As I said, my last day in San Cristobal drastically changed my trip trajectory. It started with the temazcal, but more specifically in the cab on the way to the temazcal.
Over the past couple of days I had gotten to know Brayan and Ale, two friends from Antigua who were traveling together from San Cristobal up to Tulum. In the car ride to the temazcal they were talking about their plans to leave the following day, then seemingly out of nowhere Brayan asked if I wanted to come with them. I had already been to Tulum and was so close to Guatemala, my projected next destination, that it made no sense to go with them. But there was a catch: they were hitchhiking the whole way.
I’d never traveled by hitchhiking before. I’ve had to hitch short distances, like from the Queenstown airport back into town or from Masada to the Dead Sea, but nothing as extensive as they were talking about doing. The idea of trying to get across the Mexican peninsula by just sticking our thumbs out and hoping for the best intrigued me, as it would anyone who has a fondness for Jack Kerouac novels. So I changed my “it makes no sense” answer to “I’m actually thinking about it.”
Then I did the temazcal and things became clear. After the ceremony I was sitting on a bench next to Brayan; the first thing he said to me was, “So are you coming with us?” I didn’t even hesitate when I answered, “Yes.”
It’s no secret that I had become frustrated with backpacking in the weeks leading up to this moment. I’d had my revelations in the jungle about leaving the traveler life behind for stability. Hitchhiking was the opposite of stability, but it was a kind of adventure I hadn’t experienced yet. It was throwing planning and guidebooks and a bit of caution to the wind and seeing what hand the universe would deal us. Out of nowhere this opportunity appeared, a chance to really be as flexible as possible. Who knew what would happen along the way, from what kinds of rides we would get to how long it would take to get to Tulum and where we may have to stop in between our departure and destination. I was craving something different, something that would excite me again, something worth throwing away any plans for. This was it.
It helped that I liked Brayan and Ale. It helped even more that Brayan is from Costa Rica and Ale is from Guatemala, so Spanish is their native tongue. And it helped that Ale has hitchhiked extensively before. If there was ever a time to try traveling like this, it was with these people.
This meant that I would repeat my steps. From San Cristobal we had to go back up through Palenque and cross the highway to Bacalar before going north to Tulum. Oh well, if that was the route they wanted to take then so be it. This wasn’t about the destination for me, it was about the journey. Staying in Mexico wasn’t the goal, traveling by hitchhiking was. And I was all in.