Anthony and I have two set trips per year – once together for a week with the whole company, and once for a week with our own teammates. So I recently took a trip to Playa del Carmen in Mexico with 8 of my teammates! It was hot, humid, and the wifi was bad, but the weather was gorgeous and so was the city and all of the nature around it. Honestly this was one busy week so I’m not even sure how I remember what happened each day…
Day 1: Traveling to Mexico
I flew into CUN airport mid-day, met up with two of my coworkers (Synora and Chris), and we took a shuttle to our Airbnb house.
An hour later we arrived at the Airbnb amid a dense rainstorm! Apparently in Mexico when it rains so much in such a short period of time the sewers overflow and it smells like ass – yay!
Throughout the evening our other 6 coworkers arrived – two coworkers stayed home due to illness. Bummer, but we will catch up with them soon at the Grand Meetup at least! Once everyone had arrived, we took 3 taxis to dinner at the world-famous El Fogon.
After El Fogon, we stopped by the Walmart just down the street to shop for some essentials. A group of 9 shopping in a foreign Walmart was a fun experience to say the least. With our shopping out of the way, a few of us began a walk home.
We walked right by this beautiful building – Palacio Municipal de Playa del Carmen. Directly in front of this building is a beautiful little plaza.
From here we walked down Avenida 5 all the way back to our airbnb. It was a nice, cool night after the rain came through so that made for a relaxing walk after a long day of travel.
Distance walked on Day 1: 8.42 miles
Day 2: Learning, Coworking, Fine Dining
We started off the morning with breakfast provided by the live-in staff at the airbnb, and discussion led by Maureen.
During this morning’s session we broke out into groups to discuss further. Synora and I chose to hang out by the pool while we discussed weekend work and other difficult conversations we as WordPress.com Happiness Engineers have had to partake in lately.
I have to say, if all my work hangouts could be taken in poolside I might actively search out more work hangouts to join!
After our morning session concluded, we all headed on over to Michaela’s Grill for some delicious Mexican food and a spot to work for a little bit – chats and tickets!
I’ll be honest, this turned out to be pretty stressful when my food arrived approximately 2 minutes before I was due to chat. Eventually I got through it and relocated to a Gelato shop where I finished up my shift without actually consuming any gelato 😦
Later this evening we all relaxed poolside until.. it was time for dinner! We chose a fancy Italian restaurant, Cenacolo, to end such a long and stressful day.
The food was amazing and the company was even better. We all had a great time it seemed, especially after we spotted the comically large pepper grinder!
Again we ended the day with walking back to the airbnb house, only a few miles away.
Distance walked on Day 2: 6.97 miles
Day 3: Tour of Chichén Itzá, Hubiku, Ek’ Balam
Day three began at the “ass crack” of dawn as I like to say. It was so early we didn’t even have breakfast first. The tour bus picked us up at the airbnb, drove us to a gas station where they moved us to another tour bus with our tour guide and other tour mates (6 to be exact, 2 of which speak Spanish).
So naturally, as soon as we got on the road everyone fell asleep. I slept for a bit but then couldn’t anymore. That’s when I realized a few other Athenians also could not sleep.
Two hours later we arrived at Chichén Itzá for our first stop. There’s so much to see there, but the two main takeaways for me were the pyramid (El Castillo, Chichen Itza) and the sacred well (where the most beautiful women would dive to their death for sacrifice).
We even took a new team photo (minus Cesar and Bruce).
And some of us took a selfie after walking around in the heat, we probably look much better in the group photo.
Soon after this selfie was taken, we hopped back on the tour bus and headed for our next destination – Hubiku. Although Hubiku was only 45 minutes away, we were on some dirt roads which made for an interestingly bumpy ride.
Once at Hubiku, we met with a shaman who blessed us all before we could proceed. Now, let me make a disclaimer here: A few Athenians were pretty sick following the shaman experience, so knowing what we know now we might have opted out of that!
After being cleansed by the shaman, we were permitted to enjoy a buffet lunch and a dip in the cenote. I’d never swam in a cenote before but I dove right into freezing cold water.
Thankfully I have a lot of experience with swimming and cold water, so it was actually very enjoyable and refreshing from the heat of Mexico. There were fish in the cenote with us and I spent most of my time trying to touch one. They were all too quick, though just as I was getting out one touched me! I figure that was done out of pity.
We dried off from the cenote and headed onto our next stop 15 minutes away – Ek’ Balam (another Mayan ruin). There we climbed a smaller pyramid and a massive one!
Check out Livio about half way up the little one:
And now for some pictures climbing the big one:
It was utterly exhausting climbing all of those steps, but the view was quite worth it. Synora and I came down together… scooting down step by step on our booties!
Following these excursions, we headed home on our tour bus. Two hours later we were back at our airbnb but we were hungry!
We headed into town for some food and in the end I finally enjoyed some gelato.
Once we were all back to the airbnb (by way of walking of course), I think we all slept quite well that night.
Distance walked on Day 3: 8.32 miles
Day 4: Learning, Vegan food, Coworking, Beach
We began this morning with breakfast as we learned from Austin about how to chat. Well, we all know how to chat, but he helped us learn how to improve our efficiency and accuracy. His beautiful presentation was full of movie references, of course.
Following this, I somehow convinced some of my coworkers to dine at a vegan burger restaurant, Marvin’s Burgers. As usual, I spotted a vegan hot dog on the menu and pounced!
The vegan hot dog was covered in a “cheese-like sauce” and was tasty as can be! Because I couldn’t believe other people wanted to join me at a vegan restaurant, I took pictures to savor the moment.
We decided during lunch to hurry up and get on with our coworking for the evening (responding to user’s tickets for 3 hours each) so we could get to the beach for some relaxation before sunset. And boy did we!
We secured two private cabanas at Mamita’s Beach Club. And when I say “club”, I don’t mean a stuffy country club, I mean kind of club that has DJs, drinks, and yummy food to boot!
Literally, our two cabanas were right near the DJ stand, it was fantastic. After hanging out on the beach, we walked to a nearby restaurant, had a bit more to eat (I seriously have no clue how we ate more), then headed home by foot.
This is when I picked up a small gift for my friend in Texas whose birthday I totally forgot to celebrate the day before. Sorry again, Samantha!
Distance walked on Day 4: 8.05 miles
Day 5: Free Day
After all our hard work the last few days, it was time to slow things down and break into smaller groups to enjoy a little more of a personalized experience in Playa del Carmen.
A few coworkers chose to take the ferry over and explore Cozumel island. I had planned to go with them, but the weather was shaky and I wasn’t feeling 100% so I wanted to stay a little closer to home.
So I opted to join Trevor, Austin, and Wyn for some exploration of the city.
We had a nice lunch with the best sangria I had all week/my whole life and also the only one I did not get a photo of. Seriously, it had a layer of CINNAMON in it. I had never experienced such a thing, but that may also be why I promptly headed home for a long nap after lunch!
After such a long nap (and having hardly touched my lunch) I was so hungry and incidentally our Cozumel-explorer coworkers were back on the mainland. So guess what time it was? Time to eat (again).
We met at a restaurant with tables on the beach called Zenzi and for some reason, no one was really eating.
Seems like everyone just wanted drinks before dinner… so I ordered a “little” dessert.
I don’t even care how many calories this was (The Lose It app estimated about 400-500), it was so delicious and worth. every. bite. The view from Zenzi was breathtaking.
After drinks and dessert on the beach, we still needed a proper dinner for some reason so we decided on pizza at 50 Friends. It was tasty but not really anything to write home about.
After dinner we… you guessed it… walked home. In doing so our group sort of split into two and we “lost” Trevor and Austin. It turns out though, they sort of ditched us for a hookah bar. How do we know? Well, we walked right by said hookah bar and this is what we saw:
Just look at these two, deer in the headlights! We stayed at the hookah bar for a bit and I spotted some street performers just outside the lounge.
The street performers were doing all sorts of things, but the coolest part was when they broke out the jumprope and traded off performing tricks while jumping.
Distance walked on Day 5: 5.81 miles
Day 6: Teaching, Coworking, Fine Dining in a cave
This morning was my time to be on the hotseat – a learning segment all about WooCommerce. For Q1 (January 1st through March 31st) I was on “rotation” to another part of our company called WooCommerce, where I worked with other Happiness Engineers to support this e-commerce plugin and all of the extensions that go along with it. Apparently this means I’m some sort of expert (I’m not, at all) so I had to share my knowledge with the team.
Because I was completely uncomfortable with a powerpoint presentation, we played a game in which we’d form teams of 2 and setup products in one big WooCommerce store. The team with the most products setup in 30 minutes would win a prize.
Congrats to Asher and Wyn – they had something like 6 products (some of which were variable products for those of you who know what those are). They won these super cute (and totally not something you can find at every single tourist stand) ornaments that say “Playa del Carmen”.
After learning all about Woo, we had a quick lunch near our next stop of the day – our coworking spot.
The place we rented space at is called Nest and what a cool place it was! First off there was freezing cold ac, a private meeting room to house all of us, and the wifi wasn’t terrible. I won’t say that it was perfect because it was still pretty slow compared to what we are all used to, but it was faster than most Wifi we had throughout the week and definitely more reliable. Many of us popped in our headphones and tuned out the world around us while we knocked out some live chats and tickets into the early evening.
After all that we work we deserved one last hurrah in Playa del Carmen, and boy you will not believe where we went next.
We. Ate. In. A. Freaking. Cave.
Like we’re fancy people or something (really it wasn’t that expensive at all considering there are 9 of us). I can’t even properly describe this place so here’s some video for you to see for yourself:
And some still photos of when we received a tour of the cave restaurant after our meal:
After dinner we took cabs back to the house then decided we weren’t ready to call it a day. Some of us ventured back out (I needed to get cash from an ATM to pay for meals at our airbnb) and decided to hang out at Trujillos Cantina de Selva for a bit. In preparation for tomorrow I chose to only enjoy a bottled water.
And there we have it, the last selfie of the trip.
Distance walked on Day 6: 4.87 miles
Day 7: Traveling Home
I started out this last day of our meetup around 6:30 am, and before I had eye drops in, I was streaming the Royal Wedding on my phone. After packing up my last few items, I plopped myself on the couch in the dining area of the Airbnb and continued to watch the Royal Wedding on the big screen (but this time with Spanish commentary). As the newly married couple began their carriage ride, our own carriage ride arrived and off Austin, Wyn, and I went to CUN airport.
My flights home were relatively boring aside from some turbulence due to the terrible weather going on all over the East Coast, but I had no notable delays, lost baggage, or issues with customs.
Distance walked on Day 7: 4.82 miles
All-in-all it was a great trip. We bonded as a team, learned from one-another, enjoyed some fantastic food and drinks, and we took in some amazing sights together. As a team we came in under budget but I feel like we were able to go and do more during this trip than we were able to do during our trip to Washington D.C. last year.
Things I would change for the next time traveling in Mexico or a similar country? Spend a bit more time researching the wifi situation prior to booking housing, perhaps go a bit earlier in the year when it’s not so hot and humid, and don’t get a sunburn (though it’s already faded a few days later, and no pain!).
Want to see more photos from my trip? Check out my personal blog showcasing some of my favorite photos from this and many more experiences.
PS: For those that don’t do math, I walked 47.26 miles in just this 1 week (and may I mention that it was blazing hot with insane humidity)! That’s got to be a personal record because I’m not into walking usually.