Two years ago, I was living out of a 40L backpack and sleeping in a hammock with my dog, Slayer. I volunteered on organic, off grid, and sometimes tantric farms; I made my own shampoo, and I did yoga every day. I was one of those hippies.
Fast forward two years and much of that old life is over. Now I buy toilet paper by the skid at Sam’s Club, eat whatever I can shove in mouth with one hand and the closest I get to off-grid, are biodegradable diapers I buy from Jessica Alba online.
But the travel must stay. I have been traveling my whole life – way before I went vegan, before I ditched my TV, before I was making my own soap in the sink at my mom’s house.
So the travel can stay, right? The long haul, stay-for-a-month, housing swap, cottage life, beach babe stuff – that can all stay. That’s more like moving somewhere new than traveling anyway…
But what about the straight up exploring stuff? Recently, I was invited on a two day trip to the Palenque ruins just 6 hours from my home in San Cristobal with a group of childless friends. Here was my chance to test out how well this whip can pivot with a baby on-board.
I didn’t sleep much the night before we departed and my stomach was a bit off, but I swallowed it down and forged ahead. We were meeting our crew at the bus depot at 6:45AM and I pride myself on punctuality.
I managed to pack everything we would need for two days into a Louis Vuitton carry-all which is my number #1 top travel accessory must-have. Judge all you want – that thing can take 120lbs per strap, is basically impossible to burn, tear or stain and it’s the best diaper bag for the money out there.
I was really car sick the whole way, but figured it was just regular car sickness – something I developed in pregnancy – maybe I just had that now? My friends all sat in the back of the first shuttle while I was up front, dreaming of the pure satisfaction of a Van Wilder style barf out the window of a moving car.
It took us two collectivos (local transport vans – lots of seats & cheap as chips) to get to Pelenque for under 200 pesos ($20 CAD) where we then stopped and ate tacos. I only had one, due to car sickness. But I did enjoy a real glass-bottle Coca-Cola (my Latin American guilty pleasure).
From Palenque we arrived at El Panchan, which is like a collection of jungle hostels and restaurants just a ten minute drive from the ruins.
I loved Panchan, it’s just my speed – no muss, no fuss, decent tipico breakfast, live music at night, super chill, in the jungle, and affordable for anyone.
We immediately hustled off to Palenque. My crew consisted of a Mexican Mezcal Sommelier who was squeezing this trip into two days off from work, my friend Alamo from Canada, a Belgian long-term traveler who was in San Cris for close to a month and a young woman from Spain at the beginning of a 6-month trip through Mexico and Central America. Our ages ranged from 23-41.
As soon as we arrived inside the main gate of the ruins, we were greeted by several clean-cut young men selling mushrooms. That’s “a thing” in the jungle – partly cause it’s where mushrooms grow, but it’s also just been “a thing” for many many years to go to the Palenque ruins and trip out on mushrooms.
Alamo hadn’t done them since he was a teenager and I was a little trepidatious because I can’t even imagine taking care of Luna after a couple beers, let alone from the moon. But, we all went in on some anyway – I figured someone would eat them if I didn’t.
We sort of rushed through the ruins. I was using a ring wrap (shout out to Sakura Bloom for teaching me how to use it) to cart Luna around and about 45 minutes in, we broke from the group to sit in the grass. Stairs and heat and 12lbs of baby hanging off you tuckers you out in no time flat. I told the crew to continue on without me.
Luna put her feet in the grass for the first time and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her awe and wonder at her own toes; for her, they were the main event – the ancient ruins merely a backdrop.
That night when Luna went to bed I took some mushrooms and had a lovely time looking out at the jungle foliage for about two hours feeling loved and blessed and wanting to go to this night club I thought I saw in the distance that had a rad draw bridge entrance that looked like George Harrison’s face.
I have been taking mushrooms for depression and anxiety about four times a year for the past five years. I usually do them alone and in nature – I find they help me to slough off the fear that comes from trying to navigate a world of judgement on my own. They help me zig when everyone else is zaggin’. I was asleep by 10PM while the others went for late dinner and to watch a Salsa band at one of the restaurants; I awoke feeling fresh, centered and ready to take on another day of god-knows-what.
Everyone decided rather than rush back, we should stay another day. I was so thankful. 7 hours between two shuttles is a lot to do back-to-back with a baby. The childless members got to sleep and chat and do them. I had to try not to fall asleep with a fussy baby in my arms. For. Seven. Hours.
After breakfast I randomly threw up hard while my friend held Luna for me. Immediately after I felt like a new woman.
We snuck into the back of the ruins and went into the jungle where there were a lot of stairs. This is something you notice whilst carrying a diaper bag (that gorgeous Louis) and a 3-month old. The team were disappointed with the mushrooms from the day before due to their shortness (it’s what I loved about them) so they bought more – I politely declined.
I ended up leaving them in the jungle to go have dinner with my babe. We had a lovely meal and retired to our room. I ended up passing out before 9PM when they returned from their jungle adventure.
I woke up stomach sick again but unable to throw up. We were traveling back in a couple hours. Perfect.
Everyone was pretty beat from the whole mushrooms-beer-tequila party I’d slept through so we all decided to skip going to this beautiful waterfall and just take our time heading home.
I held it in pretty much the whole way. A couple hours from San Cristobal, on what was supposed to be the last shuttle, we were stopped because farmers were protesting the gas hikes in Mexico. I was never so thankful to get out and walk in my life. We walked from one side to the other through the bucolic country side, got in another shuttle, drove ten minutes and were stopped by a second protest. This time, it was near a truck stop with a public bathroom. Hallelujah!
That bathroom looked like pure heaven to me as I handed off my baby to my friend, who was trying to size up the situation ahead of us, and bolted towards it. At the truck stop, several drunk Mexican cowboys tried to talk to me, but I pushed past them towards the toilet, clutching a half used roll of toilet paper I took with me from El Panchan. Once inside, I let it rip! Almost nothing came out, but I made a lot of wretching noises to delight the caballeros.
In the background, Crimson and Clover blared from the loud speaker at the bus stop and I thought, “great, I’d always wanted to ralph on the side of the road with this song playing in the background.”
As soon as I felt the sweet relief that can only come after a good purge, I opened the door right on cue as Starship’s, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” started up. My first thought was, “shit, why didn’t I hold it in for three more minutes? This is a way better song to barf to.” But it worked as my exit song as well, strutting passed the drunk cowboys back to my baby who was now in the arms of a kind stranger on the side of the road.
As we walked for what seemed like forever to the final road block and our last car ride home, the nausea subsided and I got a chance to take in the gorgeous countryside that Mexico is known for. People were streaming in both directions and every single woman and man we passed beamed big smiles at Luna exclaiming, “bebecito” and “que lindo” which loosely translates to: “You lucky woman, you are mom-famous with that gorgeous baby”. Luna signed autographs and gave back some toothless smiles to keep her fans happy.
Overall the trip was worth all the trouble. We did it on a tight budget and enjoyed our time in the jungle. However, stomach issues aside, it was hard to keep up with my childless crew. I spent a lot of time alone due to a different eating and sleeping schedule and inability to climb as much nor drink as much as the rest of them.
I was really thankful for the couple hours I got to sit amidst the jungle and feel held by the universe, tripping balls – Before that, I was having some FOMO about not being able to keep up with the rest of my crew, but that night it fell away completely.
It’s not that I can’t keep up, in some ways I’m way up ahead and the view looks pretty damn great from here.