Travel Diaries: Jakaila Mustafa Goes Solo to Mexico
“I just booked it and bounced.”
It really was that simple when I decided I needed to get away. August was almost over and I realized I hadn’t had much of an eventful summer. I didn’t plan this out months in advanced or consulted close friends and family for their advice and support. To be honest, I think I blacked out when I booked my flight. Maybe a few glasses of wine over a heat wave sparked a jolt of electricity through my veins. The next thing I know, I’m putting in my PTO and packing a bag for Tulum, Mexico. (I didn’t mean for that to rhyme).
My willingness to travel alone was not about proving something—as many would assume. A lot of the decisions I make always start from a strong and positive intention, almost without thought (which is never recommended). It’s only somewhere along the way where I develop self-doubt. I had booked my flight and was just happy to be going somewhere. I thought about vlogging my trip, maybe even finishing the novel I’ve been writing for the past 5 years. I didn’t have expectations, except that I didn’t want any expectations. I didn’t want to be disappointed with the let down of my friends of saying “No” or “Oh man! I’d love to but my bank account…” Every decision I made regarding this trip, I made in silence. I’ve always identified as an introvert who thrives on an exciting adventure among culture and strangers. This was going to either go terrifyingly amazing or excitingly horrible. Both were okay in my mind.
The realization that everything could go terribly wrong hit me curiously hard. My flight to Mexico had been 3.5 hours late, so my optimism had already hit a scale of -100 before I could even see the ocean. I even tried so much as to get a voucher from American Airlines to lift my spirits for their anxiety-induced inconvenience. No luck. At the heart of my cynicism was a kernel of happiness as I imagined myself eating, drinking and laying on the beach for 3 days. I was keeping hope alive for the upcoming magic of it all. I tried to remain “in the moment” and ignore my silent, but hard to ignore pounding heartbeat. One thing that kept me from discouraging myself was the fact that I had departed from my comfort zone. A catalyst for some internal shift I’d remember for the rest of my life. Whether it would be positive or negative.
Upon my arrival to the Airbnb villa of Apsara Tulum, I met two girls from Atlanta staying in the suite next door. One glance from one of the girls, followed by these three words, “Want a shot?” and my solo relaxation was no more.
My anxiety broke into immediate intoxication—a feeling I had no intention of being. I’m the lightweight champion of the world when I drink so I knew drinking wouldn’t be a part of my everyday activity when traveling alone. But I had already taken many risks in coming to Mexico anyway, so I said “fuck it!” and took the shot.
After settling in and hitting it off with ReAnne and Alex, we decided to hit the main streets for food and drinks. Not to my surprise, the local men were very intrigued by three curvaeous African American women because the night was howling with whistles and dart eyes. Maybe it was the Tequila speaking through my veins with pulsing reactions, but I was feeling more confident about my initiation to travel alone than I was a few hours ago. And as we danced from bar to bar, I took many shots throughout the hot Tulum night. I had 100% trust in these two strangers I just met. I was definitely gambling everything at that point. Luckily, these girls would become the heart of my entire trip. Suddenly I had two new friends and more things on my itinerary. The days we spent together were the highlights of my entire trip. And none of it happened because I tried, it was just random. I had let a veil down that I didn’t realize was bolted on the walls of insecurity for so long. I took ahold of fate, the same fate that brought me to Mexico in the first place. Along our adventures, we met other solo travelers. I realized I had traveled by myself, but I was far from being alone.
There were low moments, of course. I kept in contact with my friends, my mom, and everyone on social media but a part of me wished someone close to me was by my side.
A harmonious ballad plays as I drive to the beach of Los Amigos along the Tulum Hotel Zone for the morning alone. The rain fell hours earlier so the sun was peeking through the clouds, clutching the ability for my eyes to open. The weather was perfect and the waves were soft. If my life were a movie, this would be my soundtrack. I arrived to the deserted beach, not a person in sight except for the hotel staff. Most Tulum hotel beaches are open to the public as long as you purchase a drink or food. I reached a cabana bed, bought a drink and opened a book. It was this moment I lived for: the forgetting of trivial issues in my life. The forgetting that happens in the moment my tacos and margarita presses against my lips, the warmth of the sun as it glows along my melanin, the smell of the air around me. In this moment, I had what I’ve been wanting and the longer I drag it out, the longer this feeling will last. I go from invisible to visible, and the fact that I did this on my own was beginning to prove something. I curl up on the cabana bed, not a person in sight, and forget.
Everybody talks about self-care and self-love, but what about self-awareness. It’s easy to spend money on yourself or take a long luxurious bath to pamper yourself. But what about taking time to really know who you are and what you want. That’s what this solo adventure meant to me. The more I spent time alone, the more I was involuntarily met with the real JaKaila. This solo travel was not a destination for me, but rather constant journey with many pit stops. I’m still growing, still learning about myself.
The drive back to Cancun was perfect and easy as I continued blasting more music from my Hot Girl Summer playlist. I just drove away with a smile on my face. I had no more worries. For some odd reason I knew the drive would be safe, I knew the rental car drop off would go smoothly, I knew going through the airport would be a breeze, and I knew my plane would land safely. I knew all of these things would be positive because I had exhausted all the bad thoughts on my way to Mexico. There was no room for them anymore. My mind was at peace for the first time in my life.
I hope this article will ignite the wanderlust in every woman.