I was ready to leave Valladolid after two days there. I had seen the sights and was ready for decent wifi and access to a kitchen and more food options. My next stop was Merida, the largest city in the Yucatán. I had visited Merida many years ago when I was young but was not sure how much I would remember of it. The ADO bus pulled in to the city and I begrudgingly hopped in a cab once realizing how far away my accommodation was from the bus station (Toto we are not in a small beach town anymore). I decided to stay in an Airbnb my first few nights so that I could focus on getting work done before then moving into a hostel for the duration of my stay, and I found one that was only $2 a night more than the average price for a hostel dorm room. I got to my room as the sun was going down and decided to take a walk before bed. The first thing that hit me was the feeling of being back in a city. I feel very in my element when I am on the beach, but at the end of the day I am a city girl, and Merida definitely gave me that instant jolt of familiarity after having spent the past two weeks in small towns. The room was right off of one of the main streets in Merida called Paseo de Montejo. Paseo de Montejo was built during the height of the city, designed in reference to the Champs-Élysées. It has two large streets going north and south and large sidewalks on either side, with grand statues in the middle of each intersection. The design of the street and the buildings that line it are very European and show the strong colonial influence in the city. As soon as you leave the Paseo de Montejo, the rest of the city becomes much more recognizably Mexican, like a larger version of Valladolid – clear colonial influence with a strong Mexican presence.
I spent my first two days in Merida working in the mornings, walking through the city during the day, and collapsing in my room from heat exhaustion in the evenings. There is a lot to see and do in the city, from the Casa de Montejo and the Catedral de San Ildephonsus lining the Plaza Grande, to the massive market near the center, Mercado Lucas de Galvez, filled with row after row of stands with fruit and veg, magazines and books, spices, dried beans, seeds, hot sauce, sandals, and cheap tacos. On my third day I moved to a hostel closer to the city center. I planned to stay there for three nights, and then spend two additional nights in the city with a new friend coming from Tulum who would be flying out to Cuba soon after. The hostel was large with nice dorm rooms that actually allowed for a decent nights sleep. The main draw for me, of course, was the massive pool encircled by tables and hammocks to relax in the hot Yucatán sun.
In a hostel so large and with many people traveling in groups or pairs, many of whom were from the same European countries, I found myself feeling awkward on my first day to put myself out there and chat with people. In Valladolid the hostel was so small it was difficult to avoid conversation, and two days spent in Merida by myself had rendered me less than chatty. By the evening, when everyone was in groups chatting in the common area, I felt the dull ache of loneliness and anger that I get at myself when I am more antisocial than I wish I was. I took a walk on the streets, being passed by cars full of Friday night revelers listening to loud music with their friends. Walking down the street I felt alone, a different alone than I had felt thus far on my trip but one I was all too familiar with. I wanted to leave Merida, but I felt trapped there with the promise of meeting up with my friend. Many thoughts and feelings passed through me, taking root; why I couldn’t be a more outgoing person, create more opportunities, why do I always tend to feel stuck. I then put a break on my mind and realized: I was waiting for someone or something to change my situation. I was allowing myself to feel stuck and to wallow in it. And I did not quit my job, leave New York, my friends and family, and set off on a long trip to be passive. To wait for something to change, or for something to change me. I no longer wanted to feel like a passive observer of my life, I wanted to be living it. And so I walked a bit longer, then went back to the hostel and had an early night, and woke up the next day. I chatted with a girl in my dorm and we took an exciting day trip to a town with several cenotes. When we returned to the hostel I watched a cooking class and learned to cook empanadas. In the evening I went out for drinks and dancing with a new group of friends. I acknowledged my feelings, let them pass through me, then came fully into the moment of being here, where I am and who I am, experiencing, making, living.