After spinning a two-tine pot fork around his finger and catching an egg on a spatula behind his back, Alberto arranges the various meats and veggies on the teppanyaki grill to look like “I” and “<3” and “U.” I can't help but to smile and clap, following suit with the other people at my table who half-encircle the grill. I’ve never experienced a meal that's doubled as entertainment, but at Breathless Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa, this is just a typical weeknight dinner.
Right now, not-Cancun me would likely be at home on the couch eating reheated leftovers, so I’m thankful for the break in my routine. While some people embrace sticking to a tight schedule, I despise the monotony of it. Waking up to the same grating alarm every day, enduring the same miserable commute, getting through yet another typical workday… After a while, it takes a toll on my mental health. So when Breathless Resorts & Spas invited me to break from my rut to live big and breathe deep, I was quick to seize the opportunity.
In addition to Alberto's dinner and show at Silk City, where I got rare steak, shrimp, rice, and veggies, I had a different meal every night ranging from finger foods (burgers and fries) to filet mignon. Everything was made fresh on site, and the resort’s 600-person staff went out of their way to make every meal a unique and delicious experience.
Without the restraints of my normal weekly routine, I ditched my alarm and (shocking even myself) woke up naturally as the sun rose, which allowed plenty of time for a meal I almost always skip: breakfast. I know, I know, it's the most important meal of the day or whatever, but I normally dread waking up so much that I choose to go through multiple snooze alarms rather than eat a healthy morning meal. Here, though, I felt energized enough to watch the sunrise, take a morning dip in my roomside swim-out pool, and eat breakfast at Spoon all before I’d normally wake up for work. Of course, I wouldn’t have access to a roomside pool back home in New York, but I realized the importance of taking time for myself before starting the workday; I could cook, read, and/or meditate before leaving my house, setting a more positive tone for the rest of the day.
While every meal at Breathless Riviera Cancun upped the game for “best [insert food here] I’ve ever had,” I loved Carlos’s tequila tasting lesson during an authentic Mexican dinner at Picante. Normally I’d just do a few shots and move on, but Carlos told us about the five types of tequila and how each had a different flavor. I’d never thought to sip tequila during a meal, but that’s exactly what I did with my favorite, the añejo.
Throughout the week, I also found myself returning to the seafood; the shrimp and ceviche were especially delicious and tasted fresh out of the water. And don’t even get me started on the desserts. Tempura ice cream with chocolate sauce and handmade mango sherbert? *drools* But while all the food was incredible, my ravenous appetite reminded me of something else I came here to do...
Pushing my upper thirties, I've become increasingly self-conscious about my lack of regular workouts. They say starting is the hardest part, and my embarrassing number of gym membership cancellations are a testament to that fact.
I've always let other obligations get in the way of my own physical well-being, so in Cancun, I made a concerted effort to get back into it...for real this time. Thankfully Breathless offers 24-hour access to the resort’s state-of-the-art gym, which I took advantage of in the mornings. Then I sprinkled in some walks/runs on the beach for good measure and even did yoga for the first time. The instructor, Natalie, didn’t go easy on me, but my muscles felt sore in the best possible way.
My image of working out has always been running on a treadmill and lifting weights in a gym, which becomes exceedingly tedious after a few weeks, but I found myself actually enjoying(?!) being active when I incorporated a new setting (nature) or style (yoga) into the mix. I even went sailing around the perimeter of the resort, which mostly involved me just sitting and taking selfies, but it was still fun and outdoorsy. I felt confident that bringing more variety to my workouts at home would keep them from feeling too routine; running outside rather than on a treadmill or doing yoga in the morning before work could be solutions to a bland gym schedule.
Living in a big city, it can be difficult to find time to relax. I’ve found myself jumping from thing to thing without taking time to settle my thoughts or live in the moment. It seems silly, but as part of my mindfulness getaway initiative, I actually had to plan to...not make plans.
Cut to: my first professional massage.
After lying on the table at Breathless Riviera Cancun's onsite Spa by Pevonia® and smelling the oils my massage therapist started to rub into my back, I never wanted to move again. Moreover, the experience offered me the chance to focus my thoughts and clear my head. I homed in on the soothing music and consciously tried to control my breathing. As built-up pressure in my back eased during the massage, so did my stress. I shelved it, along with feelings of self-consciousness and anger, until I came close to not thinking about anything at all — a nearly Herculean feat for my scattershot brain. (10/10 would recommend.)
I spent my post-massage time reveling in my relaxed state by taking advantage of the immense indoor and outdoor lounging areas in the spa. Robe on, phone locked away, I did the unthinkable: absolutely nothing. No talking. No social media distractions. No work. Nada. I just lay there in silence. Without someone literally kneading away my stress, it was admittedly a little harder to keep my thoughts at bay, but nevertheless it was a peace I knew I wanted — and needed — to return to again often. I could imagine a few couple-minute breathing and mindfulness breaks throughout my workday helping quell my anxiety and keep me positive and focused.
Anyone with a side hustle knows the struggle of balancing a full-time gig with outside hobbies and projects. The more I do for work-work, the less momentum I have on personal projects due to creative exhaustion, so I wanted to use my getaway to help reinvigorate my motivation and creativity.
At The Nook, a cute little café serving coffee, tea, and pastries, I sat in its outdoor area with my notebook and spent some time bullet journaling again. I’d only made it through the first four months of 2018 before slacking and eventually stopping altogether, but I missed how organized I felt when I was doing it consistently, and I vowed to do a better job this year.
Wanting to take full advantage of my surroundings, I finished my drink and moved to a shaded hut on the beach. With nothing but the sound of waves to distract me, I dove right back into my personal writing; all it took was a simple change of scenery and an allotted amount of time to get those creative juices flowin’ again. If I wanted to keep it up back home, I knew I'd need to work more on time management and identifying creative triggers. Ocean sounds background noise, perhaps?
“Spontaneity is the remedy to routine.” —Confucius, probably
I’m blessed to have an amazing group of friends, don’t get me wrong, but since we’re so close, we’ve hit up the same local bars, gone to the same birthday parties, and hung out in the same apartments countless times, which makes even going out feel a little tired. Recently, I’ve had the urge to be more spontaneous (meet new people, experience new places — you know, just see-where-the-night-takes-me-type things), and I figured what better place to indulge that urge than an all-inclusive resort full of strangers?
I started with a delicious Old-Fashioned at Wink, a centrally located bar with high-end cocktails and plenty of outdoor seating. The friendly servers were quick to make sure I didn’t have to lift a finger, whether I was sitting right at the bar or at a nearby table. After sitting around by myself for a few minutes, I forced myself out of my comfort zone by initiating conversation with some of the other guests. The drinks and change of scenery (intimate outdoor relaxed vibes rather than a crowded dive) put me more at ease.
While I was sitting, I noticed people starting to flock to the bar area, so naturally I followed. Seemingly out of nowhere, someone wearing a mask and holding two flaming bottles of tequila walked behind the bar as loud music started playing. What followed was a batsh*t awesome fire juggling drink show starring probably the coolest bartender duo I’ll ever encounter. I must have said, “WHAT?!” to the people on either side of me every 10 seconds, aka every time they did another trick. I couldn't even begin to fathom how long it took them to perfect the routine.
After the show, I was sufficiently pumped for the resort’s nightclub, After Dark, just a short walk upstairs. I walked in and noticed the clientele ran the gamut of party people from newlyweds to singles to groups of friends, but here, everyone just wanted to dance and have fun. Not one to normally show off his moves (see: or lack thereof), I found myself letting loose on the dance floor as the DJ played hit after hit. A sister duo had no reservations about hopping onto the corner dance platform, and everyone around them loved it. There was no judgment here — just people who wanted to have a good time. And four hours later, we were still having one.
Back home, where it's much chillier and significantly less green, I've been trying to avoid falling back into a rut. It's foolish to think anyone could function without any sort of routine, so instead of abandoning it completely, I've simply added more variety and spontaneity to it: doing yoga before work, meditating before bed, cooking new foods, setting aside time to write, and exploring new places.
These practices seem obvious — because they are — but for me, I first needed to step outside my routine in order to return to it with a fresh perspective and new habits. It's easy to get swept up in your everyday, but I'm starting to realize the life-changing benefits of taking time for myself and stopping to live in the moment every once in a while, whether that's on a beach or in a cab.