A tropical vacation is typically filled with snorkeling, jungle excursions and hours of laying on sandy beaches. And while my recent trip to the Caribbean Sea was filled with all of those things and much more, I couldn’t help but bring back something extra — a more grateful and appreciative attitude.
Last week, my boyfriend and I ventured off to the bright blue 75 degree waters of the Caribbean Sea in the Riviera Maya in Mexico to take on my first south of the border adventure. I have never experienced what Mexico had to offer or the tropical weather, and I was really excited.
I tried snorkeling for the first time and a bright purple fish thought it was funny to nibble at my toes. I swam with two bottle-nosed dolphins, Squalo and Mercurio. I flew over the wild jungle on over 14 zip lines. I witnessed one of the seven modern wonders of the world at Chichen Itza with the Mayan Temple of Kukulkan and the 1,000 columns in the Temple of a Thousand Warriors and I swam in million-year old caves that have formed hundreds of thousands of stalagmites.
And I am grateful for every single experience.
But even through all of that fun and adventure, I couldn’t help but notice the Mexican people and their way of life.
All my life I have heard that people from Mexico come to America for opportunity and a better life, but I never really understood it until my trip.
The only paved roads I saw were the few freeways needed to get to the airports and larger resorts. The paved streets that curve throughout our peaceful neighborhoods in America don’t exist over there. It is all dirt. I saw many houses that were huts made out of wood from the forest and straw-like material for the roofs. In some cases, houses were just big cement blocks that formed a shelter. There were also no street lights to guide residents through the thick forest of vegetation that surrounded them.
As we drove through the cities, I could see most Mexicans walking in sandals from point A to point B casually saying “hola!” to people as they passed by. Despite the few possessions they have in life, they never hesitated to say “Hola! Como estas?” to complete strangers.
Back at our resort, I had never experienced such good customer service in my entire life. All the employees were so helpful every second of every day. And they appeared to really enjoy their jobs. They always asked to carry my dinner plate, open my door, clear my table as soon as I finished and I never had to ask for refills.
I did not come across one employee who didn’t say hello to me. Most people here don’t even make eye contact with you as you pass by them, let alone say hello with a smile.
These people have nothing compared to us with iPhones, Apple computers, brand new cars, etc. but yet they still smile, say hello and when you say thank you, they say it was my pleasure. They were the nicest, most genuine and comical people.
While waiting my turn for a zip line trip, an employee of the theme park took it upon himself to entertain the guests by dancing like Michael Jackson. When can you name a time that an American employee at a theme park voluntarily tried to make their customer laugh? Most of the time they act as if they hate life and we are bothering them as they “Facebook” on their phones at work.
We have everything we could ever want and we still can’t smile and say hello to strangers on the street.
I know going on vacation you’re not suppose to really learn lessons but the people of Mexico really taught me a lot. If they can be thankful for dirt roads and little income, we can be thankful for a house with air conditioner, having a job, and most importantly, our health. So please take some time to be thankful for the blessings you have in your life, especially the little things.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.