Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

by Melissa Walters

Day One: Finding My Legs

What would the tropics be without a tropical storm? Within moments of my arrival, the bottom fell out of the sky. This gave me time to get unpacked (I brought more stuff than one person should ever take on vacation) and get acclimated to what will be my new home for the next eight days. My room is great—it overlooks the lagoon, and I can sit and watch people water-ski from my balcony…

Tropical storms are fickle, and this one quickly dissipated. I got dressed and made my way to the
pool, where I chugged two fruity concoctions to make up for lost time. I’m not even sure what they were. I simply told the bartender to give me “something fruity.” Within about twenty minutes, I was napping poolside.

I took a tour of the facilities and created a long list in my mind of the things I want to do while I’m here. I signed up for a catamaran trip on Tuesday that will take us to Isla Mujeres for some snorkeling, shopping, and all-around fun. Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to try the flying trapeze (a feature at most Club Med destinations), my recent wrist surgery just doesn’t make it a good idea. Guess I’ll just have to try it on my next go-round.

All in all, I’m still settling into the whole solo Diva adventure. It’s a bit odd not worrying about someone else’s schedules and preferences. I definitely think I’ll get used to it!

Day Two: The $12 Lesson

One thing I left out of my Day One entry was a slight judgment error I made at the airport. After leaving the baggage area, a man offered to help me with my bags. I quickly accepted (mistake #1) because in proper Melissa fashion I had grossly over-packed and couldn’t carry everything. We walked over to a booth where an assistant gave me a map, showed me where all the big landmarks were, and began a short speech. This is when I should have left, but no, I let him give me his presentation, which turned out to be for vacation club memberships. He offered me a free excursion to Chichen Itza and other assorted incentives if I agreed
to come hear his pitch. A $20 deposit was required to hold my spot. Confused, tired, and overwhelmed, I handed over the money (mistake #2). I had forty-eight hours to return, reclaim my deposit, and take their tour. I listened for about twenty minutes, asked where the restroom was, and then snuck out the side door. I felt ridiculous, but I had no intention of spending my first real day in Cancun listenting to a time-share pitch. The cab ride home cost me $12, but at least the time-share people didn’t get my money, right?

Back in safe territory, I hit the beach and took in the view. It was a pretty
tame evening because our excursion on Day Three included a 7 am wake-up call. I
say “our” because I spent the day with my two new friends Kelly and Erin, both of whom I met through the Club Med online bulletin board, which allows you to email other guests before you depart. What a great idea!

Day Three: The Catamaran Trip (a.k.a. “The Booze Cruise”)

I awoke to someone knocking on my door at 7 am asking for my name (“tu nombre”). I’m a well-seasoned traveler, but this was the first wake-up call I’d ever had where someone actually came to my door. Guess that’s how they prevent you from over-sleeping.

Got on the bus, and Adeen, our little French host, kept calling me “big Melissa.” What he was trying to say was “tall Melissa.” I finally got him to switch to “tall” because, let’s face it, who wants to be known as “big Melissa” when you’ve spent your life fighting weight problems?

Once on the catamaran, it was a calm ninety-minute cruise over to Isla Mujeres. We sunned ourselves on the boat’s net, watching a lazy swirl of barracudas, stingrays, and other sea life. Then it was lunch and shopping. We started out on foot and realized that a group of three girls draws a lot of attention from the shopkeepers. We were offered discounts, massages, and even husbands! We decided to rent a golf cart and cruise the island, which is only six blocks wide and four miles long. This was a lot of fun and a great way to spend an hour.

After we returned to the boat, things really got crazy. Call it sea air, too much sun, or what it really was (too much tequila and Corona!) but we had a wild trip back. We got to know just about everyone on the boat, including a crazy bunch of French people. One rather funny guy sporting a bright blue Speedo did about ten shots in fifteen minutes. By the end of the trip we were calling him “blue tequila banana hammock.” I arrived back at Club Med with literally a boatload of new friends. We all met up for dinner and continued
the party well into the morning hours. I wish I’d gone on this excursion yesterday because I would have made all these new friends a day earlier!

Day Four: Sun, Sand, and Fun

Wednesday was a pretty quiet day due to the fact that most people were still recovering from yesterday’s boat trip. We hung by the pool and the beach, and I took my first water-ski lesson. I made one loop around the lagoon with the bar (kind of like training wheels for water-skiing). Theoretically, the bar keeps you from
flailing around, but being the hard worker that I am, I found a way to look like a complete fool. Still haven’t found time to pick up my tennis racket, but I’m sure that I will get to it one of these days.

By nightfall, things got really crazy again. The party in the disco made for great fun and a very long night. I decided that I would do Club Med a favor and severely lessen their inventory of alcohol. I had a great time, as did all my new friends.

Day Five: Lessons Learned the Hard Way

The day was unfortunately almost wasted due to one of the worst hangovers I’ve ever had in my life. I spent just about the entire day in bed wishing I’d mixed in a glass of water here and there the night before. I finally made my way out of my room around 5 pm for the foam party, which was an absolute blast. I’ve
never been to one before. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this type of party, it’s a room filled with foam bubbles that you dance around in. After a couple hours, we decided to get cleaned up and go to dinner.
Later, the group went into downtown Cancun at midnight for partying and more fun, but I decided to stay in with a few others so that I didn’t lose the next day as well.

Day Six: The Day of Noble Efforts

After losing the whole previous day, I decided that I was going to make the most of this one. I rose early, had breakfast, and made my way to an advanced tennis lesson. Unfortunately, I picked the only day they didn’t offer them! Instead, I changed and decided to try my hand at windsurfing. One thing everyone should
know is that this time of year can be windy. And while that’s good for more seasoned windsurfers, it makes it difficult for beginners to get up on the board and get the sail pointed in the right direction. After about
six or seven plunges into the water (one of which included me smacking my forehead on the end of the board), I decided I’d made a good effort. I was easily able to stand on the board, I just couldn’t get the sail up all the way.

Around noon, my training came in handy. I volunteered to participate in a pool game called “Gladiator.” It involved standing on a windsurfing board (which I could now do) and swinging a big foam ball at another person to try and knock them off of their board. I made it through the first three rounds and lost in the women’s
final. Even though I didn’t win, there’s something else about this little game that made me proud of myself. For the greater part of the week, I’ve kept my sarong or shorts on over my bathing suit. But for this game, there was no hiding behind them. I stood up in the middle of the pool without any protection and with an entire poolside crowd watching me. There are even pictures posted on the board.

After a quick lunch, I made my way back to the water-skiing area. I got up quickly with the bar and didn’t fall once. But then I decided to try the rope. This is where things got tricky. I actually got up on my first try, but I didn’t keep my legs bent, so I flew out of both of my skis. After three or four more attempts, I decided I was too frustrated and taking way too much time away from the others on the dock.

I have to say one thing—and this applies to all of the people who work and teach lessons at Club Med. They are all exceptionally patient. They realize that everyone isn’t good at everything and are willing to offer whatever kind of help or moral support you need. I’m going to try waterskiing again tomorrow because I am determined to leave here saying that I made it around the lake at least once with the rope.

The goodbye dinner and beach party were a blast! [Tango Diva founder] Teresa arrived just before the party started and was able to meet my new circle of friends. We all danced and drank the night away, trying to forget that most people were heading home the following morning. There are probably close to 200 pictures between all of us to document our closing night. And at 3 am, we turned in for the night, ready to face our last day in paradise.

Day Seven: The Day of Long Goodbyes

We all awoke to the realization that we would be saying our goodbyes and parting ways. The morning was a swirl of pictures and email exchanges. At final count, our email list was up to twenty-seven people. Considering I knew no one before I arrived, it’s amazing to me that I have twenty-seven new friends. Some I know better than others, but we all shared something truly special. We spent most of every day and night together, with short breaks to change for meals. So watching everyone get on their buses to leave was difficult—especially for me since I now find myself here without this incredible circle of people. There are people you know you’ll
only hear from by email every now and then, and then there are people you know will be in your life. That is how I feel about Jessica, Helena, Pete, Erin, and Kelly. These incredible people made this trip something I will never forget. We shared countless smiles, lots of laughs, and many (many, many) cocktails.

It’s so quiet now, and it’s weird to look up and not see Pete, Jessica, and Ellena in the pool. Or Mike wobbling around the corner, sore after too much volleyball. I miss the Australians at the bar always full of life and energy (not sure how they do it after how much I’ve seen them drink this week), with Kelly, our little Aussie goodwill ambassador, in the middle of the herd. And the rest of the group scattered around either jumping on the sea trampoline(which is an absolute blast), playing street hockey and volleyball, or simply sunning themselves and taking in the sea air.

While in the water during the afternoon, I kept seeing airplanes pass overhead, and wondered if one of them was whisking my new friends off to the far corners of the world. It has just been such an incredible experience that it makes me want to cry to see it come to an end. There were talks before everyone left of making this a yearly trip, and picking a new club each year.

After my final dinner, I made my way back to my room to gather my things. Of course, considering how many “things” I brought, it was a late night getting them all packed. Thankfully, I have an extra hour of sleep tonight due to daylight savings time.

Day Eight: My Big Photo Shoot and the Trip Home

Ten o’clock in the morning: time to meet Teresa for pictures and a video shoot so I can share some of my
action with all the Tango Divas out there. However, remember what I said about daylight savings time? Well, I forgot to set the clock, so I was out there at nine o’clock. No wonder it was so quiet.

I Finally met up with Teresa and [Tango Diva business strategist] Patti. I felt like a bit of a movie star with my own film crew following me around. We also recruited some “extras” to star in my movie. A few shots by the pool, a waterskiing lesson, and some good bouncing time on the trampoline, and it was time to say my final goodbyes.

So What Did I Learn After Seven Days?

Sunscreen and sunglasses are an absolute must! I am extremely proud of myself for sticking with this rule and returning home with no sunburned parts.

I seriously overpacked. There was quite a bit of clothing that never left the
closet.

Salt water and sea air wreak havoc on a pedicure.

I was not meant to be a windsurfer.

I may or may not be meant to water-ski. After two days of trying the rope, I never quite made it up. But I think the foundation is there. I just got so nervous when I was out there—mainly because of the extremely hot French guy behind the wheel of the boat. Every time he said, “It’s okay baby, we try again,” I wanted to melt.

According to the scale in the fitness center, I’ve lost twenty pounds. Wouldn’t that be nice? Guess that’s why I never felt the need to take my workout gear out of the closet. The only time my running shoes made their way out of the room was to make the trip home (due to the previously stated need for another pedicure).

In Closing

This place is like summer camp for adults. It brings out the child
side of even the most reserved person—especially when on the sea trampoline.
Bouncing up and down out there makes you feel so young and carefree. Actually,
that’s kind of how the whole Club Med experience makes you feel. Between the
free-flowing drinks and the cool guests and staff, you find yourself acting in
ways you never thought suited you—and you love every minute of it. Whether
it’s sliding around at a foam party, doing body shots off the bartender (or
having the bartender do them off of you!), or dancing until dawn at the disco,
this place changes you.

I am leaving here with a new sense of energy and enthusiasm. But I know it’s just a temporary goodbye because I will return. Whether I bring friends back to experience this place or I venture back on my
own to make more new friends, I see Club Med Cancun in my future. And that makes me smile.

Post Script:

After the jet lag wore off and detox commenced, our own Teresa Rodriguez
Williamson caught up with Melissa and asked her to reflect on her grand solo
adventure. Can you believe our founding Diva made the ultimate sacrifice to fly
down to Cancun to check on Melissa in person? And speaking of sacrifices, thanks
so much to Melissa for her honest, hysterical, and very human daily journal.

As a solo traveler, what did you learn about yourself on this trip?

I learned a lot. First off, don’t pack more than you can easily carry. But second, and probably more important, I learned that going places on my own isn’t a bad thing. It’s liberating. I can’t tell you how many people thought I
was so cool and empowered to have taken the trip on my own. It taught me how to strike out and find people to talk to—otherwise it would have been a very lonely week. I knew that I was responsible for my own happiness, so I went out and found it.

What advice or inspiration would you share with someone who has never
traveled alone before?

Club Med Cancun was the perfect place to begin to spread my solo wings, and I’d recommend something like it for first timers. First of all, it’s all inclusive, which meant that I never had to leave the room with money. That made me feel very safe. Second, there are so many organized activities designed to help people meet each other that it makes it super easy to find new friends. You’d have to try hard not to have a good time there.

What was the best part of traveling solo?

This one is easy to answer. I loved only being responsible and accountable for myself. If I wanted to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon, I did. If I wanted to go waterski, I went. It was so nice not having to worry about how my plans fit with someone else’s schedule or interests.

How will others benefit from this trip you took?

Hopefully they’ll see that if I could do it, they can. I was so scared of doing anything on my own because I felt like people would see me as sad. But instead, they saw me as a strong girl who did something they
didn’t have the nerve to do. Hopefully, by reading my journal and seeing me grow as the week went on, others will know they possess the power to do the same thing and strike out on their own, blazing their own trail.

What would you do differently next time?

Honestly? Not a damn thing! This was by far the best week of my life and
there’s not one moment—even the day I spent really hung over—that I’d change.
Because if I hadn’t had that hangover, I wouldn’t have been the life of the
party the night before. Okay, maybe I wish I’d been able to water ski
successfully. But I think my failures are far funnier than any success I might
have had.

By Jove, she’s got it! Or did she have it all along…after all, the following
quote was her email signature even before she went to Cancun:

“Oh, the things you can think up if you only try!”

—Dr. Seuss

 

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