“We can stay in for 2 weeks!”
That’s what we said around March 18th, 2020. By early May, we were still staying in. When Covid-19 hit the US lots and lots of people traveled home. We decided to stay in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. One of the main reasons (other than thinking it would only be for 2 weeks), was that we were not alone. We had formed a tiny community on the property where we are renting a studio. There were There were two single worldschooling moms with their kids and an older couple next door, that spoiled the kids with toys and treats and a single lady upstairs
Although the streets were empty, the beaches were closed and people wore face masks, there were still smiles and respect. We were confined in a small part of town, on the North end of Playa Del Carmen, in a local Mexican neighborhood and were doing well!
I could have felt resentful. In truth, I felt grateful. Foremost for our health and that of our loved ones, but also for the tiny community we had there. Without our community, I’m not sure how we would have survived. As we went through the emotions, each riding out our individual waves, making sense of a world turned upside down, we are not alone.
It was a special kind of connection – a different kind of friendship. We experienced something together, that none of us had ever experienced before. This created an incredible bond. In one way or another, each of us had to deal with the same thing. The fear of not knowing what the world would look like in a week, a month, a year. What we did know was that while life seemed at a standstill, the sun kept rising every morning and it was beautiful. Nature is awesome. I find a lot of peace in that.
We stayed on a beautiful property, with beautiful people, with a beach only two blocks away. We can make it we thought. We had planned on staying for three months anyway. While the rest of the world seemed to be in a panic, we still enjoyed our regular life in Mexico. The wave just hadn’t hit there yet. Everything seemed so normal, people were out, everything was open, life as usual.
“Mexico isn’t doing enough.” “The President isn’t taking this seriously.” That is what we heard. Yet all along, I think there was a plan. I think that Mexico took into consideration all aspects of life for its citizens, not just their health. There had always been a plan to shut down stores, hotels, restaurants, and beaches, but not until it was absolutely necessary. No country can close for very long. It seems as though Mexico took into account its people’s resources and its health care system and came up with a plan on how to close, when to close, and for how long to close. We hadn’t seen any changes yet because the time just hadn’t come.
The tourists seemed to have gone home, only expats or other slow travelers stayed. We had everything we needed within walking distance. There were grocery stores, a laundry place, a veggie store, a bakery. The only thing that worried me a bit, was the possibility of the crime rate rising as people lost their jobs. To be proactive, our landlord put an extra 2 feet of barbed wire around our property. I was a little concerned, that I wouldn’t be able to recognize it if things were going in a bad direction. . I wasn’t sure that I could read people and situations correctly, given I had only lived in the country for two months. I found great comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone. I knew that if things took a turn for the worse, I would have people to talk with, to evaluate, to help me make decisions.
We started staying in more, as more things on the outside closed. We are really getting to know our neighbors. We got to hear their stories, discuss our opinions, and talk about our views on different topics. We exchanged smoothies and empty yogurt containers for the kids to play with. We went shopping for each other, shared meals, and sat together in the evenings. Everything felt calm, with very sweet interactions.
I thought we were slow traveling before. But boy! Now I really know what slowing down means! And, if I am very honest with myself, I find that I quite like it. As we went outside less, my heart opened more. What was inside of me became more and more visible. I found a whole new balance to life and I was able to process some stuff that I had been carrying around for no reason. I started feeling free, alive, and happy. I learned to accept what is, to give up control, to truly go with the flow, because I had all the time in the world. For the first time in forever there was nothing on my calendar.
I joined my 3-year-old in pretend play for hours! We went ‘shopping’ at the other end of the property, collecting leaves and pretending they were different groceries. I started drawing with my 11-year-old daughter. I have never drawn in my entire adult life! We colored and painted, played and created, we made music together. We would cook, walk, and shop all the while connecting with other on a new level. Spending time together changed our lives by deepening our relationships. I realized that the biggest gift you can give to another personis your time.
Mandatory face masks, #quedateencasa (stay home) is what we saw and heard everywhere. It was the message online and outside on posters in the streets and stores. We even heard it from loudspeakers on a government card driving through the neighborhoods. The police were present everywhere, sending people home. I heard they were even ticketing people out on recreational walks. Only trips to the closest grocery store were allowed. On May 6th, a curfew was issued between 7 pm and 5 am. Everything, literally everything, not food or health-related was closed.
One morning we heard loud music playing on the streets. It sounded like it was coming from a truck, driving around the smaller neighborhood roads. When it seemed to be literally outside our gate, we went out to see what was going on. It was a truck full of food boxes! Being delivered by the government to the people. One of the people distributing them offered one to me. I replied that I am not a Mexican citizen and don’t pay taxes. His answer was “Here in Mexico we help all people. Citizens and foreigners alike.” And he was proud. I ended up turning it down, because we were fine, and I’d wanted the box go to someone in truly need, but I felt the utmost respect and gratitude to our hosting country.
We found community everywhere, inside and out, and also online. We spent precious moments with the people around us, absorbing as much as we could from each other. For once, we truly had time to listen, and to connect. And we so enjoyed each other’s company!
We also found community living among the local people here in Mexico. The family who owns the store across the street from where we were staying knew our shopping habits and was always up for a chat. The lady in the lavandería (laundromat) around the corner knew us by name. And the Mayan woman in our favorite fruitería picked up my daughter every time she came in, because “she has blue eyes! It ¨was a wonderful experience,. and even though we were foreigners, we felt truly connected.
As a traveling family, we also learned to quickly build friendships when meeting someone in person. We learned that if we truly let our hearts connect with others we could create the basis for staying in touch after everyone parts ways. This made for a very supportive circle around us that we have kept up t othis day through the use of technology. Now it is never “good-bye”, but rather “until we meet again!
Despite Covid-19, the closing, and the lockdown we had an incredible time. It was a time that doesn’t compare to anything I have ever experienced before. We made the best of it for sure, and as we are still very much in it,but I know we have gained so much already that we wouldn’t have ever learned if it wasn’t for spending many weeks here, during quarantine in that community.
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