Fire Ants, Sunburns, and Fish, Oh My!

I think it has been established that I am not exactly the outdoorsy type. But when you go on vacation to who knows where, you don’t want to be trapped in a hotel room the entire trip. Am I right? In 2012, I went to Cozumel, Mexico for 3 weeks to get an English credit. Yes, you read that right. Yes, it is actually a thing that people do. For me, the crazy part wasn’t taking English in Mexico; it was the going away with a group of strangers for 3 weeks.

Class on the Beach

Not Your Typical Resort.

I’ve been to Mexico before, so I assumed this trip would be more or less the same. I was picturing, and I’m sure you are too, the 21-floor hotels, with a million pools and hot tubs that over look the ocean. Doesn’t that sound nice? That’s not where we were.

Casa Del Mar has 4 floors, one pool, no elevators, and a mini forest in the middle. Do you know what that means? Anytime I was outside of my room, I was in nature. Want to walk to the vending machine that is just down the hallway? Ok, sure. Watch out for geckos and cockroaches. I know, how did I survive?!

The worst part of the hotel was that we had to cross the street to get to the beach. We actually had to cross a bridge and walk down stairs to a platform with a makeshift beach on it. Did you think we were at the ocean yet? Good, because we’re not. To get to the water, you have to go down another set of stairs. That didn’t really bother me though; I wasn’t going in the water anyways.

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Let’s just take a second to appreciate the metal stairs and the lack of white sand.

I’ll Be Over Here

Out of the Sun.

I don’t really do oceans because, I know this may be a huge surprise for you, but there are fish in them. All types of fish. Big ones and small ones, friendly ones and deadly ones. I wouldn’t call myself an expert so I just steer clear in general. Besides, I would much rather lounge in a pool away from the slippery creatures.

As you can imagine, I was perfectly happy reading King Lear on a hammock on the “beach” platform. The other girls not so much. They wanted to be able to tan with their towels in a row and walk into the ocean without taking the stairs. That’s how we found out that our hotel has a private beach advertised as being only 10 minutes away! I must say, it felt more like 20 minutes, but that could be because there were 11 of us crammed into the back of a 6 person van. But hey, it’s Mexico and like we said countless times on the trip, YOLO!

Did you actually go on vacation if you didn’t write your catch phrase in the sand?

Let’s got to the Beach

Belting out Starships.

After the 10-20 minute bumpy, cramped, and stinking hot cab ride, we arrived at the private beach. And, man oh man, was it private. So private, that we were the only ones on the beach, along with maybe 5 hotel staff members. I was a little disappointed because, once again, there was only one pool. Not that there was an abundance of people, but still, I would like to have some options.

Here is a fun fact about me. I burn way too easily. So, as all of my new friends lined up their towels in a row, I took refuge under a palm leaf hut to slather on sunscreen. Does anyone else put on sunscreen? No of course not! They all drench themselves in tanning oil. I swear they could have been an advertisement for Hawaiian Tropic.

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*Not pictured: tomato red sunburn. 

Attack of the Fire Ants

I was Just Minding my own Business.

Since I was stuck on the beach cooking from the inside out anyways, why not get some reading done. After all, this was a school trip. I planted my feet so deep into the sand that it began to feel cool. I was completely in the shade, so what could go wrong? You know me too well. Of course something went wrong.

Have you ever seen a little ant on your leg and thought to yourself ‘awe how cute?’ Me neither. Do you want to know how I noticed this little ant? I’ll give you a hint. It didn’t tickle. Instead, it was the sharp pinches it took as it made its way up my leg.

Here is what I want to know, why are none of the other girls that are lying in the sand getting bitten? It is still a mystery to me. But nevertheless, I set up camp beside the rest and began to burn. Not tan. Burn. Let me remind you, I was the only one to put on sunscreen. I was also the only one to get a tomato red sunburn. Lucky me.

Oh ya, Snorkelling.

Can’t wait…

After the fire ants and sun burning, I was ready to head back to our shack of a hotel and call it a day. It was in that moment that I really wished we were staying in a hotel on the beach. I was ready to leave, but no one else was.

I thought this day couldn’t get worse and then the overly excited words of Stephanie Trudell rang through my ears. “Let’s go snorkelling!” I have never seen a group of girls that were half-asleep tanning and thumbing through magazines jump up so quickly.

I think we already talked about my fear of the ocean, right? The whole fish thing? I prefer to explore coral reefs with Dory and Nemo from the comfort of a theater seat. Had I not been burning up, I would have said hell to the no. But anything to get me out of the sun was good enough reason for me.

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Please! Get me out of the sun!

But Actually, Can we Leave Now?

There Could Be Sharks!

I might exaggerate sometimes, ok most of the time. But being in the ocean was terrifying. Have you ever had that moment when you realize death is upon you? I have moments like this a little too often for my liking.

For example, my shoulders finally had some relief from the direct sunlight and I was snorkeling in peace. But not for long. I swam with the rest of the group trying to stay reasonably close to the shore. I guess I didn’t noticed how far I was out until I saw a baby swordfish… Turns out it was a harmless trumpet fish, but still I nearly fainted. At that moment, I noticed how deep the water was. Not that I have ever seen a great white shark before, but a shark could definitely fit where I was swimming.

Please hold for my Olympic swimmer moment. I’m ready for the podium. My front crawl, damn, I’m sure I broke some kind of record. Yet all I could think about was Bethany Hamilton, the girl that had her arm bitten off by a shark. I kept my head down (only coming above water for air when completely necessary) and swam for my life.

Reaching the shore with all of my limbs was one of the most relieving moments I have ever experienced. Sure I might be overreacting, but I totally could have died.

Pro Tips

Not Just an English Student.

I learned a ton on this trip, and not just about King Lear. Spending 3 weeks away from home in a tropical area taught me some pretty life altering things.

  • There is no such thing as too much sunscreen! You think SPF 30 once a day is enough? IT’S NOT! I learned that the hard way. More than once, actually. Take my advice on this one, wear as much sunscreen as possible and use the highest SPF you can find.
  • The Taxi driver will tell you how many can fit in the car. They are usually right; after all it is their car. Don’t try to make a clown car out of it. It is safer and more comfortable to stay within the limit.
  • Fire Ants will find you. You may think you are safe curled up on a beach chair, but you are not! I don’t know how to avoid them but just be aware of their existence.


Have you experienced any of my horror moments? Leave a comment below and tell me how you cope.

Stay adventurous my friends,

The Basically Adventurous Jordanne.

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