This little getaway changed me for good.
Heading into the one-year anniversary of what I was expecting to be a two-week quarantine, I was hoping to finally escape the limitations of staying in my apartment, working from home, and battling another brutal New York winter. Beyond needing a change of scenery, I wanted a mental break as the last few lingering months of the pandemic, which had been particularly trying for me — being a Black woman in America, an outgoing Leo from New York City, and working in a very social industry — and 2021 did not have the best start. The buildup of yet another intense year finally landed me in a place where I had to say enough is enough. So, the decision was made to move to Mexico with my partner for a month. (Yes, I somehow convinced a very serious and stoic Capricorn to join me, which was not easy.)
As I got to planning our temporary move to Playa Del Carmen, I looked into property rentals and landed on the perfect condo on the beach. Our dream home consisted of ocean views and two levels that allowed for plenty of space to work separately from each other. The initial cost to rent was more than we were expecting, but we were willing to invest in a space that would bring us peace of mind, knowing we would not spend much while there. Since we were traveling in late winter (before the vaccine rollout was widespread), we wanted to be as safe as possible, and planned to eat in frequently, use our private pool, and pepper in the occasional socially distant beach outing.
My partner and I knew the normal tourist activities were off limits to us, so the focus would be more on pre-determined work and personal goals (like redesigning my website, combing through my finances, re-connecting with my agent, touching base on a year working at BDG, etc.). My partner and I also wanted to throw in a visit to a self-care retreat at the ultimate wellness destination at the Hotel Esencia in Quintana Roo (30 minutes north of our rental).
Originally built as a private hideaway home for an Italian duchess, the 50-acre property was later converted into a hotel, and has become a sought-after destination for honeymooners and wanderlusters seduced by the comforts of the estate’s timelessness. My partner and I planned to head there after week two of our extended stay to break up the trip and allow us to truly reset. Although it was not our honeymoon, it definitely felt like we were celebrating a milestone. Does surviving a pandemic count?
Upon arriving and checking into the Esencia, we were guided to our room, a luxe suite that shocked us in the best way. The architecture and furniture pay homage to mid-century design and art in Mexico, with rich colors and textures incorporated throughout. We stayed in the Jungle Suite, which included a plunge pool located in a private spacious outdoor dining terrace on the rooftop of our villa. Everything about the room was set up for tranquility and restoration, exactly what the doctor prescribed. Beyond the pool and the decor, there was a separate space within the suite for meditation, and the shower also served as a steam room.
Every morning fresh coffee and pastries were left outside our room in a small heated box with incense burning beside it. We took this time to set our intentions for the day. We then walked a few steps to the beach to take advantage of the morning yoga classes, offered in a picturesque treehouse setting, followed by some sips of fresh-pressed juice and lunchtime tacos on the beach.
And while all of these indulgences were amazing, the highlight of our dining experience was The BeefBar. This restaurant has built its own reputation outside of the hotel — it’s respected among foodies internationally — but recently set up shop in Esencia’s Palm Garden. It’s a one-of-a-kind culinary experience thanks to a menu based on high-quality ingredients and meat cuts. As the hotel’s site states: “It is simple comfort food prepared to order in an open kitchen with a brick oven that adds to the already amazing ambience of the property.”
But back to my original intention for the mini retreat: self care, reflection, and personal goal setting. During my Esencia stay, I decided to take a “me” day away from my partner, and booked a Mayan Healing Ritual. This included an herbal limpia cleanse, which is a traditional Mexican spiritual detoxing ritual, which cleanses, emotions, mind, body, and soul from negative energy. It includes a series of passive body stretches with a traditional rebozo scarf and the application of an herbal poultice to the navel area. (The Mayans considered the navel to be the energy epicenter of the human body.) After a light abdominal massage, I went into a series of hot and cold rooms — steam and scrub, cold plunge, and finally a sauna. I walked out refreshed, lighter, and happy that I scheduled time just for myself.
All in all, I walked away from this experience at the Esencia with several key takeaways. The first thing that resonated with me was the power in treating yourself. This trip came at a crucial and complex time. We had all been through so much and taking a moment for enjoyment made me feel a bit guilty as the year prior had been so sad and bleak. It felt wrong to celebrate life when so many had lost theirs or that of a loved one. But, if anything, 2020 made me want to celebrate life and experience Black joy!
This leads me to my next takeaway: Do not worry about people judging you. Everyone should be able to honor what they need to feel healthy and happy. This trip provided a shift in energy not just for me and my partner as individuals but also for our relationship. I knew a change needed to happen, I just did not realize how much of a catalyst this would be for that change. This retreat taught me to listen to my body, the best indicator of the state of your mental and physical health.
My final takeaway from this trip is that it is important to make time for love. That is the common denominator that got us all through 2020. And not just romantic love, but all love — most importantly self-love.