5 Reasons Why Having a Spanish-Speaking Partner is the Best

Through the years Marco has been very good with teaching me some new vocabulary every once and a while, however I haven’t even come close to mastering the Spanish language. Being from Venezuela, Marco is fluent in Spanish and as such actually helped us out a lot on our trip!

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Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Speaking With Others
As the tourist town that Playa Del Carmen is it is hard to believe that most people, especially those running stores or businesses, do not speak English. It is a reality and many people, other tourists, bus or taxi drivers do not speak English fluently. Having Marco was a blessing as we were able to receive directions, tips and even just great conversation from people whom we may have not been able to if neither of us spoke Spanish. We were at a counter at a convenience store where we wanted to purchase this bottle of rum to bring back home to Marco’s dad, we had asked the lady at the counter for the price of the bottle and she went to the back to check. Meanwhile, another customer (presumably local) told Marco in Spanish that he can purchase the same bottle at another store for much cheaper. We saved a lot of money and were thankful that he was so nice to offer the tip to us.

While I do not condone eavesdropping, it was incredibly convenient that Marco was able to understand what people were saying in Spanish under their breath or when not speaking directly to us. Correction – it was good and bad – good because he was able to overhear if anyone had ill-intentions or if there was a change in route and why, etc. but bad because when we would nicely reject sales offers on the streets the sales men would mutter something offensive (I couldn’t understand) and this can be upsetting. After a while he learned to ignore it and we didn’t let it ruin our holidays.

Although many places offered English and Bilingual menus, not all restaurants did. It was great that he could tell me exactly what the dish was and what it came with so I didn’t need to guess and potentially order something I didn’t like. Not only this, but we ordered a lot of the more traditional Latin American menu items that I may not have tried on my own, such as Plantanos Fritos which is fried plantains or Ceviche which is essentially seafood which is cooked in lemon juice! I was glad that I could try all of these dishes that I hadn’t before and may be difficult to come across back in Canada.

Teaching The Language
I couldn’t let Marco have all the fun! I often would ask him “How do you ask this?” or “How do you say that in Spanish?”. I would order some of our meals in Spanish (which i rehearsed and memorized the phrases rigorously prior to uttering them) and would even greet some people as well. At some point, of course, he would need to step in and take over but I was very impressed that my Spanish was improving.

Getting Insights
During our excursions he was able to form relationships with and every tour guide we had (almost like a teachers pet). The guides would speak to him in Spanish and divulge on information not included in the typical tour. We learned tips on for certain excursions, fun facts about the places we visited and learned a little about their history and personal lives as well.

What We Learned From Staying in the Heart of Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Because of the cost-effective folk that we are we opted for a Hotel, not resort, in the heart of downtown Playa Del Carmen. We decided on a breakfast plan instead of all-inclusive and chose the cheaper dates to fly out on. We had an amazing time and I would not have done our trip any other way and I’ll tell you why. Here are the things we learned while staying right amidst all the action.

All Inclusive, What?
At first when you see a vacation package that offers “All Inclusive” you think you are getting great value and a great deal, and this may be the case for some, however we actually much more enjoyed the breakfast plan! We were able to eat our breakfast at the hotel prior to leaving on a bus for the day to our excursions (we had a lot of excursions and lunch was always provided and included in the cost). At night when we got hungry we could go venturing into Playa Del Carmen and check out a new restaurant every time. There were many options to choose from and many different varieties (there was even an Irish Pub!). We found we probably saved money and had a more authentic experience of the city.

The Hustle Is Real
Playa Del Carmen, being a tourist destination, tourism is what the locals here rely on for their main source of income. There are many shops, restaurants, products and services that they will offer you. Some of these people are very friendly and polite, but beware as the competition is high and many will say things to your that are untrue to get your attention. We had multiple people say very similar lines including “Remember me from the Hotel?” or “I was your waiter at the restaurant!” or simply “remember me?”. Like any other business they are doing their jobs, so don’t be rude to them – but it is best to be short and just smile and say “No thank you.”.

Rain and Shine
This may not come to a surprise to you if you’re from a climate where this occurs, however in Ottawa this is definitely not the case. We were amazed by how short the rain falls were in duration and by how quickly things were able to dry up following an afternoon shower. Here in Ottawa when it rains it pours and stays wet for hours afterwards – so this was a real treat!

Tips For The Beach & Why I Need to Follow My Own Advice

I am sure we are all guilty of offering our friends, family and others valuable items of advice that we rarely, or ever, follow ourselves. When it comes to weathering the outdoors I am definitely guilty. I always forget my umbrella, ditch the jacket, never wear a hat or sunglasses, etc. Here are my tips for the beach that I wish I had followed when we were in Mexico!

Don’t Bring Too Much Stuff
No, really. I am a firm believer in coming prepared and bringing more stuff than you need – just in case – however when it comes to the beach I feel like less is more. That being said, if you are able to fit many items into a small, compact bag or container then you are golden. Why not bring a load of supplies? In our case, we did not want to leave our items unattended for too long, so it made going swimming in the ocean together a stressful situation. We were always looking back at the beach to make sure all of our stuff was still there and making a mental inventory. I would suggest investing in a waterproof case which you can keep the important stuff in like your phone, money, ID’s and so on. They are convenience to carry around your neck so you do not need to worry about theft. The items you will leave at the beach which you can leave there worry free are things like your sunscreen, tanning oil, etc. which are easily replaceable if snagged.

Wear That Sunscreen!
Do it! Purchase a sunscreen which feels comfortable on your skin and preferably one that is non-greasy (if that’s the reason why you don’t like wearing sunscreen). It may seem tedious, but so is peeling your skin and applying aloe vera lotion like crazy. I am relatively pale and either burn or get a LOT of freckles in the summer. Needless to say, I NEED that sunscreen but always seem to choose not to wear it. I figure if I wear it I will not tan, and who doesn’t want to tan?! But seriously, unless you have amazing skin and never burn wear the sunscreen, reapply, enjoy your holidays sunburn free, repeat.

Save A Water Bottle or Container
I’ll tell you why – at the end of the day when you are packing stuff up and ready to go home or back to your hotel you will need to put your sandals or shoes back on. This is an incredibly uncomfortable thing to do when you feet and ankles are covered in sand. No matter how much you brush them off that stuff just seems to get everywhere and in everything. If you save a water bottle or container throughout the day you can fill up some water from the sea (or lake) and use it to rinse your feet off or any other areas that may be sandy. Be sure to dry with a towel and then place in your feet back in your shoes BEFORE stepping back into the sand. We only figured out this trick at the end of our holidays and wished we had implemented it sooner. This makes for a much more comfortable walk back.

You could always just go to the body of water, wash off your feet and place them in your shoes, but we found it much easier to do this sitting down away from the water so we didn’t get our shoes and everything else wet in the process!

Wear a Hat
Another very simple and easy thing to that prevent your beach trip from going from going south – no pun intended. When you don’t wear a hat or cover your scalp from the sun it is still exposed to those rays. You can either end up with a sun-burnt scalp or feeling quite sick. It’s important to either wear a hat or some other type of coverage when you will be in the sun for long periods of time. Of course if you are under an umbrella then you will not need to worry about this as much, but if you do not have any shade coverage I would highly recommend it.

My scalp did get a little red and this is from being on the beach for two days without anything on my head! When we went on our tours and excursions I did make sure to wear my sun hat, but I really wish I wore it while on the beach as well.