As many of you know from what I share on Instagram, 2018 was a tough year for me and I experienced a lot of loss and heartbreak. To be honest, I wasn’t all that excited when my 32nd birthday rolled around. I think once you exit your twenties, birthdays are less exciting. 🙂
All that changed when the Grand Fiesta Americana in Cancun invited me to experience their property for a few days. As soon as I arrived I felt surrounded by warmth—and I’m not just talking about the weather here! The staff were so kind, polite and I could tell that they genuinely love their home and wanted me to love it just as much.
My suite was sunny, spacious and ocean-facing. It took me a few minutes to even notice that the staff had left a gift for me on the table. This Alebrije (pictured below) was probably the best gift I could have asked for. These wooden figurines are a type of Mexican folk art and are usually brightly colored and depicting fantastical creatures, like this dragon. It also matched my nails perfectly, which I promise was not planned!
Indulging on the ultimate spa day
On my actual birthday (November 1), our media group was scheduled to experience the “Gem Spa,” a 40,000 square foot facility. After a healthy breakfast ordered to my room, I headed straight for the spa for their renowned ten-step hydrotherapy ritual, followed by a chocolate body scrub—hey, it was my birthday, so I planned on having cake in all forms that day.
Starting off with the hydrotherapy ritual was a great decision because it really woke up my whole body. If you’re unfamiliar with hydrotherapy, it’s a process that gets your blood pumping, therefore increasing circulation which has numerous effects on the body and mind. It involves going from hot to cold temperatures (like going from a steam room straight into an ice cold shower).
Channeling my inner mermaid
I loved my early morning swims at the Grand Fiesta Americana. There are these barges that float in the middle of the ocean and I’d swim out there every morning and on some evenings. There are plenty of lounge chairs set up along the beach and with my stay, I had access to a VIP area with a few more amenities.
The great thing about traveling in early November is that it’s off season and the resort not too crowded. I always prefer traveling off-season for these very reasons. That, and prices are more affordable since there are fewer people competing for the best rooms.
Getting my very own self-portrait
The Grand Fiesta Americana has five different restaurants throughout the property, serving both traditional Mexican fare as well as other cuisines. My favorite evening was spent at Le Basilic, a AAA Five Diamond restaurant specializing in French Mediterranean dishes.
Artwork from local artist (and who will be showing at Art Basel) León Alva hangs on the wall and we were lucky because that night, he was there to give us an interactive art experience. Since it was my birthday, so he asked me to go up to the blank canvas and draw a line—any line, and from that line he would create something.
It was amazing to see him work and as it turned out, he did a type of self-portrait of me (not pictured but shared on Stories), of course in his usual style. I loved it so much I ended up purchasing it!
Jet-skiing in style
I’ve only been on a jet-ski once before and I was the passenger. At the Grand Fiesta Americana, I was able to go jet-skiing once every day for 30-minute sessions. In fact, the staff told me that it was unlimited; to simply ask for a new pass if you’d like to go a few times one day.
Part of me was nervous to steer the jet ski by myself. I had this fear that I would get lost, or that it would break down in the middle of the ocean. Of course, neither of these things happened but my mind is really good at trying to keep me in my comfort zone. I’m glad I didn’t listen to that nagging voice inside my head because jet-skiing was the exact ‘wind in my hair’ experience I needed on my birthday.
Celebrating Dia de Los Muertos in a local village
Hands-down the highlight of the trip was experiencing Dia de Los Muertos with the people of a small village community nearly three hours away from the resort. This is the first year without my dad, and I’ve been starting to view death differently because of his absence. Initially, I wondered if this day might trigger me, but it actually felt really healing.
I loved learning how each family creates the altars for their loved ones who have passed. Everything, from the food they leave on the altars (favorite snacks from their deceased family members) to the songs and dances they perform, was so powerful to witness.
After meeting some of the local families and viewing their altars, we headed to the cemetery where candles are lit on the graves. This was the most colorful cemetery I’ve ever seen, so head to my Stories for more. We ended the night by gathering with about 200 other visitors. Each person held a lit candle and it was truly amazing to see the flickers of light bounce off the lake, all while listening to music honoring our loved ones who have passed.
What is the best birthday you’ve celebrated abroad? Tell me in the comments below!
This post is in collaboration with the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun. All opinions are my own.
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