We took the same Carnival Cruise twice, three years apart, and booked two wildly different shore excursions in Progresso, Mexico. The first excursion was tourism at its worst — local merchants constantly pestering us to buy cheap souvenirs as we attempted to sunbathe on the beach. This most recent excursion was a grand adventure, rich with local culture, beauty and physical activities. (Though the scuba nightmare and the human sacrifices lent a chilling air to the experience!)

Our excursion began with an hour van ride to a small Mayan village. (Yes, the Mayan people still exist!) A primitive dirt road wound its way past simple, side-by-side shacks and led to our first stop, a bicycle shop, We hopped on mountain bikes and trekked along bumpy paths through the jungle to a cenote — a natural sinkhole filled with crystal clear water. The cenote resembles a water-filled cave with stalagtites and stalagmites.

The Yucatán Peninsula is the site of the largest series of cenotes in the world. Two creepy facts: First, the ancient Mayans performed ritual (as in human!) sacrifices at the cenotes and just a few days before our visit, a scuba diver got lost in the vast array of underwater caves, never to be seen again. Thankfully, our snorkeling in the cenote was not nearly that dramatic. Before we jumped in the water, a Mayan shaman “blessed” our adventure with a Mayan prayer. Then he told us just a bit about the local plants and herbs he used to cure a host of physical maladies among the local villagers. An interesting guy!

After a bit of snorkeling, we pedaled to a larger cenote and snorkeled there. Then, we hopped back on our bikes and pedaled through the jungle to an open-air cottage with a thatch roof. Here the local Mayans fixed us a tasty, authentic Mexican lunch. (And no, we did not get sick eating it because they washed all the produce with bottled water.)

The van ride back to the cruise port found many of us dozing. We were exhausted but man, it was a good adventure! If you take the Carnival Cruise to the Yucatán Peninsula, be sure to book the Biking and Cenote Snorkeling Expedition.



Be Inspired! This Video Will Do It

by Cathy on September 29, 2011 · 1 comment

in Ideas,Travel

This video reminds me of why I love to travel. Life is an adventure — embrace it!


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Thad and Mary with their grown children. Just an interesting aside: Margo (bottom right) was on American Idol last season and made it to Hollywood. But I digress ...

What does it look like when a guy in his 50’s has a mid-life crisis, quits his job, finds a beautiful blond and runs off to some exotic place? Well, in our friend Thad’s case … all of the above is true. Only…that beautiful blond also happens to be the love of his life for 35 years, his wife Mary. And the exotic location? Zambia! But the long and winding road that caused them to move there actually began when Mary was still in high school.

Mary lived there in the summer of 1972 with her parents while her father, a renowned physician, was on a teaching sabbatical. Then in 1991-1992, Thad and Mary lived there for 14 months on Thad’s engineering assignment, along with their kids. More recently, they have led three short-term teams of college students to Zambia, working with local missions that serve school children, widows and AIDS orphans. They have traveled throughout much of southern Africa, but Zambia has always held a special place in their hearts. It feels like home.

Mary explains,” After working 15 years as a hospital nurse, giving some of the best years of my career, I wondered, ‘Is this what I still want to be doing in five or 10 years?’ No, actually. I want to teach village health care to the poorest of the poor. My heart wants to be in Africa.”

Mary lived in Africa for a year in high school with her physician dad and mom, perhaps sealing her fate to go into medicine and one day move to Zambia.

Thad added, “And as a civil engineer for the last 30 years, I realized I’m still waiting to do what I really want to do with my professional skills – help develop clean water and sanitation projects in places where this fundamental health requirement is desperately needed. We want to finish our productive career years serving in Africa.” (For more on their story, check out their always entertaining blog Life on the Wild Side.

So Thad and Mary are living within walking distance of the spectacular Victoria Falls as part of a relief and development team. Though many of their teammates live in a small town, they chose to live in a tent with the local villagers for the first year to quickly learn the language. Thad admits that they may decide that living in a tent really stinks but they are going to give it a shot.

Thad and Mary plan to live in the village in a tent for the first year to immerse themselves in the language.

What about you? If you are an empty nester or starting the second-half of your life, will the mid-point be marked by crisis or adventure? And how can you leverage your skills and experiences to serve others in the midst of pursuing adventure? I’m pondering these thoughts for myself.



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