Women of Akumal, 1

A Series About Women Living Solo in Akumal

Just Be In It (Article 1)

It always comes down to the weather! “Once I was here, this was it, period!” she says without hesitation. “The climate and the ocean!” That was the answer to “Why here? Why Akumal?” when asked of all the places to go, why does one settle here, in this little area of the Riviera Maya, that so many travelers blow by on their way from Playa del Carmen to Tulum.

There is no census to tell us how many women living in the Akumal area are solo, meaning completely on their own from a financial, marital, and living situation point-of-view, but there are a lot. It seems this little mecca attracts women of all ages and backgrounds for primarily two reasons – the economy and the weather; and whether some arrive here initially as married and then divorce, or find themselves widowed, others come as solo travelers. Some know they will stay, and others arrive for a visit and never leave. “I can travel to Spain and spend a month or two or three there. But […] my money would not go as far, and that matters.”

Twenty-three years ago, she and her husband had thought of Spain as a potential retirement destination, but she had traveled previously to the Tulum area.  She and a girlfriend stopped for lunch in a little hotel beside LolHa’s, long gone and since taken up by the Secrets Hotel, and were enamored with the place. When the time for retirement came along, she and her husband visited, but the little hotel that had so caught her attention was no longer there. It didn’t matter, her husband was sold on Akumal, too. They found a realtor, discovered building a home was not an option, and eventually found a condo on the bay that she still lives in today. “[The condo] was there and that was the plan.”

Alone can’t even begin to describe it. Twenty-three years ago Akumal was small – really small. And she arrived that summer at the hottest time of year which meant there were few people around, least of all in her building. She was isolated. “That first summer after Dan died, I was so very sad … and after I’d been here a few weeks … [She wrote in her journal] I just don’t even want to be here anymore. Well I didn’t want to be any place anymore. It wasn’t here, it was just … sad. But I thought oh, f%@* it, I’ll just buy a TV … so I did.” The family taking care of the building hooked her up to their satellite, but that meant watching whatever they watched. At least it was human voices, “I managed that first year and that was that.”

However, she was not really alone for very long. “You go some place, you meet somebody and then they take you some place and you meet somebody else … you just keep drifting around meeting people. It’s the way it is here.” Connections are made without even realizing it and the reality of being alone just drifts away.

Occupying one’s time is never a problem. “Another wasted day. gosh it’s wonderful!”, she quips about looking back on the day and remembering how her time was spent. “The thing I do that makes me happiest is reading.  And I can read all day long and all night long if I want.  And I could not do that when I was working. I was lucky if I could get two paragraphs in before I fell asleep.”

Having time seems to be a central theme in peoples’ lives here. Time – to fill the day with as many appointments, volunteer work, meetings, or social engagements one likes. Or time, to decide to do as little as possible. “I don’t like it when I have something I am forced to do even four days a week.”

When asked would there ever be a time she might leave Akumal, and if so where would she go, she replied “I would go to Costa Rica! That’s where I’d go. Or maybe by then I’d be old enough that I could live in Spain til my money ran out!”

Although she thinks she has little to offer in the way of advice for women living alone here, she actually does. “It’s so different living here that you just need to be in it, and then bit by bit you learn … just be in it.”

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