Hesitantly I step outside the hotel. I almost forgot my face mask. Even though it has gotten essential over the last year, I sometimes forget about it. In the place where I spent the previous year, not many people meet anyway, and whether there is a lockdown or not doesn’t matter as there is not a lot happening.
It’s only 24 hours that I left the airport building in Cancun through the automatic sliding doors that can be found at airports all over the world. The direct flight from Frankfurt to Mexico went smoothly. However, I admire the flight attendants’ patience to constantly remind some specific passengers to put their face masks on and cover their noses.
Suddenly I am surrounded by a Spanish that sounds different from the European one. I take a prepaid taxi to get to downtown Cancun. The chess board-like roads are packed, but the traffic runs efficiently towards the tourist spots. I see buildings that don’t exceed 3 or 4 floors. There’s a lot of greenery, cut through by more straight roads that lead to somewhere else. The people I see wear face masks to protect themselves from a virus that put the world on hold for so long already.
However, for tourists, Mexico takes its own path in the pandemic: To enter the country, you don’t need to be vaccinated or present a negative COVID-19 test. Hotels are open, however, with limited capacity. Many people on the Yucatan peninsula work in tourism and are dependent on the money they make that way.
My hotel downtown upgraded me to their partner all-inclusive hotel in the so-called “zona hotelera” by the spectacular beaches – the epicenter of Cancun’s tourism industry. They say they are all booked, even though I don’t see a single guest.
Apparently, my very first trip after well over a year without traveling starts easy. In the hotel, I don’t have to take care of anything. I got the key to all the buffets and coffees and soft drinks that I like with that ridiculous violet bracelet. I only have to get used to a kind of vacation that I always tried to avoid. I feel very much disconnected, although evoking that feeling, the hotel fulfills all expectations most tourists have. As I mostly look for connection with places, I feel estranged in this parallel universe of enclosed swimming pools, Mexican folklore in the evening, and that bracelet on my wrist.
Anyhow, I am getting aware that authenticity is always a matter of perspective. All that exists is real and therefore boasts a specific kind of authenticity, even when it is beyond comfortable horizons.
You could almost forget the world outside. But, disinfecting your hands, walking over disinfecting mats when entering dining halls, wearing your mask are mandatory. Mexican hoteliers don’t want to take a higher risk than necessary. However, there is no lightheartedness when traveling these days. Tourism, though, is not my intention this time.