Sunday, March 7, 2010

At Fifty . . .

I started reading a fluffy novel, Flirting with Forty, on Friday and have been skating through it. I doubted I'd find much of interest in it because it seemed like the typical story where the recently divorced soccer mom takes a solo tropical trip and finds hot love on the beach. I didn't think the book would hold my attention, but I soon discovered the book's settings, Seattle and Hawaii, were two of my favorite places! I actually picked up this book to read while I'm waiting on Odd Mom Out, another Jane Porter book set in my former hometown -- Bellevue, Washington.

One of the scenes in Flirting with Forty gave me a good laugh last night. At Jackie's fortieth birthday lunch at the Leschi Cafe, one of our favorite old haunts down on Lake Washington, the 40-year olds see a group of women celebrating a friend's fiftieth at the table next to them. One of them politely inquires how a woman's fortieth differs from the big 5-0. The 50-year old blonde answers, "When you're forty you decide it's time to do what you want to do, even if it means upsetting others. At fifty you do what you want to do, and you don't give a shit what other people think."

I don't think forty was the age I decided to do what I wanted even if it upset others because I was too busy driving carpool and attending PTA meetings, but I know I gave up worrying what others thought when I hit my fiftieth! And fifty was around the age when I decided to do what I wanted! Shortly after, I decided to take my first solo trip to Isla Mujeres. I got a wild hair one weekend in August 2004 when I was browsing the internet looking at Isla message boards and rental sites. I wanted to do something on my own! I checked Alaska Airlines, found a free award ticket for late October, and just booked it!

I woke up the next morning nearly nauseated wondering what the hell I'd done! When I told Craig, I'm fairly sure he thought I was entering some kind of midlife crisis, but he acted supportive. Since Michael had already flown the coop, and Craig with busy traveling leaving me home solo for a large part of every week, why was I just sitting there?

Friends and family expressed concern that I'd do something as crazy as flying off to Mexico by myself. My mother thought I was truly insane and warned me over and over about the dangers. Her famous line to me was something that actually cemented my intentions -- If I had to travel someplace like that by myself, I just wouldn't go! Of course, she wouldn't even go out to eat or to a movie by herself, so she was leading a very lonely life after the death of my father. Seeing how much she was limiting the rest of her life motivated me to overcome my fears and go for it!

The morning after booking, before I got over the nausea, I considered calling Alaska Airlines back and redepositing the airline miles back into our account, but I finally got beyond the sick feeling and started planning my trip. I booked nine nights at Color de Verano in Apartment Number 2, three nights in the Castle rooms at Maria del Mar, and the rest of my stay at Media Luna. And what started out to be a solo two week trip soon expanded to three and a half weeks with Craig and a friend of mine both deciding to join me for parts of the trip. I panicked a little over that because I was really looking forward to alone time, but I still would have a week and a half of the trip with just myself and me.

If I had any lingering fears, they melted away once the ferry pulled into the Isla dock.

I conquered some firsts on that virgin solo trip!

First time encounter in a foreign country with a man on a motorcycle carrying a machete. I was on a bike by myself out on a lonely stretch of road on the bayside at about 6:30 a.m. I saw that guy coming and it truly scared the hell out of me. Motorcycle drivers waving machetes were rare in suburban Seattle, so I got a jolt of adrenalin when I saw him coming!

First time dining out alone on a vacation. My favorite waiters, among them Alex, Aldo, and Serge, went out of their way to be friendly and welcoming to me. I ate a lot of meals at Bamboo and Fayne's that trip, and discovered people watching on Hidalgo made great mealtime entertainment.

First time in a cab in a foreign country by myself. The Gran Puerto driver's cab stalled before he got out of the starting gate, so he locked me in the hot car, probably to ensure I didn't bolt for a cab that actually ran. Actually, I had a dog in a crate in the backseat of that cab with me, but that's a whole 'nother story! He and other drivers popped the hood and spent some time playing with cables, then rocked the car back and forth until the driver eventually got it started. At every intersection, the driver would rev the engine with one foot and brake with the other. Then the car would lurch and sputter when the light turned green. I could just see myself abandoned on a strange street corner with bags somewhere in Cancun, but the driver eventually got me to the airport.

I came, conquered my fears, learned new tricks, and returned home hoping solo trips to Isla could become my yearly tradition. I love it when Craig has the time to travel with me, but now I know Isla's a place I can safely enjoy by myself. And I'm never really alone because I run into returning friends and make new ones every trip. On most of my trips, I've encountered new firsts that have taught me I'm capable of coping. My biggest fear of traveling alone to the tropics had always been encountering a hurricane. Now I've been there, done that, and can go on to the next adventure.

I am SO looking forward to my return on June 29. Craig will join me for ten days, and I'll return home on July 14. And if everything works out, I'd love to come back in November for an extended stay.

Here's a few more photos taken with my first digital camera on that first solo trip:

A pristine Playa Norte before all the erosion.

The path to the old Playa Media Luna lifeguard palapa.

Looking north toward the Caribbean Queen.

So, did anyone else say what the hell and dive off the dock when they turned 50? One of my best friends strapped herself to a large Russian man and jumped out of a plane! She's definitely got me beat! LOL


Jane said...

It's so fun to read about your adventures, Beck.
At 40, when I grew weary of fishing vacations "up north" (where I cooked and cleaned for entire crew, because I don't like to fish), I begged earnestly to go to tropical Isla. Husband's final answer, "NO!!! But if you really want to go to Mexico, go without me." So I did. (Best decision I ever made in my life!)
Ten years later, I read something like this: "When a woman reaches the age of 50, her husband locks her in an upstairs room, and she burns the house down."
(Truer words have never been spoken, in my case.)

Life's a Beach! said...

Jane, LOL, I hope you escaped the burning house! Any Isla plans this year?

jane said...

Hope to be there soon--maybe next week. (Hope the governor's henchwomen aren't out to get me.) And would love to return for the "big bash," although summer here is too good to leave! But ... weeding my garden doesn't sound nearly as fun as swimming with pretty pink dolphins, or whatever the Islaholicas morph into by then!

Vee said...

What a fun read that was, Beck. I suppose the turning point for me was my 45th birthday. That's when I decided to go to Isla with some girlfriends. A ten-year relationship was ending, and I wanted to begin the next phase with an adventure. I'd never been to Mexico, and Isla was so affordable. I also think it was one of my best decisions ever!

Moongrl722 said...

I really enjoyed this post, Becky. I love the confidence that comes with age, if not the wrinkles. I love being able to let things go that would have bothered me ten years ago. I'll let ya know on the 50 thing. :) So far, the 40s rock. I guess it doesn't hurt that I married Mr. Wonderful two weeks after my 40th birthday. I figured that being a bride would soften the blow. It did. :)