilarious... somersaulting headfirst into a crocodile infested lagoon, being driven home solo by the police in Antigua whilst bad mouthing the Mexican police, cramming 10+ people into one car and being stopped by the police countless times, break dancing in foam parties, driving through the desert and being attacked by hornets, exploring islands on golf buggys and motorbikes, spending Christmas on a deserted beach with a makeshift barbeque, tasting different staged tequila IN Tequila, almost falling off a ferry after a heavy night out the night before, the English girls starting a food fight on Christmas Eve, Jodie blaming me for being hit by a firework whilst helplessly wrapped up in a hammock, playing basketball for 4 Mexican teams, taking full advantage of the free bar/free entry situation all year, living in paradise being truly Mexican ill for as long as I can remember, witnessing and joining in with el perreo intenso, salsa-ing to the favourites Yo No Se Manana and Procura every ladies night at Irish, watching the pros play basketball for free, doing a Mexican wave at a Mexican football game, enjoying some of the world's most beautiful beaches on a daily basis, spending the whole night on the bar/stage at Coco Bongos, checking out the biggest club in Latin America, releasing baby sea turtles, learning to enjoy beer, bringing in the New Year with David Guetta in Playa del Carmen, messy pinatas at housewarmings, lucha libre, BBQs and beer pong with Bahia Azul, celebrating my 21st with my family, bribing security to let me chill with Shellbo at her hotel, being caught in a tropical storm which flooded our house and street for days, clubbing in a cave in Cuba, and of course meeting the kindest and friendliest people in the world, and falling in love with Mexico.
I promise I'm not trying to be annoying, the following are just little summaries so when I look back in a couple of years the memories will come flooding back...
The food I will never forget: nachos, gorditas, nachos, gorditas, nachos, gorditas, pizza del pastor, cheesters, pasta del principe, quesadillas, empanadas, salbutes, panuchos, huevos con salchicha y tortillas, limon/chile/chamoy covered fruit and vegetables. The food that I now eat which would never touch before: prawns, cream, mushrooms, extra chille, jalapenos, fish and you won't see me picking anything out anymore! The food that I tried and won't be touching for a while: the limon/chile covered insects, octopus, esquites (cups of sweetcorn drenched in mayonnaise, lemon, chile and who knows what else. The drinks, daiquiri fresa, tequila, agua de horchata, jamaica, tamarindo, michelada de chamoy y mango!
As many of you have said, I have spent a lot of my time this year underwater and have managed to enjoy the company of the following in the wild, within touching distance, either scuba diving or snorkelling: the largest fish in the world, the whale shark, sea lions, stingrays, mantarrays, spotted eagle rays, moray eels, sea snake, turtles, turtles and more turtles, lionfish, lobsters, octopus, nursing sharks, reef sharks, bull sharks, fish of the Caribbean and a manatee!
Animals seen in the wild: pit piped viper, eyelash palm viper, coral snake, numerous sloths, countless capuchin monkeys and howler monkeys, tarantulas, iguanas, crocodiles, scorpions, crazy insects, toucans, humpback whales crashing down on the water, witessing mantarrays fly through the air somersaulting, dolphins in Cancun, Los Cabos, Belize and Panama.
Now to bring this entry to a close... as I'm sure you can imagine, today was one of the most emotional days of my life. Undoubtedly, it was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do leaving Mexico. I have never, ever experienced any emotions like that where it actually hurts. Broken. On the way to, and within the airport, I was just an absolute mess. Through the tears and sobs, I could see that people didn't know where to look. The crying and wailing just didn't stop, I tried to calm myself down to check in and failed. I couldn't breath and it felt like everything had been ruthlessly kicked out of me... it sounds dramatic and silly, but honestly, 6 different groups of people actually came up to me and asked if I was ok, with a genuine look of concern on their faces. No idea what they must have thought, one couple even held my shoulders as I tried to blub out a response to their kindness. Solidly breaking down for a good 4 hours.
Thanks to Southampton University, the opportunity I had was unbelievable, yet the timing couldn't have been more heartbreaking. I've got to be honest, I am a little bit nervous returning back to England after such a long time. So much has happened this year, and I'm going to need some time to get back into the swing of things I reckon... I mean I've been wearing flip flops and shorts for a whole year, what on earth am I going to wear in England!? After spending a year working and living in paradise, adapting to a completely different culture, exploring beautiful places, learning to speak Spanish fluently and after meeting some of the most incredible people of your life... having to leave after just one year was truly the hardest thing that I have ever had to do. It really felt like my little life, a world away from home, was being taken away from me beneath my feet. One year really was not enough and I never wanted to leave Mexico, but at the same time, one year was a bit too long to be away from your friends and family at home. Tricky situation: heartbroken, sad, gutted, and devastated, yet with a pang of excitement. I can't really explain this feeling of being torn, but the Mexican/Southampton girls will understand. I guess we just have to look at the positives and be truly grateful for the fact that not only were we blessed with an incredible opportunity, an unforgettable experience and so many special friendships that will last a lifetime, but to also have the best family and friends waiting for you back home. We really were/are so lucky and I will never forget that.
Wow, I'm listening to one of the songs they have on the in-flight entertainment at the moment as I'm writing this (iPod fell victim to my travels,) and a Jason Mraz song has pretty much summed up a lot of the emotions I just tried to explain.
"Lucky I'm in love with my best friend.
Lucky to have been where I have been.
Lucky to be coming home again."
Wow, never thought I'd quote some song lyrics, but there you go, I really did fall in love with Mexico and everyone I met, I went to places I had only dreamed about and I have an incredible family waiting for me anxiously right now :)
Think positives Kim. I really couldn't have asked for anything more this year, one final thanks to everyone who has played an extremely special part in it, my experience has been an absolute rollercoaster and better than I could have ever imagined. I leave with a heart full of love for Mexico and a head full of beautiful and unforgettable memories.
I'm not finished with Mexico just yet, one year was not enough... until next time Mexico, in the very, very near future! Now back to reality, to my great family and friends, back to University playing basketball with my team again and working hard to finish my degree.
One final thanks for reading my ramblings throughout the year.