• Melissa Westemeier

escape

I haven't been to the ocean in two years until this past week. For me that's a big deal. There's something specifically restorative about the steady churn of the surf, the briny scent in the air, the long view to the horizon vaguely marked by the sun meeting the sea. I love walking barefoot in the sand and floating on my back suspended by the water. My soul is revived by the ocean. My body completely relaxes by the ocean. Even my hair and skin look wonderful after soaking in salty seawater and left to air-dry. Some people are fed by the mountains but I'm all about the beach. Lakes and rivers are fine, but they don't cut it the way an endlessly gigantic body of saltwater edged by sand does.

We tried a vacation to the Florida Keys two years ago--that was a total bust (and that's all I'll say on the subject because I want to keep my happy vibes intact). Then COVID happened, and my trips were limited to meeting friends and family in places not by the ocean. Then G tore up his ACL, MCL and meniscus and lost his sports season which is the main reason we have trouble scheduling any kind of a trip during the school year. Embrace the opportunity, I told myself. And I talked the fam into returning to Cozumel over Christmas vacation. I needed a beach trip and convinced the others they needed one, too.

Obviously in July this seemed like a good idea.

Then I fretted when November rolled around. I spoke to our travel agent. I looked up COVID data online. I talked to two friends who'd recently traveled to Mexico. I prayed. I wrote one of those pro/con lists about going/staying home the week after Christmas. In short, I overthought my entire plan. I concluded (at last) that the worst thing to happen would be the offspring testing positive and needing to quarantine at the resort for 10 days and an adult would need to pay extra to stay with them.



But the odds of that happening were slim to none from everything I heard.

We performed our at-home rapid tests on Christmas Day, double-checked our travel insurance and donned our KN95 masks. Duffel bags in hand we waltzed through the airport and flew the friendly skies without a hitch, landing early in Cozumel. By late afternoon the day after Christmas I was floating on my back in the Gulf of Mexico, sunshine on my pale skin and a grin stretching across my face.



For five days we lazed by the pool and the beach. We took long walks. We mostly wore swimsuits and sunglasses. The boys explored the town one afternoon and D took them deep sea fishing one morning (no luck, though). We ate on the beach, we drank cervezas, we slept in late and napped and felt every bit of stress and anxiety drip away. I appreciated not having to do a single chore and I read four books. No one got a sunburn, D and I each got bit by a fly, though. The mild irritation of those bug bites disappeared within the hour. We started greeting everyone with a happy "Hola!" without feeling self-conscious about it.



Mexico is taking every precaution for COVID. We saw testing centers everywhere, including one at our resort which provided us the required swabbing so we could return to America. Everyone wore masks, many people even wore masks outside. The resort wasn't crowded and we were outdoors or in open-air settings most of the time, so we felt incredibly safe.

The Occidental Cozumel provided everything we needed to relax and thaw out before facing three months of winter weather in Wisconsin. We saw some wildlife, got some exercise, ate fresh-caught seafood and fresh fruit and veg every day, and escaped all of our obligations.

Every day gave us sunshine and heat. The only stress involved deciding what to eat or drink--the perfect beach vacation.



Was it worth it? Absolutely. I feel pretty calm and settled since getting my ocean fix. I can cope with a few months of bitter tundra because I have recent memories of standing on the sand while the waves lapped my feet and shins and the sun warmed my face.


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