This is Tulum

A place for dreamers, lovers and letting go...

(All photos, Illustrations and words by Crystal Beshara)

 
Cycling the narrow roads along Boca Paila. 

Cycling the narrow roads along Boca Paila. 

Tulum is a small part of 120km of shoreline in the Mayan Riviera. The popular and spectacular Mayan ruins of Tulum are perched on a bluff facing the Caribbean Sea. The site (formerly known as Zama meaning City of Dawn) faces the sunrise and although the city centre is off the highway, Tulum is best known for it’s peaceful, powdered-sugar like sandy beaches and stretch of ecological and mostly wind powered restaurants & guesthouses as well as upscale boutiques and wine bars hidden in the jungle. 

Catering more towards yoga and meditation than the party resorts of Cancun & Playa Del Carmen, Tulum has been my top choice of destination for the last 4 years. This year I joined a week long yoga retreat. 2016 was knocking at my door and I decided; what better way to re-vitalize, re-focus and centre myself for the New Year, than to wake up every morning with the beach lapping at my door step?

Watercolour illustration of the Yoga studio mural

I am a busy body: An entrepreneur, writer, artist, teacher and mother. Like many “busy bodies”, I struggle to find serenity in my daily life. At nighttime, despite my exhaustion, I find it difficult to quiet my mind, fall asleep and stay asleep. Travel usually means more sleepless nights in unfamiliar environments and forget about sleeping in public or next to a stranger!

As a gift to myself, this year, in an effort to find more permanent grounding and learn to sleep better-  I joined a week long yoga & meditation retreat in Tulum - a peaceful 120 km stretch of shoreline in the Mayan Riviera. This little slice of mostly wind-powered paradise has been a favourite destination of mine for the last 4 years.  The retreat was led by Nina Endrst through yoga adventures tulum at Utopia , a small, rustic guesthouse discreetly tucked back from the beach.

Nina Endrst, Yoga Instructor

Nina Endrst, Yoga Instructor

 Endrst began teaching yoga in New York after leaving a highly stressful career that exacerbated a chronic health condition. For her 30th Birthday her father offered her a chance to join a yoga retreat in Tulum and like so many before her, she quickly fell under it’s spell. She recalls a feeling of immediate connection to the energy of Tulum, it’s water and it’s people. “I cried every single day. I truly felt like my heart had been cracked open.” Christina Thomas (who realized her own dreams as) founder of Utopia Tulum and yoga adventures tulum soon offered Nina an opportunity to lead a retreat of her own later that summer. Endrst now divides her time between NYC and Tulum while offering retreats abroad. Her next one is in April in Playa Maderas, Nicaragua

Our group during cleansing and farewell ceremonies.

Our group during cleansing and farewell ceremonies.

Our retreat opened with an evening cleansing ceremony conducted by Elvira, a Mayan Shaman. Later, under the shimmer of a full moon, we cast 7 beans into the torrent silver sea and watched as it engulfed our fears, negativity and in my case, I hoped, the last of my sleepless nights. 

Watercolour Illustration our mural in the Yoga studio rising above our view of the water...

Each day began in the yoga studio with a spectacular view of the sun rising over the turquoise Caribbean Sea. We've been instructed to close our eyes during our practice to become more aware of the pounding surf, the breeze on our skin and even the heat of the morning rays as they move across the studio. The rise and fall of our chests effortlessly synchronize with the rise and fall of waves in the distance. We meditate together, laugh together, cry together in this studio. Nina is a gifted communicator and gives generously to the group and to each person, reinforcing the fact that she indeed, has found her calling and is living her dream.

 

Eat & Shop 'til you drop....

Tulum is abundant with such people. Just chat with any shop owner. Between yoga, beach and delicious afternoon bites (try the Taqueria“La Eufemia” for their fish tacos & people watching or Raw Love Food Bar for their “Living Pizza”) I graze the many open-air boutiques along our stretch of Boca Paila.

Tulums endless shops and dream-come-true- boutiques for adventure hungry entrepreneurs!

Tulums endless shops and dream-come-true- boutiques for adventure hungry entrepreneurs!

 I am seeking a little wanderlust and follow a string of lights down a gravel pathway to a gorgeous new shop. Owner Francesca glides down the steps to the courtyard wearing one of her long linen dresses - perfect for strolling the beach yet effortlessly chic for a candlelit dinner . 

Francesca Durante of Wanderlust, Tulum

Francesca Durante of Wanderlust, Tulum

Wanderlust as her boutique is aptly named, is a tantalizing upscale shop inspired by the tones of the beach – each coral, lemon, and seashell coloured garment beckons the touch. Francesca’s motto “Never Stop Dreaming” is evident in her smiling face and in her story: She had just arrived in Vancouver (a stopover on motorbike trip between Panama and Alaska) and after feeling the cold of the Canadian winter and seeing a picture of Tulum, was suddenly given a chance to leave it all behind and move to paradise. If her offerings are any indication, it looks as if Wanderlust (with it’s carefully curated selection of local designers (like Carolina K, Miguelina Gambaccini, Andrea Cabrera) is here to stay.

Veronika Krylova of Mr. Blackbird.

Veronika Krylova of Mr. Blackbird.

Across the street is mr. blackbird. Veronika is laying out a new selection of her hand-crafted rings as I walk in. Inspired by the natural surroundings and materials of the Yucatán she (a former interior designer from the Czech Republic) and her partner Santiago (a former graphic designer) create jewelry that is a sculptural and tactile mix of silver and copper and semi precious stones. One feels as if Mother Nature herself has carved them and that you're simply discovering them while beachcombing. In fact the shop itself is an extension of the beach with it’s sand floors and clever driftwood displays. They also carry an array of articles ranging from jewelry to bags, scarves and dresses, most from designers in the area. “95 % of our collection is truly handmade and we have small productions only” Her motto “Do what you love, love what you do…” rings true for me. Birds of a feather flock together and at mr. blackbird, I know I have met a new friend in Veronika. I have a massage booked back at Utopia, so I have to end our conversation too soon, but I leave knowing that our paths will cross again.

 

"Sleep is the best meditation." -Dalai Lama

Elvira is waiting for me and I am asked to take everything off and lay on the massage table. My mind immediately starts to wander the moment I am still. I’m thinking about the people I’ve met, the inspirational stories, the messages taught each day through meditation and sadly, packing for my journey home. Elvira sets to work on me. 

We don’t speak yet she dials in to every knot and loosens every joint. Once in a while she claps her hands together as if summoning all of her energy and places her palms, now radiating with warmth, on a trouble spot until the tension dissipates.  She somehow knows when my mind is drifting and she whispers for me to come back and to participate through breath in the healing process. I am impressed and to be honest, a little scared, but let go a little more each time. Finally I am asked to turn over. She continues her therapy, working her way down to my feet. The last few minutes end with Elvira at the foot of the table holding my heels in the palms of the hands. She is tapping my toes ever so lightly, over and over and over… in perfect time like a metronome. I’m as vulnerable as I’ll ever be. And there, lying on my back, naked as a baby on this little table, in the hands of a stranger - I fell asleep.