Traveling the Yucatan and Central America on $20 USD a day

Our Story: The Night My Dad Disappeared

…and instead of searching for him, I stole his bed.

This is a recounting of a night from a specific night during the last week of our 2009 trip, while we were staying on the beach in Tulum.

It was the tail end of our Mexico, Belize, Guatemala excursion in the late summer of 2009 and we decided to spend our final week back in the cabañas in Tulum, where the beaches are so ridiculously perfect that they make you want to cry.

We had been there during the second week of our trip when my mom and sister were still with us. At that time, we stayed in a cabaña on stilts and two double beds. This time we slummed it by staying in the hut closest to the water, with one small bed, holes in the palm-thatched roof, sand floor and large gaps between the twigs that constituted the walls. But, as my dad informed me, these were all actually amenities compared to our previous lodging.  Cheap_Travel_Central_America_Tulum_Cabanas_2009

Holes in the wall and roof meant that wind could move through and keep us cool, and keep the plague of mosquitoes out.

Speaking of wind, being closest to the beach meant that we had no sand dunes or other structures blocking the strong wind coming in off the Gulf. We just were lucky there was no hurricane at this time, it was September, after all.

Sand floor meant a free and fool-proof safe for valuables and a refrigerator. Not only did we bury our cash, passports and travel documents in the sand, but we also dug a hole to fit our Styrofoam cooler in and had ice-cold negro modelos and ron con Coca-Cola all week.

We spent the first day leveling off the sand dune that had formed a barrier around our cabaña, then the first night we absconded with chairs and a table from the beach restaurant in front of us. We spent the next 5 days eating avocado, pico de gallo and tuna sandwiches, drinking, sunbathing and snorkeling. It was really exquisite living on about 15 dollars a day.

We even went to the supermarket and bought two nice blue cocktail glasses, a knife to cut vegetables and bread, and a tupperware to keep our food from contaminating our drinks in the cooler. But maybe this luxurious lifestyle was too much indulgence for the two of us to handle, because on our penultimate night before returning to Ohio, my dad nearly died and I took his disappearance as an opportunity to vomit in the sand behind our cabaña and steal his bed.

The night had started the same as any other, sandwiches and cold cerveza on our front patio. We had also purchased a bottle of cheap rum and some Coke too, since it was almost the end of our trip. My inability to pour the rum should have been a clue to stop while we were ahead. But I took the bottle, and my glass, to a bar down the beach and got a tutorial in how to pour liquor from these fancy marble-stopped bottles they have everywhere else but North America apparently.

Cheap_Travel_Central_America_Tulum_Cabanas_2009_1So the rum started flowing and the conversation went from talking about how nice the last 6 weeks had been to how nice it had been to spend such an unforgettable time together to the devastatingly abrupt end to a life I had built in New York – and then the tears started flowing – the drunk, rum-fueled tears that I couldn’t stop from breaching my bottom eyelashes. It’s the last time I cried and it didn’t last long because we changed the subject and poured another drink. At around 3 am, Xavi wanted to go for a walk down the beach, I opted out and instead hopped in my hammock to go to sleep – but it was not quite so simple.

The suspension of the hammock coupled with the unstopping sway made my head spin in a way I hadn’t felt since my alcohol poisoning college days. So I staggered out of the door and climbed up the sand dune behind our hut. I proceeded to vomit for about a half-an-hour. It was the most idyllic drunk regurgitation session I have ever experienced. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore masked any heaving or coughing and the wind swept away the tears that were streaming, as they normally do when you are forcing everything from your intestines to come out of your mouth. And every time I thought I was finished I could cover the evidence with sand and sit there enjoying the moonlit beach ambiance, until I realized I wasn’t quite finished.

Eventually I had vacated my stomach of any trace of food or beverage and returned to the room. I attempted the hammock again, but I was still a little too green to stomach it. Dad still hadn’t returned, the instinct to worry briefly crossed my mind, but instead I seized the opportunity to take his bed. So I splayed myself across it, one hand holding onto a stick in the wall and one foot in the sand to stabilize myself and stop the spins.

About an hour later I heard my dad stumble into the door followed by a slow groan. I wasn’t sure if it was one of pain, or one of drunken exhaustion. So I played dead so he wouldn’t try and reclaim his bed.

“Oh, Emily. I think I broke my ribs. I fell on the rocks down by the ruins. I could have drowned. It really hurts. Come on you stole my bed. It really hurts. Come on, get up. Emily. Emily. Emily, please, I’m your dad. It hurts. It really hurts.”

“Mehhh. Uhhhh. Pumf.” was my response to signify, I am passed out, I don’t understand you. I am sleeping. In short, I am not moving, the hammock is all yours, pops.

I suppose it occurred to me that maybe he broke his ribs, but I was focused on my own survival then, and I could not get back in that hammock. Plus he was just as drunk, I thought (told myself) maybe he was exaggerating. So he surrendered and cradled himself into the hammock suspended from the roof-beams made of sticks. All of the walls in the cabaña shifted and for a moment I thought the already precarious roof might cave in on us. But he settled into a comfortable position and the walls stopped moving.Cheap_Travel_Central_America_Tulum_Cabanas_Beach__2009

I woke up at sunrise that morning and quickly went around to the side of the hut to make sure any evidence of my inability to hold my liquor was hidden. I don’t like admitting to any failures, especially nasty ones like vomit. My dad later explained his harrowing series of events where he could have drowned had he fallen any other way and hit his head.

“I’m really lucky it was just my ribs. And honestly, the hammock was probably better for me. It was like a natural bandage applying pressure while I slept,” He said. “Man Emily, it really could have been bad. That was a bad idea. That walk.”

I considered admitting that I had spent the night throwing up on the side of the house so we could commiserate together, but I decided instead to respond:

“Yeah I was just a little chilly in the hammock so I took your bed. I didn’t think you would mind much, but I wasn’t anticipating you breaking your ribs either.”

Take me back to TULUM // Take me back to MEXICO // Take me HOME

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