The journey to this beautiful dreamland, where the sky meets the never-ending white sand; where you come to release and let go, where you feel the prana of life in every cell of your being. This is Tulum! Where dreamers dream, the dancers dance, and the creators create! Being quarantined in this paradise was a dream come true! What more could I have asked for? A month of living and creating in a beach house located at the heart of one of the most beautiful areas in Mexico, Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in Tulum! Oh, and let’s not forget, all this took place in middle of a global pandemic! To make things clearer, we decided to journey to Tulum, Mexico, and leave Los Angeles for the entire month of July while “Coronavirus Pandemic” was at its peak! Prior to our departure, I was warned by a few friends about the massive seaweed issue this beautiful paradise has been struggling with since 2011. A natural disaster that’s here from Mother Earth as a wakeup call to humanity! What was in my imagination was nothing like what I walked into as we arrived at our home away from home, our Casa Nalum (meaning House of Mother Earth in Mayan).

Let’s rewind, to about 16 hours prior to our arrival at Casa Nalum, the moment we stepped foot into LAX, to leave our hometown in search of a more peaceful, remote, and pleasant life during this global crisis. Not the easiest journey of traveling, especially on a 4th of July weekend! The airport was a ghost town, something you would see in the movies. The lady assisting us with our check-in process was bad-tempered and impolite, not a service you usually experience at an airport counter in USA. The plane ride on the other hand was packed, not a single seat empty! You can probably imagine what it felt like traveling across the country and then down south to Mexico with a mask on your face the entire time, and a packed plane, with the phobia of a deadly contagious virus, while you sanitize your hands every five minutes! For the weeks leading up to our departure, my partner Alex and I, plus with our quarantined buddies, we planned, strategized, and evaluated all possible outcomes, foreseen and unforeseen disasters, to make sure the journey we were about to embark on was wise, well thought through, and also a rational decision to make during a global pandemic. Our group was a combination of 10 working adults and a 3-year-old boy. You might be saying now, “well, what you guys did was not really rational or wise!”, but to us, this was the best way to take some time off from all the mind-games Covid-19 had brought with it, hit the pause button, and experience a life other than what we had been going through since March of 2020! We were all just tired, seeking for a change.

Tulum and its white sand and turquoise water seemed like the ideal way to spend 1 month of our quarantined life in. The selling point for this decision was that very thing, the dreamy beaches half of our group had experienced in person multiple times and the other half had seen in pictures and videos from other travelers on Instagram and Facebook. We were so ready for this getaway, for this one of a kind adventure! During our taxi ride from the Cancun airport to Tulum, we started spotting massive piles of seaweeds on the beach. The endless walls of this unfamiliar and unpleasant scented algae caught our attention right away. Deep down we were hoping this won’t be the situation at Casa-Nalum. This cannot be how our dreams are manifesting for our 1-month of quarantined life away from home!

I remember the smell, the taste, the feeling of the breeze as soon as we opened the doors of the taxi as we arrived at Casa-Nalum. The humidity on my skin felt amazing, but we weren’t welcomed with the most pleasant ocean breeze! This was not the ocean breeze I was familiar with! It felt more like we walked into a sewer. The smell was only a part of the problem, the Sargassum, which is a type of seaweed, brought with it an unpleasant amount of mosquitos, flies, and a destruction on the beach which did not allow us to enjoy the ocean at all! If I recall correctly, I went to the ocean maybe 3 or 4 times over the course of the one month we were there due to the massive Sargassum wall the ocean had created! There was no way of even walking on the beach because of the amount of Sargassum that was build up on the white sand. You could see the blue turquoise water at a distance, but at the shore, we were greeted by a brown algae in the ocean, and a beach that was filled with a combination of dried up seaweeds, sea life that got trapped in the seaweeds and were eventually washed up to the shore, and the leftover remains of trash that were created by humans! You could find everything from toothpaste cap to hairbrushes, shoes, empty bottles, and other plastic remains! At some point, I even saw parts of a plastic chair! Yes, a plastic chair, one of those generic simple white chairs!

As time went on, we slowly got used to the rotten egg smell, and started to deal with all the mosquito bites day in and day out, but the reminder was right there, in our face, all the time! Every morning we were greeted with this marine natural disaster, and every evening we said our acknowledgement and reminded each other “look what we have contributed to, unintentionally, and unconsciously!”. When we asked the locals when will the seaweed be gone, they always pointed to the moon as said “The moon will determine the journey of the seaweeds! As the full moon approaches, the tide will come up, and the ocean will take back the seaweeds, cleaning up the shore”. This gave us hope, and a wishful thinking that the mess on the beach will be gone at some point during our one month stay in this magical paradise! The environmental complications during our stay most certainly affected our experience and visit! Even though we lived in a summer beach house of some rich local Mexican, the paradise as we expected was nothing like we imagined, and nothing like what everyone had experienced during their previous visits to Tulum. We got to experience firsthand the disaster and the complications climate change is bringing with itself.

What’s interesting about this natural phenomenon is that it only comes around few months out of the year, to be precise, from April to August, with its peak taking place sometime in June!! This phenomenal takes place right when summer hits, when the beaches are most popular, when life is most active! It comes to reminds us of our actions, or mindless decisions, and our small, yet super powerful impact on all of life. As much as I tried to stay positive about my one-month experience in Tulum, I can’t help but to think that Mama Earth is communicating with us! She is bringing what’s happening behind the scene forward, as a reminder to humanity to wake up! Our actions, our way of living, our trash consumption, and what we pump back into our oceans and rivers is not just hurting our beautiful planet and our oceans, we are now starting to see the consequences of our mindless actions right in our daily lives, in our vacations, in our heavens on earth. Climate change is real, the earth as we have known is changing, and soon, the consequences of it will be in your neighboring beaches, forests, and even urban cities.

The Mexican government and hotels have stepped up their efforts to tackle this issue so that it doesn’t hurt their tourism industry, however, majority of low-budget hotels, hostels, and Airbnb’s do not have the means to clean their beaches on daily basis. It takes manpower to keep up with the massive amount of Sargassum washing up to the shore daily. If you want to avoid Sargassum on your Tulum vacation, make sure to stay in a hotel that has staff constantly monitoring the ever-changing situation and has the means to tackle the issue. Avoid visiting between the months of April to August. If you want to have a surreal firsthand experience on the impact of climate change, I highly recommend you visiting Tulum between April to August, book yourself a beach house in Sian Ka’an, and go deep into the experience what is actually happening not only in this beautiful paradise but all around our planet. Not only you will understand your impact on the whole, you will start to understand what actually is happening behind all those picture-perfect photos you continue to see on Instagram and Facebook! These beautiful white sand beaches might not be here a decade from now! Recycling is not the solution, reusing is! Please be mindful, be gentle, and be loving with your footprint on this planet! This is the least we can do. Shop secondhand items since they are already in the trash cycle. Stay away from all things plastic as much as you can. You have an impact, you make a difference, your actions and decisions matter!

If you want to educate yourself more about this topic read this article.